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February 20, 2008

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Note: this is all old news to people here; I wrote it mostly for Andrew Sullivan's site, and because I am angry at the media's failure to do what I see as basic, basic reporting.

Here is Watson's comment on his humiliation. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what class looks like.

Your points about his accomplishments are well-taken, but why has the Obama campaign done such a poor job of getting out in a clear, highly visible and effective manner that Obama has accomplishments? Part of that problem isn't just the media's fault, but Obama and his advisers failing to effectively weave into his stump speeches and advertising dramatic references to his accomplishments -- you have to find it for yourself on his web site.
Yes, it's the media's job to report on accomplishments but it's the campaign's job to make those achievements a central part of his message, and so far, they've failed to do so.

Well: they have made a lot of it quite accessible on his website. Where it's absent is in is -- well, not his speeches, actually; he has made a number of policy speeches, but to some extent from his stump speech, and certainly from the teensy snippets that make the news -- and also his ads.

I have to assume this reflects a decision on the campaign's part that it would be ineffective. I mean: putting a lot of stuff about his work on nonproliferation in an ad would make it a very particular sort of ad, and I assume they have decided it's not the best kind.

I actually think a lot of the impression of his substancelessness is due to the claim that he is being repeated and accepted by people who just don't do the research. That ordinary citizens don't is understandable; that the media don't is, imho, unforgivable. The likes of Chris Matthews don't have such unbearably onerous jobs that they couldn't just try to do this.

hilzoy: shorter me: it has to be a tactical decision on the campaign's part, and I'm not sure I want to argue that their tactical decisions have been wrong so far.

The media do research? Search out facts that haven't been handed to them? Go beyond quoting dueling press releases and reporting that there's a controversy?

I mean, geez, it's not like there's a magic box you can type "Obama legislation" into and it'll tell you the answers.

You're not in any way wrong, Hilzoy, but you are a hopeless dreamer.

Your work on all of this has been outstanding and I just wanted to say that I appreciate it--even as you have made your case for your candidate you are dealing with this in such an even-handed, smart way it makes the media seem that much more irresponsible.

My thoughts are that perhaps this legislative substance is being saved for the time when Obama is in fact the nominee. At that point it will not be a charisma fest in order to catch up to the favorite, and a more policy-legislation-centric posture can actually win votes. I dunno though. Like you, I would feel that I was stretching it to question the campaign's decision-making.

Obama has done a remarkable job with timing in this campaign. He started out basically with just soaring rhetoric. Now he is adding substance to his speeches with more specifics.

I think he will get into the achievement issues if he feels he needs it in the primaries. If not, watch him go to town with it in the general, because, in actuality his legislative record is, IIRC, better than McCain's despite McCain's longevity in the Senate.

The other thing to remember is that, in the larger scheme of things, none of the cable news networks have that big an audience.

I will be real interested, if it is available, to find out the ratings for tomorrow's debate in Texas and Ohio. Hillary will have to use the debate, which is her strong point, to try to stop Obama's momentum. If she goes negative and Obama handles it well, then I think she is really toast.

In support of Matthews…. No, wait, I can’t do that.

In criticism of the campaign, this is old shtick by now. Hannity has been doing this for weeks now. He asks an entire group of supporters or undecided voters and not a single one of them can come up with anything.

Mathews lifted that straight from him. But the point is that anyone without their own hilzoy is really in the dark. It is up to the campaign to get this stuff out to the voters, and more importantly to his supporters.

After Hannity pulled that a couple of times the campaign should have been blasting out lists to all supporters to be prepared for that exact question.

This is, without a doubt, the best post I have read about this campaign.

I am an Obama supporter, but I would also like to know what Clinton and McCain have accomplished, what they plan to do, and why people should vote for them based on the issues. The media would rather say "is this campaign going to be based on issues?" than base the campaign on issues. To paraphrase Mos Def, the people on television talk about the media like it's some giant living in the hillside coming to visit the townspeople. They are the media. They can change the conversation.

Not that they will, but thank you anyway for pointing out the obvious. Now if only they would listen.

To play devil's advocate here: The purpose of Matthews question might not be to find out Obama's accomplishments but to show that Obama's followers aren't conversant with his accomplishments, therefore they are backing him merely on the basis of his personality and oratorical skills. "See", Matthews may be saying, "it really just is a cult of personality".

This begs many questions. The first of which is even if this is the case for Mr. Watson it doesn't mean that every or even a significant number of Obama backers aren't conversant with his accomplishments.

The next is a whole series of questions pertaining to what is a legitimate basis for backing a candidate. Does a candidate need an extensive list of legislative accomplishments in order to be worthy of becoming president? Could a candidate have an extensive list of accomplishments yet lack the neccessary skills to lead? Could a candidate with limited legislative accomplishments still be an effective president?
All of these questions seem too nuanced for the sledgehammer mentality of Matthews. It's easier to take a cheap shot.

Destroying some guy is just meaningless theater. I'm certain anyone could be destroyed like that on any topic if you just press. Thanks for the great post, h.

Mathews lifted that straight from him. But the point is that anyone without their own hilzoy is really in the dark. It is up to the campaign to get this stuff out to the voters, and more importantly to his supporters.

I agree that the campaign should have pushed this information to surrogates that show up on teevee much more aggressively. But I don't think it matters to voters much. Hilzoy's done some amazing work combing through the morass of data but at the end of the day, I don't think Obama's legislative record tells us a great deal about how he'd perform as President.

Senate work is by nature dependent on many other people and it is enormously challenging to decorrelate the data. Senators operate under radically different constraints than Presidents do; the comparison doesn't make sense to me except in response to very specific factual questions like: "Does Obama know anything about policy?" or "Has Obama had any success working with Republicans in practice?".

I don't think its fair to expect voters to make use of such incredibly noisy data in pursuit of answers to larger questions like "will Obama be a good President?". I'd much rather here about specific policy proposals and why he thinks they're achievable or even diagnosis of current problems; much dissatisfaction with Bush stems from the fact that he doesn't understand the world as it is.

