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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Because we can learn about Sarah Palin from looking at her family scrapbook ...

More Palin pix — you'll want to see these. (H/t to Prestopundit Greg Ransom, who has many other great links, videos, and posts on Gov. Palin!)

Posted by Beldar at 12:09 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (12)

MSM and critics mischaracterize Palin as being ignorant of general Veep job duties by taking out of context her statement that she'd want to know her specific responsibilities as McCain's Veep

I had previously seen online references to Gov. Sarah Palin having asked a question during an interview on CNBC that supposedly demonstrated her lack of understanding of the general job responsibilities of the Vice President of the United States. The argument thus being peddled is that Sarah Palin can't possibly be qualified for the job if she doesn't know what it is.

It was not until this morning, though, that I saw a video clip on NBC's "Meet the Press" which included this exchange from an interview she did with Larry Kudlow on July 31, 2008. I immediately set about tracking down the full clip, and here it is. I encourage you to watch it for yourself. The relevant portion starts at 2:16. Here's my transcription of what was said from that point forward:

KUDLOW: ... Is this police flap state investigation going to disqualify you from becoming Senator McCain's vice presidential candidate?

PALIN: Well, it shouldn't disqualify me from anything, including progressing the state's agenda here towards more energy production so we can contribute more to the U.S. Nor should it dissuade any kind of agenda progress in any arena, because again, I haven't done anything wrong. And through an investigation of our lawmakers who are kind of looking at me as the target, we invite those questions, so that we can truthfully answer those questions.

But as for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers, for me, what is it exactly that the VP does every day. I'm used to being very productive and working really hard in the [inaudible] administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position. Especially for Alaskans, and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I could even start addressing that question.

KUDLOW: Well, I worked in the White House during President Reagan's first term, let me assure you — and I've spent a lot of time in the Bush White House as a journalist in meetings and interviews. It's a pretty big job, Madam Governor. It's a real big job. You'd be surprised how big the veep job is these days.

PALIN: Well, this is a pretty cool job here too, as governor of Alaska.

The portion I've printed in blue is all that Brokaw played today on "Meet the Press," and the quotes I've seen elsewhere had only included the first sentence. Nevertheless, after playing the clip, Brokow asked with a chortle: "You don't think, David Gregory, that we're going to see that in some Democratic ad, do you?" And Gregory, chortling back, said he thought it might. Just as if this were an absolutely air-headed statement by Palin, as if she'd said, "Duh, what's any vice president supposed to do anyway?"

But on watching the larger video clip for context — and especially hearing Gov. Palin's emphasis on the phrase "for me," and her deliberate pause before and after it — it's absolutely clear that she was not talking about the job responsibilities of vice presidents in general, but rather about what kind of specific duties she would be delegated in this particular administration.

Thus her references to being a productive and busy person, with an important job now, which she clearly wouldn't want to give up to be a figurehead vice president. Thus her concern that she be part of an administration in which the VPOTUS slot is actually a "fruitful position." Kudlow certainly understood her that way. Why else would he emphasize modern vice presidents like George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and the "how big the veep job is these days"? She didn't argue with him, but again, quite properly, referred to the practical importance of the job she was already doing.

Earlier in the same program, Brokaw had played a video clip from 2000 in which McCain, in disclaiming any interest in becoming the vice presidential nominee to run with George W. Bush, said that vice presidents have two jobs: inquiring daily as to the health of the president and attending funerals. McCain was almost certainly using that joke to evade the question, or rather, to give a glib answer for why he wouldn't be interested in it. But if he wasn't just joking — if he really doesn't intend to let his vice president do anything more than go to funerals while waiting for him to die — then probably nobody would want to be John McCain's vice president.

Thus, I don't fault Sarah Palin for wanting to be know, before agreeing to run for vice president, what kind of specific responsibilities would be delegated to her. That's the kind of conversation that all recent presidential candidates, from both parties, have assured us that they've had with all recent Veep nominees, and we're further told that they've pledged to work as close and real partners, etc.

Bottom line: What the cynics and the critics the MSM are portraying as Palin being clueless was actually just another example of her being thoughtful and savvy.

Get used to this kind of misrepresentation about Sarah Palin. Be suspicious; demand context; consider motives. Then make up your own mind.

Posted by Beldar at 11:47 AM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (16)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin and the résumé test: a respectful reply to James Joyner

[Note: I'm republishing here the photo that ran with the post to which I'm replying, not because it's at all relevant to the subject matter, but because it shows Gov. Palin in 2007 in her Anchorage office in a relaxed setting that includes a bearskin (her father shot that grizzly) and an Alaskan king crab. I think it's a fetching photo. Photo credit goes to Stephen Nowers and the Anchorage Daily News. — Beldar]


Among the right-of-center pundits who remain unconvinced that the Palin nomination was a good idea, I think James Joyner at Outside the Beltway has one of the more balanced and rational arguments. He starts a post today by rejecting those Palin critics who want to categorize her as just a "small-town mayor," noting that that slights her experience as a state governor. (I'd add to that, "state energy and ethics regulator" too.) But then he concludes that Palin flunks what Dr. Joyner calls the "résumé test" (links in original):

The four people on the two national tickets include two, McCain and Joe Biden, who are manifestly prepared to be president using the résumé-at-a-glance test. They’ve both spent decades at the highest levels of government service, including the making of American foreign and national security policy.

A third, Obama, has convinced the Democratic nominating electorate and roughly half the country, judging by the current polls, that he has unique gifts that make him ready despite a dearth of traditional experience.  Even those of us ideologically predisposed against him acknowledge that he’s unusually bright and a quick study. And the mere fact that he’s been running for president for the last two years has sped his preparation along.

And then there’s Sarah Palin. Some smart people whose opinions I respect, including Bill Dyer and my colleagues John Burgess and Dave Schuler, are favorably impressed by her. But most of the country had never heard of her before yesterday.  She doesn’t pass the résumé test. So, she’ll have to persuade the public that she’s ready on the campaign trail, the interview shows, and a debate against Joe Biden.

I do agree with that final sentence: The burden of persuasion, to borrow a phrase from the law, is definitely on Gov. Palin, and that's as it should be. (As I wrote earlier this evening, I'm very confident that she'll meet that burden in the weeks ahead.)


I don't buy, however, the notion that the kind of cunning, position-shifting, puffery, and outright deception that Barack Obama has practiced during his campaign so far has "sped his preparation." It's certainly prepared him to be a more effective candidate, but that has only a partial overlap with being an effective president, and some of the non-overlapping areas are very troublesome indeed. (Thus I would argue that Bill Clinton is the best presidential candidate of my lifetime and yet, behind only Jimmy Carter, the worst president.) Maybe Dr. Joyner meant to reference the preparation of position papers, selection and vetting and interaction with advisors, and pre-election debating of issues inherent in a political campaign. I have my doubts, however, even with respect to that.

Recall (if you're old enough, or a student of history) that one of the major debates of the 1960 election between Kennedy and Nixon was over the so-called "Missile Gap." The Soviets seemed to be far ahead in the space race, and the western press and public were under the mistaken impression that they had far more, and far more dangerous, nuclear-tipped ICBMs than the U.S. In fact — as both candidates knew, but could not reveal — the U.S. had a multi-fold superiority over the Soviets in strategic missiles, whether measured in launchers, warheads, or accuracy. The "Missile Gap" favored our side, dramatically. Was the posturing between Kennedy and Nixon, then, over who'd be the best candidate to end the Missile Gap, useful preparation for either of them to govern? Perhaps — if you think your candidates need practice in the methodical telling and concealing of lies. (But Kennedy and Nixon were both masters at that already — as is, I respectfully submit, Barack Obama.)


More fundamentally, back on the subject of the "résumé test": Résumés can mislead, sometimes very badly. Joe Biden is the poster-child for that, actually. He's been the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Does that mean he's better at law and legal issues than his law school class rank (76th of 85) might suggest? You might think so — unless you actually watched him in any Judiciary Committee hearings on various SCOTUS nominees, during which he's consistently proved himself to be an ignorant blowhard. He's the current chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Does that résumé credential mean he's a wise person on military and diplomatic matters? Well, he opposed the 1991 Gulf War, supported the Iraq War, opposed the Surge, and was the leading proponent of tri-secting Iraq into three independent countries (each of which would have been unstable, and each of which would have been guaranteed to be in thrall to its neighbors). He's widely regarded by Iraqis as the stupidest American on Middle Eastern affairs.

If one's "résumé test" is limited to one page containing nothing but dates and job titles for each candidate, then yeah, McCain and Biden look fine, and Obama and Palin don't. Now, I know Dr. Joyner is not only open to looking deeper than that, but that he's eager to do so: That's what makes him one of the pundits I most enjoy arguing with, and why I, too, respect his opinions. It would be as unfair to accuse him of being wedded exclusively to a simplistic "résumé test" as it is for other pundits to call Sarah Palin "just a small-town mayor."

So the obvious solution is: Dig deeper. Look harder and longer. In assessing experience, consider accomplishments, and consider their setting, in addition to considering job titles and tenures. When you do that, Sarah Palin becomes not only the most popular GOP governor among her own constituents, and one of the most successful in getting her programs passed into law by her state legislature, but one of the most effective political reformers in America from either party. Some conservatives would disagree with him, but McCain certainly would see himself as also being on that short list, along with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

When it comes to Sarah Palin, I've been doing that sort of analysis since June, so I have a head start. Essentially all of my blogging on her has been to help others do that kind of scrutiny. And I'm content for fair-minded critical thinkers like James Joyner to catch up on their own and in due time; I hope they'll come round to join me as one of Gov. Palin's fans.

Posted by Beldar at 09:40 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (13)

A plea for patience with sour, conventional conservative pundits who are still getting their minds around the Palin pick

I've gotten more than a few emails urging me to take up the cudgels against David Frum or Charles Krauthammer or other conservative pundits who've expressed anything from serious reservations to outright alarm at the Palin nomination. One, whom I won't mention by name here, said that if the Palin nomination excites the GOP base, we ought to "get a new base."

That's smug and unattractive and out-of-touch, of course. I love to argue, and some of these sour-pusses have opened themselves to potentially devastating counter-snark. But I'm trying to suppress that instinct.

Sarah Palin is indeed an unconventional choice, and a risky one. Her own words at the announcement rally acknowledged that, when she said that a ship in harbor is safe, but staying in the harbor is not what a ship is built for.

Presumably those pundits approved of Bob Dole's 1996 campaign. Well, maybe they faulted him for his "risky" selection of Jack Kemp as his running-mate, although Kemp certainly performed as well as Dole did — which is to say, nobly and consistently in an obviously uninspired and electorally foredoomed cause. McCain shares more than a few traits with Dole ("old" and "often grumpy" and "war hero" among them). But he's obviously concluded that he's not going to stand there motionless as he watches a called third strike. And I applaud McCain for that.

The opening splash of the Palin announcement has been all I'd hoped it might be, and I thought she was terrific at the rally. And something that just thrilled me, that hit me at a very emotional level, was at the very end of her prepared remarks, when she turned to face McCain again and shake his hand. You couldn't hear her over the music and the roar of the crowd. But you could very distinctly see her lips say to John McCain the words, "Thank you, sir!"

Oh, my! A national candidate who doesn't just profess humility, but actually still possesses it, and who displays unselfconscious respect for the older generation of which McCain is a part! What a fine, fine thing, that "sir" — as she thanked McCain for giving her this chance, for taking a risk on her. And you could see in her face the determination to do her very best not to let him down.

Oh, that's good stuff. That's so American. That's "Put me in Coach, and get me the ball!" Notwithstanding her stress fracture in her foot, when the other team fouls her, she'll sink the free-throws to score the game's final points to clinch the state championship. And yeah, that's what actually happened to Sarah Palin in her senior year of high school.

So now, she has to perform, figuratively and literally. She will not shrink from the challenge. The glare will be harsh, the microscope will be cranked down, and some of the interlocutors will not be acting in good faith. But most of the American public will be watching in good faith, and many of them will find her easy to identify with.

Let Sarah Palin win over the Charles Krauthammers and the David Frums. Let her win over the skeptics of all stripes and colors. Let us, who are already her admirers, avoid alienating those skeptics in the meantime. I do not expect a pitch-perfect, error-free performance from her on every day between now and the election. But I believe that the basic qualities that have brought her conspicuous success in Alaska will bring her success on a national stage too, not overnight, but over time. To finish horribly mixing my metaphors: This isn't her first rodeo, it's just her biggest.

In the meantime, abide by her, and with the skeptics. They're not bad people, they're just unconvinced. Let Sarah convince them.

Posted by Beldar at 08:33 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (11)

Palin's kids are NOT named after TV witches (sheesh)

If there were any shred of doubt left as to whether Andrew Sullivan is a ridiculous tool — and guest poster Alex my friend Patterico at Patterico's Pontifications has cataloged several other examples — it's erased by his uncritical, enthusiastic republication of a reader email asserting that Sarah Palin's daughters Willow and Piper are named after TV witches in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. Sullivan describes his reader as "plumbing the weirdness," presumably of Gov. Palin, and includes this quote: "The governor obviously has a penchant for television shows of paranormal female empowerment."

Stuart Buck and Jonah Goldberg both link and reprint this nonsense, although Stuart was properly skeptical (noting have both tried to dispel this nonsense. Stuart noted that the birth and TV series dates don't work out, and Jonah suggested that Sullivan just go ahead and become a dKos diarist, when he (Jonah) followed up with printing a reader email linking this People Magazine interview Q&A:

Where do your children's names come from?

TODD: Sarah's parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, 'Track!' Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That's where I grew up, that's where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there's just not too many Pipers out there and it's a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for "strength."

That's pretty close, but it's at slight variance with what's in Kaylene Johnson's excellent biography of Gov. Palin, Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down (which I reviewed at length here). She reports (at pages 39-40):

Meanwhile [in 1989], the couple had started a family. 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 hesitation Sarah answered "Hoop."

