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September 12, 2008

Comments

Tiger Woods has a golf coach.

You read my mind, Antid. ;P

See, having advisors is just what serious people who want to succeed do. You damn well better believe Michael Phelps had a swimming coach as well.

You don't have coaches or foreign policy advisors because you're ignorant or untalented. You have them because it's vitally important, no matter how naturally good you are or how much experience you've got under your belt, to have an outside, objective observer to give a second opinion. Everyone needs a reality check sometimes. Obama understands this, McCain clearly doesn't.

The links to the American Footprint don't work.

The author makes some reasonable points: certainly, there is fault to be found in McCain's decision-making process. It's not the same faults that exist in Bush's decision-making process or Cheney's decision-making process -- but McCain can surely be hasty.

On the other hand, I'm not comfortable with Obama on FP. His (three different) responses on Georgia were not impressive. His declaration that it should be the stated policy of the United States to go after OBL in Pakistan -- Pakistani approval be damned -- is reckless and irresponsible. Of course we will cross the Pakistani border if it suits our interests: we done so in the past. But witness the Pakistani reaction to those events as well. Not good for our interests. Making our de facto our de jure policy as well is an aggressive, and aggressively stupid idea.

For me, Biden does not improve the mix. He wildly inconsistent and shoot from the hip practicioner* -- which, striking, is also McCain's main fault. His plan for a hard (intentional) partition of Iraq garned Senate support, but is, in my opinion, foolish. His claim that the current soft (de facto) partition of Iraq is the same thing and validates his premise makes the same error that Obama made with respect to Pakistan.

Indeed, there's a difference in stating a policy and allowing a policy to happen. On that point, at least, Obama and Biden share a fault that McCain does not.

By the way, if you're asking yourself who is the central star in von's constellation of foreign policy gurus, the answer is Sen. Lugar.

Wow: High percentage of typos in the above post by me. Fixed as follows:

The author makes some reasonable points: certainly, there are faults to be found in McCain's decision-making process. They are not the same faults that exist in Bush's decision-making process or Cheney's decision-making process -- but McCain can surely be hasty.

On the other hand, I'm not comfortable with Obama's approach to FP. His (three different) responses on Georgia were not impressive. His declaration that it should be the stated policy of the United States to go after OBL in Pakistan -- Pakistani approval be damned -- is reckless and irresponsible. Of course we will cross the Pakistani border if it suits our interests: we have done so in the past. But witness the Pakistani reaction to those events as well: Not good for our interests. Making our de facto policy our de jure policy is an aggressive, and aggressively stupid, idea.

For me, Biden does not improve the mix. He is a wildly inconsistent and shoot from the hip practicioner* -- which, strikingly, is also McCain's main fault. Biden's plan for a hard (intentional) partition of Iraq garnered Senate support, but is, in my opinion, foolish. His current claim that the present soft (de facto) partition of Iraq is the same thing as his proposal and validates his premise is even more foolish. Biden makes the same error that Obama made with respect to Pakistan: There's a difference in stating a policy and allowing a policy to happen. On that point, at least, Obama and Biden share a fault that McCain does not.

von

*For example, Biden opposed the first gulf war, supported the second, now opposes the second, supported the intervention in Bosnia .... he's all over the map.

von: Making our de facto our de jure policy as well is an aggressive, and aggressively stupid idea.

Coming from someone who supports McCain's Presidency, this is a trifle absurd: you have no problem with naked aggression and aggressive stupidity coming from McCain or Palin, on far less justifiable grounds than "if we know where Osama bin Laden is, we'll send in a SWAT team to arrest him".

I like Lugar too.

His declaration that it should be the stated policy of the United States to go after OBL in Pakistan -- Pakistani approval be damned -- is reckless and irresponsible

This is Bush's actual policy you know. I'm not saying that I like it, but McCain hasn't criticized Bush on this.

I think you make far too much about the difference between saying we'll do this, and then doing it. As opposed to saying that we won't do this, and then doing it.

The difference for Pakistan is...nothing. In fact, one could plausibly argue that by McCain criticizing the policy as reckless and irresponsible, and then doint it himself (assuming), we further erode our credibility.

Coming from someone who supports McCain's Presidency, this is a trifle absurd: you have no problem with naked aggression and aggressive stupidity coming from McCain or Palin, on far less justifiable grounds than "if we know where Osama bin Laden is, we'll send in a SWAT team to arrest him".

Jes, the idea is that you state a policy when you want and intend the effects of that stated policy. It's not always inappropriate to state an aggressive policy -- but it is inappropriate with respect to Pakistan. Wildly so.

Again, there's a difference in stating a policy and allowing a policy to happen. You need to be able to distinguish the two. On that point, at least, Obama and Biden share a fault that McCain does not.

His declaration that it should be the stated policy of the United States to go after OBL in Pakistan -- Pakistani approval be damned -- is reckless and irresponsible.

von, just FYI, my wife (who is of Pakistani descent) used to feel as you do. She went to an Obama fundraiser and told him that (while he was walking in and shaking hands) and, much to his credit, he turned around, walked back to her and engaged her in an actual policy discussion. I'm not sure if he changed her mind, but he certainly was much more effective than I have been.

Now, granted, this was not a hostile environment, but by the same token, it would have been perfectly acceptable for Obama to just walk away and continue with his meet-n-greets. I have trouble seeing McCain or Palin or Bush doing something like that. Just food for thought.

The difference for Pakistan is...nothing. In fact, one could plausibly argue that by McCain criticizing the policy as reckless and irresponsible, and then doint it himself (assuming), we further erode our credibility.

It's important to the Pakistanis, who are now once again experimenting with their peculiar brand of highly dysfunctional democracy. There are a number of currents in Pakistani politics, and we need to be cautious about which currents we favor (and whom we give cover to) in making our pronouncements.

In fact Tiger Woods relies quite heavily on advice from his golf coaches.

Now, granted, this was not a hostile environment, but by the same token, it would have been perfectly acceptable for Obama to just walk away and continue with his meet-n-greets. I have trouble seeing McCain or Palin or Bush doing something like that. Just food for thought.

I agree as to Bush and Palin, but not McCain. McCain's made his career by appearing at town hall meetings, and routinely gets (and responds to) hostile questions.

Look, McCain's foreign policy isn't a perfect match for me. But Lugar is not in the running.

I just see a common thread here: Biden sometimes comes to the same (and sometimes different) conclusions as McCain, but he shares one of McCain's main faults. He's famously shoot-from-the-hip.

Oh, and thanks for the thoughts, Turbulence.

Unfortunately, work now calls, so I won't see further comments until this evening or tomorrow.

Any insight into the present incursions into Pakistan? It seems like he's actually trying to screw McCain, if he believes that there are any Americans who notice this, or perhaps, given the state of election coverage, people will think it's like some sweet and sour mix.

His declaration that it should be the stated policy of the United States to go after OBL in Pakistan -- Pakistani approval be damned -- is reckless and irresponsible.

I should also say: why? Do you think any country in the world believes that the US would refrain from attacking or seizing Osama if we knew with certainty that he was in Pakistan? Of course not. So the real question is what is to be gained by telling the world an obvious lie? I mean, after all we've done, do we really have to insult the intelligence of everyone else on Earth by telling such ridiculous lies? Can't we at least be honest?

The US has always claimed the right to act in its own interests with force whenever and wherever it wanted. Now, obvoiusly, any sane President is going to weigh the pros and cons of any particular intervention, but to pretend that interventions are just off the table is silly. What matters a great deal more than the verbalization of something that everyone already knows is how we direct the billions of dollars we pump into Pakistan and what we say about their government and people that is not widely known. I'm pretty conservative in the sense that I think words pale in comparison to how you swing around a few billion dollars in cash every year.

Oh, and thanks for the thoughts, Turbulence.

Tis my pleasure. I'm only sad that no one was able to record the exchange.

