Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sarah Palin, pranked

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may have heard already, a couple of notorious radio hosts on Montreal's CKOI-FM -- The Masked Avengers -- called Sarah Palin today pretending to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

I generally don't like "comedy" like this -- tricking people and making them look stupid -- even when Palin's the target.

But it is somewhat funny when "Sarkozy" talks about wanting to go hunting in helicopters with Palin (and, in French, mentions killing baby seals); claims that he can see Belgium from his house (which he obviously can't); says his "special Canadian advisor is Johnny Hallyday; says that singer Stef Carse is the prime minister of Canada and comedian Richard Z. Sirois the premier of Quebec; and asks if Joe the Plumber is Palin's husband (and then says the French equivalent is "Marcel the guy with bread under his armpit" -- in response, Palin says, "right, that's what it's all about...").

And, of course, Palin is utterly oblivious throughout.

She even laughs when "Sarkozy" says he just loves "killing those animals" ("take away a life, that is so fun"), and, in response to "Sarkozy"'s comment that they shouldn't take Cheney, says that she'd be "a careful shot."

She also doesn't catch on when "Sarkozy" gives the wrong names for the prime minister and premier. (Though it may be too much to fault her for not knowing the name of the premier -- it's Jean Charest, by the way -- but she doesn't even blink in responding that "Sirois" hasn't been to one of her rallies.).

It's also funny when she brings up the real Sarkozy's "beautiful wife," singer Carla Bruni: "You've added a lot of energy to your country with that beautiful family of yours," says Palin, chuckling, adding, "give her a big hug from me." Whereupon "Sarkozy" informs Palin that his wife is "so hot in bed" and has even written a long for Palin. In French, the title of the song is "Red Lipstick on a Pig," but "Sarkozy" translates it as "Joe the Plumber."

And when "Sarkozy" refers to "the documentary they made on your life," the "really edgy" Hustler video Nailin' Paylin. Palin replies, cluelessly: "Oh, good, thank you, yes."

Whereupon "Sarkozy" comes clean: "Governor, you've been pranked." Leading to an amusing last few seconds of confusion on Palin's end.

Well, okay, it's actually much funnier, as I'm going over it again for this post, than I first thought. But, if check it out for yourselves. Here it is:

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Must we abandon everything we do to survive?

By Carol Gee

Quote of the day: "Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future." ~ Peter Drucker

We as a nation must be willing to abandon the old ways that do not work. We will be required to learn how to get along with our adversaries, to find common ground. New governing solutions will be required to deal with the crashing waves of problems in the wake of 8 years of Republican rule. And the Republican Party will have to abandon what it has recently been doing in order to survive.

McCain can only stand by helplessly blustering as tensions rise and Palin splits the nation and the party. Writing a guest opinion piece for the BBC, former Bush deputy assistant, Peter Wehner, conceded that the Republicans will lose on November 4. The bulk of his article is a scathing indictment of Obama; the concession came as his conclusion. To quote:

And even if you were inclined to believe that Senator Obama will govern as a centrist - a questionable claim, given his record - the Democratic Party will hold a commanding position in the House and Senate.

Speaker Pelosi and majority leader Reid and their committee chairmen - many of them partisan, ideological, and ruthless - will exert enormous pressure on Obama to move left.

From all we know about him, Senator Obama will not resist it or defy them. And that, in turn, will lead to overreach.

Which is why even though next Tuesday will be a difficult day for Republicans and conservatives, the wise ones will understand that our moment will come again, and perhaps sooner than we think.

Our task is to be ready.

After World War II a group of disparate nations in Europe had to abandon insularity and unhealthy competition in order to unite, forming the European Union. An anchor nation, Great Britain is our closest ally. What do they think of our political races? The Financial Times did a survey of influential people in the United Kingdom about the upcoming U.S. presidential election. These are a couple of the results (see linked charts, also):

  • Who would you like to see win the election? Obama: 74%, McCain: 16%, Don't know: 10%
  • Who do you believe will win the election? Obama: 72%, McCain: 13%, Don't know: 15%

America has always had to change in order to survive, leaving the old ways that were not working behind. Jurek Martin writes in the London Financial Times that America has a staggering capacity for change. That is good to hear because we are about to "do a 180" after 8 horrendous years with the failing Bush administration. William Drodziak says in Germany's Deutche Welle that Obama will go down in history. To quote:

Many pundits ask indeed why anybody would want a job so fraught with peril.

An advised transition: Obama has approached this staggering task with cool methodology. He has appointed two experienced advisors to head the executive transition teams that will put together his new government.

. . . In short, America and the world will probably wake up on the morning of Nov. 5 to a dramatically different government taking over in the United States. If Obama can fulfill the hopes and ambitions of the millions of American voters yearning for change, he will go down in history books as a transformational leader who brought the United States back from the precipice of decline as a world power and restored its original sense of purpose as a stalwart defender of democratic values and human rights.

In recent times we have not voted for President wisely, twice. In 2008 we hope that enough voter gullibility will be abandoned that wise choices of our leaders can prevail. Some of us think that Barack Obama has the capacity to be a good Servant-Leader. The Senate must abandon gridlock; the House must abandon Minority walk-outs. The president, the voters, the Congress, the courts -- we must unite and refine the art of follower-ship to survive as a nation. The whole world is watching.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Cheney endorses McCain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Steve Benen reports.

It's hardly a shock that Cheney prefers McCain to Obama, but one wonders if McCain, who has been trying to distance himself from Bush despite his strongly pro-Bush record, really wants a Cheney endorsement with just a few days to go before the election.

"Maybe," Steve offers, "the McCain campaign would consider a few more public events where Cheney can tout how much he and McCain are on the same page and share a common worldview? Maybe in states like Ohio and Florida?"

Sounds like a great idea to me -- a high-profile reminder from the Dick himself that McCain-Palin would be four more years of Bush-Cheney, or worse.


