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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

# Posted 11:54 PM by Taylor Owen  

ON DYNASTIC SUCCESSION: via Kristof:
A tongue-in-cheek Web site called Bush-Clinton Forever is already proposing Jeb Bush in 2017, Chelsea Clinton in 2025, Jeb Bush’s son George P. Bush in 2033, Chelsea Clinton’s husband in 2041 and George W. Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush from 2049-2057.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

# Posted 5:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PAGING THE REALITY-BASED COMMUNITY:
"Race doesn't matter!" the crowd at Obama's victory celebration in Columbia chanted last night, and when he spoke, the senator elaborated on the theme. He said his victory disproved those who argue that people "think, act and even vote within the categories that supposedly define us" -- that blacks will not vote for a white candidate and vice versa.
From Sunday's WaPo. Compare with the South Carolina exit polls.

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# Posted 5:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JFK'S DAUGHTER ENDORSES OBAMA AS HER FATHER'S HEIR: But dare I say the old man would vote for John McCain, who has done more than any other candidate to turn around the situation in Iraq? President Kennedy passionately believed that the United States military should master the art of irregular and counterinsurgency warfare. He also believed passionately that we must work tireless to promote democracy across the globe and defeat it's enemies.

There is an extensive debate, of course, about what Kennedy would have done in Vietnam had he lived to win a second term. But his principles were very clear.

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# Posted 5:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OLD WHITE FOLKS FOR HILLARY: Check out the South Carolina exit polls. Interestingly, both Clinton and Edwards got 42% of the 65+ white electorate to Obama's 15. I'm guessing the old men voted for Edwards and the old women for Hillary. It certainly doesn't say much good about South Carolina that people seem to pick their candidates according to race and gender. Not that the rest of the country has done much better. I'm guessing that Republicans and independents wouldn't do any better either, if they faced the same kind of choice.

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# Posted 4:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MoDo SAYS:
How could [Giuliani] pass up the chance to mock his old nemesis Hillary, the feminist icon who is totally dependent on her husband to do the heavy lifting?
The rest of the column is a snide attack on Giuliani, but give Dowd credit for this bit of bipartisanship. I hope Dowd stays at the Times for another 30 years, because every time someone accuses "bloggers" of being petty and mean-spirited, the correct response is obvious.

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# Posted 4:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING ROMNEY: Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine writes that McCain is wrong to accuse Romney of supporting a fixed timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Paul adds that McCain doesn't need to criticize Romney's position on Iraq, since it should be clear to all that McCain's own record on the subject is far superior.

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# Posted 4:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TWO MONTHS AGO, HILLARY HAD A TEN POINT LEAD IN SOUTH CAROLINA. In hindsight, it may seem obvious that Obama would prevail in state with such favorable demographics. But as any historian can tell you, hindsight is almost never 20/20.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

# Posted 12:08 PM by Taylor Owen  

LINE OF THE DAY: "Giuliani has turned hurricanes into nature’s way of saying Al Qaeda." Gail Collins, NYT
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# Posted 7:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HILLARY, OBAMA AND THE LIBERAL IDENTITY CRISIS: The Clintons are pouring it on full throttle in their effort to stop Obama, which poses a very interesting question for liberals. For more than a generation, liberals have seen themselves as the victims of ruthless and deceptive Republicans. That's how it was under Nixon, under Reagan, and now under Bush. Now, liberals are determined to fight back. They're not going to let their high-minded approach to politics prevent them from doing what is necessary to take back the White House. Unless...

The charisma of Barack Obama draws heavily on precisely that high-minded approach to politics of which liberals have become so wary. Nonetheless, this high-minded approach exerts an almost magnetic pull on many Democrats because it represents their ideal vision of politics. When the Clintons began to attack Obama with accusations that were increasingly at odds with the facts, Democrats had to confront a contradiction. Should the Democratic primary be a proving ground, in which candidates go at each other no-holds-barred, in order to demonstrate who is tough enough to take on the Republicans? Or does attacking a fellow Democrat in such a manner demonstrate that a candidate has failed to recognized the imperative of closing ranks in the name of taking back the White House?