Engineering schools often suffer over a dilemma: in the real world, all work is collaborative, but in school it is incredibly hard to fairly assess people based on collaborative work. I feel the same way about legislative records: untangling the effects is incredibly hard to do.

Hilzoy, Obama has some real legislative achievements, but, c'mon: your primary examples are of times when Obama tagging along, mostly for the good press.

*Ethics reform? C'mon. Obama was involved, but the clear point person in the Senate has been, and was again, John McCain. McCain's been working on these things since, well, forever -- or at least since he started to atone for the Keating 5 scandal. Obama's support was fleeting and political, at best (you may remember this exchange of testy letters: http://obama.senate.gov/letter/060206-sen_obama_and_sen_mccain_exchange_letters_on_ethics_reform/). Sure, Obama deserves some credit for stepping forward, but don't let Obama-worship distort history.

*Lugar-Obama? Please. Obama deserves credit for studying the issue and coming to the sensible conclusion that Sen. Lugar is correct, but do you really think that this initiative is Obama's to claim? Really really? (Am I missing Nunn-Obama?)

*Katrina. OK, wonderful. Obama was a Captain in this particular obvious brigade. Kudos for that.

Obama has a lot to recommend him. Although I currently plan to vote for McCain, I am leaving my options open -- the US could do a lot worse (a lot worse) than a President Obama. And I'll freely admit that Obama has been very effective given relative inexperience. But people are saying that his legislative record is thin because, well, it is thin. Matthews, deplorable though he sometimes is, ain't wrong to say the same.

I watched it live. Lets face it, it LOOKED damned bad.
You could argue that it could happen to any Obama supporter, that it doesn't mean Obama accomplished anything,etc, etc, etc.-but this politics, not an academic debating club.
Obama has GOT to put his accomplishments -such as they are- out there in nice, bite-sized, easy to remember formats, or the electorate- most of whom don't read blogs or follow cable news 24 hours a day - WILL get the lasting impression that he is just an empty suit. The response CANNOT be " GO visit his website". That works for the blog-reading, geeky crowd, not Joe Six-pack or Mary the waitress.
Obama has run a great, great campaign, But they have been slow to respond on this. They need to. and now.

*Katrina. OK, wonderful. Obama was a Captain in this particular obvious brigade. Kudos for that.

If it was so obvious, then those measures would have been in place long before we suffered a disaster like Katrina, wouldn't they? But, hey, keep up with that rhetorical tactic and let me know how it works out for you.

In short, von, if a Democrat doesn't find a Republican to agree with, and doesn't work with one, they're an extremist partisan hack, and, of course, completely unserious.

If a Democrat finds Republicans to agree with, and finds common ground on an issue with them, and works with them, then c'mon, the Democrat was involved, and deserves credit for coming to the sensible conclusion that Republicans are correct, but all the credit really belongs to the Republican, of course.

Good to know.

It should really encourage Democrats to find ways to work with Republicans, since everyone enjoys being denigrated, and not getting equal credit.

No, wait, that's just Democrats.

I'm sure I can find a Republican to agree with me on this.

If it was so obvious, then those measures would have been in place long before we suffered a disaster like Katrina, wouldn't they? But, hey, keep up with that rhetorical tactic and let me know how it works out for you.

I think I'm quite clearly referring to after Katrina, when, yes, it was quite obvious that something(s) needed fixin'.

If a Democrat finds Republicans to agree with, and finds common ground on an issue with them, and works with them, then c'mon, the Democrat was involved, and deserves credit for coming to the sensible conclusion that Republicans are correct, but all the credit really belongs to the Republican, of course.

Gary, I said and implied nothing of the sort. I simply stated that it was not persuasive to list either ethics reform or Lugar's 20-year old initiatives as an Obama policy triumpth. Obama gets credit for recognizing a good idea, but not for the idea itself.

There are good policy ideas that originated with Obama, but none with the relative heft of those prominently featured by Hilzoy. (F'instance, Obama does deserve some personal credit for some of the new transparency rules.)

Oh my:

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, in his offices and aboard a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s clients, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

I posted some similar material in my livejournal today, including some borrowed from the quality work of hilzoy. In return, one of my commenters rewarded me with a link to this article, that I think addresses some of the valid reasons why Obama has not, so far, invested a lot of time into putting itemized shopping lists of his policies, plans ans specific achievements into his soaring speeches. Let's face it, 'power point presentations of past accomplishments' do not soar. I expect, as do many others that it will come when it's necessary and in the mean time, it's there where even an idiot like Chris Matthews could find it *if he wanted to look*.

von: Lugar/Obama is actually a separate initiative from Nunn/Lugar, though one of the things it does is to strengthen Nunn/Lugar. But it also extends the basic idea to stockpiles of conventional weapons, which N/L did not do.

On ethics reform: other than McCain-Feingold, which McCain is presently trying to weasel out of, what has he actually accomplished? More specifically, what has he accomplished recently -- say, during this century? I don't mean to be snarky, but I haven't been able to find much -- his campaign site doesn't include specifics, his Senate site puts ethics under "Other Issues", and Google isn't helping me turn up much of anything, unless you count stuff he cosponsored with Obama (e.g., the 2007 stuff, where I believe Obama did more work, as one would expect from the point person in the party pushing the bill.)

I only listed three things since I was trying to be brief for a change. I have, of course, been my usual long-winded self elsewhere.

Just a side question about the Texas race coverage on cable (I don't have a tv): Have the Alamo analogies begun yet?

Hilzoy, you slay. And you make me feel lazy for reading, but not writing or doing more research. So I guess its time to dig my nose into some online data files. Keep it up!

Hilzoy, you slay. And you make me feel lazy for reading, but not writing or doing more research. So I guess its time to dig my nose into some online data files. Keep it up!

I is a Slayer!! And Merciless!!!

Everyone seems to be blogging the McCain/lobbyist story. I can't. Not without more confirmation, and even then, I would hate it. As I said back when Clinton was in office: I don't care whether they sleep with insects. (The lying under oath made a difference then. If this is in any way confirmed, the her being a lobbyist whose client had business before his committee would make a difference here. But still: Blech. Ugh.)

