Political Deformity

A Handshake of Carbon Monoxide

Big-Ass Data Point

From Alan S. Blinder, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, via NYT:

The stark contrast between the whiz-bang Clinton years and the dreary Bush years is familiar because it is so recent. But while it is extreme, it is not atypical. Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.

That 1.14-point difference, if maintained for eight years, would yield 9.33 percent more income per person, which is a lot more than almost anyone can expect from a tax cut.


August 30, 2008 Posted by | Democrats, Economics | , | Leave a comment

Sloppy Seconds/Timing Is Everything

Question: if the order of the conventions had been reversed–i.e. if the Republicans had preceded the Democrats–would we be seeing Sarah Palin on McCain’s ticket?

We all know that Palin was something of an impulsive choice. The Politico story I link to in my previous post notes that “McCain only spoke with Palin about the vice presidency for the first time on Sunday…and was seriously considering Lieberman until days ago.” And according to many reports, McCain had spoken to Palin all of two times–ever–before making her his VP pick. It’s also important to consider the timing of McCain’s VP announcement: after Obama’s DNC speech which pulled in an historic 40 million viewers. The point here was, of course, to steal Obama’s thunder and produce headlines like this one, claiming that “Obama loses spotlight.”

Outside of Palin’s supeficial demographic appeal as a socially conservative female, it really seems that there’s an element of conscious shock value to McCain’s pick. Though it would take well-connected Beltway insiders to really confirm or refute this, I would guess that the McCain campaign saw momentum building throughout the DNC and said “oh crap, we need to make a splash in order to steal the show” (excuse the mixed metaphor). Enter Palin. But if the GOP had held their shindig before the Democrats, there wouldn’t be such pressure to match Democratic interia.

Continue reading

August 30, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, Joe Biden, John McCain, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thank You, Politico

“6 Things the Palin pick says about John McCain”

Read it. As I suggested in an earlier post, McCain’s choice of Palin means that he’s on the defensive, scrambling to shake things up, and the Politico article above does a good job of digging into this fact.

August 30, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , | Leave a comment

Palin: A Sexist Choice

John McCain is no feminist. He doesn’t have a progressive–or really, even a moderate–position on abortion, and he voted against equal pay for women. Even personally, he has a history of less-than-compassionate behavior toward women: he left his first wife after she became disfigured in a horrible car crash and has a history of making sexist jokes and comments, including one instance where he called Cindy McCain a c*nt.

And now, suddenly, John McCain has become concerned with helping women break the glass ceiling? Now, suddenly, he wants a female as his second-in-command? Something’s fishy. Ann Friedman at The American Prospect points out just what stinks:

Palin’s addition to the ticket takes Republican faux-feminism to a whole new level…[It] is in fact a condescending move by the GOP. It plays to the assumption that disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters did not care about her politics — only her gender. In picking Palin, Republicans are lending credence to the sexist assumption that women voters are too stupid to investigate or care about the issues, and merely want to vote for someone who looks like them…it’s akin to choosing Alan Keyes in an attempt to compete with Obama for votes from black Americans.

Well said. Past history has given us every reason to believe that the Palin pick is more about exploitation than it is empowerment.

August 29, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , | 1 Comment

How Important Is Personality?

In his convention speech last night, Obama said that he was ready to show that his “temperament” is better-suited for the presidency than John McCain’s. Obama’s comments beg the question: how much does personality matter?

This may seem a ridiculous question, but in this election, it’s become an important one, given the stark contrast between Obama’s supposed aloofness and McCain’s prickliness. More than any other presidential contest in recent memory, this year’s candidates represent not just different platforms, or even political style, but also significantly different dispositions.

So how much doe these nuts and bolts of personality matter to the presidency, and how do the candidates stack up? The 2004 book Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House considers the most important dimensions of the presidential psyche to be:

Neuroticism vs. Emotional Stability-Nixon and LBJ were anxious and volatile. FDR and Reagan were “relaxed, secure, well-balanced, and able to see to the heart of problems.”