Between babies, Sarah worked short stints at TV stations and at a utility company. The Palins first daughter was born in 1990. They named her Bristol after the ocean where they fished. Willow was born in 1994, named after willow ptarmigan, Alaska’s state bird. Their youngest daughter, Piper Indy, came in 2001. She was named after the Piper Cub that Todd flies and the Polaris Indy snowmobile Todd drove in the first of his four victories in the Iron Dog snowmobile race, a grueling 2000-mile run from Wasilla to Fairbanks by way of Nome.

As for the slight inconsistency on Willow's name, I frankly trust fellow hockey-mom and neighbor Johnson over First Dude Todd's explanation, and as a fellow father I can excuse him if he temporarily forgot about Alaska's state bird, the Lagopus lagopus alascensis Swarth a/k/a Alaska Willow Ptarmigan. (Whether his daughter will be similarly forgiving remains to be seen.)


UPDATE (Sat Aug 30 @ 7:20pm): Linking Stuart Buck's post, Glenn Reynolds notes that "maybe it's a bogus rumor, but Buffy fans will dig it." I'm a Buffy fan too, in moderation, but all of the humor here is in how clueless and paranoid and weird Sully is. As for Gov. Palin, I believe she has a good sense of humor, a mischievous one, and my strong hunch is that the "Van" just before the surname in infant son Trig's name is a deliberate pun on "Van Halen," which I suspect goes back to a long-running Palen family joke.

And seriously, whether it's "She worships witches!" or "She craves female empowerment," all that sort of nonsense, when someone tries to use it as a weapon against Sarah Palin, is going to only embarrass those who are capable of feeling shame (which I don't think includes Sullivan anymore). One reason I'm so psyched about her nomination is that I don't see her as some sort of fragile construct who'll fold up and blow away. Sarah Barracuda has elbows. And she is so genuinely all-American that attempts to make her seem weird, or radical, are just not going to get any traction whatsoever.

Posted by Beldar at 06:30 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (16)

Obama's first post-Palin-pick TV ad: Um, look over there, there's Dubya!

Voiceover: "Well, he's made his choice," says a female voice, "but for the rest of us, there's still no change."

(Cut from video clips of energized crowd cheering McCain and Palin to videos of single man, then a single woman in facial close-up, both obviously painfully constipated, but thoughtful.)

Voiceover: "McCain doesn't get it!" she insists.

(Cut to video showing McCain and Dubya, hugging.)

"Because, uh, um, George W. Bush is evil. And he's a ... uh ... uh, a chimp! Yeah, a chimp! An ugly one, too! And we'll have four more years, never mind anything else about John McCain, especially never mind that he's just made a dramatic, visionary selection for his running mate which threatens to turn our constipation into a sudden case of the squirts ...."

Well, no, actually, that last paragraph is just my interpretation of the sub-text. The real text is the same old "four more years of the same," yada yada yada.

They're utterly pole-axed. Their universe has been turned upside down. Someone cut the wires to all of their electro-magnets, and suddenly what was magical and transcendant and radiating hopey-changey happy waves is now exposed as slag. They can't even speak her name.

Posted by Beldar at 08:24 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (13)

Single most clueless media "attack" on Gov. Palin's credentials

For the same day of the announcement, the Utterly Clueless "I'm a troll who lives inside the Beltway and could not possibly survive for 12 hours if abandoned in any red-state city for 24 hours" Award goes to Jonathan Martin at the Politico (boldface mine):

Palin, 44, is less than two years removed from being mayor of Wasilla, Alaska; has no military or foreign policy experience in a time of grave international threat; and has never even appeared a single time on "Meet the Press," let alone been scrutinized by a voracious and around-the-clock modern media beast.

Because, ya know, Chuck Hagel has been on "Meet the Press" lots of times.

Second-place runner-up "Some of the People All of the Time" awards go to all those who've seriously argued that Barack Obama's comparative lack of political accomplishment is irrelevant because, after all, he's managed to run a successful campaign for the nomination of his party. This point of view envisions America as a kind of perpetual Hell in which Bill Clinton, or whoever can best emulate his slickest and most insincere qualities, forever reigns supreme. The notion that "I can get elected, therefore I deserve more than anyone else to be elected" is profoundly sick.

Posted by Beldar at 07:50 AM in 2008 Election, Humor, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Palin knows being pro-production doesn't mean being in the oil companies' pocket

Saturday's Houston Chronicle has a superb, insightful article by staff reporter Tom Fowler which quotes independent but knowledgeable energy industry experts who are familiar with Gov. Sarah Palin's record. It's packed with specific facts about that record, and the quoted experts ably draw a set of important distinctions. The article starts with a bang (boldface mine):

In an election where energy has moved to the top of the agenda, Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin arguably brings more credibility on the topic than anyone else on the two major tickets.

She's the governor of Alaska, where close to 85 percent of the budget comes from oil revenue. It's second only to Texas among the states in oil production.

She's the previous head of the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and is married to a North Slope oil production engineer.

Since taking office in 2006 she has thrown out the previous administration's plans for a North Slope natural gas pipeline, which had been criticized as too generous to oil producers, and has bolstered state coffers through an overhaul of the state's oil and gas tax structure.

"Between Biden, Obama and McCain, Palin is the only one who can spell 'energy.' The rest of these guys are completely clueless," said David Pursell, an analyst with Houston-based Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., an energy investment and research firm.

So does industry knowledge translate into closeness? To the contrary:

Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Palin knows the energy industry, "warts and all," and understands the importance of energy policy.

"She has shown an independent streak and has been anything but a patsy in dealing with the oil industry in Alaska," Bullock said.

The article notes that doctrinaire liberal interest groups (my characterization) insist that Palin is a puppet of the industry, which is also how they've characterized Bush and Cheney. At least with respect to Palin, however, that's just hogwash, say candid Alaska Democrats who actually know:

But Mike Doogan, a Democrat in Alaska's House of Representatives, said he's not so sure about Palin's chumminess with the industry.

"They don't have big color pictures of Sarah Palin in the board rooms of BP, ConocoPhillips or Exxon," Doogan said. "If she's in the pocket of big oil, she's kept it a pretty good secret."

(This is wry understatement. If ExxonMobil has Sarah Palin's picture up in its boardroom, it's tacked to a dart-board.)

Doogan said he agrees with Palin's oil and gas policies, as do many in the state where the state budget and economy rely on oil production. But the partnership between state government and the industry is not necessarily a happy one, he said.

"It's a good partnership if you consider having to sue your partner constantly to pay you a good thing," Doogan said, referring to frequent litigation between the state and industry over taxes and other issues.

The article runs through the conspicuous energy policy successes she's had despite her short tenure, often after vigorous "head-knocking" of the major oil companies, and always with complete public transparency (in contrast to her predecessors).

Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy fellow at Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, said Palin represents a departure from past Alaskan politicians in how she has motivated the oil industry.

"She's taken much more of a 'knocking-heads' approach," Jaffe said. "She has stood up to the big players when she didn't like the process, and I don't think it's played well with the industry."

But there's no doubt Palin is clearly pro-oil production, said Robin West, chairman of energy strategy firm PFC Energy.

But her record, however, also suggests that being pro-production doesn't necessarily mean she's reliably pro-industry, West said.

"The agenda of Alaska and the agenda of Exxon are not always the same," West said. "They may both want more production but it may not be under the same terms."

There is no magic pony. My kids will be parents, and maybe grandparents, before we're wholly weaned from fossil fuels. We need to conserve; we need alternative sources.

But in the meantime, we still need to drill now, drill here, and drill smartly. Sarah Palin gets this. Better yet, she will make it happen — which in large part means "letting it happen," but in a smart way, making the market forces work for the taxpaying public and keeping everything thoroughly disinfected with the sunshine of public scrutiny.

Beldar's plea to Sen. McCain for the coming week: In your acceptance speech, use that multi-media capability to show video, plus maps, that will make abundantly clear to everyone watching just what a tiny portion of unexceptional mudflats will be disturbed when we drill in ANWR. Explain that your fabulous and knowledgeable running mate has opened your eyes to the fact that "pristine" doesn't always mean "precious," and that responsible development doesn't mean "plunder." And then announce that for the rest of the campaign and then from Day 1 forward of the McCain-Palin administration, Sarah Palin will be your energy czar, pounding on congressional doors to make this happen as part of an overall multi-faceted energy plan.

Posted by Beldar at 07:12 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Not a messiah, not even from Harvard, but the one (lower-case) we've been waiting for

Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard have both been Palin prophets, both online and as television pundits. Now they have up a pair of punchy, persuasive online pieces worth your while: Barnes' Providential Palin and Kristol's Let Palin Be Palin.

Barnes clearly gets the big picture:

Republicans desperately need younger leaders. To paraphrase Democrats, the torch must be passed to a new generation. There are a number of impressive young leaders in Congress — Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, to name three in the House — but they've been leapfrogged: If McCain loses, Palin will be the hope of the future. If he wins, she'll actually be the future.

Meanwhile, Kristol is focused on the near-term, but with equal clarity:

... The campaign may be tempted to overreact when one rash sentence or foolish comment by Palin from 10 or 15 years ago is dragged up by Democratic opposition research and magnified by a credulous and complicit media.

The McCain campaign will have to keep its cool. It will have to provide facts and context, and to hit back where appropriate. But it cannot become obsessed with playing defense. It should allow Palin to deal with the charges directly and resist the temptation to try to shield her from the media. Palin is potentially a huge asset to McCain. He took the gamble — wisely, we think — of putting her on the ticket. McCain's choice of Palin was McCain being McCain. Now his campaign will have to let Palin be Palin.

Plus, I'm tickled by this week's cover:

Cover of the upcoming 'Weekly Standard'

In my case, at least, the answer is: "Yes, she's who I've been waiting for, at least since the Fred Thompson campaign failed to launch."

Posted by Beldar at 05:36 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

An indirect graphical indication of public interest in Sarah Palin

Aug 29th traffic (click to enlarge) I'm not modest, but my blog's traffic is, and I'm okay with that. My normal traffic, as measured by Sitemeter, generally runs between 1-2k page views per day, for which I'm genuinely grateful. On days when InstaPundit or Hugh Hewitt or someone on The Corner or my friend Patterico links something I've written, I may get three or four times that much traffic. And on the very best days of the 2004 election campaign, when I was blogging fast and furiously about the SwiftVets and Rathergate, I occasionally would hit something like 10-15k page views.

The announcement of Sarah Palin as John McCain's VP selection on August 29 resulted in a jump in traffic that I believe accurately reflects, if not in any precise mathematical relationship, the internet-viewing public's level of interest: As the graph at right indicates (click for full-size pop-up), I've received over 57k page views today, almost all of that in the last 14 hours. This was far more than double my previous traffic record.

That's pretty cool. Thank you.

Posted by Beldar at 12:03 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008), Weblogs | Permalink

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Palin family's energy bona fides versus the Democrats' big talk

When Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi religiously intone, yet again, with serene and bleak confidence that "We can't drill our way out of this," I can't help wondering if either of them could tell the difference at a glance between a drillbit, a pumpjack, a derrick, and a blowout preventer.

By contrast, for most of the last 20 years or so, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband Todd has worked on or around Alaska's North Slope with job titles like "production operator." Now, that's a very blue collar job that can involve getting one's hands very dirty, but it's a job in which requires serious training. Slow-witted folks are quickly separated from finger-tips or worse, and the equipment one uses can cost tens of millions to replace, if you can get a replacement at any price any time soon, which right now you probably can't.

Which is to say, I don't think the notion of drilling for oil and gas is nearly so hypothetical to the Palin family as it is to either Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi. I'd place a large wager on the likelihood that the Palin family washer and drier combo has dealt with its share of grease and drilling mud over the years, whereas the Obama and Pelosi households have fewer challenging stains and, indeed, rely a lot on dry cleaning.

So when Barack Obama waves his hands in the air in front of his teleprompter and says that he's going to create five million "green-collar jobs" out of nowhere when he becomes president, I wouldn't blame the younger Palin children if they began to look around for the magic pony. I mean, if you have a magic pony who can ride over the rainbows, or maybe a unicorn, you can probably do that. If you actually want to keep gasoline in the retail pump stations, though — and no, that's not the same thing as a pumpjack — somebody needs to still be doing that blue-collar work.

And if you want to deal with the various regulatory agencies and energy companies and environmental groups and tax policy think-tanks and all the rest of that stuff — well, now you're talking the kind of job that falls within Gov. Palin's bailiwick. Indeed, she's had a striking series of legislative successes in her first two years as governor, accomplishing far more on energy policy than the U.S. Congress has in the last 10 years. Not empty promises — but actual results. Results that translate into tax revenues; results that translate into transparent and open free-market negotiations, with energy companies competing against one another for the chance to serve the public interest; results that will turn into actual drillbits and pumpjacks and derricks and blowout preventers and pipelines and compressor stations and oil tankers and offshore platforms and the whole nine yards.

A regular reader, a fellow west Texan, emailed me this link to a story in a newspaper from San Angelo, Texas, which notes that the extended Palin family has ties to Texas too: Sarah Palin's maternal uncle Michael Sheeran and his wife Billie moved there "from Washington state nine years ago. Billie Sheeran is a hospital inspector and Michael Sheeran is retired from the nuclear industry, where he was involved in fuel design and nuclear reactors." This doesn't surprise me.

And the San Angelo area is smack-dab in the booming Texas wind-energy corridor, as I discussed last summer after driving from Houston to my home-town past dozens of giant windmills, working and under construction. My guess is that Todd and Michael could probably take one of those apart and put it back together, too, and ditto for the broken pumpjack over in the next pasture.

I like practical people with real-world solutions, both on energy and other important stuff. We don't need pie in the sky, we need drill pipe in the ground (including the ANWR mud flats and the "ground" offshore) — plus some reactors on the ground and some windmills in the sky. I like people who've actually done stuff, because they usually have the best ideas about how to do more. I like people who understand that the government damn near never makes or discovers anything — that at best, it can facilitate private industry doing that, and then its most important role is usually to get the hell out of the way.