"Gary, I said and implied nothing of the sort. I simply stated that it was not persuasive to list either ethics reform or Lugar's 20-year old initiatives as an Obama policy triumpth. Obama gets credit for recognizing a good idea, but not for the idea itself."

Thanks for your courteous elaborations, Von. Using your criteria, could you educate some of us about the bills that made it into law that were Senator McCain's policy triumphs of ideas original to him? There's McCain-Feingold, certainly. I expect he'll want to trumpet that as loudly as possible, don't you?

I wouldn't call it an original idea, but he pushed for normalization of relations with Vietnam, which I give him credit for. (Even though he was only responding to his masters' programming.)

(That last was a joke, Von.)

But I have to confess to otherwise being ill-informed about McCain's record of original ideas that were turned into law, so I welcome your helping me be less ignorant.

Thanks muchly.

Hilzoy:

von: Lugar/Obama is actually a separate initiative from Nunn/Lugar, though one of the things it does is to strengthen Nunn/Lugar. But it also extends the basic idea to stockpiles of conventional weapons, which N/L did not do.

This response misses the point. Of course Lugar/Obama is different than Nunn/Lugar. The point, for which you provide no response (because there is none) is that the policies embodied in Lugar/Obama originated with Lugar, not Obama. Again, Obama deserves credit for recognizing a good idea -- but not the idea itself.

On ethics reform: other than McCain-Feingold, which McCain is presently trying to weasel out of, what has he actually accomplished? More specifically, what has he accomplished recently -- say, during this century? I don't mean to be snarky, but I haven't been able to find much -- his campaign site doesn't include specifics, his Senate site puts ethics under "Other Issues", and Google isn't helping me turn up much of anything, unless you count stuff he cosponsored with Obama (e.g., the 2007 stuff, where I believe Obama did more work, as one would expect from the point person in the party pushing the bill.)

You aren't looking hard enough. McCain's campaign website prominently features ethics reform (it's the second item): http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/. As noted in my prior comment, but ignored by you, McCain was also a strong supporter of a tough, bipartisan bill -- he dissented from the bill that you identifed on the grounds that it was toothless (e.g., http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12481336). He also, quite properly, blamed Obama for playing politics with the bill. Oh, and the primary Democratic proponents of the bill did not include Obama. Try Pelosi, Van Hollen, and Senator Feingold instead (http://citizen.typepad.com/watchdog_blog/2007/08/congress-delive.html).

As for weaseling out of McCain-Feingold, two responses: (1) It is McCain-Feingold, as even a well-meaning partisan such as you acknowledge, and it remains the most significant piece of ethics reform passed.* (2) I trust that you have more than a Romney hit piece to back up your "weaseling" point. (You cite nothing.)

I only listed three things since I was trying to be brief for a change. I have, of course, been my usual long-winded self elsewhere.

You're disputing a point no one is arguing. I believe that I have now twice written that Obama has had some good ideas. The point, yet again, is that the "big ideas" you prominently feature are not among them.

Ugh, not sure what the NYTimes hit piece, coming years after the fact, has to do with my argument. Even if true, I neither claim, nor need to prove, that McCain is a saint.

von

*I happen to thin McCain-Feingold is among the best reasons not to vote for McCain, but credit for the effort is surely due.


27 comments on a thread about the failure of the media to do anything but mindlessly repeat the script, and nobody's mentioned the way it exactly parallels the media's treatment of Gore in 2000 ?

Bob Somerby will have your heads. all of them!

Hi Hilzoy,
Thanks for this. You read my mind. Here's the email I sent Chris Matthews (and a bunch of other MSM folks this morning):

You know what - the mainstream press really needs to do its job here. This reminds me of their reporting on Iraq - they are so ready to accept the spin that they are not doing their own independent fact-checking. Hilzoy here does some quick research on actual bills or admendments sponsored and passed by the candidates and Obama's record does indeed to appear to be meatier and more substantive: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/02/solutions-adden.html In addition there are eight years of legislative work in Illinois. Just because Hillary says a thousand times "I have more experience" or "I am a doer" doesn't make it true. Please guys I have already gotten rid of my television, and am considering not reading the newspaper anymore. Please, start doing your real jobs again - you are not stenographers, you are reporters!

But I have to confess to otherwise being ill-informed about McCain's record of original ideas that were turned into law, so I welcome your helping me be less ignorant.

McCain-Feingold. Immigration reform
(i.e., McCain-Kennedy). Normalization with Vietnam. Rumsfeld's removal. The surge. Anti-earmark legislation. Among others.

And, although not his ideas, he did stand against torture and in favor of recognizing global warming at significant political cost to himself.

(Yes, not all of these ideas have come to fruition. Yet.)

But still: Blech. Ugh.

I really need to change my handle.

As I said back when Clinton was in office: I don't care whether they sleep with insects.

OK, I admit I skimmed the story, but the combination of seeing that, "Breaking News on MSNBC" talking about it (on the TEEVEE, noless), and von's:

McCain's been working on these things since, well, forever -- or at least since he started to atone for the Keating 5 scandal.

Forced my hand on the "Oh My." comment above (ok, "forced" is a bit much, it was really the vodka), it was just too perfect.

Or rather, (wrt hilzoy) it seems to me there's a different element to the NYTimes story than the Clinton/Lewinsky story, i.e., I don't recall anyone accusing Lewinsky of lobbying for anyone while, um, serving (servicing?) the President (not even cigar makers).

But perhaps these charges are equally inconsequential (and, really, how much can you trust a tax lawyer named "Ugh" anyway? And note "as far as you can throw him" is a dangerous response as I'm extremely, uh, lithe).

On preview I see von has stated that he has neither claimed nor needs to prove that McCain is a [S]aint. I'll ask Reggie Bush.

von: I actually do not know whose idea it was to extend Nunn/Lugar to conventional arms. That's why I didn't say.