UPDATE: From CNN: "I'd like to congratulate Sen. McCain on this endorsement, because he really earned it. That endorsement didn't come easy," Obama said today in Colorado.

For its part, the McCain campaign is responding that McCain has fought against Obama and Cheney on "out-of-control" spending and Bush's energy policy -- in other words, that Obama is like Bush-Cheney, not McCain.

It doesn't get much stupider than that.

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Palin First

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Speaking of Palin rallies in Florida -- which I did earlier -- it seems that, like Palin rallies elsewhere, they're all about... Sarah Palin:

At a boisterous Sarah Palin rally in Polk City, Florida on Saturday afternoon, one name was surprisingly absent from the campaign décor — John McCain's.


[T]he GOP nominee's name was literally nowhere to be found on any of the official campaign signage distributed to supporters at the event.

I suspect this reflects a number of things:

1) Palin is far more popular with the base than McCain is, and it's the base, the GOP mob, that's showing up for these rallies.

2) Palin may be an ignorant twit, but she's also a hyper-ambitious one -- it's always been about her (including for her various right-wing admirers.

3) The Republican blame game is already underway, with fingers pointing in all directions, and there have been signs of tension between McCain and Palin (and between their respective people) -- Palin may be playing right along.

4) With the election all but lost, Palin is already looking ahead to 2012 -- in fact, she's already running.

Whatever the case, it's all quite amusing. Even McCain's own running mate has pretty much abandoned him.

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The new ugly: More ignorance and bigotry in the McCain-Palin mob

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The latest chant at Palin rallies is this: "Vote McCain, not Hussein!" or "John McCain! Not Hussein!" As NYT's The Caucus is reporting, the former made an appearance at a rally earlier this week in Pennsylvania, the latter at one this morning in Florida:

After the rally in Florida ended, two of the people leading the chant explained why they did so.

"Because it rhymes," said Shirley Mitten, 64, a volunteer at a pregnancy center and a resident of Brooksville, Fla. She said she does not know if Mr. Obama is a Muslim. "He says he's not, but we have no way of knowing," Ms. Mitten said.

Her husband, John A. Mitten, 64, took credit for starting the chant. "I was trying to get it going!" he said. "I just do not want Obama to be elected."

Mr. Mitten said he could not trust Mr. Obama because of his past association with William Ayers, the 1960's radical, and because of his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. He also pointed out that Mr. Obama's father was a Muslim.

The middle name Hussein, he said, added to the suspicion. "I guess Obama was named after Saddam Hussein," he said.

We do know that Obama's not a Muslim, and we do know that the Mittens are a couple of blithering idiots. But they are hardly the only ones in the McCain-Palin mob. And it isn't just ignorance that drives them, it's bigotry.

For so what if Obama were a Muslim? Would that automatically disqualify him from public office? Well, yes, to these people who are so full of hatred and spite.

And yet there they are, cheering on Sarah Palin, herself the cheerleader of the mob, spewing lies and deceptions at rally after rally.

Not all McCain-Palin supporters are like that, to be sure, but many of them are, and the ugliness, vicious attacks on Obama, some of it undeniably racist, has become a defining feature both of the McCain-Palin campaign and of its grassroots support.

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John Cleese on Olbermann

By J. Thomas Duffy

If you happened to be watching Countdown last evening, you were rewarded with a little treat:

John Cleese, live, in-studio.

For the final segment, Olbermann had the Monty Python veteran in for a chat, and a new poem (Cleese, last month, wrote a poem slamming Sean Hannity that Olbermann read on the program) bashing Olbermann's obsessive target, Bill O'Reilly.

The best of it was Cleese riffing on "If Karl Rove worked for the Democrats" ... It's hysterical!

Check it out here:

Countdown: John Cleese on Joe the Prop Oct. 31, 2008

Extra Bonus!

It appears, if it survives the writing and run-through process, that there will be a parody of Olbermann on Saturday Night Live this evening.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Obama draws even, more or less, in Louisiana

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Ahead in the polls, and with the Kerry states pretty much wrapped up, including Pennsylvania, Obama has been setting his sights lately on traditionally red states like Indiana and North Carolina, and even McCain's home state of Arizona.

Obama has substantial leads in key battleground states like Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire, the race is more or less even in others like Missouri and Indiana, and polls show that he is close even in Georgia.

And, now, even in Louisiana, where, according to a new WWL-TV poll, the race is, given the margin of error, "a statistical tie," with McCain up by just three points, 43 to 40.

I don't expect Obama to win Arizona, Georgia, or Louisiana -- just as I don't expect him to win West Virginia or Montana -- but, as I've said before, the very fact that these states are in play suggests that Obama is doing rather well overall.

I'll have my final national vote and electoral college tally predictions on Monday, or perhaps early Tuesday. As I look at it now, though, I have it 375 to 163 for Obama.

But, then, I'm in a fairly optimistic mood at the moment. I'm sure the anxiety -- not to mention the fear and panic -- will set in again over the weekend.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

The Reaction in Review (Oct. 31, 2008)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Taking the fight to Arizona, now a battleground state" -- In this post and a previous "sign of good things to come," Michael celebrates this new campaign opening in McCain's own back yard.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Palin and the First Amendment: Give me a friggin' break" -- Michael exposes the silliness of Sarah Palin's plea for extra protection of her right to free speech; C'mon!

By Creature: "McCain's next hit job on Obama" -- This post, and it's interesting comment by Capt. Fogg, reveals McCain's amazing capacity to step to new lows.


By Mustang Bobby: "Another country heard from" -- Bobby reveals why an endorsement by highly respected publication, The Economist is very good for Barack Obama's governing gravitas.

By Carl: "McCain wins one constituency" -- Featuring fab fotos, Carl suggests all the good reasons that it won't be enough for a McCain victory.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Our better history: Thoughts on Obama's half-hour prime-time TV ad" -- Michael's positively heartfelt wish for us regarding Obama: "Don't let yourselves succumb to numbness, to desensitization, to detachment, to disengagement."