The Palin family strikes me as these kind of people. Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi do not.

Posted by Beldar at 10:16 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Don't be misled into thinking that Gov. Palin has championed the same sort of "windfall profits taxes" on oil companies that Obama has

Stephen Spruiell was generous and self-critical enough to link today on The Corner a comment I wrote to one of my own Palin posts in which I took issue with a post by my excellent friend Ed Morrissey (formerly of Captain's Quarters) at Hot Air. Basically, I thought Ed (and, inferentially, Mr. Spruiell) had been taken in by a hatchet job from a Seattle newspaper which was carefully calculated to argue that Sarah Palin is a fan of windfall profits taxes on oil companies, just like Barack Obama.

That's not so. Palin has stood up to the major oil companies, and has made utterly transparent the State of Alaska's dealings with them, but she is neither in their pocket nor a rabble-rouser who unfairly demonizes them. She's dealt with them like a responsible public servant, not a class warrior. I'll reprint here the comment Mr. Spruiell kindly referenced, along with a subsequent one on the same post describing my emails to Ed (again, without blockquotes, and with slight editing):


What the article you linked to is discussing is a severance tax. State severance taxes charged on production of oil and gas and minerals are common throughout the United States. Also sometimes called "production taxes," they're charged by the state from beneath whose land valuable resources are extracted, and they're designed not to punish the energy companies, but to recompense the state for its loss of a non-replaceable resource — one that must be quantified and taxed upon removal, if it is ever to be taxed at all. Severance taxes are therefore based on production from within the state, not on profits earned by the company extracting that production — even though the production may be measured in, and the tax assessed upon, the market value or gross revenues (as measured in dollars) received for that production, rather than an "in kind" delivery to the state in barrels or cubic feet as such. See, e.g., Tex. Tax Code §§ 201.051 & 202.051 (Texas production taxes on gas and oil respectively).

Indeed, I once represented Conoco in a Houston lawsuit against Mobil over how to allocate the severance tax they jointly owed based on jointly owned oil and gas leases in Idaho. There's actually a fair amount of competing case-law from different states over whether severance taxes are more properly characterized as "property taxes" or "income taxes" — if for some reason (e.g., interpreting a sloppy contract) you have to put them into one of those two categories or the other. But in any event, severance taxes are in no way premised on the notion that energy companies are making unconscionable or excessive profits.

Alaska's previous version of its severance tax had been negotiated behind closed doors by defeated Gov. Frank Murkowski, a few top state legislators (some of whom are now in prison for corruption), and energy lobbyists. One of the campaign planks upon which Gov. Palin ran for office was replacing that tax with one negotiated in the open with full transparency; and the resulting tax was, indeed, slightly more favorable to the State of Alaska. The article you linked tells some of this anti-corruption history on the part of Gov. Palin. But just because the newspaper headline writers and some of the people the article quoted used the word "windfall," don't be fooled into thinking that the tax in question is the same thing Barack Obama and the Democrats are now promoting at a national level.

Rather, what Obama and the Dems are promoting is nothing less than selective government confiscation of the property of a particular industry, on the theory that such industry's profits are "excessive." That's a repugnant rabble-rousing scheme, populism turned into class warfare and carried to its excessive worst. It's completely unjustifiable either morally or economically. Its short-term victims are going to be energy-company shareholders (which include huge numbers of pension plans in which ordinary Americans have investments), but its long-term victims will be all Americans (who will suffer as our own energy companies are put at an increasing competitive disadvantage compared to others in the world, and whose national security interests will be further harmed as we become even more dependent on foreign sources of fossil-fuel energy).


I hadn't seen Cap'n Ed's post at Hot Air, but I've sent him the following email:


I’m pretty sure your post on Gov. Palin supposedly having supported a “windfall profits” tax in Alaska is badly misinformed. I think you’ve been suckered by taking the Seattle newspaper article at face value. I would not be surprised if this article is a plant by Dems who are terrified that McCain MIGHT pick Palin.

The tax in question is Alaska’s SEVERANCE tax, which is not a general corporate income tax, but a one-time tax that most states impose on the extraction of non-renewable resources that otherwise would escape taxation. I’m not an expert on tax law, but I have had a prior case involving state severance taxes, and I discuss the difference in a comment on my blog: link.

You also need to understand the context: The prior severance tax was negotiated behind closed doors between the three big oil companies who (to the exclusion of others) dominate existing production — ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips — and the corrupt former legislators (some of whom are now in prison) and discredited administration of former Gov. Frank Murkowski (whom Palin defeated). Palin insisted on renegotiating the severance tax in open meetings with complete transparency. The result was indeed a slight increase — but only from a base rate of 22.5% to 25%. link

In other words, Palin brought SUNSHINE to the process. That did indeed upset those three big oil companies, who were happier in the dark. They’re also pissed because she’s championing an open-bidding process for a new natural gas pipeline that will bring affordable energy to Alaskans as well as making its natural gas reserves eventually available to the lower 48 states. (A Canadian-based company won that bid after ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips refused to participate, but they’re promoting their own alternative deal. The Alaska legislature’s in special session to sort things out.)

Gov. Palin’s constituents, however, follow this stuff closely because it is so integral to the state’s entire budget and governing processes. Gov. Palin’s approval ratings are still at 80% as of the end of July.

The quote adding in royalty payments to the tax burden is extremely misleading. Producers pay royalty payments wherever they extract oil, gas & minerals. If you check, I think you’ll find that the royalty payments actually go to the federal government, not the Alaska state government, under the terms of the deal reached when Alaska became a state.

Costs of living are dramatically higher in Alaska than elsewhere. The local state tax burden is already comparatively low, however. Because of current energy prices — not specifically because of this modest increase in the severance tax — Alaska is in a position to rebate government money to its citizens. They’re choosing to do so by direct payments rather than cutting taxes. But since their entire state budget is already (and has long been) based on the development of Alaska’s energy reserves, it’s not at all fair to compare that rebate program to the confiscate-and-giveaway class warfare that Obama is proposing.

I write this to encourage you to actually research this more thoroughly, perhaps by contacting someone who IS a state tax expert and knows the state history better than I do. I don’t have time to do a more thorough analysis today or tomorrow, but if you choose not to, I’ll try to do so later this week. If you want to quote (with or without attribution) anything from this email in the meantime, feel free, but please be sure to include my statement that this is a “top of my head” reaction.

- Beldar

And I followed that with this email:


Re-reading what I just sent, I’m particularly uncertain about royalty rights. It may be that they’re divided in some proportion between the state and federal governments. So that paragraph in particular probably ought not be quoted without some further inquiry. But it is fair to say that oil companies pay royalties to SOMEONE on essentially all production, and it’s not fair to characterize those royalties as being part of anyone’s “windfall profits tax.”

- Beldar

What's next is from the description from the universally respected CCH looseleaf tax service, as linked in my first email, of the legislation in question:

The base tax rate is increased from 22.5% to 25% of the annual production tax value of taxable oil and gas. When a producer's average monthly production tax value per BTU equivalent barrel of taxable oil and gas is between $30 and $92.50, an additional tax of 0.4% is imposed on the difference between the average monthly production tax value and $30. Formerly, the additional tax was 0.25%. When a producer's average monthly production tax value exceeds $92.50, the additional tax is 0.1% of the difference between the monthly production tax value and $92.50. The new tax rates are effective July 1, 2007.

That's not remotely consistent with what the Seattle newspaper article says, but I'd put my money on CCH.

Posted by Beldar at 07:28 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, Law (2008), McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Why Biden won't be able to do to Palin what Bentsen did to Quayle

Some conservatives are worried that Sarah Palin will become another "Dan Quayle at the Veep debate, being skewered by Lloyd Bentsen."

I've been thinking about that possibility since the Biden nomination. My first reaction was that as a life-long Texan, I knew Lloyd Bentsen (well, actually, my father did); Lloyd Bentsen was my friend. And Joe Biden is no Lloyd Bentsen. Biden is, literally, long of tooth, but on his very best day he doesn't have the gravitas in his whole body that Lloyd Bentsen had in his pinkie even while under general anesthesia.

John McCain in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 29th introducing his choice for the GOP's VP nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Nevertheless, as I was driving this afternoon to pick up my youngest daughter — away from the computer keyboard for a while, trying to collect my thoughts — my general giddiness over the Palin pick transmuted itself, and I suddenly started weeping tears of joy. Typically, my thoughts of and about my children are the quickest path to my emotions, and they certainly were in this instance, too. Here's what struck me:

The late Ann Richards, a pioneering woman in Texas politics and a hell of a character, even if you disagreed with her, wasn't the first female governor of Texas. Rather, that honor went to Miriam A. "Ma" Ferguson — and yes, the only reason she was elected (twice, in 1924 and 1932) was because she was the wife of James E. "Pa" Ferguson. She didn't really count; the asterisk is almost bigger than her name, and the "power behind the throne" had all the power, and everyone knew it.

Hillary Clinton came within a whisker of winning the Democratic Nomination, and just like the victory of the black who vanquished her, that was historic. It was symbolic. It trumpets the falling of barriers that I am glad to see fall. Although I was not one of them, I believe I understand the feelings of the many people — and it was not just women — who wept, either with joy at Hillary's accomplishments, or frustration that she fell short, or both.

But Hillary Clinton — however formidable she has become in her own right, and I will be the first to admit that she grew to be far more formidable during this race than I would have ever guessed even a year ago — would not possibly have become the junior senator from New York, nor a presidential candidate of any sort (much less the near-winner in a photo-finish), if she had not first been former President Bill Clinton's wife.

Sarah Palin, by contrast, is the daughter of two school-teachers. Her husband was never the president, and he's far more at home either on the floor of an oil rig or the floor of their kitchen fixing supper for five kids than he is on the floor of a Washington, D.C. banquet hall. Until she was elected governor of Alaska, neither she nor her husband nor her father nor anyone in either of their families was rich, or famous, or powerful.

Yes, being a woman helped get her selected to McCain's ticket sooner than otherwise; but she wasn't picked just because she was a woman, no more than Barack Obama has become the Democratic presidential nominee just because he was black. (Compare Geraldine Ferarro and Jesse Jackson.) Obama and Palin both have real, non-trivial, but subjective qualities that have now brought them out in front of other young female or black politicians into national attention despite their relative inexperience.

Sarah Palin won't have an asterisk, no more than would my own daughters. Or yours. Yes, she'd be the first woman VPOTUS, but not as a stand-in for anyone else. That was the realization which, combined with thoughts of my own two teen angels, uncorked my tear ducts.

And that led me, in turn, to the realization as to why I'm really not worried about Joe Biden trying to repeat the Bentsen-Quayle dynamic. The only reason that line worked so well is because Dan Quayle was indeed trying to be Jack Kennedy, and he so very clearly wasn't.

But Sarah Palin won't be trying to be Jack Kennedy. She doesn't need to.

Being Sarah Palin is plenty cool enough.

Posted by Beldar at 06:48 PM in 2008 Election, Family, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Non-scandal involving Gov. Palin: Even though he's an admitted child-abuser who Tasered his own step-son and used a deadly weapon to break the law, Trooper Wooten still has a job

I'm republishing as a post in its own right what I wrote in a comment on July 21 on my post describing Gov. Sarah Palin as the "Most popular politician in the country" — which she indeed is among her own constituents in Alaska, and, I predict, will soon become around the rest of the nation.

Commenter Sam D had written: "Folks..you need to go to www.andrewhalcro.com to see what our Governor Palin has been up to. Her political career is all but over. She has been caught in many lies in the last few days. Read for yourself." Here's what I wrote in response (reprinted here with minor editing but without blockquoting; most links in original):


Andrew Halcro, who runs a rental-car business, is a colorful crank who placed a distant third in the gubernatorial election that Palin won. He's devoted his life since then to trying to discredit her; her constituents see through it.

I take it you're referring to the possibility that she and members of her family may somehow acted improperly — through a complaint she filed before she was governor and through later expressions of disapproval and concern when she was briefing the head of her gubernatorial security detail — in the firing of the boss of an Alaska state trooper, Mike Wooten, who was previously married to Palin's sister. (Wooten's been married and divorced four times, in fact.) In response to the complaint, Wooten was found in 2005 to have shot a moose illegally and to have used his Taser on his own ten-year-old stepson, "just to show him what it would feel like to be Tasered." (To work up a righteous furor over this, the Left will be obliged to pivot from its stance in the Andrew Meyer Tasering incident at the John Kerry speech in Florida last year, and to instead wear "Please Tase Me, Dad!" tee-shirts.) The trooper apparently was also photographed by the governor's husband while riding a snowmobile while off work on a worker's compensation claim for a supposed back injury, and the governor has reported that he's made death threats against her and her father.

The trooper's boss who Palin later replaced when she became governor, Walt Monegan, had reduced Wooten's suspension without pay from ten days to down to five. But Wooten is in fact still on the force, a time bomb continuing to tick away. Palin has denied that there is any connection between Wooten's status and her replacement of Monegan, however, whose position was an appointed one that serves "at the pleasure" of the governor. (Monegan was offered a different position, which he refused.)

Yeah, I've been following that story in the Alaska press, but I previously chose not to dignify Halcro with a mention here, much less a link to his blog. Nevertheless, if that's the best opposition research anyone can come up with for Sarah Barracuda, I'd say that's a pretty good sign she can pass the McCain team's, and the American public's, vetting too.

I don't know whether there was an even subconscious connection between Wooten's misdeeds and Monagen's dismissal, but I've written before that Sarah Palin is popular in Alaska despite having some sharp elbows. Her victims include some Republican politicians who are now doing well-deserved prison time for influence peddling. The fact is that some people deserve a sharp blow from a sharp elbow. Sometimes those who enable and cover up for such people also deserve a sharp blow from a sharp elbow. So bring me someone with a Palin-elbow-shaped bruise who clearly didn't deserve it, and then you might have something interesting.

