The Obama campaign smells of defeat: II

On September 12th, six days ago, I wrote The Obama campaign smells of defeat. Since then, if you’re a Republican (unlike me) or just enjoy watching Democrats squirm (very much like me), things have only gotten more entertaining.

It’s been a gaffe-licious week. Joe Biden admits in public that Hillary might well have been a better nominee than him. The Obama campaign puts out an ad slamming McCain for being old and crusty and out of touch because he doesn’t use email, then learns what 5 minutes of Google research by a staffer would have turned up: he can’t type because of injuries he sustained under torture by the North Vietnamese. Nice going — way to make yourselves look like vicious assholes and remind voters of your opponent’s strongest narrative.

Meanwhile, Obama himself continues to fumblemouth any time he’s off a teleprompter, notably in delivering a “lipstick on a pig” simile that is either a gross sexist slam on Palin or far too incompetently confusable with same for anyone who’s supposed to be a great speaker. This gaffe makes a huge number of women mad and spawns a popular T-shirt. And what the hell could Obama have been thinking, anyway, diminishing himself by stepping up to a slanging match with his opponent’s VP?

Somehere, John McCain is smiling. He has gotten inside Obama’s OODA loop. He knows that defeat is an event that happens in the mind of the enemy, and he has hurled his unconventional VP pick at Obama’s weaknesses with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile.

That pick, Sarah Palin, continues to be the game-changer. So much so that if McCain wins, I’m afraid I’m going to be insufferable about the fact that I smelled the rot in Obama’s campaign before she was tapped — the day of the Biden nomination, actually.

The attempt to smear, discredit and delegitimize Palin has steadily become more intense and more damaging — to the Democrats. She’s become the Road Runner to the Democrats’ Wile E. Coyote; they keep devising ever more ingenious and elaborate traps for their proxies in the MSM to spring on her, only to wind up having them blow up spectacularly and autodestructively.

Poll after poll has reported double-digit swings among women away from Obama/Biden to McCain/Palin. Also, Palin seems to be achieving the remarkable quadruple play of simultaneously (a) energizing the conservative base, (b) reaching moderate independents, (c) enlisting Hillary-backing Democrats, and even (d) stimulating cautious optimism in libertarians like myself. Meanwhile, over in the land of the left-media-Democratic axis:

Doo-dee-doo-dee-doo… now where did I put that protractor? Ahh, here it is! Let me see… if the hypotenuse of the parabola of a pregnant teenager… is inversely proportional to the approval ratings of the religious Right… then if I set the azimuth of the baby scandal catapult to 72.415 degrees, she’ll be crushed as flat as her barren Alaskan tundra. Muwahahaha!

…Egads! I must say, sometimes I astonish even myself with my own genius!

You just know there’s another humiliating KA-BOOM!!! in the MSM’s near future. Thank, you, Iowahawk. Pass that popcorn…

And the beat goes on…not only does Obama lose his lead in the national polls, the Republicans are beginning to look competitive in the down-ticket congressional races! In the swing states, Florida looks like a McCain lock, Obama lost the Ohio lead in August and hasn’t recovered, and I’ve thought he was going to lose Pennsylvania (where I live) since he was dissed in Duryea. (Current polls make it a statistical dead heat).

But wait! Did I say battleground states? Even New York, that left-liberal bastion of blue-stateness, in play! This, for a Democratic candidate at this point in the 2008 race, is epic fail. It puts a 50-state stomping within the range of possibilities they won’t give you Thorazine for considering. Or even a 57-state one, in Obama’s case :-)

How the fleeping frack did we get here? This was supposed to be the year Democrats kicked the ever-loving shit out of a tired, out-of-touch, deeply unpopular GOP. Instead, the GOP is roaring back, the Obama campaign looks increasingly inept, their candidate is visibly fraying under pressure, and the “who lost 2008?” recriminations among the Democrats are already starting.

Superficially, the answer looks like the Palin pick. This is why I’m going to be insufferable right now about having noticed the smell of Democratic defeat in the air pre-Palin, because I think the real problems have been much longer a-building. This takes nothing from Palin, who is wielding a talent for the game the likes of which we haven’t seen since Bill Clinton was on his best game — but Palin is exploiting Democratic weaknesses that go way further back.

Yesterday I dug into Palin’s record and described her, from my point of view as a Wiccan anarchist who opposes her on most “values” issues, as an American centrist. I suggested that the Democratic left has lost any notion of where the center in American politics is. I’ll unpack that in a slightly different direction today; even in a year when conservative ideology is in the doghouse, it left them terribly vulnerable to being blindsided by a genuine centrist with populist appeal. Enter Sarah Barracuda; just by being who she is, she is perfectly positioned to exploit this vulnerability. Because that’s where the voters are!

Wait. Did I say “conservative ideology in the doghouse”? Even that, as it turns out, may not be true. Sure, it’s the mainstream-media narrative — but the Democrats write the MSM narrative to an extent their proxies don’t even try to hide very effectively any more (remember the famous tingle running up Chris Matthews’s leg?). Against it, there’s that troubling statistic that the Democratic-controlled congress has been approval-polling weaker than Bush and the administration for more than a year (last figure I saw was 32% vs. 21%). Something is wrong here, and I think it’s that the Democrats have been caught up in their own propaganda. Their ideological control of the MSM and show-biz and the universities has trapped them in a bubble world they can’t see out of.

(And yet, they call themselves the “reality-based community”. This makes me laugh so hard my sides hurt; as unintentional humor it’s right up there with the social conservatives’ fond delusion that they can fix our problems by magically restoring the taboos and norms of 1957.)

Here’s a big. topical example of how this works: the success of the troop surge in Iraq. It’s been impossible to misconstrue the evidence for months now, but that hasn’t stopped the left and the Democrats and their increasingly-unashamed media shills from diving into deep denial. Which hurts them, because — on the polling evidence — the voters have actually noticed both the success and the intensity of that denial. (The blogosphere had a lot to do with this, I think.)