It's important to the Pakistanis, who are now once again experimenting with their peculiar brand of highly dysfunctional democracy. There are a number of currents in Pakistani politics, and we need to be cautious about which currents we favor (and whom we give cover to) in making our pronouncements.

Wait, are you really making the argument that actually bombing/conducting raids into Pakistan is less damaging to our Pakistani political allies than saying that we have the right to do this?

Policy I: The US government under Bush has repeatedly launched missile strikes and, more recently, cross border raids into Pakistan. McCain has endorsed these actions.

Policy II: Obama said that the US should have the ability to do the above if it had actionable and reliable intel about bin Laden's whereabouts in Pakistan.

You're saying that Policy I is not reckless, but Policy II is? Because Policy II would affect Pakistani politics, but Policy I wouldn't? Affect it more?

Von,

Pakistanis are not idiots. They're not going to take comfort in the fact that a leader such as McCain says that it would be reckless to do Policy I but then does Policy I. They will not react better to his implementation of Policy I than Obama because Obama let it be known what to expect.

Interesting post but you are focused on what is essentially a minor issue in the upcoming election. The only issue that matters is the economy.

In that regard McCain really showed better judgement than did Obama in his pick of VPs.

The American people are comfortable that McCain can handle the national defense issues. But it was the economic issues they were unsure on. Now with the pick of Palin McCain shows that he is on the same side as the people. Drill for oil. Reduce oil costs. Open up ANWAR.

Drill, drill, drill. That will win McCain the election. I am sure of it. Americans are going to vote for lower gasoline prices by voting for McCain/Palin.

Obama has no bold counter to this. He could stand strong on some liberal issue like supporting home ownership. That would give him a chance to win but he already has weasled his way away from supporting the GSEs. And there is nothing left that the people can readily understand beyond the availability of cheap 30Y mortgages that was made possible by FNM and FRE.

Obama needs to lead on a liberal economc policy that makes sense and that Americans can see will help them.

California, with the failure of Countrywide, IndyBank and the potential closing of Downey S&L and Washington Mutual may actually go to McCain as well. These are earth shaking events that put huge numbers of Californians financial health in jepordy. If Obama offers no solution to this then at least McCain offers the Golden State cheaper gasoline.

Clinton (both of them) understood the importance of concrete economic policies that have real impact on peoples lives. Obama doesn't seem to get it. His appeal to his own biography is meaningless to people in trouble financially. And Biden is even worse than Obama on this. Does anyone really think Biden connects with the American people?

Obama had the chance to show good judgement by picking Hilary Clinton as his running mate but he could not bring himself to even consider someone who outshines him, particularly on economic issues. That should tell you all you need to know about how flawed his juedgement will be if elected.

Making our de facto policy our de jure policy is an aggressive, and aggressively stupid, idea.

Yes, much better to have our de facto policy be the oppostie of our de jure policy. Which does wonders for democracy and an informed citizenry.

Cf. Torture, we do not.

Not only that Ugh, but this from John "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" McCain and Sarah "War with Russia" Palin.

Drill for oil. Reduce oil costs. Open up ANWAR.

Drill, drill, drill. That will win McCain the election. I am sure of it. Americans are going to vote for lower gasoline prices by voting for McCain/Palin

But drilling won't reduce oil costs. Drilling won't lower gasoline prices.

Obama had the chance to show good judgement by picking Hilary Clinton as his running mate but he could not bring himself to even consider someone who outshines him, particularly on economic issues. That should tell you all you need to know about how flawed his juedgement will be if elected.

Um, Ken, Hillary opposes drilling in ANWR too. You know that right? Then why would you write this? I'm starting to think you're letting your bitterness cloud your judgment.

California, with the failure of Countrywide, IndyBank and the potential closing of Downey S&L and Washington Mutual may actually go to McCain as well.

I'm willing to wager anything you like on that. Name your stakes. Seriously. Anything.

Drill, drill, drill. That will win McCain the election. I am sure of it. Americans are going to vote for lower gasoline prices by voting for McCain/Palin.

Only if the American people are completely out of touch with reality:

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=09&year=2008&base_name=your_world_in_charts_drill_bab

I do not normally write on Pakistan, but: of all the people in the world who are not the least confused about what our actual, as opposed to stated, policy on Pakistan is, they top the list.

They know we do incursions. They know we will go on doing them. They need someone in the White House who will treat them and their democratic institutions with respect. They do not believe the present administration has done so (see Musharraf, blank check for.) Insofar as it's possible to try to mitigate the damage done to our relations with Pakistan over the last 8 years -- a matter on which I am agnostic -- it will take someone who cares about good governance in countries like Pakistan, and doesn't just treat them like a chess piece, to be moved around at will.

Also, someone who is much more serious about Afghanistan than the Bush administration has ever been. We have let all these problems spiral out of control and metastasize and combine in horrible ways. We need to deal with them all.

Also, someone who's intelligent, and has an ability to prioritize, and doesn't patronize.

Only if the American people are completely out of touch with reality:

Yes? That's not much of an "if" when it comes to world affairs and economics....

Not only that Ugh, but this from John "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" McCain and Sarah "War with Russia" Palin.

Yeah, I was thinking about that when I read this part of von's comment (emphasis added):

There are a number of currents in Pakistani politics, and we need to be cautious about which currents we favor (and whom we give cover to) in making our pronouncements.

Cause if you're looking for cautious then McCain/Palin is what you want.

I'm starting to think you're letting your bitterness cloud your judgment.

If Hillary abandoned you, McCain played you for a chump, and the media's been ignoring your calls since the DNC ended, you'd be bitter too.

Eric, Hilary may have been against ANWR but she won over voters because she was able to point to policy after policy where ever she went that had direct impact on peoples lives in positive ways. The point wasn't about ANWR per se, the point is about policies people understand and benefit them.

I wonder if you are so blinded by your infatuation with Obama that you cannot see this.

Even McCain has been against drilling in ANWR. But Palin is all for it. That changes the dynamics.

And Eric, drilling for more oil will in fact reduce the prices of oil over what they would have been without drilling. It may even reduce the price of oil in absolute terms if demand stabilizes. If demand reduces then drilling will accelerate the reduction in oil prices. All of these are well understood and desired by the American people.

The question, however, is one of judgement between how McCain and Obama picked their VPs.

You must see that the economy is going to be the deciding issue. Right?

And as far as picking a VP that is in tune with the people on this issue compare Biden and Palin. It's Palin hands down. And this is because of the oil issue.

As for California: you have no clue. I talk to tradesmen almost every day. Oil and the economy is the only issue they care about. People are losing homes, gasoline costs are too high, retail sales are way down, Christmas season is approaching. You better believe that McCain has a chance here if Obama does not offer some concrete alternative to McCains promise of lower gasoline costs.

Don't kid yourself into thinking that Californians are going to vote for Obama because of his biography. That may work when nothing is at risk. But now? Now that is just not enough.

there is fault to be found in McCain's decision-making process. It's not the same faults that exist in Bush's decision-making process or Cheney's decision-making process

Nonsense. Not taking advise from experts (unless they're lobbyists for the postions you agree with) is EXACTLY the same fault as with Bush and Cheney. McCain has said he doesn't need economic advice, and now his foreign policy advisor said that he doesn't need FP advice.

How much more like Bubble Boy can you get?

Seriously, what is there about McCain, who has shown he has no sense, not courage of convictions and no honor, that you like? Why keep defending this piece of slime?

It may even reduce the price of oil in absolute terms if demand stabilizes. If demand reduces then drilling will accelerate the reduction in oil prices.

This is ridiculous. Oil is traded on the global market so the relevant variable is global demand, not national demand. There's no way that global demand is going to go down or stabilize. If nothing else, population growth and developing economies will ensure that.

I wonder if you are so blinded by your infatuation with Obama that you cannot see this.