About McCain weaseling out: I was thinking of a piece I wrote the day before yesterday, which is why I got lazy about the link. It is not supported by a Romney talking point, but by this copy of a loan agreement, in which (p. 22) McCain does a whole lot of wriggling, including giving up his legal right to withdraw from the race under certain conditions, in order to avoid accepting the regulations that go with accepting federal money while using the future availability of that money as collateral for a loan. Check it out.

Or rather, (wrt hilzoy) it seems to me there's a different element to the NYTimes story than the Clinton/Lewinsky story, i.e., I don't recall anyone accusing Lewinsky of lobbying for anyone while, um, serving (servicing?) the President (not even cigar makers).

We're equating a NY Times article containing, let's face it, pure gossip with l'affair Lewinsky? I mean, I did not support the impeachment circus, but surely there is a difference between rank speculation and established facts.

And note "as far as you can throw him" is a dangerous response as I'm extremely, uh, lithe).

A lithe Ugh. There's an difficult-to-have-predicted collocation.

von: I actually do not know whose idea it was to extend Nunn/Lugar to conventional arms. That's why I didn't say.

We know from Obama's website that Lugar-Obama (I'm sure someone will call it Obama- Lugar shortly) is modeled off of Nunn-Lugar. This essay (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0609.larson.html), linked in one of your prior pieces on Obama (http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2006/10/barack_obama.html) also provides a good indication of who led on this issue.

About McCain weaseling out: I was thinking of a piece I wrote the day before yesterday, which is why I got lazy about the link. It is not supported by a Romney talking point, but by this copy of a loan agreement, in which (p. 22) McCain does a whole lot of wriggling, including giving up his legal right to withdraw from the race under certain conditions, in order to avoid accepting the regulations that go with accepting federal money while using the future availability of that money as collateral for a loan. Check it out.

I have seen that. I guess, while the lawyer in me sees this as clever, the citizen finds it quite objectionable -- although not on the grounds that it violates McCain-Feingold.

von, on your last statement you and I are in agreement. That story is just gossip and does not even imply that there was any sexual relationship at all.

Hopefully, it will die the death it deserves.

von: Not being a lawyer, I'm not sure whether it does or not. (For one thing, I'm not sure whether violating FEC guidelines interpreting M-F would count.) I'm sure it violates its spirit, though, insofar as part of the point of M-F was to make funding available subject to certain restrictions, and this seems to me to be plainly an attempt to get access to the money without being subject to the restrictions.

I didn't see evidence about whose idea the extension to conventional arms was in that piece, but I might just be missing something.

But I have to confess to otherwise being ill-informed about McCain's record of original ideas that were turned into law, so I welcome your helping me be less ignorant.

McCain-Feingold. Immigration reform
(i.e., McCain-Kennedy). Normalization with Vietnam. Rumsfeld's removal. The surge. Anti-earmark legislation. Among others.

I wrote:
[...] There's McCain-Feingold, certainly. I expect he'll want to trumpet that as loudly as possible, don't you?

I wouldn't call it an original idea, but he pushed for normalization of relations with Vietnam, which I give him credit for.

You may not be clear on the meaning of the word "otherwise."

I also took a few of my words, which you quoted, out of italics, above, so as to highlight them, even though you read them, quoted them, and responded to them, just for the sake of clarity.

But I thank you for your response. On those that are "otherwise,", I missed when "Immigration reform
(i.e., McCain-Kennedy)" was passed into law: could you help me out with a date, perhaps?

"Rumsfeld's removal."

I missed which bill this was that was passed into law which accomplished it: could you help me with the bill number, please?

Also, I had no idea that this was an original idea of John McCain's, which no other Senator could possibly deserve credit for, just like Senator Obama could never possibly deserve credit for coming up with the ideas for the bills which Hilzoy cited, which you so strenuously object to be, well, let's quote you: "Obama deserves credit for recognizing a good idea -- but not the idea itself."

So firing Rumsfeld was, you say, an equally original idea, that McCain deserves sole credit for originating, while other Senators deserve only credit for recognizing John McCain's uniquely original idea of firing Rumsfeld?

Hmm. Interesting. I'm more ignorant than I thought. Do you have any cites on this?

"The surge."

Which bill was that, signed when? Again, I apologize for my ignorance, but we'll all be better informed if you, well, can inform us about this stuff. I'm certainly willing to give John McCain credit for being the first Senator to adopt this original idea, if that's the case. Do you have any cites about that?

"Anti-earmark legislation."

That was his original idea, for which he deserves credit, but not other sponsors or co-sponsors? Y'know, the same way Obama didn't have any original ideas? Okay. As I said, I'm not all that informed about McCain's record: which bill was that, and signed when? Any cites on the history of his original thinking here? I'm completely prepared to believe you're correct, and would like to learn more.

"Among others."

If you can help me/us out with info on these signed bills passed into law, which were McCain's uniquely original ideas, we can count up how many you've listed. I'm a little unclear how many that will be, until you respond. Looking forward to that, and thanks for your time and patience insofar as you'll help all of us be more informed.

Thanks again!

"27 comments on a thread about the failure of the media to do anything but mindlessly repeat the script, and nobody's mentioned the way it exactly parallels the media's treatment of Gore in 2000 ?"

It's my assumption, cleek, that most of us are familiar to death with that, and take it for granted, and aren't interested in being boringly repetitious, and thus leave it to someone else to bring up again.

von,

Would you mind expanding on your earlier comment regarding McCain's efforts to have Rumsfeld fired? While I recall McCain occasionally criticizing the secretary, I don't believe he ever called for Rumsfeld's firing or resignation, let alone proposed legislation having anything to do with Rumsfeld's employment.

OK, I shouldn't have posted the "they're sleeping together" portion of the Times story (other than, as I noted, it seemed perfect in the confluence of events, to me), but is the whole article based on "pure gossip"?

McCain Overstates His Criticisms Of Rumsfeld:

[...] In recent weeks, McCain has gone so far as to tell audiences that he was "the only one" who called for Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation as defense secretary.

