The ad works in making Biden seem buffoonish. Here's the thing, though -- is it possible to defend this ad while simultaneously defending Sarah Palin? Wouldn't the people who like Palin's "folksiness" like some of the gaffes in this ad? Seriously, I put this to the Palinphiles. Back when the debate starts....
there's a sense in which the apologists for her performance are getting something right: In the process of performing very, very badly on national television, Palin is holding up a mirror to the rest of the political world, and revealing how the mix of talking points, bluster, obfuscation and BS that nearly all national politicians traffic in as a matter of course sounds when it's filtered through someone who isn't practiced in it, and isn't ready for the spotlight. Her performances reflect badly on her readiness for the vice presidency, no question - but they reflect badly on our whole compromised, spin-happy political class as well.ANOTHER UPDATE: Jonathan Adler explains why Biden's answers to Couric were legally problematic as well.
A month ago, Sally and Chuck Heath's third child, Sarah Palin, a self-proclaimed hockey mom and wildly popular governor of Alaska, was thrust into the national spotlight when John McCain picked her to be his running mate. In the time since, Palin's readiness to be president in the event she and McCain are elected and McCain becomes incapacitated has been widely questioned by Democrats and many in the media. But, in an exclusive interview at their home in Wasilla, Alaska, the Heaths told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith their daughter is, indeed, ready to occupy the Oval Office at a moment's notice. When asked by Smith about rumblings that Palin isn't ready to be vice president and a heartbeat away from the presidency, Chuck replied, "She's ready to do anything she wants to be. And she perseveres, she works so hard, she learns so fast. Yeah, she -- I -- I don't worry about that at all. That's what I'll tell 'em. Yeah. ... You want some honesty, yeah -- yeah, not a typical politician, get her. Yeah. Yeah." Sally added, "She's got that ability to relate to people. She's diplomatic. She can get her point across."I'm starting to wonder if the McCain campaign's strategy for Palin is to make her campaign so embarrassing, so Office-level awkward, that she starts to collect pity votes. On the other hand, I congratulate Palin for earning the whole-hearted support of her parents. If McCain had been stupid enough to pick me as his VP pick, here's how the story would have read:
A month ago, the Drezner's first child, Daniel Drezner, a self-proclaimed "blogger father" and tepidly popular professor at Tufts University, was thrust into the national spotlight when John McCain picked him to be his running mate. In the time since, Drezner's readiness to be president do anything remotely managerial in the event he and McCain are elected and McCain becomes incapacitated has been widely questioned by Democrats and many in the media everyone with an IQ over 80. But, in an exclusive interview at their home in Connecticut, the Drezners told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith their son is, indeed, ready to occupy the Oval Office at a moment's notice -- at least, once he cleans up the bedroom he occupied as a child. When asked by Smith about rumblings that Drezner isn't ready to be vice president and a heartbeat away from the presidency, Daniel's father replied, "Yeah, I don't blame them. Have you seen this room? Come over here, take a look. If he can't organize his closet, how is he going to manage the federal budget?" Daniel's mom added, "It's my fault -- I didn't ask him to do enough cleaning up as a child. Also, his posture is so poor -- he stoops over way too much. Could you tell him that for me the next time you see him? He's not calling us all that much right now. "Would you like to see his bar mitzvah album? Are you hungry, Harry? Some nice brisket, perhaps?"
This paper compiles polling and election data for all black and female candidates for Governor or U.S. Senator from 1989 to 2006. These 249 observations from 133 elections show that
there was indeed a Wilder effect, but one that was specific to a particular group and political context. African Americans running for office before 1996 performed on average 2.7 percentage points worse than their polling numbers would indicate. Yet this effect subsequently disappeared. Although precision is limited because there were only 47 observations for 18 elections with black candidates in this period, these findings accord with theories of racial politics emphasizing the information environment. As racialized rhetoric about welfare and crime receded from national prominence in the mid-1990s, so did the gap between polling and performance. Even over short periods of time, the inuence of race on electoral politics can shift markedly.
Now, I really hope Hopkins is correct, for a variety of reasons.* Here's my question, however -- does evidence of a disappearing Bradley effect in state-level elections automatically imply that it has disappeared at the presidential level?**
This is a genuine question -- I really don't know. I can see valid reasons for saying that polling effects at the senatorial and gubernatorial level would translate to the presidential level. On the other hand, this is the first time an African-American has appeared this high up on their ballot; I have to wonder if the Bradley effect is most powerful the first time an African-American runs for a particular office. On the fourth hand, the Bradley effect is not the same thing as racism (I think it's pretty clear that the latter effect hasn't gone away) -- and I don't have a good answer for why the Bradley Effect would disappear at lower-level elections and not at the highest tier.
In other words, I don't know. This seems like an excellent question to throw open to comments, however.