Um, Ken, I voted for Hillary. I was, and am, a frequent and vocal supporter of her. She was my first choice. Obama was my second. McCain is my 450,989th choice.

And Eric, drilling for more oil will in fact reduce the prices of oil over what they would have been without drilling. It may even reduce the price of oil in absolute terms if demand stabilizes. If demand reduces then drilling will accelerate the reduction in oil prices. All of these are well understood and desired by the American people.

Ken, what you don't understand is that the amount of oil in question is so small that the price will only be effected in negligible amounts. The studies done by the non-partisan groups predicts a reduction of a bout a nickel per barrel of oil - 20 years from now!

In terms of gas prices, that may lower gas by about a penny a gallon.

As for California: you have no clue. I talk to tradesmen almost every day. Oil and the economy is the only issue they care about. People are losing homes, gasoline costs are too high, retail sales are way down, Christmas season is approaching. You better believe that McCain has a chance here if Obama does not offer some concrete alternative to McCains promise of lower gasoline costs.

But McCain is lying if he's saying lower gas prices any time during the next decade from drilling!!! LYING!!!!

What the heck does Christmas 2008 have to do with a nickel off the price of a barrel in 2025?

Don't kid yourself into thinking that Californians are going to vote for Obama because of his biography. That may work when nothing is at risk. But now? Now that is just not enough.

I repeat my proposition. Name the stakes. Bottle of scotch? $50 to a charity of the winner's choice?

there is fault to be found in McCain's decision-making process. It's not the same faults that exist in Bush's decision-making process or Cheney's decision-making process

When you get a chance, von, can you elaborate on the differences between McCain and Bush/Cheney here? Can you also verify that you're talking about McCain pre-Schmidt and/or post-Schmidt?

But drilling won't reduce oil costs. Drilling won't lower gasoline prices.

You know that. I know that. But an awful lot of people don't. There's this little timing problem -- it'll be ten years before ANWR oil could get to market.

The oil companies have lots of drilling leases that they're not using -- let them drill first where they've already got permission.

Eric, more on California

I was in a very high end mall yesterday. Went into over a dozen shops looking for b-day gifts for my son. In several of them, where I actually made a purchase, I talked at some length with the salesperson. Without exception each one of them gave me confirmation that things totally suck. Older experienced applicants seeking jobs every day; items only move when put on sale; commission cuts; no return for cash, exchange only on sale items; this is the situation on the ground here in California. One young man, a shift manager, told me he thought it was the worst economy since the great depression (not that he would actually know).

California is without a budget. The Democratic controlled legislature wants to raise taxes intead of cutting back on spending.

In short, Eric, nothing that is happening in California is good for Obama unless he can give the people more than some ephemeral promise of change. He needs to make it concrete like McCain has on the oil issue.

Obama has already lost Pennsylvenia, Ohio, and Florida. He just may lose California as well.

Von:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Sen. Richard Lugar, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, congratulated Barack Obama for his choice of running mate Saturday.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., is chairman of the committee. Lugar did say he was disappointed Evan Bayh, who also represents Indiana in the Senate, did not get the nod, Gannett News Service reported.

"I congratulate Sen. Barack Obama on his selection of my friend," Lugar said of Biden. "I have enjoyed for many years the opportunity to work with Joe Biden to bring strong bipartisan support for United States
foreign policy."

I'm sure you'll say this is pro forma. So find me Lugar's pro forma statement congratulating Palin.

Oh, right: he hasn't made one.

Incidentally. And. McCain on Lugar.

For those who missed my pointing it out the other day, and otherwise missed it, let me again point out Dexter Filkin's long Sunday Magazine piece on the Pakistani Taliban-government relationship. If you haven't read it, you should, even if you're well up on the situation.

Be reminded that we're now having firefights between American soldiers and Pakistani border guards, and have for quite some time.

"The studies done by the non-partisan groups predicts a reduction of a bout a nickel per barrel of oil - 20 years from now!"

Studies????

Please don't make me laugh. The market determines the price of oil. Studies... shakes head, rolls eyes.

Please this is too serious a topic to joke about.

And while you may have an acedemic inclination to rely on 'studies' I'd rather look at what happens on the trading desks. I understand trading better than I do 'studies' as traders are, shall we say, reality based. Hmm?


"And Eric, drilling for more oil will in fact reduce the prices of oil over what they would have been without drilling."

Any drilled-for oil only lowers the world price, and you clearly have no idea what the math is, or you couldn't claim with a straight face that Americans would notice the price at the pump, and notice it in the next four years.

I'd also like a piece of the action on that California bet.

And while you may have an acedemic inclination to rely on 'studies' I'd rather look at what happens on the trading desks. I understand trading better than I do 'studies' as traders are, shall we say, reality based.

Ken, the studies are about the amount of oil - not the economic model.

Meaning, if there is only a limited amount of oil there based on the studies, then the trading desk would determine that bringing that small amount of oil to market is only going to have a...small effect on the prices!

This isn't academic theorizing. This is supply and demand. The supply from drilling is small. Therefore, the effect on price will be...small!!!!

[Shakes head, rolls eyes, slaps forehead]

In short, Eric, nothing that is happening in California is good for Obama unless he can give the people more than some ephemeral promise of change.

Are you serious?

Dude, go to his website.

Go read an article.

Obama is offering, amongst other things:

1. Tax cuts for 95% of Americans.
2. Health insurance for all Americans.
3. Tuition breaks
4. Job creation plan
5. Much, much more.

http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/

Re drill drill drill for oil I said:

" It may even reduce the price of oil in absolute terms if demand stabilizes. If demand reduces then drilling will accelerate the reduction in oil prices."

Turbulance rejoinder: "This is ridiculous."

You know Turb, we are supposed to be on the same side. But what is it with certain liberals like yourself who scorn policies that benefit working men and women, families, industry, farmers, shopkeepers, tradesmen municipalities, and every other sector of our society just because it also stands to profit someone you don't like?

I really do not understand how liberals can hold to this kind of arrogant elitism.

It is why we lose elections.

"I understand trading better than I do 'studies' as traders are, shall we say, reality based."

Yes, I believe you don't understand "studies" or "math" or "facts." It seems quite clear. The price will go down significantly via magic.

Because wishful thinking beats math.

[...] But the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an independent statistical agency within the Department of Energy, concluded that new oil from ANWR would lower the world price of oil by no more than $1.44 per barrel—and possibly have as little effect as 41 cents per barrel—and would have its largest impact nearly 20 years from now if Congress voted to open the refuge today.

[...]

EIA said its projection is that ANWR oil production would amount to 0.4 percent to 1.2 percent of total world oil consumption in 2030. The figure is low enough that OPEC could neutralize any price impact by decreasing supplies to match the additional production from Alaska, EIA noted.

Ken knows better, because he can cite his magical talking rear end.

"But what is it with certain liberals like yourself who scorn policies that benefit working men and women, families, industry, farmers, shopkeepers, tradesmen municipalities, and every other sector of our society just because it also stands to profit someone you don't like?"

Yes, why don't you like Obama's substance? Why do you favor imaginary benefits like drilling?

You know Turb, we are supposed to be on the same side.

I don't think Turb's a Republican.

Eric, do you really think the American people are that dumb?

Isn't a small decrease in the price of oil that can be had by a policy of drill drill drill still a drop in the price of oil? By definition you have to say yes.

So what the F is your point?

This is another example of the gob smacking stupid elitism that so called liberals are using to give liberalism a bad name.

Do you know how many average everyday people shop at WalMart or clip coupons just to save a few pennies?

To you this may not mean anything, but can you not put yourself in the place of the millions of Americas who actually have to work hard to make a living and whose financial security, even in good times, is uncertain?

If you could honestly do that you could see where saving money on gasoline is vastly more important to them than is the idea of having a black man in the white house.

Gary Farber, did you read what you quoted?

If you did you will see that drilling reduces the price of oil. Even the 'studies' say so.