By Carl: "Redistributor cap" -- This excellent post is one of Carl's specialties, making complex economic theory accessible in a clever and entertaining way; it rocks!


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Joe the Plumber, idiot" -- Michael exposes this Repub phenom for what he really seems to be a shill for their campaign; + several comments.

By Carl: "Friends don't let friends vote third party" -- Carl's well researched and well reasoned argument for a vote for Obama, and none other, is one we can take to heart.

By Dan Tobin: "Letter W more excited than ever for image overhaul" -- Dan's clever and entertaining interview with a member of the alphabet is a great read.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Integrity at an Indiana call center" -- Conclusion: "They didn't have to do it, and it was not without risk, but they took a firm stand for decency and for their own integrity." Commenters gave kudos.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "BREAKING NEWS: Ted Stevens found guilty" -- Thorough coverage of the guilty verdict story, including Stevens, Palin and newspaper quotes.

By Carol Gee: "Pessimistic, realistic or optimistic about new leadership" -- Quote: "I am optimistic that Barack Obama sees the world relatively realistically, despite his emphasis on hope. After all, his main message is "change," which would not be needed if our leadership had been adequate these past few years."

By Capt. Fogg: "Military intelligence" -- This eye-opening post reacts to an over-the-top story about how military intelligence views activities that seem perfectly normal to the rest of us.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Wow: Obama in Denver" -- Michael's post is an inspirational reminder of how important it is to notice why we are FOR Obama, not just against McCain-Palin, paying attention to what moves us about his candidacy, again and again.

Special bonus, features ugly Republican senators --

By Michael J.W. Stickings: Elizabeth Dole, and Kit Bond

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Duberstein! Duberstein!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Add one more prominent Republican to the list of those who support Obama.

Ken Duberstein, chief of staff to McCain's hero, Ronald Reagan, has endorsed Obama, joining, among others, Colin Powell, Ken Adelman, Arne Carlson, William Weld, and Charles Fried.

Duberstein has been an advisor to Powell confidante and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and it was Powell's endorsement specifically that pushed him to Obama: "Well let's put it this way, I think Colin Powell's decision is in fact the good housekeeping seal of approval on Barack Obama."

Welcome aboard, Mr. Duberstein.

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Taking the fight to Arizona, now a battleground state

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Kos is reporting that Arizona is "neck and neck." McCain is up by just a single point in a new Research 2000 poll, 48 to 47, with Obama leading 54 to 42 among early voters.

(And, in a possible preview of the 2010 Senate race, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has an extremely high favourability rating in the state, is ahead of McCain 53-45.)

With the Obama campaign recruiting volunteers and campaigning seriously in Arizona, surely a sign that things are going well, McCain will actually be campaigning there on Monday.

That's right, though all the talk has been about Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and the other supposedly swing states, McCain is now in the position of having to defend Arizona, his own home state, once thought to be a slam dunk.

(In my best Monty Burns voice: Exxx-cellent.)

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Palin and the First Amendment: Give me a friggin' break

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This... is... simply... ridiculous:

In a conservative radio interview that aired in Washington, D.C. Friday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by "attacks" from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.

Right, so she's allowed to say whatever she wants, but the media aren't allowed to criticize her. Got it?

She's not attacking Obama with her smears, just asking questions, but the media are attacking her and seeking to shut her up. Got it?

Bull... fucking... shit.

This isn't about free speech -- no one is talking about taking her rights away from her, and there's no threat to the future of the country in this regard -- it's about running a vicious and dirty campaign, about lying, about seeking to deceive the American people.

If Palin is so worried about the First Amendment -- and you know she isn't; this is just more of the usual media-bashing and scapegoating, a common right-wing tactic -- maybe she should take a look at her own party and its record on civil liberties.


UPDATE: Read Greenwald:

If anything, Palin has this exactly backwards, since one thing that the First Amendment does actually guarantee is a free press. Thus, when the press criticizes a political candidate and a Governor such as Palin, that is a classic example of First Amendment rights being exercised, not abridged.

This isn't only about profound ignorance regarding our basic liberties, though it is obviously that. Palin here is also giving voice to the standard right-wing grievance instinct: that it's inherently unfair when they're criticized. And now, apparently, it's even unconstitutional.

Well argued, as always.

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McCain's next hit job on Obama

By Creature

Today, from the NYT, we learned this about Senator Obama's upcoming schedule:

Mr. Obama also wanted a site near Chicago, where he is planning to take a three-hour respite from politics to celebrate Halloween with his two daughters.

John McCain's response: Barack Obama has a Muslim name. Barack Obama says he's a Christian. Now Barack Obama's taking time off the campaign trail to celebrate a Pagan holiday. Who is Barack Obama and why won't he come clean about his religious beliefs? Barack Obama, wrong for America and a threat to God.

*OK, I'm getting grief about this post, so let me be clear. This is a joke. I guess the sad part is that McCain has gone so low that it's hard to tell the difference.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Ugliest Republican of the Day II: Elizabeth Dole

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't follow North Carolinian politics all that closely, so I'll let The Charlotte Observer explain:

In a new TV ad that must have the late Sen. Helms smiling and cheering from the great beyond, the Dole campaign has attacked her opponent, Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro, as "godless." Hagan attended a September fundraiser in Boston sponsored by dozens of people and co-hosted by two persons associated with a group called Godless Americans PAC. Dole's ad says Hagan took "godless" money. Hagan's campaign says she did not receive money from the PAC, though she did get money from one of the co-hosts. She has demanded Dole halt the ad.

Hagan's attendance at any fundraiser and acceptance of a contribution is a fair topic for comment. Yet Dole has resorted to the Big Lie technique, morphing a kernel of truth into a monumental fiction.