There’s no way for the Democrats to cope with this as long as the echo chamber they’ve constructed for themselves keeps reassuring them that the war is lost, and if it’s not looking lost right now it’s unwinnable, and if by some freaky fluke in the dialectic of history we win it voters will…uh, yeah, they’ll understand that we shouldn’t have fought it and surely, surely the ultimate American defeat that will make us look wise and prescient will be secured when the Iraqis oblige us by fucking up badly (this is the stage Obama is at right now).

Really. Leaving aside the argument over rights and wrongs, how desperately out of touch with Jacksonian middle America do you have to be before this line looks like sound practical politics? Well, that’s exactly the distance the left/media/Democrat axis has rammed its head up its own rectum. They can’t blame the Republicans or the hicks in flyover country for this; they entirely did it to themselves.

That’s the trouble with cocooning. There always comes a point at which reality stops cooperating and you have to deal with what is rather than what you wish were so — the surge, and the Sarahcuda. That’s what happening to the Democrats. And they’re not coping well, not at all. They don’t have a lot of time left to recover before voting day.

UPDATE: Now, this is interesting. Poll: GOP brand making comeback. Dems and GOP now have equally favorable ratings among independents, erasing an 18-point Democratic advantage as recently as August.

81 thoughts on “The Obama campaign smells of defeat: II

  1. ESR,

    do you believe in “opinion leadership” theory? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_leader

    Because you keep talking about news that most people likely will never hear about directly, and therefore those news cannot influence elections directly. However, their opinion leaders might hear about these and thus might influence elections indirectly – if the theory is right, that is.

  2. Yesterday, the RCP average had McCain and Obama in a popular vote tie…but had McCain with a 7 vote EC advantage with no toss-ups. This is a pretty big swing as RCP did have Obama up with an 8 vote no-toss up EC advantage for about a week before. My take is that the great, undecided middle is starting to make up its mind, and is breaking for McCain/Palin.

  3. >My take is that the great, undecided middle is starting to make up its mind, and is breaking for McCain/Palin.

    Yeah, I think so too. Obama peaked too early. I suspected this six days ago, I’m feeling surer of it now.

    As I’ve noted, Palin is clearly a much stronger draw than is normal for the VP candidate. Which leaves me wondering whether McCain was diabolically clever in picking her or just really, really lucky.

  4. Obama didn’t peak early; time eroded his shine.
    As far as the election goes, I’d love to vote Barr, save two reasons:
    a) the last time I really voted my conscience I got Bill Clinton, and
    b) Libertarian foreign policy is untenable in the light of reasonable historical analysis.
    If I didn’t fear Senator Obama would combine the worst features of FDR and Jimmy Carter, i.e., with HRC on the ticket, I might feel more comfortable voting for Barr.
    So much for the perverseness of voting.

  5. My vote goes for “lucky”. If he were that clever, the McCain administration would have started in January of 2001 instead of January of 2009.

    He’s probably getting better advice this year than he got in his 2000 primary campaign. But that counts as luck too, at least on his part.

  6. I spoke too soon about the RCP EC no toss up count…it’s back to +8 Obama. However, when you look at the internals, Obama’s support in toss ups is eroding. Still think the undecideds are breaking McCain.

    >My vote goes for “lucky”. If he were that clever, the McCain administration would have started in January of 2001 instead of January of 2009.

    Luck may have had something to do with it, but McCain has some smarts on his campaign team. He had to know that he needed to re-assure the conservative base and motivate them to get out and vote. He had to get better than the luke-warm backhanded support he was getting from Talk Radio. He had to get the Dittoheads excited. Picking Lieberman would have been suicide. Pawletny or Rommney would have placeted the base…but no excitement factor. To get that excitement factor, he had only 2 choices…Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal.

    Where the luck comes in is the viciousness of the MSM and netroots reaction to the Palin pick. That more than anything else has Talk Radio circling the wagons…vigorously defending and promoting the McCain campaign.

  7. I’d split the difference on the Palin pick. McCain knew it would be a good thing, but I seriously doubt he could have expected the totality of what actually happened.

    Still, he’s been playing it very well.

  8. > If he were that clever, the McCain administration would have started in January of 2001 instead of January of 2009.

    Was 2000 McCain’s first serious presidential campaign?

    Yes, 2000 was also Bush II’s first run, but Bush II had Bush I’s experience/team on his side.

    Clever is good, but practics counts for something too, at least when it comes to getting the Repub nomination.

    Let’s look at the Repub nominees starting in 1960. Nixon, Goldwater, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, Dole, Bush II, and McCain. Throw out the legacy (Bush II) and Ford, and that list is dominated by folks who were either a VP or a previous serious candidate for the Repub nomination. (I don’t know about Dole or Goldwater.)

    The comparable list for Dems is Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama. Had McGovern, Carter, Dukakis, Clinton, or Kerry run before?

    Are Dems reacting to having nominated Adlai Stevenson 10 times?

  9. Uh, guys, I hate to be a downer — but as of today, Obama’s ahead by 1.7% in the RCP average poll numbers and by 8 anticipated no-toss-up Electoral College votes:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/

    Obama’s got back a 1.9-point lead in Intrade odds, as well.

    My amateur guess is that the last week’s news on Wall Street has favored Obama, since (“as is well known”, as the Soviets used to say) anything going wrong with the housing market is clearly due to Republican Evil.

    And let’s not forget the following:

    Palin may be likeable, but she’s no policy wonk, to put it gently. That’ll hurt the McCain/Palin ticket with at least some voters.

    While McCain’s official stance has always been pro-life, he hasn’t somehow come across as that strident about it. Palin, on the other hand, is vividly pro-life. Anecdotally, I’d say that the pro-choice issue is driving a fair number of women towards Obama who otherwise would be inclined to vote for McCain.

    There’s six weeks left in this crazy election: plenty of time for Wall Street to completely implode, the MSM to go so deep into the tank for Obama that they grow gills, plenty of time for the voters to decide that Obama can make the Beringian land bridge re-emerge if they just elect him.

    We could easily find ourselves watching Pres. Obama get inaugurated in four months.

  10. As a Brit watching from Scotland, the thing that is making my eyes pop out on stalks is Obama’s non-military conscription plan, the “voluntary national service”.