Complicating this problem is the fact that the most vocal advocates of bare-knuckle politics are the self-identified "progressives" who have long resented Hillary and prefer Obama. In contrast, the moderates who remain skeptical of the progressives' more aggresive partisanship are inclined to support Hillary.

I certainly don't have any thoughts about how to resolve these contradictions, but it is fascinating to watch so many liberal bloggers, pundits and pols navigate this sort of identity crisis.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

# Posted 1:26 PM by Taylor Owen  

THE BILL FACTOR: While there is no doubt that I would like to see Obama as the next US president, I grew up with a fair amount of admiration for Bill Clinton. He was the cool, eloquent American president, to our not-quite-so-well-spoken Prime Minister. In Canada we aren't generally allowed to make our politicians into celebrities, so it's fun to relish in the cult of personality that we are deprived of. What's more, Clinton's stock only rose in my mind when he left office and turned his fame into the Global Initiative. What they are doing for development is truly innovative, and exciting to watch.

This sentiment has changed over the past week though. For all of the reasons that others have suggested, my gut feeling was that his recent actions were somewhat unbecoming of a president. But why did he feel the need to risk his image? Wasn't being the stately former President a better way of supporting Hillary?

What became crystal clear today, via Eugene Robinson's excellent column (key pieces below), is that he now sees Obama not only as a threat to Hillary's potential presidency, but as a threat to his legacy. This is why the Reagan as transformative leader (good or bad) line was such a trigger for angry response.

It is also, however, a misreading of Obama's message. Obama is not saying that the Clintons weren't good then. He is questioning the attractiveness of a Clinton presidency now. He is arguing that while their politics may have worked well in the climate of the 1990's, it is fundamentally ill disposed for the politics of now.

So, Robinson is right that Bill Clinton sees Obama as a challenge to his presidency. But he shouldn't. It is simply a challenge to Hillary's position that what was good for America in the 1990's is what is good for America in 2008.

Here is Robinson:
Obama's candidacy not only threatens to obliterate the dream of a Clinton Restoration. It also fundamentally calls into question Bill Clinton's legacy by making it seem . . . not really such a big deal.
....
Bill Clinton's brilliance was in the way he surveyed the post-Reagan landscape and figured out how to redefine and reposition the Democratic Party so that it became viable again. All the Democratic candidates who are running this year, including Obama, owe him their gratitude.

But Obama has set his sights higher, and implicit in his campaign is a promise, or a threat, to eclipse Clinton's accomplishments. Obama doesn't just want to piece together a 50-plus-1 coalition; he wants to forge a new post-partisan consensus that includes "Obama Republicans" -- the equivalent of the Gipper's "Reagan Democrats." You can call that overly ambitious or even naive, but you can't call it timid. Or deferential.
...
There's a battle to be fought against an upstart challenger who has the audacity to suggest that maybe the Clinton presidency, successful as it was in many ways, didn't change the world -- and that he, given the office, could do better. Some things, I guess, just can't be allowed. Bill Clinton obviously has decided that history can wait.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

# Posted 4:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STAUNCH LIBERAL BLASTS NY TIMES' ANTI-MILITARY PREJUDICE: Phil Carter is both a harsh critic of this administration's failures in Iraq as well as a proud veteran of the war in Iraq.

This past Sunday, the NY Times published a 6,000 word front-page story describing more than 120 murders committed or allegedly committed by veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly, the Times reported the story in crudely sensational manner that reinforced misleading stereotypes about veterans, as it did in this passage:
The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.
So, how many veterans are there of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? And how often do civilians who fit the same demographic profile commit murder (or are charged with one)? The Times' failure to ask these questions, let alone answer them, is a devastating admission of intellectual poverty and prejudice.