The trick is that he never did, at least not publicly. The senator from Arizona was a tough critic of Rumsfeld and more than once said that he had no confidence in the Pentagon chief in the two years before Bush finally dumped Rumsfeld in November 2006. But even as he was criticizing Rumsfeld, McCain typically stopped short of calling for the Pentagon chief to step down.

While campaigning in Fort Myers, Fla., on Jan. 26, he told a crowd: "In the conflict that we're in, I'm the only one that said we have to abandon the Rumsfeld strategy -- and Rumsfeld -- and adopt a new strategy." Four days later during a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., aired on CNN, McCain said, "I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go."

A McCain spokesman acknowledged this week that that was not correct. "He did not call for his resignation," said the campaign's Brian Rogers. "He always said that's the president's prerogative."

That was in Saturday's paper.

In memory of the humiliations I've brought upon myself, and because class and humor in such a situation should be rewarded, I kicked Watson a donation tonight.

Ugh: I don't at all mind that you put it here, in comments. Actually, I hadn't seen the story, and was glad I did. I just deeply do not want to front-page it -- which would be a different thing entirely.

(I mean: I don't want to front-page it at present, while it is basically unconfirmed, and so on and so forth. Supposing that the NYT publishes, oh, hotel receipts and photos tomorrow, that will be different. Supposing on the other hand that it's all nothing, I suspect I'll be glad.

I'd sure like to know who is behind it, though. Apparently, the NYT has had the story for a while, so it could be one of the Republicans who are now out, or one of the Dems, or, well, anyone.)

McCain never, to the best of my knowledge, ever voted to restrict torture in any significant way at all, nor to punish those who've used it on our captives. He'll talk about its evils, but he won't do the thing his office lets him and 99 others alone in all the country do to actually stop it.

btw, in case anyone is interested: Obama raised a little over $36million last month; Clinton raised a little under $14million, and McCain raised about $11.6million. As Open Left noted, at both the beginning and the end of the month McCain's cash on hand was less than his debts. The beginning was worse, though.

It seems only reasonable to expect that McCain will do better in fundraising as the official, or even as the currently de
facto, Republican candidate, than he did while there were still other reasonable contenders, beyond the drag of Huckabee.

I expect him to still be way behind Obama, but I expect him to do better in future than in the past.

Well, Cuddles (you outed yourself somewhere, tee hee!), back on topic: I must agree with this:

You could argue that it could happen to any Obama supporter, that it doesn't mean Obama accomplished nothing, etc.-but this politics, not an academic debating club.

This ain't beanbag. I think it reflects badly on Obama's campaign organization that they're either not controlling the message OR have not adequately prepared for this line of attack.

It's the photo negative of what the Clinton campaign is doing in TX. Yeah, make the story that you were surprised by [incredibly predictable development] and will work on a strategy to handle [predictable development]. Well, why don't you have the strategy ready now, since I'm not a professional political consultant on media issues but I knew it was coming?

Uh oh, a first: linked in the Weekly Standard.

Gotta go take a shower now...

Just followed the link to Watson's mea culpa.

I am going to his office, during my annual vacation in his district, and delivering home-baked cookies and a check.

That should be in the training manual under 'How to Fall on Your Sword'. Nicely done.

"I think it reflects badly on Obama's campaign organization that they're either not controlling the message OR have not adequately prepared for this line of attack."

I don't follow this. If you read what he wrote, you know his mind went blank.

Are you faulting the Obama mind-reading squad for not detecting that Watson could go blank under stress, or are you faulting the Obama psychic division for not seeing it in advance? If not those, how was anyone supposed to prevent such an event?

Has anyone presented any evidence that supporters of Clinton or McCain are more likely when challenged to be able to come up with examples of their legislative accomplishments? How about any evidence that Clinton's and McCain's speeches are chock full of policy details in comparison with Obama's?

Phoenix,
But it seems that a campaign that does not have the command and control structure that we normally associate with presidential campaigns (and I am open to the notion that Obama's is precisely the same, they just do it better, but I'm thinking that there have been few inside looks in the campaign team for Obama, which suggests to me that the strategizing and planning may actually be done differently) is going to be more susceptible to this sort of thing and we should accept it as part of the territory. I don't think that Obama can create the organization he has yet still have the sort of inside team that is, in many ways, the antithesis of such an approach.

This might be seen as trying to minimize the damage of something like this, and therefore spin, but I do think that Obama is succeeding because he has brought a 'new' model of campaign organization (I leave it to others to determine precisely whose idea a more populist, broadbased campaign was, Dean, RFK, Andrew Jackson?), and one of the potential weaknesses is a less focussed message with less preparation of the surrogates. But that weakness is outweighed by the popular support that such an approach can create.

Uh Oh...

The Washington Post now has its own version of the McCain story. That it went up so quickly means, I assume, that the Post had also had it for a while. (I mean, it has a lot of original reporting, and could not possibly have been thrown together in a couple of hours.)

It focuses more on lobbying and potential improprieties than on the precise nature of her relationship to McCain.

Barnett writes (from Hilzoy's Daily Standard link): "Would it be fair to say this characterizes many or even most Obama supporters? Well, let's put it this way: At the next Obama rally, it would be interesting to find out how many of the fainting and crying masses are there because they admire their hero's work on the Lugar-Obama Initiative."

The part he meant to add was "and it would be equally interesting to find out the same as regards the masses of Republicans and John McCain's support of Lugar-Obama."

I have to say that while I can see how some Republicans might enjoy this trope -- Obama voters are just mindless drones swept away by delusions induced by cheap rhetoric -- I don't see it as being a particularly effective argument in changing many people's votes. Either you already feel that way, or you don't, but if you don't, the suggestion isn't apt to make all that many people reconsider, I suspect.

But, as I said, I can see why it would be comforting to repeat this sort of thing back and forth. Enjoy the warm fuzzies all the way to McCain's loss, Dean Barnett.

Cuddles?

"How about any evidence that Clinton's and McCain's speeches are chock full of policy details in comparison with Obama's?"

Uh, I'm not going to look up cites, so feel free to disbelieve me, but I think it's fairly safe to say that Clinton's stump speech features a lot more policy details than Obamas does. I'm a little surprised you'd feel that that needs proof.