Halcro, by contrast, has invested himself in promoting a child-abusing bully with a proved record of misusing deadly firearms to break the law while an officer of the law — which I think tells you all you need to know about Halcro too.


A few pithy paragraphs I'd missed from the Alaska press about Trooper Wooten (bold-face mine):

"The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds with the ethics of our profession," Col. Julia Grimes, then head of Alaska State Troopers, wrote in March 1, 2006, letter suspending Wooten for 10 days. After the union protested it, the suspension was reduced to five days.


Troopers eventually investigated 13 issues and found four in which Wooten violated policy or broke the law or both:

  • Wooten used a Taser on his stepson.

  • He illegally shot a moose.

  • He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.

  • He told others his father-in-law [Palin's father] would "eat a f'ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.

Beyond the investigation sparked by the family, trooper commanders saw cause to discipline or give written instructions to correct Wooten seven times since he joined the force, according to Grimes' letter to Wooten.

Gov. Palin has welcomed and cooperated fully with a legislative investigation that Halcro's hyperbole has ginned up. Ultimately, this is one of those non-scandals that is actually likely to end up improving the reputation of its target, since most of us would probably share the Palin family's concerns about Trooper Wooten. The only question I have is: Why is that miscreant still wearing a badge?


UPDATE (Fri Sep 5 @ 1:15pm): Henceforth I shall avoid the name used by some for this controversy, "Troopergate," which among other problems sounds like prior genuine scandals involving, for example, disgraced former NY governor Eliot Spitzer's misuse of state troopers. Instead I shall refer to it as Tasergate, which has the appropriate effect of reminding people that those defending Wooten must therefore be in favor of child abuse.

Posted by Beldar at 02:02 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (13)

Yay! It's Palin!

I'm enthused — and oh-so-pleasantly surprised! — about John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, for all of the reasons stated in my previous posts about her [and new ones, which I'll be adding to this table as I write them — Beldar]:


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

June 8, 2008

Palin leads Pajamas Media veep poll

June 18, 2008

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

June 29, 2008

Palin would give voters grounds to consider the 2008 GOP Veep nominee on more than the three traditional occasions

July 1, 2008

McCain should say: "I shall go to Alaska! (And I will take along the press!)"

July 11, 2008

"Most popular politician in the country," a hockey mom from Alaska, is indeed in "the realm of the possible" as McCain's Veep choice

July 18, 2008

Palin versus Obama at Landstuhl

July 27, 2008

Beldar to Lowry, for the benefit of McCain, on ANWR

August 6, 2008

Windfall profits taxes on energy companies?

August 7, 2008

Why Obama's conventional Veep choice should free McCain to make an unconventional one (Palin or Jindal)

August 24, 2008

Yay! It's Palin! (with table of all Palin posts)

August 29, 2008

Non-scandal involving Gov. Palin: Even though he's an admitted child-abuser who Tasered his own step-son and used a deadly weapon to break the law, Trooper Wooten still has a job

August 29, 2008

Why Biden won't be able to do to Palin what Bentsen did to Quayle

August 29, 2008

Don't be misled into thinking that Gov. Palin has championed the same sort of "windfall profits taxes" on oil companies that Obama has

August 29, 2008

The Palin family's energy bona fides versus the Democrats' big talk

August 29, 2008

Not a messiah, not even from Harvard, but the one (lower-case) we've been waiting for

August 30, 2008

Palin knows being pro-production doesn't mean being in the oil companies' pocket

August 30, 2008

Single most clueless media "attack" on Gov. Palin's credentials

August 30, 2008

Obama's first post-Palin-pick TV ad: Um, look over there, there's Dubya!

August 30, 2008

Palin's kids are NOT named after TV witches (sheesh)

August 30, 2008

A plea for patience with sour, conventional conservative pundits who are still getting their minds around the Palin pick

August 30, 2008

Palin and the résumé test: a respectful reply to James Joyner

August 30, 2008

MSM and critics mischaracterize Palin as being ignorant of general Veep job duties by taking out of context her statement that she'd want to know her specific responsibilities as Veep

August 31, 2008

Because we can learn about Sarah Palin from looking at her family scrapbook ...

August 31, 2008

When toting up Palin's credentials, do not omit her experience as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission

September 1, 2008

Comparing Palin and Obama based on their respective experience in political campaigns

September 1, 2008

A timely Palin family history regarding the competition between privacy and political possibilities

September 1, 2008

Dems ought not count on Sarah Barracuda to blow the VP debate

September 2, 2008

Palin ahead of the curve in 2006 on "all of the above" solutions to energy problems

September 2, 2008

Not a radical secessionist: Sarah Palin, registered Alaska Republican continuously since 1982

September 2, 2008

Palin is popular — not because she's a "populist," but because she works for the whole population "with a servant's heart"

September 3, 2008

Brave couple meet war hero

September 3, 2008

Noonan on Palin: The rest of what was said, and what she thinks

September 3, 2008

Palin's acceptance speech

September 3, 2008

Team Obama's response to the political speech of the 21st century

September 3, 2008

Empirical proof of Palin's leadership abilities relative to Barack Obama's

September 4, 2008

Sexism versus shoddy journalism and elitism in the stream of Palin invective

September 4, 2008

The Palin nomination had plenty of foreshadowing, despite MSM meme of it being a bolt from the blue

September 4, 2008

Meanwhile in the convention hall

September 4, 2008

Palin's history shows ever-growing opposition to earmarks

September 5, 2008

Palin seeks truth from state agency with jurisdiction, refuses to cooperate with political hatchet job, in Tasergate non-scandal

September 5, 2008

Alaska governor's position among the most powerful and most challenging in the U.S.

September 5, 2008

More metaphors from the wild kingdom to describe the Obama-Biden campaign's "Palin problem"

September 5, 2008

Don't confuse Republicans' thrill over the Palin nomination with the Dems' worship of Obama: A reply to Paul Mirengoff

September 6, 2008

"I feel like we deserve to win more than they deserve to lose"

September 6, 2008

Glib dismissals of Gov. Palin's executive record are unfair and unpersuasive: A further response to Paul Mirengoff

September 7, 2008

Palin and the Alaska National Guard

September 7, 2008

The McCain-Palin campaign on offense

September 7, 2008

Axelrod spinning out of control on Palin and related topics

September 7, 2008

A respectful suggestion to the McCain-Palin campaign: Change your slogans

September 7, 2008

NYT confirms startling detail about Palin child's name!

September 8, 2008

A critique of Dahlia Lithwick's debate advice to Joe Biden

September 8, 2008

Biden says election of Palin as VP would be "obviously a backward step for women"

September 9, 2008

Sarah Palin sends Secret Service agent on personal errand

September 9, 2008

Newsweek bonds with child-abuser in Tasergate non-scandal

September 10, 2008

In Gibson interview, Gov. Palin was right: There is no single clear meaning for "the Bush Doctrine"

September 12, 2008

The red flag from Alaska that Team Obama chose to ignore

September 12, 2008

Wisdom & elitism: The moose-hunting hockey mom versus the community organizer from Harvard Law

September 22, 2008

New clueless anti-Palin meme: She's a black widow who'll turn on John McCain

September 22, 2008

Spare me your reverse-reverse snobbery about Sarah Palin

September 23, 2008

A fisking of David Talbot's assembly of Alaska's defeated candidates and felons to whine about "mean girl" Sarah Palin

September 23, 2008

"Caribou Barbie" kicks serious tail

September 23, 2008

Pix for animal lovers

September 24, 2008

Contra Bonnie Goldstein at Slate.com, Gov. Palin has never "admitted publicly" that any communications with Monegan were intended to "urge Wooten's firing"

September 24, 2008

Washington Democratic Party hacks second-guess Gov. Palin about her relative time spent in Juneau and elsewhere

September 24, 2008

Neither Palin nor any human in her shoes could satisfy the mainstream media's lust for "gotcha" questions

September 25, 2008

Don't second-guess McCain's choice of Palin yet based on speculation that Jindal might have been a better one

September 26, 2008

On a clear day, you can indeed see Russia from Alaska

September 27, 2008

From Bill Kristol's lips to John McCain's ear: Free Sarah!

September 28, 2008

Smitten Pakistani president smacked by feminists at home for sexism towards Veep nominee Palin

September 29, 2008

Is Veep debate moderator Gwen Ifill biased?

October 1, 2008

Old media dinosaurs have NOT asked Sarah Palin about her actual accomplishments

October 1, 2008

Ifill quells no qualms by being defensive

October 1, 2008

Palin on Hannity

October 1, 2008

The stage is set for the Veep debate

October 2, 2008

Through Sarah Palin, ordinary, non-mystical Americans may reclaim their national government

October 3, 2008

The integrity gap between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin

October 3, 2008

Carl Cameron's interview with Gov. Palin

October 3, 2008

Life imitating "Fargo"?

October 3, 2008

Nielsen ratings on Veep debate show 70 million Americans' fascination with Sarah Palin

October 3, 2008

Did someone feed Palin answers to give Cameron for the questions from Couric which she'd ducked?

October 4, 2008

Dealing with Palin haters

October 6, 2008

Branchflower report on Tasergate: Just one guy's opinion that contradicts itself and ignores the relevant facts and law

October 10, 2008

A reply to Prof. Post: It's nonsense to argue both that it was okay for Gov. Palin to actually fire Monegan, but that it wasn't okay for her to merely threaten to fire Monegan

October 12, 2008

You don't know her yet, Americans, not most of you. But I've been writing here, and elsewhere, all summer that she is the real deal. Committed conservatives who've been really digging into the conceivable Veep nominees have recognized that with their responses to a variety of internet polls in which she's done very well against better-known and more conventional choices like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. To get to know her, you could do considerably worse than starting with my posts, the photos and links they contain, and the excellent and knowledgeable comments, including skeptical ones, that they've inspired.

New GOP Veep nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and John McCain on Aug 29th (Photo: Matt Sullivan, Reuters, in USA Today)

Suffice it to say that today, John McCain has made me a happy camper and, for the very first time, an enthusiastic supporter of the 2008 GOP ticket. I'm even going to replace the "Grumpy Old Man" endorsement in my sidebar.

And bravo to the McCain campaign for their incredible discipline in keeping this decision under their collective hats!

(PS: Happy anniversary to Gov. Palin and First Dude Todd! And happy birthday to the grumpy old man himself!)


UPDATE (Fri Aug 29 @ 12:40pm): Commenter rfy says he's contributed $250 online to the McCain-Palin campaign today after having previously given exactly zero. He points out that "donating to the McCain/Palin campaign is a great way for conservatives to demonstrate our agreement and enthusiasm for Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin." I second that comment, and add this: If McCain is elected, he needs to understand that it was due to wide-spread support from committed conservatives who are taking a chance on him — not just moderates and undecideds. Today, you have a chance to re-enforce and reward, in a tangible way, this profoundly conservative decision by John McCain.

Posted by Beldar at 11:44 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (29)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama over the top

Events may prove me wrong. But I believe that in hindsight — even, say, a year from now — the high point of the failed Barack Obama presidential candidacy will be recognized as having occurred a few seconds before he spoke these lines in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention tonight:

You know, John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of Hell. But he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives.

What a nasty, vile statement. What a palpable, obvious, and deliberate lie. What a calculated insult, in a speech guaranteed to have been combed over in advance for anything that might generate misunderstandings, in a speech guaranteed to receive more national attention than anything Obama has said to date in his entire life. What a great insight into the shallow, immature thinking and overweening, craven opportunism of this man who's never done anything, never risked anything, never shown an ounce of even political courage (much less physical courage) — but yet would be the Commander in Chief of the United States of America.

And the crowd roared its approval. That must be the lowest moment of the Democratic Party in its history. Shame on them, on every one of them who cheered and every one of them who didn't sit on his or her hands and shake his or her head in disgust. How very fortunate for them all that brave Americans like John McCain in the uniforms of our country's military forces have fought and died for their rights to make such utter fools of themselves.

Then, not five minutes later:

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patriotism.

What unfathomably vast hypocrisy.

Barack Obama excites his party's true believers, who are waiting for their Messiah to lead them from the electoral deserts. I do not believe this man can successfully conceal from a majority of the American voting public, however, just how venal and dangerous he is.

It was, as John McCain said in the ad his campaign ran tonight, "perfect" that the first black to be a presidential nominee of a major political party gave his nomination speech on this anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech. It is a tragic shame, though, that the content of that nominee's character is so lacking.

Posted by Beldar at 10:26 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (24)

Beldar at the beginning

When I started this blog in 2003, near the bottom of the personal information that's always been linked from my sidebar, I included an explanation for the origin of my nickname, "Beldar," during my days as a member of the Finquo Pledge Class of the Longhorn Band's Kappa Kappa Psi service fraternity 30 years ago.

Last night, I received an email from my fellow Fingquo Don Winstel with an attached scan of a faded Polaroid from those days:

Fingquo Coneheads, Fall 1978

Taken in the stairwell of the Music Building East at UT-Austin, this shows four of the Fingquos  — left to right, me, Dan Gremminger, David Schkade, and Richard Taylor — snarling as we prepared to present our Saturday Night Live/Coneheads skit at the weekly KKY meeting after band practice on a Tuesday evening in the fall of 1978. The nickname came as a result of Richard's beer-impaired processing of my name a night or two before, as we were planning the skit — "Bill Dyer, Bihl Dahr, Behl-Dahr, Bel-Dar, hey, BELDAR!"

Damn, we were young and good-looking. Mips!

Posted by Beldar at 10:57 AM in Family | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bubba and Slow Joe at the DNC

Can there be any remaining doubt that Bill Clinton is the most accomplished and brazen liar in the history of the United States of America? Could anyone who was watching be so naïve as to believe that he believed a single word that he said about Barack Obama, or about his own intentions to campaign for Obama?