    In the UK “Bring Back Nation Service” is a tired, old, right-wing idea. If McCain were advocating an American version I would feel that I understood and would expect to watch as the Democrats exploited the blunder. Uncle Sam lining up young people and marching them off to tasks assigned by the government? The voting age in the USA is 18; I would expect such a policy to do serious electoral damage, because it is so anti-american, and the demographic most affected does have the vote.

    But I’m 48. Perhaps American has changed dramatically since I was a teenager growing up on stories of th 60′s and American counter-culture. Or perhaps I’ve never undertood America. Or maybe I’m posting in the right thread because this is an example of the Democrats being out of touch with America?

  11. The polls would have to get near blowout territory before I felt safe predicting the outcome. Among other difficulties, I’m guessing that this year the actual vote totals will be influenced significantly more than usual by changes in patterns of voter turnout. I’d also expect that while the pollsters and experts may be measuring other things right, they probably won’t be very accurate at predicting changes in turnout patterns. (But if I’m right, some key patterns might be fairly easy for them to see in hindsight in exit polls, and/or in measures like total numbers of ballots cast per polling region.)

    I’m don’t know much about what makes people go to the polls, so maybe I’m off base. But my casual impression is that this year more than usual, some of the kind of people who would reliably go the polls are conflicted, while a “significant” fraction of the nonvoters are more likely than usual to turn out. (I don’t know if even 10% of the usual nonvoters will turn out. So I used scare quotes, because 10% is not very significant as a fraction of the people who don’t vote. But 10% of nonvoters is rather significant compared to the number of votes that decide elections.)

    This effect isn’t something that people are ignoring, of course, It’s been commonplace for a long time to talk about mobilizing the base and such. But just because smart people think about an effect a lot doesn’t mean they can reliably predict it. Some effects are just harder to predict than others.

  12. Actually McCain is advocating a form of national service, but much milder than Obama’s, and truly voluntary as opposed to Obama’s, which is “voluntary” in name only. For detailed discussion of the two plans and the difference between them, read this, this, and this.

  13. C. Smith> b) Libertarian foreign policy is untenable in the light of reasonable historical analysis.

    Yeah, tell me about it. I can’t even in good conscience vote LP any more. During our holiday from history (between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11) it bothered me that the foreign-policy part of the LP platform sounded like a tape-loop recorded by the New Left forty years ago, but I could tell myself that didn’t matter. Now, I can’t.

    Alan Crowe> Or maybe I’m posting in the right thread because this is an example of the Democrats being out of touch with America?

    Got it in one.

  14. >But my casual impression is that this year more than usual, some of the kind of people who would reliably go the polls are conflicted, while a “significant” fraction of the nonvoters are more likely than usual to turn out.

    Both things are true, but the Dems’ bitter nomination fight and the Palin pick have changed the likely impact. The conventional wisdom had been that a lot of the Republican base was conflicted and grumpy and would stay home, while high turnout among new voters would favor Democrats. But, if I’m sure of one thing post-Palin it’s that the Republican base is not going to stay home now. Even the Democrats have figured that one out.

    So the big question is whether the youth vote and new registrations are going to offset the McCain/Palin ticket’s ability to pull independents. There’s a lot of wishful thinking going on about this on both sides. For now I’ll stop with pointing out two facts: (a) Historically, the youth vote has been a chimera. Every candidate that has counted on it, clear back to McGovern, has regretted his folly. (b) The polling evidence suggests strongly that independents are in fact plumping for McCain/Palin in large numbers.

    New registrations are a crapshoot. Could be nothing, could be huge – and could be an umbrella for massive vote fraud, which tends to be a Democratic vice for reasons I have explained before.

    And there may be another question: How many disgruntled Hillaryites are going to pull the lever for Palin? And another: are the Clintons encouraging this? Their support for Obama has been tepid, everybody knows Hillary needs Obama to lose in order to have a shot at the 2012 nomination, and a suspiciously large number of key Clinton supporters and fundraisers are now in bed with McCain.

  15. >But, if I’m sure of one thing post-Palin it’s that the Republican base is not going to stay home now.

    I spend too much time on gun boards that maybe I should spend more productively. To say McCain wasn’t real popular would be an understatement. Not that Obama motivated anyone. Palin has completely changed the tenor of the boards. From my non-scientific view, a significant part of the “gun vote” was going to stay home. That is no longer true. In the 2004 election the target of the Dems was to increase their turnout to exceed the GOP vote from 2000. As I understand it, this they did but that was overridden by increased GOP turnout; something the Kerry campaign didn’t anticipate. I suspect that Palin is going to motivate voters not normally seen at the polls – that won’t show up in poll data.

    The one issue that isn’t getting much press, but it’s quite a motivator for many, is immigration. I wonder if it isn’t getting press due to the fact that those most irked about it are on the border and they’re just unhappy with both sides and thus will vote other issues; primarily guns.

  16. Eric, I do think you’re paying a) too much attention to the noise rather than the signal in current polls and sites that tend to root for one particular side, b) relishing your own particular narrative too much. The incidents that you’ve covered haven’t, as far as I can see, had much play outside websites and blogs that aim squarely at the Republican base. It’s a story that is appealing to those who like to see democrats squirm — but those who like to see democrats squirm aren’t necessarily who are going to decide this election.

    I agree that Palin has motivated the Republican base, and it’s hard to quantify that: there may be as big a surprise that way as some were predicting with democratic turnout earlier in the cycle. The trouble is that independents really aren’t like you (libertarian sf-fan gun nut) or me (civil libertarian, latte-sipping obamatron), so drawing on anecdata about how fascinating Palin is to you or sketchy to me isn’t going to teach us anything. We have to drill down in the statistical analyses.

    Once again, I’d recommend http://www.fivethirtyeight.com. The author is an Obama supporter, but he’s also a very good statistician, and isn’t afraid to dig deeper than the standard stories on each side: his site has done a good job at filtering out both the Obama and the Palin bounces post-convention.

  17. McCain was both good and lucky. By picking Palin, he brought back the conservative base that may have stayed away from the polls. Furthermore, she has excited and energized them. They’re not staying home now.