*The most obvious thing is that the more closely final results hew to exit polls, the fewer conspiracy theories that float around after the election.
**Hopkins has data from the 2008 primary that says yes, but let's face it, Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton is not the same thing as Barack Obama vs. John McCain.
Jim Lehrer didn't ask a single question about China.Think about this for a second. China is clearly the one country that can challenge the United States as a peer competitor in the next decade. There are economic, regional, security, human rights, and global governance issues where Washington and Beijing don't see eye to eye. And there was no question that addressed any of this. That is a whopper of an omission for a debate about foreign policy. Question to readers: what other foreign policy issues were not even discussed at last night's debate?
Perhaps, however, rather than trying to postpone the debate, McCain is instead seeking to increase its importance. Surely the drama of the past 30 hours has made it an even more captivating event, probably leading to increased viewership. Moreover, with the subject matter likely to be expanded to include the economy, and the candidates having had less time to prepare, the entire exercise becomes less predictable, with gaffes more likely to occur, but also the potential for "clutch" performances.I don't think McCain intended to do this -- that would require long-term thinking and based one what he's said in the past two weeks I don't think McCain's time horizon extends past 12 hours on anything right now. What matters is that McCain's actions have undoubtedly upped the ante tonight. I'll definitely be live-blogging the debate -- so be sure to show up! Have an interesting day! UPDATE: Slate suggests other McCain gambits that we might see. My fave -- "Sells Alaska to Russia for $700 billion." More seriously, I'm wondering if McCain will attempt the Albright Maneuver. When Madeleine Albright was U.N. Ambassador, she would sometmes atten NSC meetings by satellite. This had the psychological effect of increasing her leverage at the meetings, because she was a giant talking head on a big screen. I would not be surprised if sometime in the next few hours the McCain campaign offers the following to the Commission on Presidential Debates -- "I'm not going to Oxford, MS, but I'll appear via satellite from my Senate office because I'm working so hard on this bailout." Wouldn't that be the ultimate brinksmanship play? ANOTHER UPDATE: No Albright Maneuver:
Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon. Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement, especially those of taxpayers and homeowners.
Actually, what I noticed is that Couric glanced down at her notes more frequently than Palin! As Palin videos go, this one is less damning than most.
Speaking at a gathering in Midtown Manhattan, Senator McCain, in comments that ran counter to those of Congressional Democrats, said on Thursday morning that no consensus had developed among lawmakers to support the bailout plan.Of course, a consensus puts McCain in a real bind -- he can't claim to be exercising leadership if a consensus is happening without him. On the other hand, he can't exactly block consensus, cause that would look kind of political. The very interesting question of the day is what the Bush administration and congressional Republicans will do. Developing.... UPDATE: Ah, great minds think alike.... and then there's me and James Pethokoukis. He asks a similar question:
How the bailout turns! If John McCain came out against the Paulson Plan, effectively killing it, would he not a) likely vault back into the lead vs.Barack Obama by opposing a trillion dollar bailout—maverick style!—that voters hate even if they think it somehow necessary, b) lock up working-class, "Sam's Club" voters in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and c) send the base into Palinesque waves of ecstasy since Newt Gingrich/Rush Limbaugh/ Conservative Blogosphere have been ripping the bailout to shreds? But wouldn't McCain also risk a) forever alienating wealthy economic conservatives in Manhattan and Connecticut, b) looking like he is stabbing the White House in the back, and c) sending the markets into a death spiral?I have to think that last point is the one that matters. I don't doubt that the bailout is unpopular, but I'm betting that death spiral capital markets will cause a pretty rapid shift in public opinion. UPDATE: Politico's Martin Kady II reports on an agreement on "principles." This quote stood out:
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), the top GOP negotiator in the Senate, said, "We have a plan that will pass the House, pass the Senate and be signed by the president, and bring certainty to the markets."Has McCain arrived in DC yet?
Clearly, I need the expertise of the Palinphiles, because I've come to the conclusion that Campbell Brown is dead wrong.
It's not clear what exactly McCain is going to do in Washington. He doesn't sit on any of the relevant committees and everyone is already deep in negotiations. Still, he's coming anyway. It doesn't make much logical sense. The only way to understand it is politically: In a presidential campaign, the surest sign that a candidate is playing politics on an issue is when he claims not to be playing politics on an issue. The only way for McCain to convince everyone that his intentions are 100 percent pure is for him to drop out of the race completely. A campaign doesn't end—and its distracting affects don't disappear—just because one candidate says so. It's hard to believe that McCain's actions would pass his own laugh test. In fact, he's often snickered at his fellow senators who come in at the eleventh hour to lend a hand after McCain has done the hard work. But the McCain campaign is past caring about how journalists (or colleagues) view his moves. He hopes the rest of the country will see this as a leadership moment.... Whether McCain's crazy gambit is seen as desperate or brilliant, it doesn't matter. Either way, it's probably not the last. The beneficial effects of the Palin Hail Mary lasted only a few weeks, and another adrenaline injection was needed. If this one doesn't work, that's OK—in due time they can try another razzle-dazzle play. And if it does work, that's great—in due time they can still try another razzle-dazzle play. It all makes the prospect of a McCain White House very exciting. So exciting, he might want to schedule periodic suspensions of his presidency to get anything done.Apropos of a comment, I think we can label this the Favre-ization of the McCain campaign.
