Newsweek: Palin Least Popular of the 4 Candidates

September 17, 2008

All the negative publicity is beginning to take a toll as Palin slides in the polls.  Newsweek says the events of last weekend precipitated a dramatic decline.

This sinking feeling must be felt by Republican strategists as they have induced CNN to report that socialite Lady Lynn Forrester de Rothschild, among the world’s extremely rich, is going to vote for McCain.  She did back Hillary but in a series of published interviews was unable to articulate a reason for this other than Republicans have a bad track record with the economy.  The Democratic Party, weighing money against principle, put her on its platform committee, a platform from which she will stump for McCain.  No sympathy for the Democrats.  Recent events must have somehow disabused her of her distrust of Republican with the economy.  She said that she could not support Obama because he was an “elitist.”  Read her interviews and see how sincere you think that assessment is.

This is what  the “stampede of women” to McCain has come to.   Palin’s slide apparently accounts for Obama retaking the lead in the current Reuter’s poll.

The Republican Party has adopted its standard procedure in this familiar situation.  It is the same procedure pursued Bush: highly regulated media access, and opaque to entirely obscured “disclosure.”  First, they are trying to block efforts in Alaska to resolve the ethics investigation.  The party against lawyers and courts is once again making liberal use of them. Second they are not permitting her to speak freely.  She is required to read script or be quiet.

This may avert a disastrous episode but is will also deter the groundswell of support for her.  How quickly things turn around



Whining About Sexism

September 17, 2008

Saturday Night Live satirized Palin’s lack of knowledge about national politics when compared to the sophistication of Hillary Clinton. McCain’s campaign, according to Joe Klein of Time Magazine, has launched the sleaziest campaign in memory with its attack ads against Obama.

McCain who laughed out loud when Clinton was called a “b__,” feels that it is contemptible sexism to compare Palin to Clinton and satirize Palin’s lack of knowledge. (What, women should only be compared to men?) This of course is the same “sexism card” that Palin said made Clinton look weak when Clinton objected to her treatment.

So according to Palin this strange charge of sexism makes her look weak. But I don’t think Palin went far enough. It makes McCain look like a hypocrit and it makes them both look like shameless whiners.


Hold on Sarah You Were not Going to Do This

September 2, 2008

Remember the interview a few months ago in which Sarah Palin said that it was unfortunate that Hillary Clinton was complaining about her treatment in the media because she was perceived as a “whiner?”  If not not whining, what are we supposed to call this,?  Stronger words come to mind.


Clinton Supporters for McCain?

August 26, 2008

CNN reports without any details that there was a “Clinton supporters for McCain” party in Denver.  This would have been a good opportunity for serious reporting.  How many were at the party? Where was it? Who are these people?  Why would people who wanted Clinton so disrespect her beliefs?

I have been looking for someone from of this persuasion and I have been unable to find anyone who says he or she was for Clinton but is now voting for McCain, who opposes all of her programs.  The linked article seems to say that the binding belief of these people is that Obama is too inexperienced.  These are obviously people who would have jumped for Nixon over Kennedy, who did not vote for Bill Clinton the first time and would not have considered Reagan or Bush.  They seem to be going for McCain because he has aged in the Senate, not for what he has done there.

This can’t be real can it?  Why isn’t Clinton expressing shock and betrayal over this?  Does she believe in her own policies?  I would really like to know what is behind this, as it makes no sense and I have not found an explanation even from the people who are quoted as members of this group.


Reagan Democrats

May 14, 2008

Reagan Democrats or swing voters are described by the New York Times as white working class people who did not attend college. These are the people described in Thomas Frank’s best seller What’s the Matter with Kansas?  His book is a discussion of how this portion of the population, traditionally left leaning was won over by the right.  He says that it had to do with Republicans successfully characterizing Democrats as intellectual elitists and selling themselves as defenders of traditional values on issues such as abortion and gay rights.  In this way the people whose economic interests are not promoted by Republicans were brought into the fold.  This shift on an entire demographic from left to right is a huge accomplishment of the Republicans.

The upcoming election, like many others, is about winning over these voters.  This is Senator Clinton’s base and in substantial part accounted for her runaway win in West Virginia.  Securing this base has always been a primary part of Clinton’s strategy.  She accomplished this but lost the left as well as other constituents.  McCain has defined his base as Bush’s base, recognizing at the same time that this is a miserably unpopular president, so he must gather voters from the center to have a strong bid for the presidency.  So both Obama and McCain will inevitably rush to the center during the campaign.

The Democrats have many things going for them this time: a highly unpopular war, economic troubles, particularly severe now but present in both Bush terms.  While working people have experienced difficulties, the wealthiest people have enjoyed an unsurpassed (literally) bonanza, separating themselves by historic margins from a declining middle class.