    But no one could have foreseen the overwhelming effect she’s had. In that sense, he’s lucky. By any measure she is a good and decent person; a woman of not insignificant accomplishments; an apparently good mother and wife; a person of integrity and high morals; and someone who is highly regarded by all who know her intimately. It’s clear to any rational observer that she has been vilified by political bigots. Political bigotry is no different than any other type of bigotry. It’s hatred and prejudice of a person in totality simply because of their political views. It’s indicative of a feeble mind, no matter how educated. It says more about her detractors than it does about her and most people sense that.

    As for the undecided center – it’s all about confidence in the ticket. Undecided voters, at this point, are not ideologically concerned with the political issues. With the two candidates as diametrically opposed politically as Obama and McCain, anyone who votes based on the issues made up their minds months ago and already knows all they’ll ever know, to whatever degree they care.

  18. Will Evangelicals turn out for Palin/McCain? Although Palin is avowedly anti-abortion, most people seem to be paying more attention to the economy and the war than issues like gay marriage. But more forward-looking conservatives realize that the real power of the presidency is Supreme Court nominations. Liberty University’s law school is explicitly dedicated to grooming conservative nominees. They even have a replica of the Supreme Court.

  19. @krygny — Again, I think you have to be careful here: “it’s clear to any rational observer” and five cents buys you a share in AIG, frankly. For every person you could find in this country who would stand by your description of Palin as fragrant and radiant in her accomplishments, you could find another who freaked the hell out by her foreign policy ignorance and attitude to executive power, and another person who is “eh”, either way.

    It’s probably another sign of feeble mindedness to reach for the stats jar when we get to an empasse like this, but here’s the latest data on Palin. Her favourability/unfavourability index right now is 49%/36%. That’s pretty good, but not as good as Obama, and certainly not a universal truth. I think that 36% could well be the same who just see her as “another politician”.

    I wish Diageo had crosstabs for undecideds, because then we’d really have a much better idea.

  20. Danny: If the numbers are right, it seems that the honeymoon is over for Palin. It seems that the more people know about her, the less they like her. I suspect the post-convention bounce was attributable to the Republicans holding their convention almost immediately after the Dems to steal Obama’s thunder, plus a slow news period.

  21. @David – Actually, the bounce was pretty much exactly how these things play out — a lot of polling over and above the average, and then a return to the mean. I think Palin’s popularity among the conservative base will stay constant though.

    The debates are going to be super-interesting this year!

  22. Somehow the first link I posted above got messed up; I thought I posted it again, but I must not have submitted it. Anyway, this should be the first link in this comment.

  23. >And what the hell could Obama have been thinking, anyway, diminishing himself by stepping up to a slanging match with his opponent’s VP?

    Please tell me you don’t actually believe the ‘lipstick on a pig’ line was directed at Palin.

    It was an analogy and a common one. One that even McCain used in this *very* campaign and no one blinked an eye-lid when he said it.

    Palin has sparked interest on both sides because she’s a relatively bizarre pick.
    When a possible VP mentions ‘being able to see Russia’ in an interview question about foreign policy, doesn’t it bother people?

    Do you think she was just trolling the media on that one?

    It sounds to me like you like her for reasons not entirely related to Politics and you’re trying to justify it after the fact.
    (That may not be the case, but from what I’ve read, it appears that way to me)

  24. I wouldn’t dare try to predict the outcome of the election at this point, because I just don’t believe any of the polls. The Democrats’ campaign has relied heavily on the “Vote Obama or we’ll expose you as a racist” approach, and as a result, I think a number of people are either refusing to talk to pollsters or are lying to them. But that’s just a gut feeling, and of course I have no way of knowing whether those people are a significant fraction of the electorate, or whether they are evenly distributed across the political spectrum. I further suspect that the pollsters are aware of this phenomenon and are trying to compensate for it, but may be over- or undercompensating.

    So in the end, all I have is a deep suspicion that the polls are wildly inaccurate this time around, and that nobody really knows what’s going to happen. I would love to feel confident that my side will win, but I won’t believe it until I see the results on November 5.

  25. >Please tell me you don’t actually believe the ‘lipstick on a pig’ line was directed at Palin.

    I don’t actually believe I know the answer to that question; I can’t read Obama’s mind.

    The best possible interpretation is that Obama used this simile innocently without reflecting how it would sound to a lot of women who are either already pissed off or rather sensitive about sexism among the Democrats. Not a an error that reflects well on someone who has pegged his appeal on being a great communicator and uniter.

  26. >The best possible interpretation is that Obama used this simile innocently without reflecting how it would sound to a lot of women who are either already pissed off or rather sensitive about sexism among the Democrats.

    Oh please. The people raising a stink about this are doing so for purely political reasons. It has nothing to do with any perceived sexism.
    The fact that they were perfectly willing to let McCain’s use of that phrase go by while Hillary Clinton was still in the running would seem to be an indication of that, wouldn’t you think?

  27. >The fact that they were perfectly willing to let McCain’s use of that phrase go by while Hillary Clinton was still in the running would seem to be an indication of that, wouldn’t you think?

    Honestly? No. Because that was well before Palin implicitly analogized herself to a pit bull with lipstick in her nomination speech. The crowd reaction made it clear they read Obama’s remark as “Palin, you’re no pit bull, you’re just a pig”.

    I’m not a partisan Republican, but I find it difficult to argue with people who think that was the effect Obama intended. Because I’m not a partisan Republican, I’ll stick with the position that I can’t read his mind and it was in any case a damn stupid thing to say against the current background.

  28. >It sounds to me like you like her for reasons not entirely related to Politics and you’re trying to justify it after the fact.

    I like Palin for reasons related to politics. I’m opposed to her on a lot of issue positions, but I think she’s a solid centrist with some mildly libertarian instincts; this makes her preferable to anyone else on either ticket.

    Also, I’m quite offended by the barrage of baseless crap that was flung at her. I feel her enemies deserve to lose to her for that reason alone.