How so? The Dole campaign stepped across a broad line, portraying Hagan as not Christian and suggesting she does not believe in God. The Dole ad shows a picture of Hagan while a woman's voice, not Hagan's, intones, "There is no God."

This is indecent. It is the modern-day version of [Helms's notorious] "white hands" ad, a lie born of Dole's desperation in a race in which she has trailed for weeks. It is also a deliberate attempt by Dole's campaign not just to distort the truth, but to shatter Hagan's admirable record as an elder for more than a decade in Greensboro's First Presbyterian Church, as a Sunday School teacher and a volunteer in her church's fundraising campaigns, worship services and community service programs.


This ad is something else, an attack on a Christian woman's faith against all evidence to the contrary. It is wrong. It may well backfire on Dole.

It has no place in N.C. politics. Unless she admits this egregious, shameful mistake and acts appropriately, Elizabeth Dole has no place in N.C. politics, either

Very well editorialized. But I'd say she has no place in the Senate regardless. All this ad does is confirm what a desperate and vicious woman she has become. Let's hope the voters of North Carolina have finally moved past the divisive politics of Jesse Helms and reject Dole decisively on Tuesday.

(From AMERICAblog: "Hagan hits back on Dole." Effectively, I might add.)


UPDATE: For more on the Dole-Hagan race, see CNN, out with a new poll that has Hagan up by 9 points, 53 to 44.

At WaPo, Cillizza has the two ads.

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Joe the Maoist

By Capt. Fogg

I picked up the clip below at A Silent Cacophony, one of my regular reads. Looking for Joe the Plumber in the crowd, John the Candidate tells the audience to stand up because they're all Joe the Plumber. I'm sure the man with umpteen houses and cars and a private jet wishes it were so. I'm sure the Man who has never had a private sector job, much less a blue collar trade, would like us to think of him as a man of the people, a Maoist hero.

The idea of the wise peasant, the log cabin born leader is nothing new and it's typically American, but it's also a central mythology of Marxism. We remember Mao Zedong's cultural revolution during which the professional, academic and educated classes were all but exterminated in favor of leadership by peasant farmers, coal miners and yes, plumbers. That one learns to swim by swimming was a Maoist cliche that implied that education was not only not necessary, but not desired. It took China a generation to begin to recover from the destruction.

The idea still lives here in America, despite our continuing obsession with Communism and Socialism. We still believe in the wise fool; in the wisdom of those untainted by information and intelligence and culture and we still believe in superstitious suspicion of all others. We still believe that Joe, whose name is Charles, and isn't a plumber and can't do basic arithmetic much less understand the tax codes, has the answers we need because he's one of us and not one of them. We're still yearning for the Worker's Paradise promised by Communism. We still admire Forrest Gump and marvel at his wisdom, but we still can't seem to differentiate between the people who exploit us by invoking our class identifications and snobberies and class prejudices, and people who actually serve our best interests. All we seem to see is the working class uniform and not the wolf wearing it.

Only in America would the accusation of Marxism arise from a plan to add 4% to the burden of the top 2% elite in the interest of recovering some of the debt we have incurred in making them rich. Only in America would the accusation of Socialism arise from restoring the top tax bracket we had under Reagan, the progressive structure advocated by Adam Smith and Teddy Roosevelt and that we have had during the most prosperous years of our history.

I could go on endlessly about the irony of invoking a worker's paradise and the bogeyman of Communism to sell economic feudalism, but odds are, if you've read this far, you don't need me to do that. It's the dumb people that can be fooled all of the time. It's Joe the Plumber and everyone who stood up when John the Rich Man asked them to who enjoy the flattery and the snobbery and the smug, stupid certainties sold to them by Sarah and the old man.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Ugliest Republican of the Day: Kit Bond

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Senator Kit Bond of Missouri was our Craziest Republican of the Day back in December 2007 for comparing waterboarding to swimming. (Seriously.)

Today he's our Ugliest Republican of the Day for saying this yesterday at a Palin rally in Rush Limbaugh's home town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri:

Just this past week, we saw what Barack Obama said about judges. He said, "I'm tired of these judges who want to follow what the Founding Fathers said and the Constitution. I want judges who have a heart, have an empathy for the teenage mom, the minority, the gay, the disabled. We want them to show empathy. We want them to show compassion."

That's right, Bond apparently doesn't want judges to have any empathy or compassion at all. Presumably he just wants them to throw the book, as hard as possible, at teenage mothers, minorities, gays, and the disabled. (And note how he refers to them with condescension, derision, and dismissal: "the minority, the gay..."

What is that other than meanness and ugliness and bigotry?

Of course, his attack on Obama is all quite ridiculous. Obama is hardly against the rule of law.

But, as George Constanza once said, "We're living in a society!"

In society, certain social values are important. If people don't have compassion for one another, what sort of a society it is? Similarly, if compassion isn't built into the law, and if judges can't show compassion towards those who need it most, then what sort of rule is there?

Bond implies that he wants society to be what the Founding Fathers wanted it to be. But the Founding Fathers were hardly incapable of showing compassion. And they certainly wanted to live in a compassionate society -- even if there are significant differences between then and now. (Times have changed, as the forward-looking and liberal-thinking Founding Fathers knew they would.) Indeed, I would argue that the Declaration of Independence is a genuinely compassionate document. In attacking Obama, Bond insulted the Founding Fathers and expressed an un-American understanding of the law.

What people like Bond want is not a society, and certainly not a community, but a loose confederation of selfish, atomistic individuals governed by an inhumane legal code, one that targets the disabled and disadvantaged -- one that is so stupid, because so stupidly enacted, because the enactors themselves were so stupid, as to be unable to distinguish case from case and context from context, one that is shallow and unjust.

In a civilized society, the law must be more than this. It must be a reflection of what Matthew Arnold, writing in a different context, called our best self. To those of us who prefer civilization to barbarism, our best self is deeply compassionate.