(I skipped John Kerry. America skipped John Kerry.)

Beau Biden was terrific. He had a powerful, intensely personal story to tell about his father, one that's unimpeachable and moving, and he told it in dirt simple words molded into short sentences. His military bearing made up for adverbs and adjectives that a slicker speech would have contained, and the end result was just about perfect. (By sharp contrast, however, no one so far has done remotely as good a job making The One seem human.)

How could Obama's team pick, for inclusion in the video intro of Slow Joe, a statement from Obama that Biden's best quality is his honesty? If I may riff on the inestimable Mickey Kaus' joke (one which only makes sense if you already know a fair amount about Biden), Biden's honesty is a defining character trait he acquired as a child in the coal mines of Wales, from which he graduated at the top of his class.

As for Slow Joe's own speech: Meh. He didn't put on a Princeton cap. What we saw tonight will be pretty much what we'll see for the rest of the campaign. It's no better, nor any worse, than his campaign speeches and debate appearances in his own two runs for POTUS, in which he picked up exactly as many delegates as Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich (zero).

Posted by Beldar at 09:53 PM in 2008 Election, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hillary at the DNC

I wasn't able to watch last night's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention, but I watched replays in the wee small hours. I was fascinated by the reports that the Obama campaign juggled former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, the supposed "key-note speaker," into an earlier time slot with fewer TV viewers because he was refusing to deliver up enough anti-McCain red meat. If true, that's hardly a vote of confidence on his part as to the outcome of this year's presidential election; or perhaps it just reflects nervousness on his part about how his future home-state prospects might be affected; or perhaps he really, truly is principled.

As for Hillary: Especially combined with the extremely short introduction from daughter Chelsea, and a short but funny video introduction (which spoofed her laugh and terrible singing), her speech last night was the most effective public performance I've ever seen Hillary Clinton make. But as various pundits noted afterwards, it was an effective performance on behalf of Hillary Clinton — and not so much on behalf of Barack Obama.

Oh, it was superficially supportive enough, with a sufficient number of rote exhortations that "We've got to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States!" But there was no fire in those exhortations, no passion. They were wooden, whereas the rest of her speech — talking about what she had experienced in the campaign, what she thinks, what she believes — almost sounded genuine. There is no question that she became a vastly more skilled campaigner during the course of the past year, and whenever she is next free to run, whether it's 2012 or 2016, she's going to be hell on wheels for any other Democratic contender.

Obama is an utter fool not to have bent over backwards to get her campaign debt paid off and lavished her with at least faux respect ever since he clinched the nomination. It is certainly clear that hubris is his fatal flaw, every bit as much as lust is Bubba's fatal flaw.

Posted by Beldar at 12:47 PM in 2008 Election, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michelle and Barack Obama as national mom and dad

Let's just stipulate that Barack and Michelle Obama have adorable daughters.

I expected Michelle Obama's speech to be thoroughly homogenized and pasteurized and reassuring. Was it? I don't know, although the part I saw was bland. I fell asleep, and only woke up near the end, when Barack Obama "joined" his family via a teleconferencing hookup from Kansas City. The opinions I have about her, I confess, are already fairly well set, and they're based on her less scripted or unscripted statements, which I tend to believe are more sincere and revelatory of her character and mindset.

Afterwards, the CNN pundits were going into the DTs. It had nothing to do with the content of Michelle Obama's speech. It was that the whole first night of the convention, they say, permitted the anti-Bush vitriol levels in their bloodstreams to drop dangerously. "There has hardly been any 'throw the bums out' tonight, what's wrong?" they demand. Well, duh. Teddy's too sick to do that tonight, and that would have been exactly contrary to the goals the campaign had for Michelle's speech. I don't think the campaign strategists would have been upset by people nodding off tonight.

Juan Williams on Fox said Michelle's speech was a great moment for the black community. I take him at his word, and I have no confidence in my own opinion on that. He also effused about what a great example this whole- and functional-family image presented for the black community. It's hard to disagree with that observation, either, and I don't. The shocking percentage of children, and especially black children, who are born out of wedlock and have no relationship with their fathers in America is an issue on which Williams has spoken out eloquently before, as has Barack Obama on occasion.

Bill Cosby has gained a great deal of notoriety on this subject; he's been an examplar of paternal responsibility for several decades now, not only as the fictional Cliff Huxtable but in his own real life. One may legitimately wish for more such conspicuous examples, and not just for blacks. (I mutter angrily to myself at convenience store checkout lines, skimming the headlines from the latest tabloids about which starlet has just borne which star's bastard child, as if that's admirable.) But is "Good Dad" an important qualification to be POTUS?

As far as I know, Jimmy Carter was a good father — taking time off from his supervision of the White House tennis court schedules to seek policy advice from his daughter Amy regarding the national malaise, if one credits his speeches. But he was the worst president in the second half of the 20th Century, a national disaster and disgrace. His successor, Ronald Reagan, was in my judgment among the best presidents of American history, but his record as a father was a more mixed one.

As the Dems' VPOTUS nominee said of the Dems' POTUS nominee: "Storybook, man." Good images, for political and other purposes. No surprises. But in terms of what she sees as her husband's role if he's elected, and how she perceives her own relationship to her country, Michelle Obama still frightens me. And I'm perfectly content for Barack Obama to continue being a good example to dads, black or otherwise, as the junior senator from Illinois.

Posted by Beldar at 10:37 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (8)

Teddy at the DNC

Only a grinch could begrudge the Democrats their convention. I hope they have a good time. I'm prepared to be entertained by any conflict that breaks out, but I won't be disappointed if there is none. And I'll watch quite a bit of it, and maybe share a few of my reactions here.

Just now, Carolyn Kennedy Schlossberg introduced her uncle, Ted Kennedy, who has been very ill. There is much about that man which I don't admire. But he is a lion of the Left, and one of a shrinking number of tangible reminders of a generation that I wasn't part of, but which I'm old enough to relate to. I'm just old enough to be among those who remember where they were when Jack Kennedy was assassinated, and I certainly remember Bobby's assassination too, and I was politically aware and a voter by the time Teddy was making his own challenge for the Democratic nomination.

The old lion can still roar on cue, if more from ingrained habit than present robust energy. As always, his Massachusetts accent, with Rs seemingly dropped and added at random, reminds me of his brothers. Gendah, endeavah, Novembah — if he were more truthful and less of a politician, he'd have included in his call of universal health care a reference to that world-class single-payer health care system in Cuber.

This may be his last-ever convention. I'm glad he was well enough to speak, and to give his partisans a chance to show their affection for him.

Posted by Beldar at 08:56 PM in 2008 Election, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Why I probably ought never be in the same room with Barack Obama

I've never been arrested. The closest I've come as an adult to being in a fist-fight was more than 10 years ago, when a drunk sucker-punched me after I knocked on the door of his ski condo at 3:00 a.m. to ask him and his friends to turn down their music, and by the time I got off the floor the door was locked again. In fact, I try to stay out of situations in which I might lose my temper.

That's why if ever I found myself in a room with unrepentant former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, I'd immediately leave the room.

Bill Ayers, trampling an American flag for an August 2001 article in Chicago Magazine entitled 'No Regrets.'I know myself well enough to know that the odds would skyrocket that I'd get into a fist-fight, and even that I'd throw the first punch, were I to find myself face-to-face with a would-be cop killer whose motto is "Guilty as hell, free as a bird — America is a great country!" Even if he wasn't trampling on an American flag at that precise moment, I could no more break bread with such a man, or share a round of beers, or shake hands with him, than I could with Osama bin Ladin.

If Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dorn are what pass for respectable members of liberal Chicago society now, that's among the most shameful indictments I've ever heard of the honesty and integrity of that city's citizens.

Barack Obama continues to profess that it's perfectly okay for him to be friends with this man, to have served on a corporate board with him, to have exchanged back-scratching and doled out millions of dollars in grant money to his pet radical education projects, and to have even used Ayers' home to beg him and his radical friends for political contributions. Obama says that the fact that Ayers' self-admitted terrorism occurred in the 1960s and 1970s — crimes for which Ayers is not still in prison now only because of law enforcement blunders — makes it perfectly okay for Obama to associate with Ayers in the 1990s and 2000s. The Obama campaign is even running a TV ad to make that argument.

To which my reaction is this: I probably should never be in the same room with Barack Obama either. We could probably have a civil conversation about most things. I could probably shake his hand, break bread with him, or share a beer with Barack Obama, no matter how much I disagree with his positions. But if, while I was face to face with him, he had the nerve to make the same argument to my face about Bill Ayers that he makes in this television commercial, I'd have to immediately leave the room. I know the limits of my temper, and that would put me too close to losing it.

I'm pretty sure that Secret Service agents hit much harder than that drunk did at the ski condos, and I know that people who try to punch a presidential candidate in the nose get prosecuted. And they should (get prosecuted, I mean).

From Obama's ad on Bill AyersThe issue is not Obama's judgment when he was eight years old. The issue is Obama's judgment during the last ten years that he's been associated with Ayers — including his judgment now in refusing to renounce his friendship with Ayers.

If there's anyone who ought to have been (metaphorically) ground into paste already under the rear wheels of the Obama campaign bus (along with Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright) a long time ago, it's Bill Ayers. Obama's association with him, and his continued insistence in defending this terrorist who won't repent his own violence, is the single most contemptible thing I know about the Democratic nominee for POTUS.

Ayers was a twisted dollop of evil scum in the 1960s and 1970s, and he's still evil scum. It is absolutely inconceivable to me that someone who might become the president of the United States could call such a man "friend."

From Obama's ad on Bill AyersIt is wholly insufficient — a pathetic joke of an excuse — for Obama to "denounce Ayers' crimes" when Ayers won't denounce those crimes himself. A four-year-old child can understand that. Why can't Barack Obama? Or rather, why does Obama pretend not to understand it?

Does Ayers have something he's holding over Obama's head that we still don't know about? Can you think of any other good reason why Obama would abandon Rev. Wright or Tony Rezko, while continuing to defend his relationship with the even more odious Bill Ayers?

Posted by Beldar at 06:40 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (13)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Obama's conventional Veep choice should free McCain to make an unconventional one (Palin or Jindal)

Barack Obama, who is at least superficially a very unconventional presidential candidate, has now picked an exceptionally conventional vice-presidential running mate in Joe Biden. Biden was born in 1942; he was first elected to the Senate in 1972, when Obama was 11 years old, and Biden has been there ever since. Biden got zero traction among voters in his own party in either of his own two presidential bids. For those who can't distinguish between seniority and experience, Biden might appear to be a "safe" choice, one whose long Senate tenure arguably balances Obama's own brief and thin list of accomplishments. But the one thing that Biden has proven himself to be — both as a presidential candidate and as a senator — is a self-absorbed gaffe machine. My only question is not whether, but the relative degree to which, by November, Biden will have proved himself to be an embarrassment to the Obama campaign. And that depends not only on how many gaffes Biden makes, but how many Obama and McCain make during the same period (since theirs would likely overshadow Biden's).

I am confident that in between his gaffes, however, Joe Biden will endlessly and enthusiastically repeat the Obama campaign's talking points. Already-committed voters for either side may pay brief attention to his gaffes (defending or ridiculing them, depending on their already existing preferences), but other than that, they will mostly ignore him. As for undecided voters, or potential voters whose real decision is whether to show up at the polls or not, I do not believe that Biden is capable of connecting with them in any powerful (subconscious or emotional) way. He is more plastic, and less inspiring, than either Obama or McCain.

So what does Obama's choice of Biden mean for McCain's own Veep selection? Does it mean that McCain ought also play it safe? Or does this create a new and unique opportunity for McCain to exploit? I presume you've read the title of this post, so you already know what I think the answer to this question should be. But here's my reasoning behind the recommendation:


For starters, one thing is absolutely clear now: Whatever else, Obama's choice of Biden didn't bring something to the Democratic ticket that McCain himself can't already counter in spades. Indeed, Biden was obviously chosen by Obama to try to match some of McCain's strengths — long Senate service, particularly with respect to foreign policy matters — but Biden's addition to the ticket doesn't require that McCain pick someone else, in addition to himself, who shares those qualities.

And because Biden's only in the second slot, no amount of perceived experience on his part can completely overcome Obama's own short and thin record. Indeed, since both parties' presidential nominees became clear, we've always known that when it comes to experience, the GOP ticket would be superior to the Democratic ticket — and that's true regardless of who either nominee picks for the Veep slot. For voters who value experience highly, the GOP ticket is already the superior choice. Long years of service are therefore a less important qualification for the McCain ticket's second slot because he need not worry about having to play catch-up on that count. And voters normally expect a Veep nominee to be the less experienced of the two.

Biden is also very much a known quantity. The odds of America becoming suddenly infatuated with Joe Biden, and that rubbing off on Barack Obama, are zero. McCain now knows that Obama's conventional choice is not going to somehow unexpectedly morph into a brilliant choice. He doesn't bring any battleground state definitely into the Democratic fold. And, frankly, the likelihood that Biden will be a gaffe-free Veen nominee is also about zero. Compared to where it might have been if Obama had announced that, for example, Sam Nunn or Hillary Clinton were his choice, the bar has been set fairly low.


I've read several conservative pundits whose opinions I respect argue that Obama's selection of Biden means McCain ought to pick Mitt Romney. So far, however, I haven't seen anyone make a compelling, specific argument as to why Romney would be a better choice now than he would have been had Obama picked, say, Hillary Clinton or Bill Richardson. Instead, their arguments seem to be fairly generic ones, a restatement of the reasons why they like Romney anyway.

He was never my first choice, but based on their respective policies, I also preferred Romney to McCain during the GOP primaries, and by the end of them I ended up liking Romney substantially more than I did when they began. I won't be horribly dismayed now if McCain were to pick Romney. And there are, by sharp contrast, quite a few other names being bounced around whose selection would indeed dismay me deeply.