The likely Democratic candidate however has not been embraced by the swing voters.  This is a problem for the Democrats and the reason that the intense rivalry between Clinton and Obama is injurious to the party.  In attacking Obama Clinton was driving swing voters from him when the party needs to attract them to win.  In a sense her behind closed door arguments that he is not electable were fueled by the divisiveness of the campaign for candidacy.

McCain’s rush to the left to gain the center already seems a little desperate.  What else can explain a strategy to avoid absolutely all critical environmental votes in order to be able to campaign as an environmentalist.  Candidate’s position always are distorted in their need to capture the center, so Obama is likely to also make stretches.  He is already awakening to the vital importance of symbolism (an area in which the Clintons are extremely capable) and has begun wearing the flag on his lapel, which is now more or less a uniform item for candidates.


Whoppers: The Candidates’ Competition

March 31, 2008

You can feel the increasing intensity of the campaigning. All three are locked into an “I’m better than you are” contest of self promotion. Less and less time goes by between salvos between the politicians. This week though was unusual in that the candidates seemed to be on a tangent in which each tried to show that he or she was a better prevaricator and master of quackery than the others.

This effort to show that each candidate was capable of distortion and mendacity was probably set off by Bush’s announcement that he was going to Europe Monday to explain to people there why it was a good idea to participate in our Mid-Eastern wars.

The opening salvo was launched by Clinton who said that she had bolted out of an airplane, dodging bullets with her eleven old daughter, to bring permanent peace to the Balkans.

McCain — seeing the challenge to his standing as the foreign policy czar and apparently not satisfied to rest with his recommendation that we all take a Sunday stroll through Baghdad markets — announced that the surge was working and repeated this as casualties mounted and al-Maliki directed our troops into the heart of the civil war.

Obama, knowing now that his advantage lay in his African ancestry, said that JFK had brought his father to the US, a Chappaquiddickian account of history.

John Edwards said that he thought the two Democrats were equally able to spin a good yarn and couldn’t pick between them.

McCain was given a good boost when Robert Bennett said that he would not comment on McCain’s sincerity and several Republicans questioned McCain’s sincerity as a conservative, suggesting that his courtship of the right over the last year was one huge imaginary tale.


Clinton’s Bad Day.

March 28, 2008

It appears that the curtain is going down on the Clinton campaign. With no realistic shot at winning a majority of delegates from the primaries and caucuses and no realistic shot at winning the popular vote, Clinton’s hopes are pinned on winning over the superdelegates. This strategy likely involves taking the battle to the convention where political infighting could be used to best result.

This strategy is being actively opposed by the party chiefs, who have dealt Clinton strong blows recently. First, Nancy Pelosi urged supredelegates to vote for the candidate with the most delegates from primaries and caucuses. Then Howard Dean, the party chairman, said that he hoped that the decision would be made by July 1 at the latest, more than a month before the convention.

Today with the forthcoming primary in Pennsylvania in the spotlight Bob Casey, one of the two senators from that state, endorsed Obama, while Senator Pat Leahy urged her to withdraw. Also today the Gallup Poll announced that nationally Obama enjoys nationally a 8% lead over Clinton.

Clinton fought back against the Pelosi edict by having several billionaire supporters write a letter to Pelosi which seemed to suggest that if she did not withdraw her proposal they might withdraw party support. This was not a smart thing to do for two reasons. First, it called attention to the divisive, polarizing aspect of this nomination process, exactly the thing the party wants to avoid. Second, it took away from whatever ground Clinton had gained in coming across as a populist leader. The letter made Clinton look like an insider attempting to subvert a democratic process with money. This is exactly what she has been trying to avoid with talk about change and appeals to everyday Americans.

This splintering of her message was probably inevitable as she seeks to appeal to the grass roots voters while trying to win the nomination through the superdelegates. This is certainly not an enviable position to say the least.


Clinton’s “Populist” Proposal Finds Support with The Economist.

March 26, 2008

Among Clinton’s proposals for the current mortgage crisis is her endorsement of the bill sponsored by Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd, which would give the FHA the ability to guarantee and purchase high risk mortgages. Obama alludes to better regulation. Mr. McCain’s approach seems to be “I think the crisis over. Let’s wait and see.” The Economist is much less laizes faire than Mr. McCain and recommends a couple of the Democrats’ suggestions. It suggests that this might be a good opportunity for the government to buy assets of limited marketability at a big discount, as suggested by Clinton. In line with Obama it says that bailouts of badly run investment banks must come with strings attached in the form of regulatory control to reduce the likelihood of further need for public support.

McCain, I think, in just furrowing his brow and urging restraint is losing whatever chance he has to show leadership in this crisis. As Clinton noted, the circumstances call for something more than platitudes mouthed by Herbert Hoover. The economy is certainly going to be a central feature of the campaign this fall, so why has McCain conceded initiative to the Democrats?

This mortgage crisis is not a trivial matter. The Economist estimates that the loss will be about $1.1 trillion, significantly more than the savings and loan scandal.