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Take comfort, my friends

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There is a good deal of anxiety out there, I know, what with McCain seemingly closing the gap, at least in the national polls.

I'm full of anxiety myself.

But a new CBS/NYT poll still has Obama with a double-digit lead over McCain, 52 to 41. And it doesn't look like there will be "significant movement in the campaign's final days," given that there are so few undecideds left (just five percent of likely voters).

And consider this: "Seventeen percent of registered voters say they have already voted, either by absentee ballot or at early voting sites, and this group favors Obama by a large margin. The 13 percent of registered voters casting ballots for the first time favor Obama over McCain by two-to-one."

In other words, Obama already has a massive lead.

Take a look at Nate Silver's round-up of the latest national and state polls. What stands out? Obama is still well ahead in the national polls. Even the anxiety-ridden Noam Scheiber now thinks that "the national bleeding looks like it's stopped."

Meanwhile, McCain is barely holding on in red states like Montana, Louisiana, and Arizona.

I'm not saying it's over. It's not. Some of the national polls are, well, worrying, including two that have Obama up by just three. Maybe McCain's internal polls are right and the various public polls are flawed. And maybe there's just something we're missing -- like the prospect of heavy Republican turnout (or efforts to suppress Democratic turnout).

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

But here we are, just four days out, and I'm trying not to let the anxiety get the better of me. Call me delusional, if you want, but we can take comfort, I think, in the numbers.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama in Arizona: A sign of good things to come?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via Ambinder, it looks like the Obama campaign is recruiting volunteers in Arizona.

"We've got a real chance now," writes Obama National Field Director Jon Carson in an e-mail to supporters, "but we can't do this without you."

The current RCP Average for Arizona is McCain +5.2, but Obama has significantly narrowed the gap. Polls have had McCain up by over 20 points throughout the course of the year. And as Silver noted the other day, Obama's chances in New Mexico look better because of this.

It's highly unlikely Obama will win McCain's home state, but the fact that he's doing so well there could be an indication of his support nationwide. And the fact that his campaign is recruiting volunteers, and taking the time to focus some of its attention on what all along has been seen as a sure thing for McCain, could be an indication that it's extremely confident going into the final weekend of the campaign.

Whatever the case, the optics of Obama taking it right to McCain like this are fantastic.

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Another country heard from

By Mustang Bobby

One of the most respected publications in this or any country is The Economist of Great Britain. It is the closest you can get to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal on financial matters that is sold at the neighborhood newsstand. And being a journal of big business and finance, you would think it would be conservative in its bearing and its outlook. And by and large you would be right. So it comes as both amazing and comforting that they have chosen to voice their support for the election of Barack Obama:

IT IS impossible to forecast how important any presidency will be. Back in 2000 America stood tall as the undisputed superpower, at peace with a generally admiring world. The main argument was over what to do with the federal government’s huge budget surplus. Nobody foresaw the seismic events of the next eight years. When Americans go to the polls next week the mood will be very different. The United States is unhappy, divided and foundering both at home and abroad. Its self-belief and values are under attack.

For all the shortcomings of the campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama offer hope of national redemption. Now America has to choose between them. The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.

Read the whole article, including their almost sorrowful review of what has happened to the John McCain they once admired. And when it comes to the Palin Factor, their revulsion for this is almost palpable.

Granted, they have their blind spots (referring to the hapless "BlackBerry" Douglas Hotlz-Eakins as "impressive") and they have their doubts about Mr. Obama's lack of experience, but in the end, they believe he's up to the challenges:

There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and outfought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right.

Political fire, far from rattling Mr Obama, seems to bring out the best in him: the furore about his (admittedly ghastly) preacher prompted one of the most thoughtful speeches of the campaign. On the financial crisis his performance has been as assured as Mr McCain’s has been febrile. He seems a quick learner and has built up an impressive team of advisers, drawing in seasoned hands like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.


So Mr Obama in that respect is a gamble. But the same goes for Mr McCain on at least as many counts, not least the possibility of President Palin. And this cannot be another election where the choice is based merely on fear. In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.

The conventional wisdom is that when a left-leaning publication endorses a Democrat or a conservative one endorses a Republican, the endorsement itself carries little weight; it's what people have expected from them. But when a publication like The Economist comes out for Barack Obama, that is news, and it will reach readers who would never consider voting for a Democrat. And it is no small point that the editors of The Economist speak not just for themselves but also for the rest the financial world, both here and overseas. They are the people the next president will have to deal with when the election is over and the world wonders.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Everything is bigger in Texas, including the appalling ignorance

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As the Houston Chronicle is reporting, a new University of Texas poll finds that "23 percent of Texans are convinced that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is a Muslim."


(This is well above the national average of "just 5 to 10 percent." Needless to say, McCain is well ahead of Obama in Texas.)

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McCain wins one constituency!

By Carl

it cannot vote...

Thank god for the Weekly World News, saved from the annals of history at the last minute, for providing one last laugh at no one's expense. I was starting to feel cheap about all the laughs I was having at McCain's expense...

The switch in endorsement is unusual, but there's some reason to suspect Alien succumbed to something other than reason:
It would be wrong to speculate, but it would also be irresponsible not to!

Seriously, the McCain campaign is in dire straits, and appears to be destined to lay all their chips on
one last "Hail Mary" pass: somehow wresting the state of Pennsylvania from a double digit Obama lead. The 21 electoral votes there would offset likely losses in other traditionally red states that McCain is struggling with (losing in most).

Even in a state noted for its
Immaculate Receptions, it seems rather unlikely that McCain can make up a double digit deficit in five days, but we should prepare and call out our friends in western Pennsylvania in particular for a "get out the vote" effort.

Even tho some 40% of the Pennsylvania population lives within the Philadelphia television market and Obama is probably pulling most of his numbers from that section, estimates run as high as 60% in polls from there, he is still having trouble with blue collar voters in western PA.