I have no doubt this will play in Michigan -- but the ad has a different effect on your humble blogger:
On fixing the economy: “Through reform, absolutely. Look at the oversight that has been lack, I believe, here at the 1930s type of regulatory regime overseeing some of these corporations. And we’ve got to get a more coordinated and a much more stringent oversight regime…government can play a very, very appropriate role in the oversight as people are trusting these companies with their life savings, with their investments, with their insurance policies, and construction bonds, and everything else." On who is responsible for the failing financial institutions: “I think the corruption on Wall Street. That’s to blame. And that violation of the public trust. And that contract that should be inherent in corporations who are spending, investing other people’s money, the abuse of that is what has got to stop. “And it’s a matter, too, of some of these CEOs and top management people, and shareholders too not holding that management accountable, being addicted to, we call it, OPM, O-P-M, “other people’s money.” “Spending that, investing that, not using the prudence that we expect of them. But here again, government has got to play an appropriate role in the stringent oversight, making sure that those abuses stop.” On AIG getting government bailout: “Well, you know, first, Fannie and Freddie, different because quasi-government agencies there where government had to step in because of the adverse impacts all across our nation, especially with homeowners. “It’s just too impacting, we had to step in there. I do not like the idea though of taxpayers being used to bailout these corporations. Today it was AIG, important call there, though, because of the construction bonds and the insurance carrier duties of AIG.”Like Kevin Drum, I'm going to claim absolute ignorance here: what are construction bonds, exactly? Do they have anything to do with the current financial crisis? What was she trying to say by saying "construction bonds" Do any of my readers speak Palin? Memo to McCain campaign: I think it's swell that you're going to introduce Sarah Palin to a few UN folks. Let's face it, she wasn't terribly convincing on foreign policy in that last interview. While she's in the cosmopolitan capital of the godless blue states New York City, however, maybe it would be a good idea to have her sit down and chat with a few finance people as well? What I've learned about Sarah Palin to date is that she doesn't know a lot about foreign policy, doesn't know a lot about the economy, and she sounds just as bad in friendly interview situations as she does in slightly more probing interviews. Her best skill displayed to date was delivering a speech off a teleprompter (not insignificant in politics, mind you) and she's apparently exaggerating that skill as well. Am I missing anything? Help me out, readers -- because her current appeal seriously escapes me. UPDATE: Several responses on the construction bonds question suggesting that Palin was actually speaking from her own experience as governor/mayor in charge of infrastructure projects, and that because of AIG's role in insuring some of those surety bonds the point was relevant. I buy the former, but the latter dog won't hunt. Besides, Palinologists now have a whole new issue area to defend Palin -- energy: In defense of Palin, I think this is an episode that has to do more with mangled syntax than with a lack of knowledge on her part.
Conservatism was once a frankly elitist movement. Conservatives stood against radical egalitarianism and the destruction of rigorous standards. They stood up for classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence. Wisdom was acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said. But, especially in America, there has always been a separate, populist, strain. For those in this school, book knowledge is suspect but practical knowledge is respected. The city is corrupting and the universities are kindergartens for overeducated fools. The elitists favor sophistication, but the common-sense folk favor simplicity. The elitists favor deliberation, but the populists favor instinct.... I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice. And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.This is certainly one reason why the founders wanted a republic and not a democracy -- in republics, leaders do have the ability to resist the populist temptation a little more. What's interesting is how this resistance to experts plays out in campaign tactics. Consider, for example, this Washington Post story by Shamkar Vedantum (hat tip: Kevin Drum):
[A]a series of new experiments show that misinformation can exercise a ghostly influence on people's minds after it has been debunked -- even among people who recognize it as misinformation. In some cases, correcting misinformation serves to increase the power of bad information. In experiments conducted by political scientist John Bullock at Yale University, volunteers were given various items of political misinformation from real life. One group of volunteers was shown a transcript of an ad created by NARAL Pro-Choice America that accused John G. Roberts Jr., President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court at the time, of "supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." A variety of psychological experiments have shown that political misinformation primarily works by feeding into people's preexisting views. People who did not like Roberts to begin with, then, ought to have been most receptive to the damaging allegation, and this is exactly what Bullock found. Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to disapprove of Roberts after hearing the allegation. Bullock then showed volunteers a refutation of the ad by abortion-rights supporters. He also told the volunteers that the advocacy group had withdrawn the ad. Although 56 percent of Democrats had originally disapproved of Roberts before hearing the misinformation, 80 percent of Democrats disapproved of the Supreme Court nominee afterward. Upon hearing the refutation, Democratic disapproval of Roberts dropped only to 72 percent. Republican disapproval of Roberts rose after hearing the misinformation but vanished upon hearing the correct information. The damaging charge, in other words, continued to have an effect even after it was debunked among precisely those people predisposed to buy the bad information in the first place.... Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler provided two groups of volunteers with the Bush administration's prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. One group was given a refutation -- the comprehensive 2004 Duelfer report that concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003. Thirty-four percent of conservatives told only about the Bush administration's claims thought Iraq had hidden or destroyed its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but 64 percent of conservatives who heard both claim and refutation thought that Iraq really did have the weapons. The refutation, in other words, made the misinformation worse. A similar "backfire effect" also influenced conservatives told about Bush administration assertions that tax cuts increase federal revenue. One group was offered a refutation by prominent economists that included current and former Bush administration officials. About 35 percent of conservatives told about the Bush claim believed it; 67 percent of those provided with both assertion and refutation believed that tax cuts increase revenue.This suggests:
The acclaim for the vice presidential nominee is all but deafening within the GOP, except in one small but influential corner: the party’s foreign policy establishment. Among that mandarin class, the response to Palin’s nomination has been underwhelming, marked by distinctly faint praise or flat-out silence.Having chatted with a few members of this mandarin class, I would describe the range of opinion about Palin's foreign policy bona fides as varying from "underwhelmed" to "you gotta be f#$%ing kidding me?" What's really disturbing, however, is this Bob Kagan quote:
“I don’t take this elite foreign policy view that only this anointed class knows everything about the world," he said. "I’m not generally impressed that they are better judges of American foreign policy experience than those who have Palin’s experience.”This is one of those head-scratching comments when the only question is whether Kagan is being completely cynical or whether he actually believes that expertise is irrelevant. Given the GOP attack line just three weeks ago was about Obama's inexperience, and given that Bob goes to the trouble of writing and researching actual books, I have to go with cynical. Question to other GOP policy wonks: is it possible to support a candidate that campaigns on the notion that expertise is simply irrelevant? UPDATE: In the comments, I'm seeing variations on the argument that Palin has as much foreign policy experience as Clinton or Bush did when they were elected. One could quibble a bit with that, but it's not really the point. The point is this: foreign policy issues were not terribly important in either the 1992 nor 2000 elections. Regardless of one's views of the candidates, does anyone seriously believe that the strategic environment in either 1992 or 2000 is akin to the situation we face today?
If McCain wins, he'll face a Democratic congress that's beyond furious. Losing is one thing, but after eight years of George Bush and Karl Rove, losing a vicious campaign like this one will cause Dems to go berserk. They won't even return McCain's phone calls, let alone work with him on legislation. It'll be four years of all-out war. And what if Obama wins? The last time a Democrat won after a resurgence of the culture war right, we got eight years of madness, climaxing in an impeachment spectacle unlike anything we'd seen in a century. If it happens again, with the lunatic brigade newly empowered and shrieking for blood, Obama will be another Clinton and we'll be in for another eight years of near psychotic dementia. Am I exaggerating? Sure. Am I exaggerating a lot? I don't think so. McCain, in his overwhelming desire for office, is unloosing forces that are likely to make the country only barely governable no matter who wins.Meh. Kevin might be right. In this Feiler Faster Principle age, however, Labor Day memes can get washed away pretty damn quickly. What matters is whether these tactics actually work -- and no, a post-convention bounce does not count as working. If this stuff works in November, then Kevin might have a point. I have my doubts, however. Question to readers: is Kevin exaggeraing a lot or a little?
There are Republicans who are unhappy about John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin. Many are insiders who highly value — who overly value — “experience.” There are also sensible strategists who nervously note just how big a gamble McCain has taken. But what was McCain’s alternative? To go quietly down to defeat, accepting a role as a bit player in The Barack Obama Story? McCain had to shake up the race, and once he was persuaded not to pick Joe Lieberman, which would have been one kind of gamble, he went all in with Sarah Palin.That's largely correct. Despite poll numbers indicating that it's a close race, both campaigns know that the contours of this race are stacked heavily in Obama's favor. And this fact led to different factors in their VP selections. Barack Obama picked Joe Biden mostly because he was concerned about governing after the election; it was a risk-averse decision. John McCain picked Sarah Palin in the hope that she helps him win the election; it was a risk-loving decision. Kristol, naturally, thinks Palin is a risk that will pay off. I'll reserve judgment for a spell. AFTER A SMALL SPELL: Wow, the McCain campaign has done some fantastic vetting here.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.