You were ahead with your first question; shoulda quit there.

Interesting, the main source, John Weaver, left the campaign in mid 2007 and the departure has been described as 'not amicable'.

No idea what, if anything, this means, but if it does represent Weaver payback, he certainly waited until the dish was cold to serve it up.

"We're equating a NY Times article containing, let's face it, pure gossip with l'affair Lewinsky?"

Gossip is usually anonymous. John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist, gave an on-the-record quote, to go along with the quotes from an unnamed Senate aide and an unnamed "campaign adviser":

[...] Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.

“Our political messaging during that time period centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation’s interests before either personal or special interest,” Mr. Weaver continued. “Ms. Iseman’s involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort.”

Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation was only about “her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made its way back to us.” He declined to elaborate.

That's not gossip. That's a former chief official of a national political campaign giving a legitimate news story on the record. And it's a story about possible lobbying impropriety as much as it is anything else.

Yes, absolutely, there's no reason to be anything other than cautious and skeptical, and not to draw any conclusions as yet. But it's far above the level of a gossip column.

"Interesting, the main source, John Weaver, left the campaign in mid 2007 and the departure has been described as 'not amicable'."

You're aware of John Weaver's long history as John McCain's alter ego, right? It's impossible to know anything about McCain's 2000 campaign without great familiarity with Weaver. But certainly everyone isn't. I assume Von is, though, as a longtime McCain fan.

I'm not exactly sure when McCain did this glorious defense against torture. Was it before or after he repeatedly missed or voted against bills banning torture? Did I miss his high-profile calls to investigate and prosecute torture conducted by the US military or intelligence agencies? Or the part where he kicked down the doors on the black sites and led the child workers to freedom while fighting off the cultists who wanted to tear his heart from his chest? Wait, that was Indiana Jones.

In other words, McCain's position on torture seems to be all words and no action.

And not even that many words.

For whatever it’s worth Hilzoy, I cancelled my subscription to the Weekly Standard a year ago. They still can’t admit that their blue thumb conclusions were all wrong. Being stubborn is only a good thing if you are right.

We may not agree as to the scope of Obama’s accomplishments, but I learned something from your articles.

And yes, Matthews is a gas-bag too.

The list goes on and on.

This argument founders on its incorrect assumption that Chris Matthews is a journalist rather than a barely-sentient histrionics machine.

Gary, I did know of John Weaver's role, so it was interesting that his name would surface with this and was interested if anyone had any insight as to why this was happening now. Apologies if you felt I was assuming there was information you or anyone else didn't know, I was just hoping to get some more details.

As I said back when Clinton was in office: I don't care whether they sleep with insects.

Sleeping with insects is one thing. Voting down malaria prevention bills soon after beginning to sleep with insects is another.

McCain has no principles other than self-interest. He's simply a liar. I guess that makes him a "maverick"!

McCain is anti-torturish. Which is, in fact, much preferable to the rest of the current administration & most of the GOP candidates, and he did take some political risks for it. But those risks were always quite limited, & that being anti-torturish is a political risk says more about the GOP than about McCain's leadership & courage on this issue.

Immigration is a similar story. On the two issues where McCain really is significantly better than most of his party, Obama is very clearly significantly better than McCain. I'm not grading McCain on a curve just because a lot of the GOP is worse. (Or Lindsey Graham! Grr.)

Hil left out my personal favorite side of Obama's legislative record, which is support for failure obscure human rights/civil liberties issues. I know I've talked up the Illinois confessions bill--I think, and hope, that he didn't stop being that guy when he got to D.C. Obama introduced legislation about holding military contractors accountable almost a year ago (before Nisour Square). See this Nation article.

Katherine: yeah; because of what Matthews actually asked, I was trying to focus on stuff that got passed. Thus I had to leave out the habeas lawyers' petition, for instance.

I honestly can't remember whether I ever wrote, as opposed to just thinking of writing, a post on how often Obama seems to anticipate issues that will become very big later. The contractors' bill is one, avian flu is another, ditto formaldehyde in the FEMA trailers, and a bunch of other stuff. And that's not counting nonproliferation, which has not yet become big, but is long overdue.

Obama was part of the 80 million some congressmen gave themsleves in an emergency vote in Katrina?

"I honestly can't remember whether I ever wrote, as opposed to just thinking of writing, a post on how often Obama seems to anticipate issues that will become very big later."

You did. I'm feeling lazy about looking up the cite just now, but rest assured you've mentioned the theme on more than one occasion, as part of your past posts, such as when you were earlier posting about his bills on avian flu, and so on and so forth.

von: I think I'm quite clearly referring to after Katrina, when, yes, it was quite obvious that something(s) needed fixin'.

And yet...

Also, I'm curious: what did McCain actually do on the various torture issues, as opposed to what he said? All I'm familiar with is his toothless, and quite possible subverting, opposition to the MCA; did he actually accomplish anything of note elsewhere?

"The Washington Post now has its own version of the McCain story. That it went up so quickly means, I assume, that the Post had also had it for a while."

Josh Marshall has more here, noting that Newsweek, Politico, and The New Republic are all reported to have been on the verge of going with their own versions of the story.

Here you go, LJ. Also, of course.

Hilzoy,
I honestly can't remember whether I ever wrote, as opposed to just thinking of writing, a post on how often Obama seems to anticipate issues that will become very big later.

Yes you did. (Back in 2006, no less - it startled me to see the date on it when I was doing a bit of background research into Obama).

I think I'm quite clearly referring to after Katrina, when, yes, it was quite obvious that something(s) needed fixin'.

Ah. Well, in that case, certainly tons of Republicans were running to the helm to steer this particular SS Obvious, right? I mean, I see from the THOMAS record for the National Emergency Locator amendment that hilzoy linked to that all of its cosponsors were Democrats, but I guess that only reinforces your point, or . . . ?

Thanks, Gary. I just got back home and see that Josh Marshall has some interesting points on the story.