  29. >@krygny — Again, I think you have to be careful here: “it’s clear to any rational observer” and five cents buys you a share in AIG, frankly. For every person you could find in this country who would stand by your description of Palin as fragrant and radiant in her accomplishments, you could find another who freaked the hell out by her foreign policy ignorance and attitude to executive power, and another person who is “eh”, either way.

    I’m taking about her personal destruction, not varying opinions of her politics.

    HS:>Please tell me you don’t actually believe the ‘lipstick on a pig’ line was directed at Palin.

    I don’t see how it could not have been. Obama didn’t pull the metaphor ot of some archive – her lipstick anecdote was fresh in everyone’s ears because it was being aired ad nauseum. Just see how the everyone reacted around him when he said the word “lipstick”. They all knew what he was talking about. She compares herself to a pit bull (not a dog) and he draws the connection to a pig. Of course, he cleverly leaves himself a “plausible deniability” escape (which you’re using now). The problem is, nobody’s buying it. It doesn’t matter. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY on both sides of the political spectrum made the connection between her statement and his the instant they heard it. If that was not his intention, then it was a gaffe, by definition.

  30. >I’m taking about her personal destruction, not varying opinions of her politics.

    Agreed. She could genuinely be a right-wing religious loony and I’d still be offended at everything from the the baby-scandal stuff to the cracking of her email. What her opponents have done is vile, and drives me onto her side.

  31. This is how I became a sort-of fan of the current president. I started out quite negative about him, and didn’t vote for him in 2000. But however little I thought about his policies and his qualifications, he has always struck me as a fundamentally decent person, relatively honest for a politician, and one who would not knowingly wrong another person or his country. I started to become his partisan during the Democrats’ attempt to steal the election; but it was the frenzied campaign of vilification (Chimpy Bushitler McHalliburton) that made me solidly identify with him. I still don’t like most of his policies; the only things I think he’s done generally right are the war, the tax cuts (skimpy as they are), and judicial appointments. (Though even on policy and performance, the fact is that looking over the past 100 years or so it’s difficult for me to name many presidents who’ve been less bad than him.) But the opposition hasn’t been to his policies but to his person, and it has been utterly unfair.

  32. Yeah, it might make some people froth at the mouth to hear it today, but I suspect history is going to be a lot kinder to Bush II than people today expect. I suspect he’ll go down as something like a serious person in the midst of a fundamentally unserious country, who may have made some errors, but since nobody (except perhaps McCain…) seemed to be interested in lifting a finger to help him, instead just fighting him either because he’s in the wrong party or because war is hard (let’s go shopping for pork!), is that so surprising?

    Mind you, I personally don’t like everything he has done, but that’s how he strikes me at this point, especially in light of the fact that he tried to head off the recent mortgage meltdown 5 years ago and got blocked by Congress. A serious dude minding the farm while the children in Congress frolic in their pork showers. See also this, and I recommend the comments for some good counterpoint on the thesis.

  33. It’s a very hard election to call, for many reasons: Democrats are exceptionally motivated this year, the Bradley effect re Obama, etc. But my sense is that Obama is stumbling, partly because his vague “hope and change” message is wearing thin due to lack of specifics, which he can’t be too specific about because they’re too leftist to appeal to swing voters.

    I also think that the McCain camp hasn’t even rolled out the heavy artillery yet. Obama’s missing records, Wright, Ayers, ACORN, comparable worth, ending missile defense, “voluntary” service for students, an extra $800 billion in foreign aid to alleviate “global poverty,” etc., etc.: there are plenty of targets that haven’t made it into campaign ads. I expect much of this to come out in October.

    Plus, the debates: McCain is pretty at ease with that sort of thing, while Obama is often lost without a teleprompter. And Biden’s condescending blowhard manner is not going to work well against Palin’s demeanor.

    I am rather dismayed that bad economic news seems to help the party out of power, regardless of the solutions advocated. Does the average voter really believe that our economy will be improved by higher taxes, more regulation, protectionism, and giving unions whatever they want?

    Re: Obama’s lipstick comment: isn’t this the guy claiming how great he’s going to be at diplomacy? If he didn’t realize that was a shot at Palin (the way the audience did), then he’s too clueless and inept to be President.

  34. >Yeah, it might make some people froth at the mouth to hear it today, but I suspect history is going to be a lot kinder to Bush II than people today expect. I suspect he’ll go down as something like a serious person in the midst of a fundamentally unserious country

    That’s well put. I agree with you and Milhouse on this, including the criticisms of Bush as well as the praise.

  35. >She could genuinely be a right-wing religious loony and I’d still be offended at everything from the the baby-scandal stuff to the cracking of her email. What her opponents have done is vile, and drives me onto her side.

    I think this is going on in a lot of people’s heads. Americans love to root for an underdog, especially one who has been picked on by a bully. It was a colossal mistake for the Obama campaign (and Obama’s self-appointed attack dogs) to subject Palin to a barrage of vicious abuse in such a public way. It will not surprise me if many people (who would otherwise be on the fence) decide to vote for McCain-Palin just to deliver a dose of payback to Palin’s abusers.

  36. I’m continually dismayed by the level of discussion both in the media and by the candidates. I should know better but I can’t help it. Everyone is talking about lipstick and teen pregnancies and ‘likeability’. In the mean time, the entire banking system is imploding and the treasury has started to print money to cover for it. I don’t mean the usual Fed injections and bailouts that have been going on for a year, but flat out creation of treasury bonds. Look up the history of countries that have done this. The latest bailout plan looks like it’s going to cost at least half a trillion to the government, on top of all the bailouts so far.

    Have you ever known a person with a recurring melanoma? Seen what the treatment is like when it recurs for the third and the fourth time? Even if nobody wants to say anything about that, McCain does not seem to have his mental faculties intact either. He seemed to confuse Spain with Mexico in his last interview. His vice presidential candidate actually cited seeing Russia from across the Bering Strait as foreign policy experience. I did not laugh, because this is serious business. These are the people that are supposed to fix the image of the US abroad and win back the influence lost by Bush.

    To whoever said that picking Biden was a mistake: Obama was likely forced by his party. The reason he could not pick Hillary is that she comes in a package with Bill, so he picked Biden to ensure the support of certain parts of the party. Regardless, the current administration is so unpopular and the problems with its policies so evident, that in any sane country Obama should win by simply talking policy and disregarding Palin altogether. But it’s not a sane country and he talks lipstick.