But except for his LDS religious faith, Romney would also be an extremely conventional Veep selection. He's as plastic and uninspiring as Biden, and just as unlikely to connect powerfully with the undecided or swing voters who presumably will decide the election.

To me, Obama's cautious and conventional choice ought simply highlights the strategic advantage that McCain could seize by going unconventional. With no need to directly counter Obama's choice, then instead of mirroring it, McCain ought to exploit it — to seize upon it as a chance to engage in asymmetric political warfare. Obama's hunkering down and digging in, so now is the time to get behind his lines. Or in football terms: Obama has stacked the box, assuming that McCain is going to run the ball up the middle, and he's already fully committed to that formation, so now is the very best time to call an audible and go deep.

That means Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal.


If McCain picks Romney, or someone else fairly conventional (e.g., Pawlenty or Portman), I know I'm going to have to set my DVR to record the vice presidential debate because I can't be certain in advance that I won't fall asleep during the middle of it. But oh, how I — and, I think, how all of America — would relish watching either Palin or Jindal take on Joe Biden!

The Dems would expect it to be Quayle versus Bentsen all over again, but Joe Biden is no Lloyd Bentsen — silver hair-plugs do not translate into genuine gravitas. Because Quayle was a traditional, privileged white male, there was no potential backlash when the Dems mocked him for his youth and seeming shallowness; Dems would find it less easy, or more risky, to mock either Palin or Jindal. And either Palin or Jindal are far better at thinking and speaking on their feet than Dan Quayle was. Quayle wasn't as bad as his reputation eventually became, but neither was he ever the genuine hope for the future of his party that Poppy Bush seemed to think he'd be. Palin and Jindal are the real deal.

The vice presidential debate almost certainly won't be won on substantive debating points, however — on their merits, Quayle's answers weren't that bad and Bentsen's weren't that great. What very well could "win" the VP debate — and more importantly, what could even affect the outcome of the election — is the flavor, tone, and the visuals of the event. That includes identity politics of the sort that I usually deplore, but that can't be ignored, especially when one's trying to figure out how to capture undecided and swing voters who are seeking a visceral connection of some sort with either campaign.

Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal standing at the GOP's lectern at the vice presidential debate — especially across from Democrat Joe Biden, as stereotypical an old-school politician as has ever lived and breathed — would transform the Republican Party's image in the minds of literally millions of voters who presently associate it exclusively with rich, white, old men. And that's something no amount of television advertising buys or direct mail brochures could do. And it's true almost no matter what anyone actually says at the debate.

By picking Joe Biden, Barack Obama has handed that visual to John McCain and the GOP on a silver platter. Should that gift be squandered?

Even though I'm a big fan of Gov. Jindal, I still am more enthusiastic about Gov. Palin for this particular race at this particular time, and it's for two reasons, each of which can each be summarized in a single word. The first word is "Energy." And the second word is "Hillary." The first is the best domestic issue for the GOP, on which Gov. Palin is uniquely qualified as both a symbol and a spokesperson. The second is the source of a whole lot of disaffected woulda-been Democratic voters who are looking for an excuse to rebound in a way that secretly (but very satisfyingly) shoots the finger at Barack Obama.


At the beginning of this post, I described Obama himself as "at least superficially a very unconventional presidential candidate." But in fact, the lesson of the entire 2008 presidential campaign so far — a lesson again re-affirmed by his pick of Biden — is that Obama is a very conventional politician who's running a disciplined, almost constipated campaign. He's far better at that than Hillary Clinton or, for that matter, Joe Biden gave him early credit for, which is why he beat them. And it wasn't until Hillary loosened up and started taking chances — a change that, in hindsight, came too late — that she started getting real traction against him.

I don't think McCain is naturally risk-averse, and I suspect he will indeed go with his own gut, rather than let his advisers push him into a choice he otherwise might not have made. But I fear that McCain will show his maverick streak — poke his thumb in the eye of the GOP establishment and its conservative base — by picking a Tom Ridge or a Lindsey Graham. So if there are any Republican angels out there who can whisper my words into the grumpy old man's ear as he sleeps, please whisper these:

"You're not Bob Dole, and you've never wanted to be. Yes, be unconventional, my friend, but not in a way that makes your would-be supporters despondent. Give them firm cause to back you, and a pleasant surprise, by choosing someone who's unquestionably conservative. Give all America inspiration by choosing someone who's fresh and energetic and emblematic of the new century, instead of the one just past. You're the candidate who already connects with practical voters who value security and honor; now bolster your ticket's appeal with someone who can connect with romantic voters who most prize hope and progress. Go deep, John McCain: Pick Palin!"

Posted by Beldar at 03:36 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (20)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama picks Veep nominee whose main claim to fame is being caught repeatedly as a plagiarist

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) As I post this, the NYT is announcing on its website that Barack Obama has chosen fellow senator Joe Biden as his running mate. If true, then Obama has apparently made NYT pundit David Brooks a happy man. He's certainly made me happier as a committed Obama opponent!

I'm pretty sure that David Brooks is a nice man. He is an articulate man. He can write and speak in complete sentences. Occasionally, he delivers some interesting punditry. But his op-ed earlier in today's NYT — Hoping It's Biden — is simply a monument to cluelessness.

Brooks writes that Biden "has disdain for privilege and for limousine liberals — the mark of an honest, working-class Democrat." Brooks digs the hole deeper in listing "honesty" as among Biden's useful attributes as an Obama running-mate (emphasis in original):

Honesty. Biden’s most notorious feature is his mouth. But in his youth, he had a stutter. As a freshman in high school he was exempted from public speaking because of his disability, and was ridiculed by teachers and peers. His nickname was Dash, because of his inability to finish a sentence.

He developed an odd smile as a way to relax his facial muscles (it still shows up while he’s speaking today) and he’s spent his adulthood making up for any comments that may have gone unmade during his youth.

Today, Biden’s conversational style is tiresome to some, but it has one outstanding feature. He is direct. No matter who you are, he tells you exactly what he thinks, before he tells it to you a second, third and fourth time.

Presidents need someone who will be relentlessly direct. Obama, who attracts worshippers, not just staff members, needs that more than most.

This is awful logic — in fact, it's not logic at all. I have no clue how Biden's high-school speech disability, or his resulting odd smile, relate to "honesty." This is just Brooks' babbling: Nothing in these paragraphs has anything to do with honesty.

Perhaps if Brooks wants to know about Biden's intrinsic honesty, and he won't read BeldarBlog on that subject, then he should at least read some of his employer's archives.

Let's start with the fact that Biden has admitted to conduct which proves that he was a very dishonest young man: He was caught in, and then confessed to, an episode of repeatedly plagiarizing from a law review article in a class paper he submitted as a first-year law student:

The file distributed by the Senator included a law school faculty report, dated Dec. 1, 1965, that concluded that Mr. Biden had ''used five pages from a published law review article without quotation or attribution'' and that he ought to be failed in the legal methods course for which he had submitted the 15-page paper.

Got that? Biden stole someone else's legal scholarship, and passed it off as his own. He's lucky he wasn't expelled outright, but the F he received in that course as part of the penalty for his misconduct doesn't explain by itself how he managed to graduate only 76th out of 85 in his law school class.

(John McCain also graduated near the bottom of his class from Annapolis, and that also reflected a middling academic performance brought further down by conduct demerits — but McCain's misbehavior mostly reflected his unwillingness to submit to Naval Academy hazing, and none of it involved cheating or any other violations of the Academy's famous Honor Code.)

Biden's law school cheating might be discounted if he'd learned his lesson and lived an exemplary, plagiarism-free life thereafter. But of course, he didn't. His own first run for the presidency exploded in 1987 when he was caught repeatedly plagiarizing again, and simultaneously caught on C-SPAN telling obvious lies about his academic record:

Mr. Biden's troubles began with the revelation in The New York Times and The Des Moines Register that he had used, without attribution, long portions of a moving address by the British Labor Party leader, Neil Kinnock. Later, it emerged that he had also used passages from the speeches of Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey.

Then, it was revealed that Mr. Biden had been disciplined as a first-year law student for using portions of a law review article in a paper without proper attribution. Mr. Biden tried to put the charges behind him by admitting to mistakes at a news conference, but he was hit again by a Newsweek magazine report on a videotape of an appearance in New Hampshire in which he misstated several facts about his academic career.

The "misstated facts" included a claim that he'd graduated from law school in the top half of his academic class.

Brooks does mention the "plagiarism scandal" later in his op-ed, among the "lesser crises" that have marked Biden's career. But Brooks doesn't seem to grasp that plagiarism is dishonesty and theft; he cites this as an example, absolutely inexplicably, of Biden's "loyalty":

[T]here are moments when a president has to go into the cabinet room and announce a decision that nearly everyone else on his team disagrees with. In those moments, he needs a vice president who will provide absolute support. That sort of loyalty comes easiest to people who have been down themselves, and who had to rely on others in their own moments of need.

Yes, indeed, Biden has shown that he can "rely on others" — a law review author, Neil Kinnock, Hubert Humphrey, and Robert F. Kennedy among them — during his own "moments of need," but how is that a good thing? And what on earth does that have to do with the kind of loyalty he'd show as a vice president?

Obama is choosing Biden for foreign policy and national security gravitas, and Biden does have many years of experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But military acumen? Consider this, also revealed back in 1987:

The file also included Mr. Biden's transcript from his days as an undergraduate at the University of Delaware. In his first three semesters, his grades were C's or D's, with three exceptions: two A's in physical education courses, a B in a course on ''Great English Writers'' and an F in R.O.T.C. The grades improved somewhat later but were never exceptional.

Yeah, that's the way to counter a war hero like McCain — pick someone who flunked his course in the Reserve Officer Training Corps!

So what else besides lying, cheating, and flunking classes is Joe Biden famous for? Well, I guess he could point to his most conspicuous Senate accomplishment — championing legislation favored by his home-state's large concentration of credit card companies to make it significantly harder for Americans to discharge their debts through bankruptcy. I expect we won't be hearing much about that legislative accomplishment, though, from the Obama-Biden '08 campaign.

For the grumpy old man to win, Obama needs to make mistakes that reveal his inexperience and poor judgment. In picking Biden, Obama's just made another — a huge one whose importance will become increasingly clear as the campaign progresses.


UPDATE (Sun Aug 24 @ 12:40am): AllahPundit has the whole C-SPAN clip. In addition to claiming he has a higher IQ than the questioner (unprovable either way without getting test scores for them both) and lying outright about his law school class rank, Biden insisted that he had three degrees from college (when in fact he had only one, albeit that with a double-major). He claimed to have been recognized as the "outstanding student" in his college political science department, when in fact he had only been nominated for an award (which he didn't win). And Biden claimed to have had a full academic scholarship to law school, when he actually had only a half-scholarship based on financial need.

Posted by Beldar at 12:45 AM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (9)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama's belatedly acknowledged case comment in the Harvard Law Review raises questions about his campaign's fundamental honesty

On June 23, 2008, prompted by what I thought was a poorly researched and incomplete article by Jeffrey Ressner and Ben Smith on the Politico website, I wrote a post entitled Why Didn't Obama Publish anything in the law journal he edited? The key passage from the Ressner and Smith article, at least for purposes of my own post, was this one:

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.

Although I have no first-hand knowledge of the Harvard Law Review's practices, either then or now, my own experiences as an editor at the Texas Law Review in the late 1970s made me intensely curious as to whether this statement was accurate, and if it was, how Obama had managed to become the president of the Harvard Law Review (a position elsewhere called editor-in-chief) without publishing anything of his own.

Now the same two reporters — albeit with their names in reverse order, if that means anything — have published an article entitled Exclusive: Obama's lost law review article. (Note to self: Next time I discover that I've screwed up big-time in a post, be sure to include the notation "Exclusive!" in the title of my correction.) From this article, it appears that the same Obama campaign spokesman, Ben LaBolt, has now confirmed that Obama authored a "case comment." It was published in volume 103 of the HRL, at page 823 of its January 1990 edition (which may or may not have actually been released during that month, since the actual publication dates of many law reviews sometimes run months behind their schedules). In it, Obama 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.

I've obtained a copy of the comment and I'll read it and the underlying case some time this weekend, after which I may or may not have substantive observations about them. For now, what's surprising — and frightening — to me is the Clintonesque word-parsing and dissembling that the Obama campaign has engaged in.

Even most lawyers — the large majority of whom manage to graduate from law school, pass the bar, and practice law without having been members or editors of student law reviews — probably don't distinguish closely between the various names that can be applied to what's published in those journals. And certainly the general public isn't likely to distinguish between faculty-written "articles" or student-written "case notes," "case comments," or simply "notes" — all of which are categories that the reviews sometimes use (albeit without a great deal of consistency from place to place or time to time).

In the parlance of TLR editors in the late 1970s, which is all I can speak to with authority, we considered a "case note" to be something very short, possibly no more than a couple of paragraphs, which described the ruling of a recent important appellate decision, without much analysis and without any reference to other cases or academic writing. It typically would have no footnotes or citations to anything but that one case. "Case comments" would still focus almost exclusively upon a single recent decision, but might be longer, include more analysis, and cite other cases or academic sources; that's how we'd have described what Obama apparently wrote. And "notes," in our usage, were wide-ranging pieces that might or might not have been inspired by one or more recent appellate decisions; they were intended to focus instead on a broad topic; and except for the fact that they were written by students and generally published in the middle of each printed journal issue, such "notes" were functionally indistinguishable, in scope and aspiration, from the "articles" that were written by faculty members (or, occasionally, judges or practitioners) and that tended to appear at the front of each printed journal issue. In earlier years, maintaining one's membership on the TLR required writing two case notes, or a case note and a case comment. But by the late 1970s, we'd abandoned those shorter pieces, and instead required each member to write at least one publishable-quality "note" to remain a member. And our student notes were attributed to their writers by name, in contrast to the Harvard tradition, which I presume is intended to imbue each student work with the institutional prestige of the entire journal.