Both Phil and Marc Danziger (aka Armed Liberal) did some rough calculations that suggest the homicide rate for veterans is actually considerably lower than that for similar civilians. Perhaps before long, someone calculate the numbers more precisely. Regardless, the one-sided nature of the Times' coverage is an embarrassment. I hope that the next column by the Public Editor focuses on how such a spectacular failure found its way into the paper of record.

It goes without saying, of course, that conservatives were quick to blast the Times for indulging the same arch-liberal anti-military prejudices they have railed against for so long. This time, those prejudices were transparent to liberals as well.

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# Posted 3:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROMNEY ISN'T A PHONY, BUT I UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE THINK HE IS: Dean Barnett seems to be the lonely voice that speaks for Mitt Romney at the Weekly Standard. In Tuesday's NY Times, Barnett describes his personal connection to Mitt Romney, dating back to 1994. Barnett writes,
I spent a lot of time with Mr. Romney that year, and I occasionally served as his volunteer driver, taking him to local campaign events. The Mitt Romney I got to know was warm and likable. He had an electric intelligence. He was unfailingly decent. He was totally committed to his family. He treated everyone with respect and kindness.

If you’re like most politically attuned Americans, you probably don’t agree with my description of Mr. Romney. You may consider him to be the personification of political ambition. You possibly believe he will say anything to get elected president. You might even consider him one of the least honorable politicians in the country.

As a longtime admirer of Mr. Romney’s, it pains me that many Americans believe these things. Even worse, Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign has given them cause to feel this way.
I guess the question is, who's responsible for Romney's campaign? Barnett doesn't avoid that question. His answer is Mitt Romney:
Early in the presidential race, Mr. Romney perceived a tactical advantage in becoming the campaign’s social conservative...

This tack rang false with the public because it was false. The problem wasn’t so much the perception of widespread “flip-flopping” on issues like abortion. The public allows its politicians a measure of flexibility. But the public correctly sensed something disingenuous about Mr. Romney’s campaign.

Voters perceived the cynicism of a campaign that tried to exploit wedge issues rather than focus on the issues that in truth most interested the candidate. They sensed phoniness. As a consequence, many have grown to feel that Mitt Romney can’t be trusted. This lack of trust is now the dominant and perhaps insurmountable obstacle that the Romney campaign faces.
Although Barnett seems to be describing all of this as an unfortunate tactical error, I would argue that a failure to appreciate the importance of character and principle may compromise one's ability to serve as commander-in-chief. Now let me add on to that some pure speculation: Romney's ability to rapidly change his persona and values reflects his extraordinary success as a business executive. On that point, I'd be very interested in the observations of those of you who have had extensive experience in the private sector.

My sense is that the private sector places such a high premium on achieving results in the next month or next year that it has little interest in whether a chief executive has consistent principles. But great presidents must always take a longer view. Much as I support McCain, I suspect that Romney would be a very competent administrator of the federal government. I also believe he would be fairly moderate and favor a good degree of bipartisanship. I'd certainly vote for him over any of the Democrats.

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# Posted 3:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DO THE NATIONAL POLLS MATTER YET? Naturally, I'm disappointed that John McCain lost the Michigan primary, and by a considerable margin. As I console myself, I'm wondering if we're at the point where national polls of likely primary voters have anything meaningful to say about the nomination.

In general, I agree with the conventional wisdom that the national polls are a lagging indicator, almost to the point of being meaningless. Rudy Giuliani led in the national polls for all of 2007, and John McCain was a sort of front-runner before that.