This isn't about wanting to win and win big. This is about needing to win. We don't know what kind of tricks the GOP have up their sleeve, and frankly, I'd like to keep those up the sleeve if it's all the same to anyone. This point in history is too critical a moment to risk it all by resting on laurels.

We're better than they are. They voted for Bush twice. We did not, and we have to convince as many people as possible that Barack Obama has the solutions we need to get this country back on track.

I am aware that the taste of revenge is sweet, but it comes with a price and that price is a lack of belief by ourselves and others in the rightness of our victory.

Instead, let us frame Obama's win on Tuesday in terms of what is just and right, that life sometimes gives us an opportunity and we must seize it. This is our future, this is our goal, this is our country that we fight for.

Five days. Five short little days. Make the most of them, folks.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our better history: Thoughts on Obama's half-hour prime-time TV ad

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Okay, I have to comment...

I thought that was excellent: the focus on the economy, on the middle class, on his personal story, a story that is so profoundly American, on a strong foreign policy that focuses on the real threats and that restores America's standing in the world, on the themes of hope and change that have come to define Obama's run for the presidency from the very beginning.

And, once again, as in the debates, he presented himself as a strong, determined leader with a bold vision, certainly not someone to be feared, certainly not the caricature the other side is making him out to be.

He spoke directly to the heartland, directly to the American people, not to those allegedly real or unreal Americans, not to blue-state or red-states ones, not to Democrats or Republicans, but to everyone.

The imagery was stunning throughout.

And the transition to the live event in Florida was fantastic.

Compare that to the anger and bitterness coming from the other side.

Compare Joe the Plumber, the new McCain-Palin mascot, a man who spews partisan ignorance, to the good and decent people whose stories Obama told tonight, like the Louisville couple who work for Ford, the husband only every other week, the wife laid off, and who are having trouble making ends meet for their family, stuggling like so many others all around the country.

Compare Obama's supporters, those at the rally in Florida, those who were in Denver for his acceptance speech, those who have been at his events all along, to the venomous mobs that show up to McCain-Palin rallies and lead the procession of hatred.

I wrote a few days ago that I have been deeply moved by Obama, and tonight was no exception.

There were times, as a husband and father myself, when I was almost moved to tears.

I was listening to a Buffalo radio station on my way home from work today, and the hosts said they weren't going to watch Obama tonight. They've simply had enough of the whole partisan campaign, because all there is on both sides is misrepresentation.

That's a common sentiment out there, no doubt. Many people see politicians, all politicians, as liars, or at least as deceivers. I am not one of them.

Similarly, many of us who follow politics closely -- reporters and pundits, analysts and pollsters, bloggers and junkies -- have become desensitized, losing the capacity to be deeply moved. This was the point of the post I wrote a few days ago.

No, there's nothing wrong with harbouring some healthy cynicism, or being non-partisan, or examining the race from a dispassionate perspective, but there is something wrong when cynicism or -- what is so common to the professional punditocracy -- smug condescension takes over.

Don't let yourselves succumb to numbness, to desensitization, to detachment, to disengagement.

Keep your hearts and minds open. This is an incredible time for America and for the world.

And it is time for Barack Obama.


UPDATE: See my pal Joe Gandelman's very positive review of the "infomercial" here.


Here it is, in full:

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What the hell is going on?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Over at TNR, which I read daily, there's a debate/discussion going on between John Judis and Noam Scheiber (with Jonathan Cohn also weighing in) about cork-popping.

As in, is it time to start popping the corks? Is the race over? Judis says yes, more or less, but Scheiber is deeply worried.

There seems to be little doubt that the race has tightened. But by how much?

As Chuck Todd puts it at MSNBC, "it's hard to imagine this race not tightening," as if it hasn't already, mainly because of the undecideds, most of whom are "folks who, four years ago, voted mostly Republican," but who "are not yet on board when it comes to voting for Obama."

As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight noted, though -- and he does this on a daily basis -- "Obama once again had an exceptionally good day in the state-level numbers" yesterday. Even the national polls were pretty much even, some moving to McCain, some moving to Obama, some remaining flat. Nate also suggests that the undecideds could "split essentially evenly," given that they're not all white Republicans.

Elsewhere, CNN says that Obama has made fairly significant gains at the state level, most notably in Colorado (where he is well ahead) and Indiana (which is now a toss-up). As well, he is "holding on to a strong lead in Virginia," Missouri is "basically a dead heat," and he's down by just 5 in Georgia. (More here.)

Anyway, I'll be back later, after Obama's 30-minute "ad," which is about to start -- and perhaps even later, after his appearance on The Daily Show tonight.

Stay tuned. There's a lot more to come here at The Reaction.

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Idiot of the Day: Dennis Prager

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For saying this: "Equality, which is the primary value of the left, is a European value, not an American value."

Apparently Prager isn't familiar with the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

I'd call him a dangerous idiot, but does anyone outside his partisan echo chamber really care what Prager thinks about anything?

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Nitwit and Dimwit -- together in Ohio

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, that's right, Sarah Palin and Joe the Idiot Plumber Wurzelbacher shared the stage today in Bowling Green, Ohio.

And in what is a violation of the rules of the reality-based world, these two negatives didn't make a positive, just an even more negative negative, a negative squared, turning the rally, as usual, into an ugly, vindictive smearfest, with the GOP mob revved up and out for blood.

Look for Palin-Wurzelbacher at a 2012 campaign rally near you.

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Where's Bjork?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Think things are bad here, financially speaking (not so bad here in Canada, but pretty bad south of the border)? Well, be thankful you don't live in Iceland*:

Iceland's central bank upped its key interest rate by 6 percentage points to 18 percent on Tuesday, two weeks after it had eased policy to soften the impact of the country’s financial meltdown.