Extraversion-“warmth, gregariousness…and a tendency to experience positive emotions.” Extraverts included Teddy Roosevelt and Clinton; introverts Coolidge and Hoover. Continue reading

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, John McCain | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarah Palin?

Apparently, Alaska governor Sarah Palin has been chosen as McCain’s running mate. I consider this choice another confirmation that this campaign is increasingly defined by the tenor of Barack Obama’s candidacy: even Republicans feel like they need to incorporate some dimension of meaningful change (i.e. a young, female candidate) into their ticket to compete.

I mean come on, do you really think McCain would have chosen Palin–who’s only been governor of Alaska since 2006 and was mayor of a town with a population of 5,400 people before that–if Obama wasn’t running? After all these months of hammering the notion that experience is the most important aspect of a leader, this is McCain’s choice?

Palin also has a history of taking on other Republicans: she fought against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ infamous “bridge to nowhere” project and when she ran for governor, it was to unseat another Republican. The Republicans have long been defined by a remarkable degree of party discipline–just compare how quickly they fell into line behind John McCain (who wasn’t all that beloved during the primary) to the ongoing Obama/Hillary infighting that has continued to this day. Yet here McCain has chosen someone who has broken party rank, because that’s a much-needed plus in the “post-partisan” political world that Obama is defining.

For years, Republicans have been more proactive, and Democrats more reactive. But this year, that dynamic seems to be reserved: McCain is fighting on Obama’s terms.

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, John McCain, Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Low for Fox

Over at Mother Jones blog, there’s a Fox News screen grab you have to see to believe.

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Media Coverage | , , , | Leave a comment

Best Parts of Obama’s Speech?

(1) He took on McCain: “It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.”

He also started talking about disposition, which is fine with me after weeks of the “celebrity” meme:

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

And he called bullshit on McCain’s tough-guy posturing:

John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

Is this fair? On Larry King, McCain’s spokesman said that this quote was an outrage because it painted McCain as a coward. But McCain has made it clear that he prioritizes Iraq over tackling the Taliban in Afghanistan and he doesn’t think that Pakistan should be pressured in order to nail terrorists. Oh, and uh, one more thing: Osama Bin Laden was last spotted in Pakistan.

In other words, Obama’s comment has a substantive policy backing behind it: McCain is not interested in chasing Bin Laden. Yeah, he said it with edge–but that’s politics, right?

(2) He took on conservatism. Not just Republicans, but conservatism as an ideology:

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy — give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is — you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps — even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.

Yes. The problem isn’t Republican candidates (though that’s part of it), and the problem isn’t bad policy (though that’s part of it). The problem is the way conservatism conceives of–and subsequently institutionalizes–the relationship between government and citizens.

(3) Policy, baby! A wonk like me loves hearing about policy–and, more importantly, the more talk there is about specifics, the less the “he’s too fluffy” attacks can stick to Obama.

Obama to GOP: You wanna get nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts.

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats | , , , | Leave a comment

Senator John McCain? Never Happened.

Time has a great, short interview¬† with John McCain that displays two important features of the GOP candidate: (1) he’s a grumpy old coot and (2) he adamantly disavows any connection to his political self pre-2008 candidacy. #2 is the more important point to realize. Consider the following exchange:

There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I’ve read your books.
No, I’m not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

So McCain–who has made a political career out of touting the value of honor and service–can’t be bothered to discuss it while running for the presidency?Why not?

The obvious answer is that, the more McCain talks about honor, the less wiggle room he has to play dirty in the campaign. Indeed, McCain seems very unwilling to discuss how his politics–not just in substance, but also in style–have mutated over the course of this campaign: Continue reading

August 28, 2008 Posted by | John McCain, Media Coverage, Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

I Am Watching…

…”My Super Sweet 16″ on MTV and trembling with unholy rage. Are the brats on this show not the most hateable beasts on Earth? Sweet Christmas.

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Pop Culture | , | Leave a comment