But as we get closer to February 5, which is sort of a primary on a national scale, have the national polls begun to matter? Unsurprisingly, I hope they do. Since winning in New Hampshire, McCain seems to have absorbed all of Giuliani's support in the nationals, breaking out to a ten point lead, on average. One clear test of whether this shift is significant is the degree to which Romney's first victory (not counting his gold medal in Wyoming) puts him over the top on a national level, or at least narrows the gap considerably.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

# Posted 11:19 AM by Taylor Owen  

OK...SO MEGLOMANIA MY BE A BIT OF AN ISSUE....: That being said, this new ad running in Nevada hits a core element of Obama's message. In particular, the line "I don't want to spend the next 4 years re-fighting the fights of the 1990's" is nicely indicative of the generational shift that Obama's candidacy represents. More on this to come, but for now, here is the new ad:

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

# Posted 3:01 PM by Taylor Owen  

QUOTE OF THE POST NH DAY: Sullivan, on the Clinton machine, in no uncertain terms:
Now they have to either kill or coopt the hope that Obama has unleashed. Just as Bush coopted McCain's New Hampshire message in 2000, so Clinton is coopting Obama's message in 2007. She didn't find her own voice; she took Obama's, removed the eloquence and added a spice of identity politics.
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# Posted 9:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I'M EATING CROW WITH EGG ON MY FACE: Just hours ago, I hit back at those who once said Obama could never win the nomination. My post was self-congratulatory, to say the least. It took for granted an Obama victory in New Hampshire. I never thought the polls could be that far off.

You gotta love a system that constantly proves the know-it-alls to be wrong.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I'M NOT THE LEAST BIT OBJECTIVE WHEN IT COMES TO JOHN McCAIN: He is not a perfect man. But I believe he is great one. I am both excited and afraid of seeing the results from New Hampshire. For the moment, I thought I would revisit the one chance I had to talk to Sen. McCain personally.

In April, I participated in a conference call with the Senator:

I began by telling the Senator that I am a very strong supporter of his. I said it because it's true, and because I wanted to establish pre-emptively that my implied criticism should be taken as constructive. I told Sen. McCain I wanted to ask him about a front-page story in Saturday's Post entitled "McCain to Stake Bid on Need to Win in Iraq". Then I read the following sentence from the story:

It is a gamble at a critical time for the former front-runner for the Republican nomination, the political equivalent of a "double-down" in blackjack, as one person close to the campaign put it.

It certainly is a gamble, since the surge may fail, as McCain himself has observed. Thus, if the situation in Iraq is grim in late 2007, will the situation also be grim for McCain's candidacy?...

I was hoping the article was wrong because I don't see how it makes sense to double down on the success of something as uncertain as the surge. I would argue that McCain is the strongest candidate on every aspect of national security and US foreign policy. Thus, I don't want him knocked out of the race just because things go worse in Iraq.

Strategically, I think McCain needs to lay out how he would approach the situation in Iraq if the surge does fail. Right now he is on the horns of a dilemma. He says that we cannot afford to lose in Iraq. But if the surge goes poorly and 85% of Americans want to withdraw, will McCain still be committed to an increasingly hopeless quest for victory? At what point must a sincere commitment to principle give way to the demands of an overwhelming majority of the electorate?

McCain's answer to my question was honest, perhaps recklessly so. First, he said we shouldn't pay attention to anything attributed to anonymous individuals "close to his campaign". The bottom line is that he is going to do what he believes is right, regardless of whether it is the best thing for his candidacy.

As ye sow, so ye shall reap.

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# Posted 5:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I DON'T WANT TO SAY I TOLD YOU SO, BUT...This is not a post about John McCain. I have never wavered in my support for J-Mac, but I also didn't have much hope that he would be the #1 contender come January (although I haven't seen any results from New Hampshire yet).

But I did make the call for Obama and I stuck with it even when the conventional wisdom throughout the fall was that Hillary was inevitable. In January 2007, I already gave Obama a 50-50 shot at the nomination if he ran. As I said at the time, I wouldn't vote for an Obama in a general election because I'm not a liberal or a Democrat, but I respect Obama considerably.

In early April, I said straight out that my money is on Obama. I hedged a bit by saying that my confidence in that prediction didn't cross the 50% threshold, but it's hard to bet on a sure thing in politics. I certainly thought Obama had a much better chance than any other candidate.

Of course, he could still lose. Yes, candidates who win Iowa and New Hampshire tend to be unstoppable. But Hillary is one of kind.

Finally, forgive me for boasting. But some of the responses to my prediction cut a little too close. For example:
Thanks for ignoring the reality of class in America.