Thank you.

Better trolls please. ken bores me.

To you this may not mean anything, but can you not put yourself in the place of the millions of Americas who actually have to work hard to make a living and whose financial security, even in good times, is uncertain?

Do you know my economic condition? Did you grow up in my house? I don't remember seeing you there, but perhaps you can remind me. Which one were you again? What makes you think I'm elitist or rich?

Isn't a small decrease in the price of oil that can be had by a policy of drill drill drill still a drop in the price of oil? By definition you have to say yes.

My F ing point is that a tiny drop in the price of gas 20 years from now is not a drop in the price of gas by Christmas. Or the next 19 Christmases in fact.

My other F ing point is that Obama's energy plan will reduce the price of gas much more - or create cheaper alternatives - than drill drill drill will. Especially using the 20 year horizon.

It is precisely because I care about hard working people, because I come from hard working people and because I have empathy that makes me support Obama.

If you could honestly do that you could see where saving money on gasoline is vastly more important to them than is the idea of having a black man in the white house.

Ahhhh. A confession Ken?

ken: civility.

Biden, who was central in selling the Iraq war, is supposed to make us comfortable about Obama's foreign policy? This is ridiculous.

With the selection of Palin, McCain is sending a clear message: I don’t need help, I have the answers; just put me into the White House.

This rings very true, especially with that Tiger Woods line.

re novakant: DNFT[C]T

Please this is too serious a topic to joke about.

So stop joking about it.

Ken says: "Drill, drill, drill. That will win McCain the election. I am sure of it. Americans are going to vote for lower gasoline prices by voting for McCain/Palin."

Those who buy that fairy tale may regret it when after election day they discover that, according to Bush's Energy Dept, drilling in US-controlled land and water today won't affect oil prices until 2030. And because of the relative the small amount of crude reserves in U.S. territory, the impact on world oil supply won't nudge oil prices by more than a few pennies a gallon.

But McCain may really believe it will work, because Palin is his energy expert. McCain actually said (with a straight face, as far as I know), "She knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America."

McCain reminds me of a number of incompetent managers I've observed in the private sector. They make lousy personnel decisions, because they feel threatened by competent staffers.

Isn't a small decrease in the price of oil that can be had by a policy of drill drill drill still a drop in the price of oil? By definition you have to say yes.

Look, over the last five years oil prices have swung by about $110 a barrel, the effect of additional drilling would be dwarfed by other factors. We've already seen a 30% drop from this summer's high so a dollar or two in 20 years or so doesn't seem terribly compelling.

That's assuming that oil companies would actually increase drilling substantially if more off-shore leases were available and that's far from certain. I'm sure we'll revisit the idea in a few years but right now I don't think it would change anything.

Californians should be able to see particularly clearly that kicking the can down the road for a few more years while Europe, etc. are aggressively supporting alternative energy development will only ensure that we're years behind the curve in the next big technological revolution.

No, I don't think Californians who are worried about their jobs are going to be swayed by this in large numbers, they know what the engine of job creation has been in their state.

As a Californian who agrees that things currently suck really badly under a Republican governor and a Republican President, I'm intrigued by Ken's theory that this makes Californians really want to vote for more Republicans. Not really a mystery where he's coming from, though. There is a clearly defined group of people who think the Democrats are responsible for the current budget problems: that group is the little gaggle of obstructionist lunatics who represent the Republican party in the state legislature, and the constituents of their gerrymandered districts. And, I guess, people who for whatever reason are still fans of Arnold.

I'm still waiting for some kind of explanation from Ken of the cognitive leap that he sees voters taking, the one that goes from "We've had a Republican president for the last 8 years, and the economy's a mess" to "Clearly, we need another Republican president to improve the economy."

But never mind; after reading this

To you this may not mean anything, but can you not put yourself in the place of the millions of Americas who actually have to work hard to make a living and whose financial security, even in good times, is uncertain?

I'm more inclined to agree with Turbulence, and just call a troll a troll.

Ken, you'd be taken more seriously if you at least made the effort not to recite Republican talking points in your discussions with your "fellow liberals."

Eric, do you know how long it takes to build a house? From inception to completion?

Long time, right?

If the American people had a housing shortage and prices where going up do you think any of them would think that by this Christmas the problem would be solved? They know that it won't be solved by this Christas or the one after that or the one after that. It might take a decade of building to solve as serious housing shortage.

Same with oil.

Your assumption that people are too stupid to know the connection between drill drill drill and when the problem is solved is mind boggling arrogant.

And futhermore what the Ameican people know is that without drilling prices will certainly go up even faster than they have already. That's true right? Supply and demand and all? It's even in the 'studies'. (The market however responds a lot faster than acedemic studies can ever predict.)

So McCain offers a policy of drill drill drill. The American people do not need you to explain to them how stupid this policy is. They know the policy a good one, one that will reduce the price of gasoline.

So what is Obama's plan to help people where it hurts? No one knows what he stands for except some change which no one cares about unless it is specific to their needs.

I don't know you Eric or anyone else here except by what is written. I know I come off as 'bitter' and as a 'troll' (whatever that means) to a few people here cause I've been told that I do.

Well trust me. You and most of the regulars here come off as liberal elitists. If you can live with that then fine. But our party cannot win elections with that attitude. In fact, we don't deserve to win with that attitude.

Gotta go now to get my son. Have a great weekend.


Uh...or rather, what Hob said. 8^)

ken's been a fan of pie for a long long time.

So McCain offers a policy of drill drill drill. The American people do not need you to explain to them how stupid this policy is. They know the policy a good one, one that will reduce the price of gasoline.

Ken, would it help if Hillary explained it to you?

You know Hillary is against drill drill drill right?

If Hillary is against, it, why? Is she an elitist? Does she not care?

Your analogies were great and all, except they weren't analogous. Your derision for "studies" is just typical GOP anti-science. Worse in some ways, because you are deliberately ignoring the subject matter and conclusions of the cited studies.

Gary linked to them upthread.

Again, slowly, the studies concerned the amount of oil. The studies did not concern supply and demand.

The studies say there is not enough oil to real move oil prices, and the small movement will only occur 20 years down the road.

Obama's policies will lower oil prices more dramatically over that period of time than McCain.

That is not elitist. That is true.

So what is Obama's plan to help people where it hurts? No one knows what he stands for except some change which no one cares about unless it is specific to their needs.

The plan is hidden in plain sight on his website. He also cleverly hides it in the middle of his stump speech. He hid it at his convention speech right in the middle as well.

If you are sincerely interested, and not just trolling, go read about his plan and let's debate the ACTUAL merits.

I'd be more than willing to do that with you Ken, but not if you simply ignore empirical facts and twist my arguments around. That's a waste of everybody's time.

And contrary to what you think, yes, I work hard every day to make a living. Despite my Paris Hilton persona.

Same with oil.

Um, no.

Stop making jokes. This is too serious an issue.


I don't know you Eric or anyone else here except by what is written. I know I come off as 'bitter' and as a 'troll' (whatever that means) to a few people here cause I've been told that I do.

For what it's worth (which may not be much), after reading that last couple of days worth of ken's comments regarding economic issues, I'm convinced that he is not a troll, nor a GOP sockpuppet in disguise.

I think he is arguing from passionate conviction, and despite some obvious anger he never lapses into giveaway mannerisms (like "Democrat party") which GOP trolls are prone to use. I believe him, although I do not agree with him on many issues and more specifically his very strong personal antipathy towards Obama in particular.

Moreover, ken is bringing up a very valid political point that is getting lost and overlooked in the rush to mock his views on policy: politics is tribalism, as much if not more so than it is about policy.

If Democrats want to win elections more regularly, and want to win this election in particular, then they need to do a better job of understanding that for a pretty large chunk of the electorate the key question is not: what is your position regarding policy issue X (whatever X may be)?

It is: whose side are you on???!??!!!