"Thanks, Gary. I just got back home and see that Josh Marshall has some interesting points on the story."

Yes, that was one of the links Kevin gave, which I didn't feel the need to repeat.

"OCSteve:

"anyone without their own hilzoy is really in the dark"

That's very close to poetry. With a word change or two, I hear that as a chorus over some interesting chord changes.

No one has their very own hilzoy. We share a hilzoy, which is apparently infinitely divisible, reproducible, and time-shared.

Are there hilzoy outlet stores? What about hilzoy vending machines for weary travelers who find themselves stranded and hilzoyless.
A hilzoymobile lending library. Used hilzoys on EBay.

If a noun, why not a verb. Can a person become overly hilzoyed. How much hilzoying is too much hilzoying. Sometimes, I want to royally hilzoy someone, but I've forgotten to bring my hilzoy with me. If you've been hilzoying for several hours, is it safe to drive?

Obama has a hilzoy but doesn't seem to know it yet. John McCain is in for a good hilzoying here soon, I'm sure.

Are hilzoys numbered like collector's items with no limit that will reduce their value.

If Andy Warhol created a series of hilzoys, what would they look like?

Should a person keep an extra hilzoy on hand in case the situation calls for two hilzoys?

New topic: One thing I appreciate about Bill Clinton's behavior over the past months is his readiness to get angry at reporters and interviewers and read them the riot act.

I never ceased to be amazed that various folks sit and take this crap from Matthews, Hannity, etc.

Yell back. Cut THEM off.

I think the folks at home would stand up and cheer.

thullen them. but bring a hilzoy along in case that doesn't work.


portable hilzoys

hilzoys in pill form

freeze-dried hilzoys

I hope, if people haven't been already, they start emailing MSNBC to tell them what you think about Matthews. That man needs to be fired.

I'm sure it violates its spirit, though, insofar as part of the point of M-F was to make funding available subject to certain restrictions, and this seems to me to be plainly an attempt to get access to the money without being subject to the restrictions.

I agree with you on that, Hilzoy.

Cuddles?

What is this? Unfogged?

Gary, I answered with policies that were adopted.

As for Rumsfeld-McCain, McCain indicated that he had "no confidence" in Rumsfeld and publicly disagreed with Rumsfeld's policies. McCain also has indicated, post-resignation, that Rumsfeld will go down as "one of the worst" defense secretaries that we have ever had. But I was incorrect to the extent that McCain openly called for Rumsfeld's resignation: Although it was no secret that McCain was unhappy with Rumsfeld, McCain never took that step.

I'm tied up for the rest of the day, and so will not be able to respond to the rest.

"Also, I'm curious: what did McCain actually do on the various torture issues, as opposed to what he said? All I'm familiar with is his toothless, and quite possible subverting, opposition to the MCA; did he actually accomplish anything of note elsewhere?"

He sponsored the McCain amendment. As near as I can tell, the part that banned "cruel, inhuman & degrading treatment" didn't really accomplish anything, because OLC interpreted what counted as "cruel" to mean "whatever shocks David Addington & Alberto Gonzales' conscience," & their consciences aren't easily shocked. But the part that restricts the military to techniques in the field manual might've helped some.

His rhetoric also has been genuinely helpful at times, as I think it made other politicians a bit less terrified to do the right thing.

But: he voted for Gonzales and Mukasey. I believe he supports Bradbury's confirmation. He voted for habeas suspension twice. He voted to gut Hamdan & Common Article 3 & the war crimes act. He has done nothing on rendition. He has done nothing effective on the CIA program.

If elected, the courts will get even worse on these issues; they're already bad. He could easily appoint someone like Giuliani as AG. He will certainly not investigate, prosecute, or publicly disclose the Bush administration's record, which is needed to deter future violations. There won't be new laws that, e.g., limit state secrets privilege, or restore habeas, or any of the rest. I don't know what he thinks of the CIA's use of "enhanced" techniques other than waterboarding--his recent vote suggests he's for them, but maybe that's just electoral strategy.

He is clearly better than Bush, Romney & Giuliani; clearly worse than the Democratic candidates.

Gary, despite the caliber of Watson's sword-falling, it always goes back to the campaign when a representative--who they sent out on their behalf--coughs up the ball.

The only way to attack Obama is to say 'He's a lightweight'.

Therefore, the attack for which anyone they deputize has to be fully prepared to parry is, 'He's a lightweight'.

Hilzoy should not be better prepped for that question than the guy they put on Hardball, is the bottom line.

I think it's unfair to call Obama's Senate record "thin," because the better word would be "short." Without even looking it up, I'm prepared to wager that his record is fuller than most Senators' were in their first term.

But there is no way around the fact that he has not been a Senator very long. He is just plain young for a Presidential candidate. Worse, his opponent in the general election has not only been around the political scene a lot longer, he has been in the same exact job a lot longer. Of course McCain's Congressional record will look a lot more impressive than Obama's. It IS a lot more impressive than Obama's. Heck, so is Kucinich's, and for the same reason.

Obama cannot win on his record, the best he can do is deflect the charge that he has NO record. He has to win on his potential, which is why he has been emphasizing "future, not the past." However, he can, and should, also attack McCain on McCain's record, which has a lot more trash in it than, say, Kerry's.

He sponsored the McCain amendment. As near as I can tell, the part that banned "cruel, inhuman & degrading treatment" didn't really accomplish anything, because OLC interpreted what counted as "cruel" to mean "whatever shocks David Addington & Alberto Gonzales' conscience," & their consciences aren't easily shocked. But the part that restricts the military to techniques in the field manual might've helped some.

I was certainly thinking of that, but I've seen nothing to convince me that the McCain Amendment's done a damn thing except to give the Bush Administration something else to ignore. In fact, it's worse than that: by his (apparent) unwillingness to do anything about their intransigence, and his (apparent) willingness to kneecap anyone else's efforts to stop others from doing anything about it, he's giving the Administration even more rhetorical cover under which to operate. For all his talk, he's been one of their best allies in the only spheres that matter: keeping their unitary power safe, and keeping them safe from prosecution.