The move, which one economist called extreme, was the latest by authorities to prop up the country's frozen currency and markets, offering investors a high return for putting money back into the North Atlantic island's crippled financial system.


The island nation's financial system has all but collapsed since the country was forced to take over three of its biggest banks earlier this month.

Its currency has crumbled, raising the specter of inflation, which is already in double digits, soaring still further.


(Here in Canada, our currency is sagging, but our banking system remains fairly robust. There aren't many sub-prime mortgages to be had, and the credit crunch is being felt, but the lending rate isn't bad.)

* To our Icelandic readers -- I'm sure we've had some over the years -- I'm sure you have a lovely country otherwise. I hold Bjork against you, as many do, but I quite like Sigur Ros, and your films, some of which I've seen at the Toronto Film Festival, are generally excellent (Kieslowskian, I would call your cinema, which is high praise coming from me, I assure you). And it also seems to be an extremely beautiful country. I've never been, but I'd love to visit sometime. Oh, and Reyka vodka is very nice. But, yeah, uh, sorry about the whole financial collapse and the soaring inflation.

Seriously, 18 percent?

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Redistributor cap

By Carl

Much has been said in the past week or so regarding Barack Obama's "
spread the wealth" comments. Suddenly, he's been called a "redistributionist in chief".

Well, Senators, time to analyze just what "
spread the wealth" is all about.

First, let's define some terms. Since the occasional right wing conservative scans this blog (I know, because I've read bits of my writing taken word for word in other places that I'd be ashamed to link to), I think its important they get some edumacation.

Capitalism, loosely defined, is the redistribution of wealth! Think about it: I have a little bit of wealth, and I have a need. You have a product or service that satisfies that need. I give you a little bit of my wealth in exchange for the satisfaction of my need.

What gets exchanged?" Wealth. Where does it go? From me, who had some you didn't have, to you, who now has accumulated more. It has been redistributed!

Nothing wrong with that. I don't know of many rational people who don't get that the free market in theory works pretty well.

In this example, wealth is nothing more than a pile of rocks accumulated from other people. Eventually, the rocks aggregate and make a pile so high, it's hard to toss more on top, and some end up trickling down.

What supply side economics does, in theory, is say, "Look, we'll pour more rocks on top of the highest piles, and some will tumble to the ground where the poor and middle class can scavenge for the pebbles and stone dust.

It's like the old joke about the priest who takes the money from the collection plate and tosses it in the air: whatever God can catch, he can keep.

What Obama proposes to do is simple: take the highest rocks off the highest piles, and give them to the people still with piles closer to the ground.

Not in the direct sense of actually giving money to the poor and middle class, but in allowing those classes (sadly, or maybe not so much, I'm not part of the classes who would benefit from Obama's tax cuts, but I'll get to that in a moment) to keep more of their stones.

So what happens then? Well, the core cost of living is the same no matter how much money you have: you need food, you need clothing (sadly), you need shelter. You need transportation. People with fewer rocks will spend a higher proportion of their rocks on these necessities. Whatever is left, one hopes, they will put in a bank but given our consumerist society, they will end up spending those rocks on comforts.

In other words, they'll get their rocks off.

But remember the first example I spoke about? I have a little bit of wealth and a need (or want) and I share my wealth with you in order to have you satisfy that hole in my life?

Look what happens now: those same rocks that the capitalists would have gotten directly from the government thru lower tax rates, rocks they likely would have off-shored in some Cayman Islands investment corporation, are now repurposed to have benefitted millions of Americans first, before getting back essentially to the same place they were going to end up in the first place! In the pockets of the rich like me!

In effect, the wealthy have lent out their wealth AND gotten a higher return from the American economy AND seen the American economy get stronger as a result, than they would have seen squirreling their rocks away on some island offshore.

Lest you think that this concept has been lost on Republicans, take a look at some of John McCain's proposals:

- Increased defense spending, including ramping up troop levels.

- a $5,000 tax credit for buying zero emission cars.

- $2 billion to "clean" coal technology.

- a $5,000 tax credit for health insurance to every American family.

None of these are anything except governmental solutions to free market problems. In other words, a redistribution of wealth.

To periphrase
Animal Farm, "All rocks are equal, but some rocks are more equal than others".

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Terrifying the Jews

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In other words, McCain's latest campaign strategy.

We saw it in Pennsylvania, where prominent Republicans sent out an e-mail to Jewish voters likening the situation in 2008 to the situation in Europe in the 1930s and '40s (with Obama akin to Neville Chamberlain, an enabler of evil -- then the Nazis, now Iran).

And we're seeing it again in a new McCain ad likely to be aired in Florida (if it hasn't started airing already).

Via Benen, the ad says this:

Iran. Radical Islamic government. Known sponsors of terrorism. Developing nuclear capabilities to 'generate power' but threatening to eliminate Israel.

Obama says Iran is a "tiny" country, "doesn't pose a serious threat." Terrorism, destroying Israel, those aren't "serious threats"?

Obama -- dangerously unprepared to be president.

Let's go to the video tape!

What Obama actually said, back in May, was that Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela are "are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us." (And his point was that the U.S. engaged a superpower like the Soviet Union diplomatically, so why not an enemy like Iran?)

Which, of course, is absolutely true. Cuba isn't a threat at all, Venezuela has oil, and Iran may or may not have nuclear weapon capability sometime in the future. Last time I checked, these rogue states didn't have thousands of missiles pointed at the U.S. (or anywhere else, for that matter, including Israel). (As for Iran, Ahmadinejad is mostly bluster aimed at domestic consumption. I don't like him, and I certainly don't approve of such anti-Israel sentiment, nor of Iran's sponsorship of some terrorist organizations, but let's not exaggerate the threat. It's not in any way an immediate one.)

But no matter to McCain, whose campaign is all about lying and smearing and deceiving and otherwise trying to scare the hell out of voters, to portray Obama both as a dark and dangerous Other and as an enemy to Israel.