The drilling issue is one of those issues - the policy details don't matter to a lot of people. All they know or care about is that there are two kinds of Americans - people who are hurting due to gas prices, and people who are not.

And what they want to know is: which side are you on?

The actual mechanics of the various policy proposals are just noise to them, if the candidate does not articulate them in a way which clearly signals which side he/she is on.

Bill Clinton understood this very well and used it with some effectiveness against the GOP - so I can understand ken's frustration and anger that Obama is not doing a good job in this area.

I would prefer that he (Obama) find a way to connect with these voters without lying to them by proposing solutions which are patently false (in the sense that he knows going in that they will most certainly not work), but he needs to find some way to connect with tribal voters, or he is going to lose this election. Not in California, but in Michigan and Colorado and New Mexico and Florida and Ohio.

At this point if what it takes to keep Sarah "bomb, bomb, bomb Russia" Palin out of the White House is some drill rigs off the coast and in Alaska, then I'm all for drilling.

Because larger things are at stake here.

And futhermore what the Ameican people know is that without drilling prices will certainly go up even faster than they have already. That's true right? Supply and demand and all? It's even in the 'studies'. (The market however responds a lot faster than acedemic studies can ever predict.)

Jeebus Ken. There's not enough oil to really affect prices. That's supply and demand. Regardless of how fast the market responds.

And FOR THE LAST TIME: the studies make no predictions on the quickness of market response time. They make predictions on the amount of oil available.

Even lightening fast markets don't make oil magically appear.

that group is the little gaggle of obstructionist lunatics who represent the Republican party in the state legislature, and the constituents of their gerrymandered districts. And, I guess, people who for whatever reason are still fans of Arnold.

The Repugs in the Statehouse have no need to compromise -- they're getting what they want: every day more and more small clinics are having to close. Why negotiate -- they can kill poor people without getting their suits dirty.

Moreover, ken is bringing up a very valid political point that is getting lost and overlooked in the rush to mock his views on policy: politics is tribalism, as much if not more so than it is about policy.

No, ken is not bringing up any valid political points. He might be demonstrating one, but that's hardly the same. Maybe ken is honest and heartfelt, but I'm not sure he represents any significant number of people. I mean, millions of Americans will choose to vote for essentially stupid pointless non-policy based reasons just like they do every year, but so what? We don't have much ability to predict what random intellectual floatsum will move these millions of voters and indeed, it seems doubtful that there is any one thing that moves most of them.

If the election hinges on people like ken, then Obama has already lost because there is nothing that Obama can do that will satisfy ken. It is no longer about Obama versus McCain: ken has developed an entire mythology about people who support Obama which is why he keeps commenting here despite getting proved wrong again and again. Obama could get on national tv and announce he's going to run with every single one of ken's little policy ideas and thank him by name, but ken still wouldn't change his mind. After all, the only people who support Obama are those who despise working class Americans, so even if Obama said all the right words, he's still the candidate of the America-haters (hi!) and thus must be lying.

This is the problem in trying to convince large numbers of irrational people to vote for you: you can't effectively plan for how to do it. Yes, Obama has to convince people in general that he's looking out for them, but he talks about that in every single speech, in every single media appearance, and almost every ad. There are some people for whom that will be enough, but for the others, I don't see any reasonable thing that Obama can do to convince them.

Not to pile on to ken too much, but I would be interested to learn just HOW many of those bummed-out California workers he spoke to in the mall thought that the answer to their economic woes lay in voting for McCain-Palin/Republicans in general?

I really wonder: I haven't lived in California for 27 years, and yet it still seems like the state Republicans are still stuck, politically, economically and culturally, somewhere around 1928: outside of the aforementioned obstructionism, what are they going to offer the depressed working class?

"iden, who was central in selling the Iraq war, is supposed to make us comfortable about Obama's foreign policy? This is ridiculous."
--Novakant

"re novakant: DNFT[C]T"--Jeff


I think novakant is making a legitimate point, but the troll has hijacked the thread. Some of us see Obama/Biden as the lesser of two evils, but we're not thrilled by Biden's positions. His proposal to divide Iraq was stupid (as I think von said above). Since the guest poster brought up both the war in Lebanon and the trip to Jerusalem, I would like to see some hint that Obama/Biden would be an honest broker between Arabs and Israelis, though of course that's asking for the moon. And Biden was, like HRC, in the prowar camp. I don't want someone bone-ignorant like Palin in or near the White House, but all the same, experience isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Not that I have much more to say on this. It's not like I'm going to vote for McCain because I'm not crazy about Obama/Biden, and third party protest votes (which would do no harm in my state) don't accomplish anything.

Turb,

I'm afraid this is going to be one of those rare times when you and I are in fundamental disagreement. I wish I could agree but I don’t find your chain of logic here very persuasive:


Obama could get on national tv and announce he's going to run with every single one of ken's little policy ideas and thank him by name, but ken still wouldn't change his mind.

I think you just conceded the heart of my argument – politics is tribal for some folks. Now we are just haggling over how many of them there are. Can you really look back at the results of previous elections and claim that this group is negligible in size. Hmmm, let’s see:


Maybe ken is honest and heartfelt, but I'm not sure he represents any significant number of people.

...
I mean, millions of Americans will choose to vote for essentially stupid pointless non-policy based reasons just like they do every year, but so what?

Is it just me, or does your 2nd assertion here contradict the 1st one?

Also, I disagree about the "so what?" part. The "so what?" is that Dems take a pass on this group and concede them en-block to the GOP rather than trying to contest for their votes more effectively. That is a very big upfront advantage, which might have something to do with why the GOP keeps winning. IMHO this group of tribal voters is at least an order of magnitude larger in size than the margin of victory in the last several closely contested elections.


This is the problem in trying to convince large numbers of irrational people to vote for you: you can't effectively plan for how to do it.

Not true. The GOP can and does plan how to get this group. Bill Clinton did a pretty fair job of it too. So did FDR. So it can be done, and not just by being evil or lying.


Yes, Obama has to convince people in general that he's looking out for them, but he talks about that in every single speech, in every single media appearance, and almost every ad. There are some people for whom that will be enough, but for the others, I don't see any reasonable thing that Obama can do to convince them.

What Obama is failing to do is to speak to these voters in meta-language and symbols, rather than in terms of policy. He is doing a great job of being reasonable, but Democrats are going to need to do more than just "hang on tight to their reason", as Perlstein put it in Nixonland. Obama needs to be "one of them" symbolically and not just by advocating for better policies.


We don't have much ability to predict what random intellectual floatsum will move these millions of voters and indeed, it seems doubtful that there is any one thing that moves most of them.

Here's another point where you're missing how the GOP is able win elections.

It doesn't matter if you don't know what will move these voters - you just keep trying all sorts of different things until you find something that clicks with them, and then press it home. You don't need to know ahead of time what it will be.

Turbulence: So the real question is what is to be gained by telling the world an obvious lie?

Voters like von can be comforted that really, they haven't made a scarily stupid choice in deciding to support McCain.

McCain's lie isn't intended to fool Pakistan: it isn't intended to fool anyone. It's a feelgood lie: VonVoters can look at that lie from McCain and tell themselves that because McCain lies to Pakistan about what the US will do if they locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, that makes McCain a big diplomat and Obama stupidly aggressive.

I think novakant is making a legitimate point, but the troll has hijacked the thread.

I based my comment on [a] novakant's previous posts, and [b] the lack of any real content in the current post. So, he may have a point, but posted it as a concern troll.

"based my comment on [a] novakant's previous posts, and [b] the lack of any real content in the current post. So, he may have a point, but posted it as a concern troll."

This makes absolutely no sense to me. He posted a link supporting what he said. I've seen novakant post here and elsewhere and his viewpoint is pretty clear--he doesn't like dictators of the left or the right, human rights violators, or leaders and politicians that launch illegal wars. Biden helped get us into Iraq, so novakant doesn't like him or see why people are enthusiastic about him. (Also, my impression is that novakant isn't an American, but I might be wrong about that.)