Frankly, he looks like a sham to me, a glib hypocrite with a gift for convincing people that he's a straight shooter. I'd love to be persuaded otherwise, though.

Until recently, the conventional wisdom was that it was extremely difficult for a senator to be elected president. Clearly that's no longer applicable, but it still seems that having a longer legislative record for people to comb through could be a liability for McCain, as trilobite says.

"I was certainly thinking of that, but I've seen nothing to convince me that the McCain Amendment's done a damn thing except to give the Bush Administration something else to ignore"

I think the military has cleaned up its act (not as far as prosecutions etc. but as far as conditions now)--with the possible exception of those sketchy special forces task forces which operated under a separate chain of command; I don't know what they're up to these days. Whether that's a result of the McCain Amendment or of a combo of public scrutiny, Rumsfeld's replacement with Gates, Hamdan etc., or all of the above, is hard to figure. I would guess that other factors mattered more, & I don't think it's near sufficient--like I said, I refuse to grade McCain on a curve.

And yes: part of the reason he's been of even limited use of these issues is that he speaks with incredible authority as a Republican & torture victim. So when he calls waterboarding torture, that has much more effect than when other Senators do so. But when he won't call other "enhanced" techniques torture, or when he supports the MCA, or when he votes against any sort of investigation, that also has much more effect. McCain was in a better position than any other Senator to do something about this stuff. But it would have probably cost him the nomination to be really effective, so...

[...] Gary, I answered with policies that were adopted.
Indeed. I look forward, next time you ask me a question, to also replying with non-sequiturs, and including that which you specifically ask me to exclude, since that makes sense in your world.

Just ignore what you're asked, and answer entirely different questions! It makes everything so much simpler!

When you criticize someone, use a total and complete double-standard, as well! It saves having to be intellectually consistent or honest in any way at all! It's great!

But don't worry, I'll be happy to take this up with you again tonight, or tomorrow, or Friday, or over the weekend, or next week, or whenever you have more time.

von: Although it was no secret that McCain was unhappy with Rumsfeld, McCain never took that step.

Then I'd argue that this proves my point: for all his fancy rhetoric, McCain's done nothing to actually impede the Bush Administration and has quite possibly been one of their staunchest allies in defanging the opposition. I don't know whether this has been a deliberate effort -- I think it wasn't with Rumsfeld, but it was with habeas corpus; YMMV -- but it's certainly nothing to be proud of.

Nice post, Hilzoy.

There are times when I think the Republican leadership is most productively understood as a cell of Soviet agents who have remained true to the Stalinist cause despite the collapse of communism in the Motherland. In this interpretive framework, McCain is occupying a familiar niche: there are precedents under both Maoism and Stalinism for the endorsed apparent dissenter, who coopts more fundamental grievances and guides it all back to the Party's policies.

As I blogged here:

If you think journalism, or anything even remotely approaching it, is Chris Matthews’ job, you must not watch him very much. He’s not paid to know anything, or to fact check anything, or to engage in anything like what we’d call journalism. He’s paid to stir up shit, and lately, he’s been pretty good at it. I’m not saying it’s right mind you, but to overuse the cliche of the year, it is what it is.

tgirsch: yeah, I know, but a girl can dream...

Indeed. I look forward, next time you ask me a question, to also replying with non-sequiturs, and including that which you specifically ask me to exclude, since that makes sense in your world.

Just ignore what you're asked, and answer entirely different questions! It makes everything so much simpler!

Gary, to your original point, I identified two very prominent McCain legislative achievements (three if you include McCain's involvement in the Democrats bill regarding torture*) that you somehow forgot.

I also included policies that, while not strictly legislative achievements, were significant. I do not accept the premise that only legislative victories "count" in this. Because I do not accept the premise of your question -- indeed, I think it quite wrongheaded -- you're undoubtably dissatisfied with my answer. And that's fine. I'm not interested in answering your questions; I'm interest in answering (and debating) the relevant questions.

To your charge of hypocrispy, it was Hilzoy who set out to prove that Obama had substance via examination of this legislative record. My argument was that Obama does not deserve primary credit for the achievements she prominently features. That's it. Contrary to your charge, my argument does not equate to me saying that a non-legislative policy triumpth for Obama does not count. I am not applying one standard to Obama and a different one to McCain.

Indeed, if Obama had non-legislative policy triumpths, as McCain has had, it's certainly relevant to assessing his impact and effectiveness. But neither Hilzoy, nor anyone else, has pointed to one (yet). You even go further in your implications in your criticism of me: you seem to endorse the false belief that a triumpth only counts if it's a legislative one. Again, I don't accept that.

"Because I do not accept the premise of your question -- indeed, I think it quite wrongheaded "

That's fascinating, because all I'm doing is using precisely the premise you've used for Obama. All I've done is ask you to use identical terms. I used your own words. Go back and look.

But thanks for your evaluation. I won't argue with your objections and criticisms of your premise.

Your objections to Hilzoy's criteria (which specifies only passed bills, for the reasons she explained) started with mentioning the work of a Senator if the Senator is "involved, but the clear point person in the Senate has been [another Senator]."

Support for a bill that is "fleeting and political" doesn't count, you say, and in such cases, a Senator "deserves some credit for stepping forward, but don't let [Senator X]-worship distort history."

A Senator who co-sponsors a bill "deserves credit for studying the issue and coming to the sensible conclusion that [the other Senator] is correct, but do you really think that this initiative is [Senator X]'s to claim? Really really?"

"But people are saying that his legislative record is thin because, well, it is thin."

Your list of passed bill that are ideas original to McCain, are... sorry, could you list them again, please?

"I am not applying one standard to Obama and a different one to McCain."

Fine. I look forward to the same list as regards McCain, which demonstates the richness of his legislative achievements as regards ideas that were solely his. The same standard you complain Obama doesn't live up to. That's all.

Go for it. Demonstrate how non-thin McCain is here for all of us, so that we may weep in shame that we ever doubted.

Nice pitch for Obama, but it wasn't Chris Matthew's job.

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Whatnot


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