  37. >It doesn’t help Obama that some of his celebrity endorsers are saying stupid and bizarre things.

    Visited a left-wing blog lately? This sort of thing is normal in moonbat-land. Kind of makes me nostalgic for the pre-blog days when conservative fever-swamps (like the darker corners of a gun-rights list I still follow) were where the worst gutter-mouthing could be found. Those fever-swamps haven’t gotten any better, but their left-wing equivalents have gotten much worse.

  38. I’m not a betting man, but what are you going to do if Obama actually wins this thing?

    By the way, part of me just wants this election to be over so you can talk about linux or anthropology again. ;-)

  39. I’m putting money into guns (ok, I’d do that anyway if McCain won). If they get restricted then I can sell some off for a profit. If not…well, they dont really lose much value if you take care of them.

    And if the market totally collapses and things go to hell, a gun will keep your food supply safe and will be worth their weight in gold.

    All portfolios should have a healthy mix of guns, ammo and other nut-bag survival gear.

  40. The democrats immediately went into a panicked frenzy when Sarah was announced as the VP choice. They simply did not anticipate her as a choice. Personally, I don’t much care for her positions on social issues. From a intellectual point of view,however, she is an absolutely brilliant choice. The reaction of the demos is proof of that. They are doing everything they can to discredit her. The most ridiculous rumors are treated as the gospel’s own truth. This ends up hurting them as it drives those in the middle (such as myself) away from the demos.

    I want a candidate who is socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. Fiscal responsibility is nearly impossible to find. The republicans used to be the party of fiscal responsibility. Those days are long gone. The democrats have never, in my memory, been fiscally responsible. My stance, not every problem needs buckets of (my) money thrown at it. In fact, most problems aren’t even any business of the federal government.

    Simply put, I want the government out of my private life and I want the government out of my wallet. Maximize everyone’s freedom and maximize everyone’s opportunity for bettering my oneself. Leave success up to an individual’s desire to achieve it.

  41. Don’t get too excited, guys. This race ain’t over. The true ugly side of Republican politics shows itself once again a la Wilbur Whateley:

    “The thing that lay half-bent on its side in a foetid pool of greenish-yellow ichor and tarry stickiness was almost nine feet tall, and the dog had torn off all the clothing and some of the skin. It was not quite dead, but twitched silently and spasmodically while its chest heaved in monstrous unison with the mad piping of the expectant whippoorwills outside. Bits of shoe-leather and fragments of apparel were scattered about the room, and just inside the window an empty canvas sack lay where it had evidently been thrown. Near the central desk a revolver had fallen, a dented but undischarged cartridge later explaining why it had not been fired. The thing itself, however, crowded out all other images at the time. It would be trite and not wholly accurate to say that no human pen could describe it, but one may properly say that it could not be vividly visualized by anyone whose ideas of aspect and contour are too closely bound up with the common life-forms of this planet and of the three known dimensions. It was partly human, beyond a doubt, with very manlike hands and head, and the goatish, chinless face had the stamp of the Whateley’s upon it. But the torso and lower parts of the body were teratologically fabulous, so that only generous clothing could ever have enabled it to walk on earth unchallenged or uneradicated.”

  42. > I also think that the McCain camp hasn’t even rolled out the heavy artillery yet. Obama’s missing records, Wright, Ayers, ACORN, comparable worth, ending missile defense, “voluntary” service for students, an extra $800 billion in foreign aid to alleviate “global poverty,” etc., etc.: there are plenty of targets that haven’t made it into campaign ads.

    What makes you think that they haven’t been trying? That Sen Clinton didn’t try?

    Paid political advertising is a small part of the total election coverage. In fact, it’s biggest effect is to get “earned coverage”, aka “into the news”.

    McCain has significantly less money and MSM is basically an unpaid arm of the Obama campaign. Sen. Clinton had more effect wrt those issues than McCain will have.

    This election has always been the Dem candidate’s to lose. McCain got himself close, but he won’t close the deal unless Obama self-destructs.

  43. > Oh please. The people raising a stink about this are doing so for purely political reasons. It has nothing to do with any perceived sexism.

    Obama didn’t call Palin a pig for sexist reasons. He called her a pig because that’s how liberal Democrats behave these days. It’s all about the personal insult and attack.

    It’s not sexism, it’s hate.

  44. I honestly don’t think Obama hates Palin, or women in general. Everything about his demeanor indicates someone who generally likes people, and wants to do well by them. He wants to be Superman.

    The “lipstick on a pig” remark does little to dissuade me from this. As Eric says, I can’t read Obama’s mind, but his behavior at that time is entirely consistent with someone attempting to make a joke about his opponent and inadvertently using a word that yields an entirely different and damaging interpretation, realizing it just as the phrase leaves his mouth, and deciding to press on with the speech. It’s also consistent with someone deciding he’s going to jab at his opponent’s VP to spice up his speech, and then suddenly realizing he got a little too cruel.

    Either way, he made a mistake. It makes me distinctly uncomfortable with his ability to speak off the cuff, but it doesn’t make me think he hates women.

  45. >I honestly don’t think Obama hates Palin, or women in general. Everything about his demeanor indicates someone who generally likes people, and wants to do well by them. He wants to be Superman.

    I agree with this. The problem with Obama’s nice-guyness is that, whether or not he thinks of himself as an anti-American Marxist, he’s clearly been heavily programmed by people who are. It shows in his language, in his policy prescriptions, and in his record. So the big question about him remains: if he wins the election, do we end up with the cerebral nice guy or the Manchurian Candidate?

    I’m not asking that question rhetorically; I don’t know the answer. But p(Manchurian Candidate) is high enough to worry me.

  46. Which reminds me, Obama is supposed to be a great diplomat. If he can’t speak clearly enough to avoid “misinterpretation” when the opponents are Republicans, how is he going to hold his own with Iran, Russia, and so on?

    Feel free to go with “Iran will negotiate in better faith than Repubs campaign.”