I agree with novakant about this. I strongly dislike Biden--I just prefer Obama/Biden to the alternative.

Now we are just haggling over how many of them there are. Can you really look back at the results of previous elections and claim that this group is negligible in size. Hmmm, let’s see:

Wrong. We might be haggling over how many there are IF you had some evidence that most of the group could be moved by the same thing, but there's no reason to believe that. It is quite likely that whatever excites some of the group will antagonize the rest.

Is it just me, or does your 2nd assertion here contradict the 1st one?

I think ken is one of the millions of Americans who vote for stupid pointless reasons, but here's the thing: even if you could persuade ken, whatever you did to persuade him would not work on most of the rest of the group. That's my point: there are lots of people who vote for non-policy reasons, but there is little commonality. Or at the very least, there's no reason to assume that they're all motivated by the same thing. For every ken out there, there are a bunch more people like him who are enraged at the thought that Obama might take their stuff and give it to ordinary people like ken. If you try and make ken happy, they'll revolt.

Also, I disagree about the "so what?" part. The "so what?" is that Dems take a pass on this group and concede them en-block to the GOP rather than trying to contest for their votes more effectively.

This group? This group?! What the heck is this group? Seriously, can you characterize them? What is it that these people have in common besides not voting on policy that makes you think you can reach more than a handful with the same message? And when I say "characterize", I mean provide real data.

That is a very big upfront advantage, which might have something to do with why the GOP keeps winning.

I suppose it might. Or maybe any of a million other explanations. ThatLeftTurn, I have tremendous respect for you, but right now you're pushing a theory with no evidence to back it up; in fact, it is not even a theory -- there's nothing testable here. All you're writing is crystalized fear.

IMHO this group of tribal voters is at least an order of magnitude larger in size than the margin of victory in the last several closely contested elections.

You talk about them as if they constitute a coherent group, but there's no reason to think they do. I mean, just because there exists a set of American voters who have a prime number of body hairs doesn't mean that we can focus messages to that group in more selective ways than we can to the general population.

Not true. The GOP can and does plan how to get this group. Bill Clinton did a pretty fair job of it too. So did FDR. So it can be done, and not just by being evil or lying.

I'm sorry, but I don't see any reason to believe this. If you want to take it on faith, go ahead, but I've already got a church that I like very much. I'd love to see a testable model for electoral outcomes which can be used to guide real strategy development, but I don't think you have the data to justify it. Tell me you have something more than a hunch. Please.

What Obama is failing to do is to speak to these voters in meta-language and symbols, rather than in terms of policy. He is doing a great job of being reasonable, but Democrats are going to need to do more than just "hang on tight to their reason", as Perlstein put it in Nixonland. Obama needs to be "one of them" symbolically and not just by advocating for better policies.

How do you know he's failing to speak to these voters in meta-language and symbols? What precisely is this meta-language? Why should we believe it will be effective?

I'm kind of shocked at this comment ThatLeftTurn...you sound like the devotee of some ancient mystical cult. Obama must go to the pyramids and recite the mystical chants, calling upon the power of the ancient symbols, blah blah blah. I'll be the first to admit that I don't understand the electorate except at the grossest level and I can't predict how they'll vote or explain how to move them, but my ignorance doesn't compel me to build a mystical religious framework to justify my random guesses.

It doesn't matter if you don't know what will move these voters - you just keep trying all sorts of different things until you find something that clicks with them, and then press it home. You don't need to know ahead of time what it will be.

This seems like a really bad strategy in general. Don't know what to do? Well, just keep pushing buttons randomly until something good happens! Can you imagine stepping into the cockpit of a 777 and trying to make it take off by pushing buttons randomly? Or doctors trying to treat patients by perscribing random drugs? This plan usually ends in tears.

You assume that the cost of any failed attempt is low (zero?) but I don't think that's true. Besides, how do you even measure whether or not you're message is effective? How do you disambiguate the effects of your messaging versus whatever McCain is doing that week, versus random fluctuations or media effects? Even if you find something that clicks with "them", how do you know it won't hurt you with another chunk of the electorate? Real world systems don't react independently like that.

"you sound like the devotee of some ancient mystical cult."

Not so much. Going from "meta-language and symbols" to "ancient mystical cult" seems like an entirely unjustified leap, to me.

Where you get "a mystical religious framework" from, I do not see.

Neither does TLTIA have to be able to outline what "precisely is this meta-language" for his hypothesis to have merit.

Whether Ken represents a significant number of similarly thinking voters beats me, as I have trouble telling from what he writes what the heck ken thinks, so I can't speak to how much or little commonality he has with others. But running a national political campaign doesn't have all that much in common with flying a Boeing 777, either.

Eric Martin, Ugh, Hilzoy, Turbulence and others (sorry if I missed anyone) make a sound point: If everyone knows that our de facto policy is to violate Pakistani soveriegnity in pursuit of OBL, what's the problem with stating it? Isn't the damage to Pakistan already done? Isn't the curren policy also disingenuous?

Our current policy is damaging; the goal is not to create more damage. Pakistan democracy is vulnerable to the same cycles and hysterias as any other democracy, including ours. Among other things, every "event" inside Pakistan creates a mini news cycle that favors problematic elements of the Pakistan polis (problematic not only for us, but also, I would argue, for most Pakistanis). An announced policy is an additional, unnecessary "event."

If that was the only problem with Obama's approach, I could probably live with it. But it's not. Policies are limiting and provoke counterpolicies. If we announce a policy, the US electorate expects us to follow through -- perhaps with less consciousness of the effects in Pakistan. Stated policies are limiting in the ways that unstated policies are not.

Moreover, our policy is highly likely to prompt Pakistan to enunciate it's own counterpolicy in response. Right now, we get ad hoc threats and general statements regarding the importants of Pakistani sovereignity. All expected. We need to do everything possible to prevent an "anti-US incursion policy" -- which the Pakistani electorate will expect the Pakistani government and army to follow through on.

The worst case scenario is to "trap" the Pakistani and US governments on a collision course towards a confrontation. By stating a policy on OBL in Pakistan, Obama is taking a big -- and stupid -- step towards walking into that trap.

von: If we announce a policy, the US electorate expects us to follow through

Who is the "we" in that sentence?

I mean, everyone with access to news services knows that if the Bush administration announces a policy, they won't follow through unless it happens to suit them, and they will come up with policies that they never talked about in advance except when they needed to sell them to the voters - warrantless wiretapping, torture of prisoners, invasion of Iraq, abolishing habeus corpus, etc.

And everyone knows - including you, presumably - that if McCain gets into the White House, there will be 8 more years of the same lies. You've never said so explicitly this is exactly what you want: a government you can trust to keep lying to you.

(And I thought you were supporting a pro-torture lying hysteric for President because he supports forced pregnancy and so do you: I didn't realise the confirmed-liar part was actually a positive for you.)

Going from "meta-language and symbols" to "ancient mystical cult" seems like an entirely unjustified leap, to me.

Gary, without some substantiation, "meta-language and symbols" means absolutely nothing: there is no way to know that Obama is not deploying "meta-language and symbols" sufficiently right now (seriously: have you ever seen a single Obama speech devoid of symbolism?) nor is there any way to know what changes will be needed. Finally, there is no reason to think that such deployment will move a decent sized group of voters.

Your point on inferring what ken thinks based on his comments is well taken though.

Von:

Our current policy is damaging; the goal is not to create more damage. Pakistan democracy is vulnerable to the same cycles and hysterias as any other democracy, including ours. Among other things, every "event" inside Pakistan creates a mini news cycle that favors problematic elements of the Pakistan polis (problematic not only for us, but also, I would argue, for most Pakistanis). An announced policy is an additional, unnecessary "event."