Fucking nonsense on both counts.

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McCain pollster expects election will be "too close to call"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Notwithstanding Obama's strong numbers in the polls, both nationally and at the state level, the McCain people are remaining upbeat, or delusional, or tuned to some alternate reality that may or may not contain some truth -- or at least one of his pollsters is:

John McCain's campaign has seen "significant" progress in internal polling in the last week, Republican pollster Bill McInturff said Tuesday, with notable strides among rural voters and soft Democrats.

McInturff, the campaign's chief pollster, made a case for the viability of the campaign in a memo to the strategy team, which was released to the media late Tuesday. The campaign has seen the race between McCain and Barack Obama move "significantly over the past week," McInturff said."All signs say we are headed to an election that may easily be too close to call by next Tuesday."

To be sure, public polling data both nationally and in battleground states tell a different story. Obama has a several-point lead nationally and has broken the 50% barrier in many battleground states.

But each campaign conducts extensive polling of its own and, according to McInturff, the McCain campaign has reason to be hopeful.

Well... maybe. It's just not clear that even a "significant" move in McCain's direction will make all that much of a difference in the end.

And maybe the public polls really are -- well, if not wrong, then misleading. (As Noam Scheiber puts it, there is good reason to be "still sweating an Obama victory." The race does seem to be tightening, worryingly so.)

We'll know soon enough.

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You're no Maverick

by Capt. Fogg

John McCain, you're no Maverick and you're certainly not the original. In fact the original Mavericks are so disgusted with you, at least two of them say they'll shoot. . . . the TV if they see your face on it again.

The Real Mavericks in fact are Liberals with affiliations going back to FDR and the New Deal, not to George Bush and the shady deal.

But don't take my word for it:

Cross posted from Human Voices


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New Pew poll puts Obama up by 16

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The latest polls show, as Nate Silver put it yesterday, the "same old story": The national polls are showing a slight tightening of the race, but Obama is doing "exceptionally" well at the state level. His lead in Pennsylvania seems to have decreased somewhat, though it's still in the 7-12 range, while "In Ohio and Florida,... which were two states that had looked to have tightened a bit, we now have more polling out showing material leads for [him]" -- 4-9 in Ohio and about 5-7 in Florida.

The national outlier continues to be Pew, which currently has Obama up among registered voters by a whopping 16 points, 52 to 36 (15 points among likely voters, 53-38). Among those who have voted already, Obama is up by even more, 19 points, 53 to 34. And the internals are all extremely strong for Obama. Very few demographic groups are going for McCain.

As Nate notes, "Pew has a very good reputation," but its polls "have... had about a 3-point Democratic lean this cycle." Which still puts Obama well ahead, though, again this particular poll is undoubtedly an outlier. Among the other national polls, the next largest margin for Obama is just 8 points.

But, if course, it's the states that matter, and, there, Obama maintains a decisive lead overall. Even in Georgia and Montana, two mostly solid red states, McCain is only up by 1 and 4 points, respectively -- although the presence of former Georgia congressman Bob Barr, once a Republican and now a Libertarian, on the ballot there works in Obama's favour.

Basically, if Obama is able to win Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, along with Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, New Hampshire, and the other "purple" states that currently lean to him, the only real battlegrounds next Tuesday will be Indiana, North Carolina, and Missouri, three current toss-ups, and maybe Georgia and Arizona (yes, the race is close even in McCain's home state).

If that's the case, though, it won't be close at all. Obama will have all the EC votes he needs, and many more for good measure.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan on the Palin pick

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Some of McCain's people surely knew it was a "crazy decision," picking "a delusional liar" who "lives in her own little, somewhat nutty, world and now believes her manifest destiny has been thwarted."

But what's done is done. And:

It's a massive, unmissable clusterfuck and has been for two months. They just can't hide it any longer. And the pick is a devastating one -- because it basically destroys John McCain's credibility as a presidential decision-maker. His first major decision as a future president is one of the worst in American political history. That alone should be enough to seal his fate next Tuesday. You need nothing else.

No, you don't, but of course there is so much else -- not just anti-McCain but pro-Obama (and Andrew, much to his credit, has written extensively on Obama's many positives).

And I would add this: With Palin often leading the way, McCain has run one of the nastiest, ugliest presidential campaigns in recent memory. Honestly, I can't remember a nastier or uglier one. Even Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, swift-boating aside, wasn't this bad (arguably). Bush-Gore 2000 wasn't, nor Clinton-Dole 1996, nor Bush-Clinton-Perot 1992. 2008 is more like 1988, the McCain campaign like Bush I's.

A lot of this has do with the fact that McCain is losing (as Bush was losing over the summer of '88). In losing, he has become desperate. In becoming desperate, he has gotten nasty and ugly.

Indeed, as John Dickerson writes today at Slate, while McCain's "pitch is not all negative," "the central thrust of McCain's argument is about the danger of an Obama presidency."

Which is putting it nicely. In truth, McCain has turned into a rabble-rouser, a mob-inciter. You don't have to dig too far into his "argument" to see that what he's really doing is playing to, and encouraging, bigotry. And Palin is playing along, cheerleading their mobs into darkness. After all, it isn't just Obama the redistributor they're going after, it's Obama the Other, the dangerous, un-American black man, the terrorist pal. And what their arousing is fear, and hatred.

The Palin pick has indeed been a "clusterfuck." And without her, perhaps McCain wouldn't have gone negative -- or, rather, as negative as he has gone.

But he has no one to blame but himself. The man whose self-serving, media-driven myth placed him well above the partisan political fray, even as the truth was something else entirely, picked an ignorant, arrogant extremist as his running mate, as a Hail Mary to turn his campaign around, and, in so doing, destroyed himself.

McCain is now a hollow shell, a man without integrity or credibility. And his fate is in the hands of the American people.

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