For LaBolt and — by implication — his principal, Barack Obama, not to have been guilty of an intentional attempt at deception in their earlier communications, they must contend with a straight face that they believe the voting public to be intimately familiar with these sorts of distinctions, such that when they specifically denied that Obama had written and published any "articles" while president of the HLR, the voters would understand that to leave open the possibility that he'd written and published an unsigned "case comment" before he attained that official position. On this point, Smith and Ressner now write:

When Politico reporters working on a story about Obama's law review presidency earlier this year asked if he had written for the review, a spokesman responded accurately — but narrowly — that "as the president of the Law Review, Obama didn't write articles, he edited and reviewed them."

The case comment was published a month before he became president.

"Accurate"? At a minimum and at best for the campaign, LaBolt's earlier answer was nonresponsive to the question asked. And at a minimum and at best for the campaign, it was equally as misleading to the general public as was Bill Clinton's sworn insistence that "there is no sexual relationship" with Monica Lewinsky, a lie he later tried to defend by insisting that "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Even Obama apologist Noam Scheiber at The New Republic can't quite bring himself to swallow this dissembling:

I understand the impulse to sit on these old writings — you don't want every Jerome Corsi character out there combing over them for details they can grossly distort and package into a work of fiction. But at some point — and I think the Obama campaign got there in this case — the evasiveness gets out of proportion to the significance of the document and becomes a little self-defeating.

Only a true believer in The One could characterize his lying about his past — when the fact of his lying is capable of being proved both by documentary evidence and other witnesses with first-hand contradictory information — as only "a little self-defeating."

I have no hope or expectation that this particular attempted deception and concealment by the Obama campaign will affect many voters. Nor do I expect many voters to be swayed by the substance of what he's now finally admitted to having authored. But I remain hopeful, and cautiously optimistic, that the collective common sense of American voters may be swayed sufficiently at the margins by this and similar indicia of Obama's fundamental untrustworthiness. "Slick Barry" is at least as big a con man as "Slick Willie" ever was (and remains, for that matter).

Posted by Beldar at 09:02 PM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

McCain versus Obama: "placelessness," faith, and dreams

Peggy Noonan wrote an op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal entitled The End of Placeness. Although more often lately I have found myself disagreeing with her political observations, I remain a fan of her prose, in part because it has a vivid and authentically consistent voice even on the printed page. And she herself is sensitive to such things, as yesterday's piece reflects when she describes the attending "a gathering a few weeks ago for an aged Southern sage":

Even as an outsider, you knew them. They were Mississippi Delta people — Mizz-izz-DEHLT people — and the sense of placeness they brought into the room with them was sweet to me. It allowed you to know them, in the same way that at a gathering of, say, Irish Catholics from the suburbs of Boston, you would be able to know them, pick up who they are, with your American antennae.

She's not talking only of dialects and accents and language, but more broadly of local cultures. She laments the modern flattening down of such distinctive indicators of people's distinct local roots. Of how this connects to this year's presidential nominees, she writes:

Messrs. Obama and McCain are not from a place, but from an experience. Mr. McCain of course was a Navy brat. He bounced around, as members of the families of our military must, and wound up for a time in the suburbs of Washington. Mr. Obama's mother was somewhat itinerant, in search of different climes. He was born in Hawaii, which Americans on the continent don't experience so much as a state as a destination, a place of physical beauty and singular culture. You go there to escape and enjoy. Then his great circling commenced: Indonesia, back to Hawaii, on to the western coast of America, then to the eastern coast, New York and Cambridge. He circled the continent, entering it, if you will, in Chicago, where he settled in his 30s.

The lack of placeness with both candidates contributes to a sense of their disjointedness, their floatingness....

I think she's half-right here, or rather, that her observation is only wholly true with respect to one of the nominees. About the other nominee, in the most important way, she's wrong. And it's the part she's wrong about with one candidate, along with what she's wholly right about with the other, that actually matter a great deal in this election.


John McCain has a temper, and even though he struggles to control it, he's nevertheless famous for showing it. Often he's at his most authentic when he does, which is not necessarily his most appealing, because a hot temper flatters almost no one. But one of the charges he faced in 1982 in his first run for Congress was that he was a "carpetbagger," someone new to Arizona who'd come there not long before the election and who had no roots in the state. According to a biographical series about him published in The Arizona Republic, McCain "snapped" when he was confronted about his recent Arizona residency "for about the thousandth time" at a political rally:

Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.

That's a pretty sharp comeback, and it was an effective one at the time. But the annoyance with which it was spoken came, I believe, from at least two distinct sources, albeit related ones. The obvious source was his frustration that he could be so criticized in a political race on the basis of his personal adult career choices that had put duty, honor, and country first while he served in his country's uniform. Thus did John McCain, naval aviator and long-time POW, react to the carpetbagger charge: a single place-name, Hanoi, was, with all it implied, sufficient to heap recrimination upon his accuser.

But another source of the emotion in this sharp retort was, if you will, something that can be heard in the voice of John McCain the Navy brat, the grandson and son of Navy admirals whose family's postings circled the globe. The carpetbagger accusation also brought up painful memories of a scrawny boy who learned to be tough and cocky and, yes, a smart-ass and trouble-maker, because that was the best persona he could devise for dealing with his family's constant relocations even before he ever donned the uniform of an Annapolis cadet. The family members of career military personnel, no less than those personnel themselves, face ever-gnawing doubts that their joint familial sacrifices for duty, honor, and country are taken seriously and properly appreciated by the countryman they're protecting. And so combined with the resentment that the questioner didn't show proper appreciation for McCain's own military service was a sincere statement that, yes indeed, McCain often did wish he'd had the good fortune to grow up with traditional ties to a single geographic location. His and his family's sacrifices for their country certainly didn't start when he was shot down over Hanoi.

Constant moving can easily result in a longing, a growing hunger, for place and permanency. And indeed, the strongest similarity between  their two first autobiographical memoirs — McCain's Faith of My Fathers and Obama's Dreams from My Father — is their telling of the authors' continual boyhood struggles to fit in, to belong, while their respective family circumstances were bouncing them from location to location amidst a constantly changing cast of secondary characters. Reading these two books back to back — as I did, and as I highly recommend — will leave you with strong feelings of sympathy and, perhaps, empathy for their two protagonists. (If you follow the first of my links above, you might look for Amazon's "Buy Together Today" button offering both books in paperback at a special price of $18.16.)


But what Ms. Noonan misses — what's so different between McCain's and Obama's respective geographic "placelessness" while growing up — has to do with the vastly different reasons for their families' constant moving, and what those reasons entailed for the people they grew up amongst. Barack Obama's young life, and the people around him then, were filled with unconnected randomness. John McCain's young life, and the people around him then, were filled with deeply shared purpose.

McCain knew both his father and his paternal grandfather very well as real-life men — men who were often physically and sometimes emotionally distant, but not truly absent. Indeed their metaphysical presence in his life was constant and obvious. Obama, by contrast, can only remember meeting his father once, briefly, when he was 10, and he never met his paternal grandfather at all. They had no presence in Barack Obama's life while he was growing up; they were only dreams and stories and faded photos, with an occasional letter.

And the contrast continues with the other adults in the two candidates' young lives. While Obama at least had a long-term relationship with his maternal grandparents, even that came at the expense of being effectively abandoned to their care by his own mother — hardly an ideal situation. Indeed, the adults around young Obama seemed in his book to be tied to nowhere and nothing — and outside of their immediate family (and sometimes not even that), to nobody. Obama was both a literal and figurative "step-child," someone whose main self-identity came to be in his apartness, someone who was continually trying to find himself, someone whose struggle for even a racial self-identity was far from the worst of his self-identification problems.

Sen. John McCain's 96-year-old mother, Roberta McCain, leading him and his wife Cindy on April 1, 2008, at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, which McCain attended in the early 1950s (AP photo).Is it possible that anyone could be more unlike Obama's mother, with her dizzying moves from husband to husband and country to country, than McCain's mother, who was always the quintessential "Navy wife," wholly integrated into an American military-family culture that is proud and vast and long-standing? However often Roberta McCain and young John moved, they were never alone, never strangers, never "lost" — and they never had to flail about trying to "find themselves." Rather, from birth to adulthood, McCain was surrounded by people whose lives were dedicated to a clear set of ideals and a clear purpose. All those people continuously reinforced and reminded him of the faith — the dedication to duty, honor, and country — that he inherited as a legacy from his grandfather and father.

Even the portions of Obama's book about his extended trip to meet his father's "other family" in Africa are as much a story of disassociation as they are of finding oneself. Oh, he's sensitive, and he's articulate, and however much of it is actually true, it's a moving and thought-provoking story. But Obama couldn't miss the contradictions, the rifts, the betrayals and bitter feuds and loneliness in his father's and paternal grandfather's lives. Indeed, much of the merit of his memoir comes from Obama's telling of the tensions and paradoxes in his own life that derived from his remote father's and grandfather's histories. And those things not only became increasingly troublesome and painful to Barack Obama, they apparently have still never actually resolved themselves — neither for him, nor for the various uncles and aunts and cousins and other extended family members from Kenya who he introduces in the last fifth of his book.

We none of us pick our parents, and I'm not suggesting the lack of a coherent, consistent, and neatly directed family history is something blameworthy on Obama's part. But upon reaching the end of his book, despite its intimate tone and thoughtful nature, I have no clue what (other than ambition) actually motivates Barack Obama, either in his daily life or his long-term aspirations. His book does indeed show us dreams — chaotic, frightening, and often contradictory ones that he can't quite sort out, despite his struggle. Of faith, in anything, there doesn't seem to be much — and such faith as there is, is in isolated individuals acting as loners and as migrants.

Even if one concludes that they share a certain superficial degree of geographic "placelessness," the candidates' respective book titles thus point out a trite but fundamentally true comparison:  McCain got a rock-solid and abiding "faith" from his grandfather and father — faith in them, in himself, in the U.S. Navy and the other U.S. military forces, and most importantly, in all of America — while at best, Obama got only "dreams" from his.


So here we are, with one candidate who (when he's feeling a bit prickly, which is fairly often) will remind us of his years in the Hanoi Hilton, and the other who (when he's trying to snow us, which is every minute of every day) will run television commercials implying that he grew up in Kansas, when he's never lived there at all. Does that make the two men indistinguishable from one another with respect to their sense of home, homeland, or "placeness"?

Peggy Noonan seems to think so. But I think she's seriously underestimated the extent to which one can still have a real, if non-geographic, "home" among the uniformed members of the U.S. military and among their families. Even frequent transplants can have healthy roots in that extended and non-geography-based culture.

John McCain is the first to tell you that it was when he was in the dank, dark cells of the Hanoi Hilton — first in almost unbearable isolation, and then in the comradeship of his fellow POWs — that he came to truly appreciate America and what it means to be an American. And that heightened appreciation in a time of crisis and deprivation was only possible because he had, indeed, soaked up so much of America even bouncing around as a "Navy brat" and a young Navy officer. Whatever other doubts I have about the grumpy old man in the race — and I still have many — I don't doubt that he's deeply imbued with fundamental American values. In a sense — the one connected with my vote and its potential effects, broadly writ, upon the future — I'm willing, given the available choices, to bet my children's lives and futures on his values and the judgment those values inform.

But when, exactly, did Barack Obama come to truly appreciate America and what it means to be an American? Does his eloquence when speaking with a Teleprompter translate into heartfelt values? And where's the evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that his values — whatever they are (besides the seemingly transcendent value of electing Barack Obama) — are my values too? He's certainly learned, and demonstrated, that even the rootless can prosper in America; "my story," he frequently says, "could not have taken place anywhere but here!" And that's true and fine as far as it goes. But there is still much in this man's history that troubles me, that mystifies me, and that makes me unwilling to gamble anything important upon him.

Ultimately McCain doesn't suffer from what Noonan characterizes as his "placelessness." It's true that there's no single American place to which he's historically or temperamentally rooted — no ancestral manor, no distinctive accent. But John McCain is not rootless. Rather, McCain is rooted to the entire United States — and in exactly the same way that he and his father and grandfather weren't fighting as U.S. Navy officers for Ohio or Texas or Nebraska, but for all of America. We should recognize that as a source of strength, not a defect in his upbringing.

Roots actually do go a long way, I believe, as a predictor of presidential reliability and performance, and as a source of values and faith. And whether you call it "roots" or "placeness" or whatever, I'll take any random U.S. military base over all of the places that young Barack Obama ever lived in, briefly and tenuously, even put together.

Posted by Beldar at 09:40 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (17)

Fashion and The One

Per the front page of today's WaPo, on what must surely be a slow news day:

The Barack Obama campaign, which has been actively courting the fashion industry, has coordinated some 20 or so designers who are creating official merchandise for the candidate's Web site. It is the first time, as far as Seventh Avenue long-timers can recall, that a quorum of the fashion industry has organized its financial resources and creative energy around a single presidential candidate.

Well, then. I have another reason to continue to be a fashion failure. Thank you, Seventh Avenue.

Posted by Beldar at 07:48 AM in Obama | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not from Kansas

It's amazing how bad the fact-checking can be in a newspaper like the Washington Post (emphasis mine):

Obama's embodiment of a newer America begins but hardly ends with the fact that he would be the first black president. In a country where people liked to know where you were from, Obama lacks a ready answer — he is part Hawaii, part Kansas, part Chicago. In a recent speech in Berlin, he declared himself a "citizen of the world."

Perhaps the reporter got his facts in part from Obama's first general election political advertisement, which was carefully scripted to make it sound as if Obama was closely connected to Kansas and benefited directly from values associated with rural America:

I'm Barack Obama. America is a country of strong familes and strong values. My life's been blessed by both. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. We didn't have much money. But they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up — accountability and self-reliance, love of country, working hard without making excuses, and treating your neighbors as you'd like to be treated....