If that was the only problem with Obama's approach, I could probably live with it. But it's not. Policies are limiting and provoke counterpolicies. If we announce a policy, the US electorate expects us to follow through -- perhaps with less consciousness of the effects in Pakistan. Stated policies are limiting in the ways that unstated policies are not.

I think this is actually a specific example of a perennial dilemma in foreign policy. On a day-to-day basis, it's certainly true that national security and diplomatic officials in democracies are frequently exasperated by politicians' open discussion of matters that they feel would be best left unannounced.

On the other hand, in the longer term it is precisely this openness that makes democratic countries easier to read and do business with, which is why democracies don't ever seem to go to war with each other. Wars are nearly always avoidable if each side is able to correctly discern the other side's goals and strategies, which is to say that every war ultimately comes down to a misperception on someone's side, a miscalculation of someone's intent.

Secondly, in the longer term it is precisely this openness that makes democracies generally more successful in the international sphere, because their foreign policies are open to inspection, criticism and correction, and because they at least have some degree of public acceptance, which tends to minimize dramatic fluctuations in policy from one government to the next.

Thus, whatever specific policy any given politician might seem to be jeopardizing by discussing openly, we curtail that politician's right to do so at great cost. Furthermore, there are a great many examples, recent examples, American examples, of politicians and journalists agreeing to limit their public discussion of national security policy after having being told it was in the country's interest to do so, and in nearly every case that has lead to the concealment of incompetence or corruption.

The past eight years has taught is that much, at least.

But running a national political campaign doesn't have all that much in common with flying a Boeing 777, either.

The two are quite similar in that they both have many many inputs that interact in complex ways such that randomly changing those inputs is unlikely to produce clear benefits. Were you also confused by my analogy about a doctor trying every drug in the dispensary on his sick patient until he found one that works?

Really, the idea I was trying to communicate is simple: random button pushing is bad idea when dealing with complex systems. Especially when you lack good metrics for success.

byrning: which is why democracies don't ever seem to go to war with each other.

Actually, the real reason for this is that when the US goes to war on a democracy, the US declares that it's not "really" a democracy. Likewise when Israel attacks a democracy, for some reason.

Or possibly the US isn't a democracy, so when the US attacks a country with an elected government, it doesn't count...

Or possibly, you're thinking that the US attacks on democracies over the past decades didn't count because they weren't actually war - they were just killing people in an attempt to overthrow an elected government.

Or...?

To my mind, the damage caused by stating that we will do what everyone in Pakistan knows that we are already doing is minimal compared to the damage caused by supporting military dictatorships, and until recently, doing very, very little to help Pakistan either with development or with maintaining its democratic institutions. We had a lot of leverage, and we basically failed almost completely to use it.

Moreover, I continue to think that this is one more example of why we should have done Afghanistan right to begin with. (Right = being willing to do important things ourselves, rather than outsourcing them to the Pakistanis or others -- e.g., Tora Bora -- and then doing serious reconstruction and development.)

Every person we failed to catch at Tora Bora and are now trying to find in Pakistan is another reason to launch cross-border raids. Catching them at Tora Bora, while they were in Afghanistan and did not require strikes into Pakistan, would have removed a huge class of issues that have strained our relationship with Pakistan and been among the reasons we thought we needed Musharraf.

Likewise, doing reconstruction right, to include helping the Karzai government extend its authority across the country, constructing roads (preferably with Afghan workers), etc., would have done a whole lot of good.

We threw these possibilities away. We backed a dictator, which we will forget long before the Pakistani people do. We paid him billions of dollars to turn his army on his own people to catch people many of whom we could have caught ourselves, but -- oops! -- didn't.

What really matters is (a) not repeating these mistakes, and (b) not making analogous mistakes in the future.

First, what Byrnie said.

I'm underwhelmed by your argument Von.

I'm of the school of thought that actions speak louder than words. In the Pakistan example, Obama's words were nothing compared to the actual events undertaken (which were consistent with Obama's words).

Simply put, if we truly regard the delicacy of the Pakistani political scene, then we will stop bombing/invading areas of Pakistan. Saying that we reserve the right to do this might cause a political kerfuffle. Actually doing it could end up destabilizing the entire nation.

In that vein, I will say this: I'm not sure Obama is right about his Pakistan policy. But unless McCain enunciates an alternative, and given McCain's serial bellicosity, I'll assume McCain will go along with the Bush policy as is his pervasive habit.

Jes, my phrasing was less than clear, but my meaning was: The existence of an announced US policy creates institutional and democratic pressure to either follow through on the policy or announce a difference policy.

Byrningman, your approach has a lot to recommend to it in the case of matured democraciess (although it's not universally correct). But Pakistan is not a matured democracy: it's highly vulnerable to new autocratic rulers. That's the point.

Hilzoy's entire post (at 10:57 a.m.) is a lament of the last 8 years, but fails to address the actual matter in debate.

Eric, you haven't seemed to address the policy-counterpolicy "trap" that is my primary reason for opposing Obama's approach.

Jes:

Actually, the real reason for this is that when the US goes to war on a democracy, the US declares that it's not "really" a democracy.

That's a very interesting point, and I fully concur that the US has intervened militarily, or at least pseudo-militarily (para-militarily?) in a lot of smaller, poorer countries with pretty decent democratic credentials. I don't think that fact takes away from the observation, as a general rule of the 20th century at least, that democracies don't go to war with each other, but it is really worth thinking about.

I'm working on something else at the moment so these thoughts are just speculative. One thought is that the benign relationship between two open states breaks down when there is an immense power imbalance between them. Another is that, and I suppose connected to the first, 'openness' is itself to some degree subject to perception. If one government is very suspicious of another for reasons of ideology perhaps (say, the US and Arbenz' Guatemala or Allende's Chile), then it does not perceive that government as being open, assuming that devious designs are somehow being concealed. Therefore it cannot be reassured by any information it is getting from that country and assumes the worst.

My third thought relates to the existence of the 'international community', which aspires to operate on broadly democratic principles (ie the assumption that each state has equal rights etc.). Obviously reality is far from this ideal, but the ideal exists and is powerful as a cognitive framing and rhetorical device. To a large extent a country's democratic credentials are validated by membership of that community, and of course the powerful states (principally the US) get to decide who is in the community. Hence, we are told that Georgia is a young democracy whereas Russia is headed back in totalitarianism, although objectively the political systems of the two countries seem quite close to me.

In other words, say for Allende in the early 1970s, by declaring a government to be 'radical' or 'communist' or a 'rogue-state', that country can be perceived to be undemocratic, or not part of the community of right-thinking countries.

Sorry I'm rambling, but I think it's an interesting matter to ponder.

But Pakistan is not a matured democracy: it's highly vulnerable to new autocratic rulers. That's the point.

Actually, I wasn't even thinking in terms of Pakistan-US as two democracies, although now you've brought it up the democratic quality of Pakistan is worth considering here.

My general point is that democracies benefit from shining a light on their foreign policy in at least two major ways: 1) their own citizens get to monitor what is going on, and 2) other countries --- whatever the nature of their political systems -- have a pretty accurate idea of a democratic country's goals and methods, decreasing the possibility of conflict arising from misperceptions and miscalculations. My point about two democracies is simply that when this openness goes both ways, the risk of conflict seems so reduced that maybe it's barely possible.

So in general, although on a day-to-day basis it can often be very frustrating for foreign policy officials to have their ability to operate in secrecy or with deliberate vagueness, very negative consequences arise when we allow the window on foreign policy to be closed.

...that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

Maybe Palin should take notes from Obama.

Turb,

I have to work today, so my responses may be infrequent. Having said that, let me take a brief crack at your critiques


You talk about them as if they constitute a coherent group, but there's no reason to think they do

There is one primary point of evidence that makes me think this group has some coherence: they consistently and repeatedly favor the GOP, despite being self-identified as independents and/or undecided voters. In almost every election that I can remember post-1976 this group has broken heavily in favor of the GOP (1996 would be the exception), usually within the last few weeks of the election. Moreover, there are reasons for believing that this result is not an accident, but a product of different approaches which the Dems and the GOP take towards campaigning.