  47. Some politicians, such as Barack Obama, are looking to outlaw the payday loan industry. A large part of this intention was stirred by the flawed idea that payday lenders fall under the same moral values as illegal loan sharks. Being misinformed can accumulate some severe consequences. Although this statement is true, they take no notice of the genuine fact that the main source of these consequences is based on a course of action on inaccurate information. Sadly, a number of politicians have successfully passed legislation in their states, city and towns which controls, or even takes away your ability to get a payday loan. Now is the time to take action and educate your friend and family to protect your rights to financial independence.

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  48. Peter Norvig presents a much better analysis of the election situation; he calls it solidly for Obama.

    Look at McCain’s numbers tank after that first debate!!

  49. Hate?

    Yeah, you know, I think the liberals may very well hate the conservatives.

    Think about this for a second: it seems to have flared up around 9/11. Conservatives and FOX News had just begun to demonize liberals (i.e. “people that disagree with our President and our government”) and shove their not only ignorant but intolerant views upon their viewers’ throats. The more intelligent of them who realized, finally, that FOX News was neither fair nor balanced, stopped watching. The rest… well, the rest grew more and more entrenched in their ideology every day, and would never listen to any other argument — even the arguments of reason.

    And these are the people liberals have had to deal with. People who don’t listen, who refuse to understand or even consider, for some decent amount of time, any alternatives to their own ideas. Unfortunately, the liberals became their worst enemy and allowed the beast of ignorance to suck them in as well, in order to fight fire with fire since nothing else worked. And even this didn’t work, and now they’re stuck in the same boxes.

    All the same, the social issues are important ones, and those, ultimately, are what prevent me, in good conscience, from voting for the McCain/Palin ticket. Because I feel more important freedoms will be lost by them than by an Obama/Biden ticket.

    The current Republican administration took massive liberties with the Constitution. How can I trust future Republican tickets to, you know, not do the same, especially when they sided with the current party so much? And maybe I’m guilty of the aforementioned ignorance; so be it. All the same…

  50. I haven’t looked at esr’s blog in a year or so and it occurred to me that I should check it out. And it’s all that I expected.

    Listening to esr on politics is like watching a drunken fool stumble his way home. Funny at times, sad at others, never useful.

    And his thoughts on Palin are priceless. He’s definitely the demographic they were targeting: socially inept conservative* men.

    * or whatever socially inept conservatives are calling themselves these days.

  51. Jeff,

    shit, I just don’t undestand this. Italy votes for Berlusconi, but are still pro-Obama? Poland votes for Tusk, but are still pro-Obama? Labour government is close to epic fail in the UK, but still pro-Obama? Shit, I know at least 5 Conservative-Libertarians in Hungary, who are pro-Obama. WTF is going in here? Isn’t this about worldviews, about political philosophies?

  52. As a long time reader of esr, I’m wondering:

    Will the “Smells of defeat” blog posts surpass “surprised by wealth” as esr’s quintessential defining moment ? Truly wonderful work, I keep coming back to re-read it.

    But nah, I still love ‘surprised by wealth’ better.

  53. Shenpen, when Clinton first ran for the Presidency — when I was 14 years old — I called him the Elvis President. He has a face like Elvis’s, a smooth Southern accent, and he is musically inclined. I was naive at that time because I didn’t think an Elvis President could be taken seriously. (I grew up in the Reagan era, so I thought a President should look like Reagan — an old man in a suit.) Looking back I realize — how can anyone in their right mind vote against Elvis? Come on.

    Fast forward to today when we have Barack Obama, the potential Tiger Woods President. Like Tiger, he has the charming smile, affable personality, youth, and multiracial background that makes middle-class whites get the warm fuzzies when they support him. And he’s up against an old man in a suit, a soi-disant “maverick” whose voting record indicates 95% agreement with the present administration’s policies. The present administration, the most corrupt in recent history, possibly the most corrupt since the Grant administration and for many of the same reasons. Given their fatigue with GOP cronyism, and Obama’s obvious charismatic appeal, he’d practically have to eat babies live on CNN in order not to win a landslide. Worldviews and political philosophies don’t even enter into it. Are you gonna vote for cronyism as usual or are you gonna pick the first major-party candidate in a long time that actually seems like a decent, honest guy? It’s a no-brainer. Obama FTW.

  54. Correction to the above: The Harding administration postdates the Grant administration, and was so marked by scandal that Harding tends to bottom out scholars’ rankings of U.S. Presidents. Still, I’d be surprised if history didn’t put Shrub in the bottom ten (to date).

  55. Kevin,

    ESR isn’t Conservative, I am Conservative :-) (Though I am not American, but I think ideologies or the lack of them tend to be the same in most Western countries. And I certainly not mean it in the Sean Hannity sense, more like in the Michael Oakeshott sense.)

    But I am more interested in learning than pushing my views. And I am especially interested in human nature i.e. psychology.

    Would you care to explain your psychological views about it all?

    I’ve found on Reddit that people think that if you are intelligent, you are either a Liberal or you are an Ayn Rand Objectivist, which is an intelligent point of view, but psychologically it comes from being an Aspie, who just does not understand why should he care about other people. Libertarian = uncaring, selfish, autistic, this seems to be the Reddit wisdom.

    Do you think the same way about Conservatives too? Do you think we are uncaring, and, ultimately, autistic, lacking empathy? Do you think that’s our psychological profile?

  56. Jeff,

    actually, I think you might not be wrong about it all, this time. It could be that it’s not about worldviews.

    Do you think he will be a good prez? To me, in economics he looks like LB Johnson – Great Society – and in foreign politics like Jimmy Carter. Do you agree with it?

    The Clintons have learned that Great Society just doesn’t work and they reformed it. Do you think he knows it too, or does he want to go back to it? Do you think he learned from the failure of Carter that international politics isn’t about feel-good words, but about carrying a big stick? What do you think, is he realistic?