In fact, as told in Obama's autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama's maternal grandparents were originally from Kansas, but after World War 2, they then lived in California, Kansas again, a "series of small towns in Texas," and then Seattle, before finally settling in Hawaii in 1959. Obama, born in Hawaii in 1961, returned there to live with them after a stint in Indonesia with his mom and her second husband.

Claiming that his mother "grew up" in Kansas is a stretch. Suggesting that Barack Obama himself had any connection to Kansas other than a genealogical one would be a complete misstatement, no matter how much his campaign or the WaPo might wish to leaven his exotic roots with some plain old Kansas heartland. Indeed, one may fairly infer from their voluntarily leaving Kansas not once but twice that Obama's grandparents didn't think absorbing "Kansas values" was a very high priority for their daughter. I'm not knocking Hawaii, or Obama's grandparents for that matter. But this "Kansas connection" is just another artificial, manufactured "detail" from a narrative in which fact and fiction blur together seamlessly and shamelessly.

Just how blurry is the image, and how tenuous is the American public's grasp of the reality about Barack Obama? We're a mere three months from the presidential election, and yet the writers and editors of the major newspaper of our nation's capital city don't even know what state(s) the Democratic nominee is — or, more precisely, is not — from.

(Bonus points for you, my gentle and well-informed readers, if you can name (without Googling or other internet browsing) the three major metropolitan areas on the American mainland other than Chicago in which Barack Obama actually has lived for substantial periods of time. Hints: None of them were even mentioned in the WaPo story, none of them are associated with "heartland values," and none of them is in Kansas.)

Posted by Beldar at 12:44 AM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Windfall profits taxes on energy companies?

Here's a current affairs multiple choice question that is dirt simple:

For the second quarter of 2008, two highly pertinent financial figures reported by ExxonMobil were its net income (as calculated according to U.S. GAAP, i.e., generally accepted accounting principles) and the taxes it paid. Which of the following statements is true?

  1. ExxonMobile's net income was $32.4 billion. It paid income taxes and other taxes totaling $11.7 billion.

  2. ExxonMobil's net income was $11.7 billion. It paid income taxes and other taxes totaling $32.4 billion.

Statement No. 2 is true, and Statement No. 1 is false. In fact, as an American corporation that therefore is already burdened with one of the highest corporate income tax rates among its global competitors, ExxonMobil paid $10.5 billion in income taxes alone.

If you don't understand that ExxonMobil is already paying roughly three times as much in taxes as it makes in profits, then you're very likely to be suckered by stories like this one in the New York Times, which only reports on the record-setting profits, and not on the record-setting taxes. And you're also very likely to be suckered by political candidates who call for "windfall profits taxes," as if politicians — politicians! — are oh so very much smarter than the market, such that they can decide which industries are enjoying "windfalls" that can be taxed without ill effect on either them or the national economy.

We call that kind of politician a "commissar," by the way.

An American windfall profits tax on energy companies, however, will guarantee certain results: American energy companies will be penalized compared to their foreign competitors, many of whom are already heavily subsidized by their own countries. And American energy companies will have less incentive and less ability to invest, whether in finding new sources of fossil fuel energy upon which we can rely if there are future embargoes or in helping develop alternative energy sources.

Posted by Beldar at 12:31 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Energy, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Beldar to Lowry, for the benefit of McCain, on ANWR

Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, asks a question on The Corner today that I don't think he means to be rhetorical (bold-face mine):

Drilling is, of course, the best domestic issue Republicans and McCain have going for them. Can you imagine what the debate would look like if McCain hadn't changed his position on off-shore drilling a few weeks ago? Now, with the Democrats and Obama beginning to buckle, it's no time to let up on the pressure, as we argue here. McCain probably needs to go farther and support drilling in ANWR. It will augment his "all of the above" position; it will prompt howls from the left and environmentalists—which is a good thing given how this debate is shaping up; and it will keep him in a place on the issue where Obama can't go, or can go only with great difficulty. How can McCain make this change? That's a tougher question. He's going to have to live down the "Grand Canyon" nonsense, but maybe he can find a way to get some cover (arguing for drilling on the one hand, but expanding the size of ANWR on the other?). Or maybe he can just go the straight-talk route, "My friends, I've looked at this more closely in light of $4-a-gallon gas, and I realize I was wrong. But I will swallow my pride and gladly admit error if it means helping lift the burden of high energy costs on American consumers." Or something like that.

The obvious answer that Mr. Lowry is seeking but inexplicably missing: McCain should tour both the proposed drilling area within ANWR, the rest of the Reserve, and other developed and developing sites in Alaska — in the natural and knowledgeable company of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

McCain can then explain how his understandable prejudice in favor of the "pristine," like the Grand Canyon, was forced to give way when confronted by facts on the ground — indeed, facts about the ground. Barren mudflats plus articulate advocacy by Gov. Palin can certainly persuade a receptive America, along with McCain, that responsible drilling in ANWR is an idea whose time has certainly come.

Of course, my preference, often expressed on this blog, would be that he combine that trip with an announcement of Gov. Palin as his Veep nominee. But even if he delays that announcement, or (sigh) goes in a more conventional and boring direction for his Veep, he ought to make good use of Gov. Palin's on-site expertise and persuasive powers.

Posted by Beldar at 06:15 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Under the most favorable characterization, Obama displays the stupidity of youth in urging the tapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Depending on the circumstances, sometimes only a few years' difference in life experience can translate into an enormous gap in wisdom.

I was born in November 1957, at the tail-end of the Baby Boom. Teens from small towns in the west Texas prairies learned to drive early in those days. I'd actually been driving when I ought not, with my parents' knowledge and consent but without lawful authority, for quite some time. But I got my full-fledged drivers license — to replace the provisional "hardship" license I'd previously held, which allowed me to drive to and from work in daylight hours — in November 1973, when I turned 16 during my junior year in high school. By then, I had family spread across the State of Texas, and whether to visit them or for extra-curricular events and college interviews, I had frequent need to take cross-state driving trips in which I'd be the one paying to fill my own gas tank.

Gas station lines like these weren't just common, but universal, during late 1973-early 1974 But as it happened, 1973 was a momentous year in world history far beyond the prairies of west Texas. The Israeli armed forces had bounced back from their initial losses to a combined sneak attack of Arab countries on Yom Kippur, October 6, 1973, and by October 24th — with the essential support of the United States — they had inflicted even more humiliating losses on Egypt and Syria that are still reflected in the maps of today's Middle East. In sympathy with their Arab brethren, and in retaliation against the United States, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and other Arab states began a total oil embargo against America on October 19, 1973.

President Nixon did the right thing in backing up Israel. But ordinary Americans, from the top to bottom of society and across our entire nation, paid a price — and not just in dollars! Gasoline didn't just become more expensive, it became unavailable. There was nationwide, mandatory gasoline rationing in late 1973 and early 1974: Drivers could only buy gasoline, if they could find it at all, after waiting in long lines on either odd- or even-numbered days of the month (depending on the last digit of their license plates). Driving from, say, Lamesa to Austin suddenly became an exercise in strategic planning, scrounging, and guesswork about which towns en route might have open stations, especially if (as I was obliged to do) you were traveling on a weekend. Gas stations open on Sundays became rarer than hens' teeth.

The dislocation of the American lifestyle and economy was vastly greater than anything America had experienced since World War 2, and vastly greater than anything America has experienced since then — including the first Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the current sharp rise in world-wide oil and refined gasoline prices.

Legislation passed in 1975 to create America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve was the direct result of this crisis. It's not much, but it's better than nothing, and it gives us a little flexibility, for a little while, if the fit hits the shan again and we can't count on any OPEC country delivering another barrel of oil to us at any price.

Barack Obama, however, was born on August 4, 1961. During the 1973-1974 oil embargo, Obama was 12 years old, living with his grandparents in Honululu. I feel pretty safe in assuming that he wasn't planning any cross-state or cross-country automobile trips, or trying to fill up his grandparents' gasoline tank, during that crisis.

That complete blank spot in his personal experience — plus the politician's normal desire to pander, and the Democratic Party's utter failure to come up with anything remotely resembling a responsible energy policy — together make up the only conceivable explanation for his monumentally, colossally, inexcusably STUPID proposal that we tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve today.

1973-1974: Gas rationing, often no gas at allIt's one thing to stop making further purchases, and to stop the continued filling of the reserve, during times when crude oil prices are high and crude oil supply is tight. That's always been part of the plan for the Reserve, and it simply makes market sense. The whole point of the reserve is to buy gradually, especially when oil is comparatively cheap and plentiful, and then to hold it for a crisis.

But it's simply inconceivable to me how anyone who had a drivers license in 1973-1974 and lived through that genuine crisis could think our present situation — in which gasoline is expensive, but universally available — is even remotely the kind of circumstances for which the Strategic Petroleum Reserve ought to be tapped. We're many, many times more vulnerable to an embargo now than we were in the mid-1970s; our need for a strategic reserve is therefore many times greater. And our current high gasoline prices — while awful if you're on the margin in a business particularly dependent on gasoline prices, and while unpleasant and unhealthy for the economy as a whole — cannot realistically be described as a national strategic crisis by anyone who understands either the word "strategic" or "crisis." Finally, the resulting drop in gas prices would be even more fleeting and insubstantial than that which would result from McCain's proposed gasoline "tax holiday" (which, as Obama has consistently argued and a genuine, near-universal consensus of energy economists have agreed, is also a campaign gimmick and a very stupid idea).

Do not be misled by double-talk of Obama aides:

His proposal comes a month after Obama said he would consider using oil from the reserves only in a "genuine emergency," such as "terrorist acts." Aides said the plan is not a reversal because he would replace light crude oil in the reserves with less-expensive heavy crude. They also noted that the senator from Illinois last week described the country's economic conditions as an "emergency."

Use your common sense: Why do you think heavy crude is less expensive? It's filled with more sulfur and other contaminants that, in turn, require more expensive refining processes that are less widely available. Anyone who tells you that a barrel of heavy crude and a barrel of light, sweet crude are fungible is a damned liar, and they're taking you for a fool to boot. This is like saying, "I'm not depleting the funds in my emergency cash stash by removing the $20 bills; why, for every $20 bill I'm taking out, I'm putting a $10 bill back in, so there's no depletion at all!"

Those who are too young to have experienced the 1973-1974 crisis, who can't remember it at all or can't remember it as vividly as I do, and who haven't learned about it in their study of American and world history, I can forgive if they're not running for president. But for someone purportedly as smart as Barack Obama, with prestigious degrees from Ivy League universities, who's making grand plans to utterly transform the American energy economy, there is no forgiveness available. Anyone in those circumstances who's making this argument is either an utter fool or a craven traitor to America's long-term interests, or both.

Either way, Obama is proposing to sell out America's long-term strategic energy interests in order to get elected. It's exactly that simple.

Posted by Beldar at 04:26 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (14)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Beldar has no fault to find with Obama's special airplane chair

I was among those most mocking when it came to the Great Seal of Obama. But unlike my blogospheric friend Hugh Hewitt, I don't have a particular problem with Obama's "special chair" on his campaign airplane, as shown in this CBS photo (which I've enlarged and enhanced to make the printing on the leather more obvious):


It's not a knock-off of some POTUS perquisite. And it's not designed to be a conspicuous prop for him to be photographed behind at public appearances. Rather, I tend to agree with James Joyner that this looks like it's a design lifted off of an Obama bumper-sticker or windshield decal — a standard piece of campaign art, as evidenced by the "'08." With that date, there is an implied and reasonably obvious "[for]" which accompanies the word "president." If he loses, then next year this chair will merely be bitter-sweetly funny to his supporters, and just-plain funny to the rest of us.

As for Sen. Obama having any chair with his name on it: Arguably, the name spares him the need to ever have to ask anyone to vacate it, when he wants to sit down and recline and relax and read the materials that have been collected on the adjacent table. How many of us have our own "special chair" in our own living rooms that, by habit and custom, we regard as exclusively our own (at least most of the time)? I'm reminded of the episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, "Singularity," in which everyone on the crew goes a bit space-mad, and the chief engineer, Trip, in particular becomes obsessed with the improvements he's making to the captain's chair on the bridge. His self-justification:

I know you don't think this chair is important, but you're wrong. What's the most critical component on this ship? The main computer? The Warp Reactor? Huh?! It's the crew. And the most important member of the crew is the captain. He makes life and death decisions every day, and the last thing he needs to be thinking in a critical situation is: "Gee! I wish this chair wasn't such pain in the ass!"

I don't begrudge Sen. Obama a nice chair to sit in on his nice airplane while he's flying from place to place, making his plans of hopey-changiness, even if he's not yet as powerful as a real POTUS or a star-ship captain. If he adds a built-in speaker that plays "Hail to the Chief" when he sits down, I'll reconsider. And the fact that he's avoided being presumptuous in this instance doesn't mean that he's a modest man, nor make up for the times he's been conspicuously immodest and, yes, presumptuous. This just isn't one of them.

Posted by Beldar at 04:55 PM in Obama | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Problems viewing BeldarBlog from particular browsers?

Personally, I use Firefox 3 — free, fast, less buggy and less of a memory hog, and with cool plug-in apps that are also free — almost exclusively, and I love it. I only use Microsoft's Internet Exploder Explorer on those few (and increasingly more rare) occasions when I'm effectively forced to because someone's written an IE-only web app.

But to each, his own. I'm happy to have you browse BeldarBlog on whatever browser tickles your fancy.

Which brings me to ask: Has anyone had any problems viewing this site that might be the result of the reported conflict between Sitemeter and IE 7.0? If so, please let me know in the comments to this post.

(I rarely use tables in my posts, but I did notice a problem using IE 7.0 to view the post just before this one, in which I'd originally published blurbs about McCain and Obama side-by-side in a table format. Other than dispensing with use of the table for that one post, I'm loath to do any major re-coding of my blog, since I figure Sitemeter will surely diagnose and fix the problem shortly. Indeed, they may have already done so, since older posts that use tables appear to me to now be displaying properly.)

Posted by Beldar at 01:46 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (9)