The Mortgage Crisis: a Campaign Issue on Which Clinton Steps Forward

March 26, 2008

As we come down the home stretch in the primaries, Clinton may be hitching her wagon — at least in part — to the mortgage crisis. It was my impression that because of her stance on the war and her association with the conservative social policies of her husband, she lost much of the support from the left. Over the campaign she has moved her position on the war so as to try to make it indistinguishable from that of Obama. (At least according to their websites there is actually a rather clear difference between the two with Clinton wanting to keep permanent military bases in Iraq with attendant commitments and she all but authorizing an attack on Iran by voting to designate part of its army a terrorist organization.) During the campaign she has also distanced herself from the domestic policies of her husband by increasingly appealing to populist sentiment.

This approach has crystallized in her proposals with respect to the mortgage crisis. She has proposed that a $30 billion fund be created to assist homeowners in crisis and is clearly approaching this from the mortgage consumer side. She proposes a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and would freeze the interest rate on adjustable rate subprime loans. This should play well in industrial states with upcoming primaries.

Clinton has seemed to be generally consistent in this regard. At least since August she has focused on the need for consumer relief while Obama has emphasized the need for regulation of the industry. Since Edwards left the race she has adopted some of his proposals (this is part of her move to the left) in advocating a moratorium and freeze on subprime interest rates. To further buttress her populist confides, Clinton borrowed from Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd in recommending that the Federal Housing Administration be given enhanced power to oversee and perhaps to guarantee or purchase defaulted loans.

Obama is clearly fixed toward the center, advocating a conservative response to the crisis. He now proposes a smaller fund for homeowners ($10 billion) and offers a lot of talk about restraint and vague talk about regulation.

On this issue Obama and McCain appear to be closer to each other than either is to Clinton, although Obama certainly sees himself as closer to Clinton than to McCain.


McCain on the Economy Sounds Muddled

March 26, 2008

McCain sounded confused and his responses were meandering when he answered questions in Texas about the invasion of Ecuador. I was quite happy to attribute this to fatigue after a hard day, but his recent speech on the economic crisis makes me wonder.

He urged caution and took the position that a bailout should only be done if there is a threat of systemic collapse. Who on earth does he think he is arguing with? Has there ever been a bailout such as the recent one that was not justified by claiming that the action was taken to preserve the system? This is no position at all, unless he is suggesting that there was an insufficient basis for the action taken with Bear Stearns. The lack of specifics makes this sound like nothing more than someone trying to sound conservative without necessarily knowing what is going on. In its tone of principled conformance with the status quo without much in the way of true explanation, the comment is very similar to the ones we are accustomed to hearing from our current executive.

His comment about caution in providing assistance to the people caught in the foreclosure crisis also struck me as odd. This of course is a residential mortgage crisis. He cautions against federal intervention because speculators should not benefit by such help. That really doesn’t say anything does it? Does he have any idea how many of these speculators would inappropriately benefit by such a program or whether it is possible to cull them from the rest, or whether that would be worthwhile to undertake a culling process? This left me with sort of a vague, amorphous sense of caution without any sense of what he might do other than be slow in dealing with this.

While arguing against quick federal action he did suggest that adding more disclosures to the stack of papers a consumer is required to sign at closing might solve things. The problem with this of course is that the mass of loan papers already overwhelms most people and the people who find themselves in this crisis are not likely to have been assisted by a thicker stack of papers to sign at closing. Is it just me or does this sound really lame? The financial institutions, which knew exactly what they were doing still jumped into this. That suggests to me that dumping more paper on consumers might not be entirely effective.

This struck me as a random suggestion, as just a few months ago he refused to accept changes in the Truth in Lending Act, which he now advocates. This business about enhancing the Truth in Lending Act is inconsistent with his statements about avoidance of federal regulation and to all appearances would be regulation without much effect. He has steadfastly refused to approve measures to restrain predatory lending practices, which is I guess consistent with his speech about avoiding intervention. The problem is that you just cannot decipher a policy out of vague statements of restraint with odd exceptions.
Clinton and Obama have proposed a fund in about the same about used for Bear Stearns to help people threatened with foreclosure. This has appeal to me because it would address the whole problem. That is it would help people facing foreclosure and by so doing it would improve the quality of the mortgage backed securities and bad loans that bedevil financial institutions. Sort of a win-win situation, rather than just letting the people go and bailing out financial institutions, who at least had the expertise and full opportunity to choose not to leap into the quagmire.

I am sure that there are counter arguments to the proposals of the Democrats. I sincerely hope that McCain plans to engage in policy discussions and not just the same old junk. Maybe he does plan to just try to seem very cautious, stay the hand with the war, merely watch the economy as we go deeper and deeper in debt and fissures like the current one appear. He seems to be making some effort to to assure us that it will be business as usual. My uncertainty about reserve without defining what you are looking for and what measures you would adopt if the circumstances warranted applies to Obama as well as McCain. See the discussion of this matter as a campaign issue.