  57. Shenpen, if conservatives, like libertarians, were political autists, who had no conception of life lived outside their own headspace, that would be one thing. Rather, I’m convinced that conservatism is itself a form of identity politics, one designed to enable the elite class to maintain control over the populace and the land’s resources by adroit manipulation of one of our most primitive emotions — fear. Here are some resources that may help explain in more detail:

    Novice

    Intermediate

    Advanced

    (I really like Jay Hanson’s presentation format. Part of me still awaits the “beep” that signals the teacher to advance to the next frame in the film strip.)

  58. Shenpen, iwth regards to that first video and your comments on ideologies and worldviews: Humans are genetically biased against self-knowledge. We refuse to accept that we’re animals simply because we’re animals. Animal instinct underpins all political behavior — fear, aggression, territorialism, tribalism. Ideologies and worldviews are nothing more than post-hoc rationalizations of our animalistic behavior embodied in the body politic.

  59. Jeff,

    this might or might not be true for some people. I never had much power and never felt like brownnosing the ones who do.

    Although I’ve always been pro-Capitalism, on the “culture war” axis I’ve been radically Liberal for a long time.

    Why did it change? One problem was that I just could not stomach the narrowly, shallowly materialistic philosophies behind it all. I’m a history geek and it became increasingly clear for me that modern society attributes no other goal to life than pleasure and the free pursuit of pleasure and such was always an attribute of decaying societies, not emerging ones. We have to rediscover deeper goals to life than pleasure, to add dignity, depth and meaning to life. And I found something curious. For the Left & Liberals it’s the fight itself that provides this meaning, the struggle for freedom and equality. But the Liberal goal, the end itself, has no depth, it’s just about giving everybody equal opportunity to pursue pleasure. Conservative thinkers – my favourite one is Theodore Dalrymple but there are many – have never missed this depth.

    Another reason why I changed was that it occured to me that one should think about politics the same way as you think about work, or life in general. At work I never ever use any software development methodology (waterfall, agile, TDD, whatever) and laugh on those who do – it’s as obvious that life is too complicated to fit into a narrow set of rules. Just borrow whatever ideas you like from any methodology you like, plus add your own, plus the ones from your existing company culture, and see what works.

    But I want no ideologies at work, why would I want ideologies in politics? Why should I base my views on abstract concepts of (either negative or positive) rights, instead of just looking at what works? If I don’t do this at work? If I laugh on the rigidness of the Scrum methodology that you _must_ have a so-and-so meeting at every N days, why shouldn’t I laugh on the rigidness of the idea that someone’s rights to X or Y should always be upheld and never violted, no matter what happens, no matter how practical it is, no matter whether it serves the original purpose – whatever that was, liberty, dignity, whatever – or not?

    This is what happened to me. And it’s not quite just an evolutionary thing, though Haidt is right, disgust is an important advisor for me: http://people.virginia.edu/~jdh6n/
    And it’s certainly not just identifying with the ruling class. Subjectively, I perceive it as common sense + depth. Objectively I might be an oppresive, bigoted asshole, I don’t know whether I am or not, but I have no intention of becoming so, if I manage to, that’s an bug, not a feature.

  60. Jeff,

    BTW, are you really sure that fear is the most typical attribute of the Conservative attribute?

    If I remember correctly, Reagan was quite an optimist.

    Or Margaret Thatcher: “I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society — from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation. A get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain.” Is it fear?

    Or the general attitude of the late Bill Buckley, his sense of humour and obvious enjoyment and love of life, is it fear? Could such a man really spend his life exploiting the fears of others for no other goal but to retain class power? I think you should give this a serious doubt, at least.

  61. I just have to point out, in case it hasn’t been in the myriad of comments that if you actually listen to the speech with the lipstick comment you’ll hear that he’s talking about John McCain’s economic policy and sudden morph into a “Change” candidate. Yet, when taken out of context as most media soundbites are it can sound damning. However, before decrying that something is horrible you should probably go ahead and get more of the story that what Fox News puts out.

  62. As for the question of whether Obama would make a good president — the chances of him being good are infinitely better than the chances of ol’ Sludge Vohaul being good, that’s for sure. I have a marked preference for men of considerably more action than Obama has been, like Kucinich for example.

    Fun fact: I almost registered as a Democrat this year so I could vote for Dennis Kucinich to be nominated in the primaries…

  63. Agreed. She could genuinely be a right-wing religious loony and I’d still be offended at everything from the the baby-scandal stuff to the cracking of her email. What her opponents have done is vile, and drives me onto her side.

    The crime Palin herself committed with the email (using private email to conduct business to dodge mandated accountability checks) is worse than the trivial hacking attempt.

  64. “injuries he sustained under torture by the North Vietnamese” ? Let’s not forget that under the GOP’s definition of that word, McCain was never tortured, but at most “harshly interrogated”.

  65. That smell… what is that smell? … It smells like… could it be… victory?

  66. I’ve always read this blog but never posted, and now I’m curious: how were you so far off with your predictions? And not just on the presidential election, but also the impact Palin would have (which turned out to hurt the ticket) and congressional seats (which went overwhelmingly in the dems favor). Most of the posts in this blog are, well, laughable now due to how off the target they are/were. To quote you: “this is astonishing. EPIC FAIL.”

  67. That pick, Sarah Palin, continues to be the game-changer. So much so that if McCain wins, I’m afraid I’m going to be insufferable about the fact that I smelled the rot in Obama’s campaign before she was tapped — the day of the Biden nomination, actually.

    Just in case you missed this.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/us/politics/05campaign.html?bl&ex=1226034000&en=ed50bf72c5e6eaea&ei=5087

    and I’m glad you won’t be insufferable about the rot in Obama’s campaign

  68. >I’ve always read this blog but never posted, and now I’m curious: how were you so far off with your predictions?

    I think I underestimated the MSM’s continuing ability to bamboozle voters.

  69. So you were way off with your assessments. Maybe you should cirtically inspect one or two of your other beliefs as well, as you are right about the dangers of cocooning.

  70. I think I underestimated the MSM’s continuing ability to bamboozle voters.

    You want to talk about continuing ability to bamboozle, you look at ShrubCo’s propaganda machine through 2006. What you’re seeing now is the voters shaking off their wine and repenting.

  71. I am an avid reader of your blog and writings. I enjoy them most of the time, but I am very glad you were wrong this time.

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