Obama draws upper middle class "progressives". Hillary despite her New Dem credentials, is more of a Soc Dem type dem, with a focus on tangible pocketbook issues. Its Gene McCarthy vs Bobby, Jack Kennedy vs Stevenson, an old story. Hell, its Gore vs Bradley.
This is same line of criticism that became conventional wisdom during Hillary's long summer. If you drink wine, you'll vote for Obama. If you drink beer, you'll vote for Hillary. I guess pinot noir is getting more popular.

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# Posted 4:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THREE CHEEHRS FOR REAL CLEAR POLITICS: At least twice a day for the past three months, I have visited RealClearPolitics to check out the latest polls. I first met Tom Bevan, one of RCPs founders at the GOP convention in 2004. He was a great guy to talk to and I liked his work. So now I think that Tom's success with RCP is fantastic.

But more than just the success story of a friend and colleague, I think RCP has made a significant contribution to how the media understands opinion polls. Almost every major media outlet provides prominent coverage exclusively to the polls that it commissions. Private polling firms only talk about the polls they conduct. That serves the electorate poorly, because it is only by looking at the full array of polls that one gets the best information. Thanks to RCP, that kind of broad perspective is now available at the click of a button.

And the RCP approach is making head way in the media. On FoxNews, almost every poll chart they put up displays the RCP average for the primary in question. Good for them. I hope the rest of the crowd makes the same decision or develops their own poll indexes so that voters get what they deserve.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

# Posted 7:39 PM by Taylor Owen  

I MUST ADMIT: This video holds a special place in my heart...
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# Posted 7:30 PM by Taylor Owen  

BELGRAVIA IS BACK: And in a quick succession of posts after a bit of a hiatus, he ridicules O'Hanlon and Kagan as "village idiots," and labels their post Bhutto assassination oped: "post-adolescent masturbatory drivel," debates 19th century economic history with the master of the craft, and my god, calls the Iowa primary almost dead on.
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Sunday, January 06, 2008

# Posted 10:19 PM by Taylor Owen  

ASININE PRIMARY REPORTING OF THE DAY: via the Huff Post:

"The sixty-four thousand dollar question," according to a Democratic operative, is "whether whites will continue to vote for Obama once the novelty wears off."

Most of those interviewed for this story do not believe the novelty will wear off.

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# Posted 10:30 AM by Taylor Owen  

Top of head thoughts from Sunday show appearances:

Huckabee: Fun, well spoken, but amateur. Doesn't hold up well when pressed.

McCain: Experienced but old. His strength has the potential to be his weakness - its ok to be a straight talker, unless people don't like what you are saying - ie, 100 years in Iraq.

Romney: Too smarmy by half. Uses a polled keyword in every sentence and often they don't connect. Full of it.

Edwards: Fighting the wrong fight. I don't think that the lobbying battle can carry anyone to the white house. He is the old left. An Obama-Edwards debate would be a fascinating battle for the future of the left.
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Thursday, January 03, 2008

# Posted 11:36 PM by Taylor Owen  

GENERATIONAL POLITICS: Under-30s backed Obama over Clinton by 57 to 11 percent. Did Howard Dean lay the groundwork for a successful Obama campaign?
h/t: AS
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# Posted 11:08 PM by Taylor Owen  

BREATHTAKING: Wow. Obama's speech was breathtaking. And what a contrast to Clinton's. She was on stage with Bill, Albright and Clark - the old white establishment. And that is what it comes down to. A generational divide and a new politics.
While a similar dynamic can also in part explain the Huckabee Romney dichotomy, the nature of the GOP field simply precludes the simplistic change versus status quo story line emerging on the democratic side.
Go Obama! (with Biden as vp...)

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# Posted 9:44 PM by Taylor Owen  

posted for David, by Taylor
IOWA IS GREAT. CAUCUSES ARE THE PROBLEM: David Broder explains. FYI, I haven't seen any results yet from Iowa.
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