Nixonland did a very good job of laying out those differences, which I pointed to using the quotation (which Perlstein uses not just once but repeatedly at different points in the book where he writes about precisely those differences in communication styles) that liberals "held tight to their reason". It is very clear to me both from going over Nixonland and also from comparing it with my own personal memories of the progress of every general election campaign for POTUS since 1972, that Perlstein has identified a key difference between the parties. The GOP understands that politics is tribalism expressed in a new era of mass participation, while the Dems keep to a policy-centric view of politics which has a consistent track record of underperformance going back 4 decades now.

The Dems use a model for social psychology which is rooted in the Enlightenment, while the GOP in keeping with their Tory roots still hold to a darker and perhaps more cynical pre-Enlightenment view of what motivates and moves people. The second model sees the irrational as playing a significant role in human psychology and the first does not. I submit that the political history of the 19th and 20th Cen. era of mass participatory politics (not just in the US but elsewhere) has been a long running experiment in contrasting these two models and the results are noticeably more favorable to the latter model rather than the former. Appealing exclusively to the rational side of electorates just hasn’t worked as well as playing both sides of the street. This is a rather dark view of politics and history, so I certainly don’t blame you if you don’t share it. It is a view I have come to hold with considerable reluctance only after lengthy study of the history in question, some of which I lived through.

What is very clear to me in reading Nixonland (and again congruent with my own experience) is that for a great many voters the key question in a given election is "Whose side are you on?" Come up with a compelling answer (which includes an effective way to communicate it) to that question, and you win.

The problem with trying to answer this question in terms of policy details is that a great many voters are deeply cynical about policy. They are convinced that politicians don't really care about policy and instead will just say whatever they think you want to hear, and then will adopt whatever policy the lobbyist with the most cash is willing to pay for once in office. I know that these voters exist because they represent the majority (yes, that's right more than 50 percent) of the ordinary people with whom I have had conversations which at some point touched on politics. Their core political conviction is "you can tell a politician is lying, when their lips are moving". These people aren't Democrats or Republicans, they are Cynicratans.

Nonetheless these people still vote, in spite of this cynicism. They do not vote on the basis of policy options however. They vote based on tribal identifications, which are communicated symbolically and in terms of what I call meta-language (clothing, social class and regional accents, tone of voice, body language and facial expressions, and overarching rhetorical themes such as “It’s the economy, stupid”, or “It’s morning in America”). And because they don't think much of policy discussions or place much value on what candidates have to say regarding policy, they aren't really part of the stable core of either party. Few of them vote in primaries for example (again going from my conversational evidence). This means that these voters are disproportionately represented in the group of late undecided voters who eventually do decide the outcome of close elections.

These are the people who really pick who our leaders are.

Are these voters a lost cause for the Dems? I don't think so. The examples of Bill Clinton and FDR I cited earlier demonstrate that Democrats can get these voters if they are able to connect with them on their (the voters) own terms, not in terms of policy discussions, but in terms of demonstrating whose side they (the Dems) are on. Finding a way to do so cuts against the grain of the policy-centric way of running a campaign which Dems are more comfortable with and which dominate discussion on blogs like this, because it involves a different style of communication, but it can and has been done by Dems in the past.



This seems like a really bad strategy in general. Don't know what to do? Well, just keep pushing buttons randomly until something good happens! Can you imagine stepping into the cockpit of a 777 and trying to make it take off by pushing buttons randomly?

That's a really weak analogy. Compared with the social psychology of electorates in a democracy, an airplane is a vastly more linear and deterministic system in the way it responds to inputs with predictable outputs, and also in the way that the relationship between the inputs and outputs is known in advance because the designers of the device intended them to have a definite and predictable relationship, and to make that relationship as reliable as possible.

Nobody sane would ever get on board an airplane is they were as difficult to predict as mass psychology is. Unlike airplanes, electorates don't come with a user's manual and schematics indicating how they are wired up. It is always trial and error with elections.

A much better analogy would be fishing: if you understand the ecosystem and the lifecycle of the fish you are trying to catch, then you can make a guess at where the best place will be to cast, but the uncertainties are still enormous, and at some point there is no substitute for trying a bunch of different spots until you find the right place where the fish are biting on that particular day.



I'm sorry, but I don't see any reason to believe this. If you want to take it on faith, go ahead, but I've already got a church that I like very much. I'd love to see a testable model for electoral outcomes which can be used to guide real strategy development, but I don't think you have the data to justify it. Tell me you have something more than a hunch. Please.

Sorry, nothing but hunches here. Why would you expect otherwise in an area of endeavor which is much more art than science? The only “testable model” we can ever have is the outcomes of elections past. To look for something more precise than that is IMHO part of the mental prison which a purely Enlightenment values based approach to politics imposes. Failing to think outside of this box means that voters of the sort which ken was talking about will remain the dark matter in our electoral theory – unobservable and yet somehow influential in ways we don’t quite comprehend.

ThatLeftTurn, thanks for your response. I'm trying to focus what we actually disagree about, so let me ask you one question: what makes you think that Obama is connecting any more poorly with these undecideds than Clinton did? Is it just polling?

Moreover, what specific things do you suggest Obama do to connect better with them (or: what specific experiments do you suggest he undertake)? In other words, what symbols and meta-language should he be deploying to woo them?

I'll try to answer the five three questions before I cross the bridge of death.


what makes you think that Obama is connecting any more poorly with these undecideds than Clinton did? Is it just polling?

Yes, it is mostly the polling, but also the informal conversational "polling" I conduct on a regular basis to take the temperature around here - which confirms that McCain's convention bounce is real.

It isn't just the convention bounce tho'.

Based on the fundamentals of this year (Bush fatigue, GOP scandals, the economy, McCain's rich man background with the houses and the shoes) this race should not be close. My gut level feel is that even prior to the conventions Obama should have been up by at least 5-10 points, and something is wrong.



Moreover, what specific things do you suggest Obama do to connect better with them (or: what specific experiments do you suggest he undertake)? In other words, what symbols and meta-language should he be deploying to woo them?

I would go after McCain as an out of touch rich guy. The houses and the $500 shoes and the Keating scandal (which ties the last major banking scandal into the present day real estate collapse). If a haircut was enough to effectively disqualify John Edwards (before his affair was known of), then the shoes and the house and Phil Gram's "whiners" comment should be enough to bury McCain (metaphorically) using symbols rather than just policy points.

Have people follow McCain around everywhere* on the campaign trail waving $500 loafers, or dressed up in carboard boxes as mansions.


*One of the things Dems do wrong is that they are too deferential to the autonomy and dignity of the other side's campaign events and are afraid to get in their space. The GOP is always looking for a chance to inject symbolic mockery into a Democratic event (e.g. Greek columns). You often see Democratic campaign stops being shadowed by GOP folks looking to make some sort of counterpoint, but rarely the other way around. Note that I'm talking about legitimate dissent and mockery, not ratf***ing or anything freaky looking in a DFH / Code Pink sort of way.

Make a TV ad using the game "McCainopoly" (a GOP version of Monopoly), which shows a hapless middle class voter rolling the dice badly and getting their lone pitiful house taken away while the antagonist gloats over having a big pile of hotels on the best properties.

Use street theater techniques to press home the point - this is what the GOP does so very well - remember the purple heart bandaids or the gas gauges this year (before McCain messed up the message that his own camp was putting out by endorsing Obama's view on gas gauges).

On the positive side, Obama should make sure that he is always photographed in shirtsleeves with the sleeves rolled up, and in close proximity to working class people. He has done enough work over the summer making himself look Presidential (in the visual sense) with the Berlin speech and the convention speech. Now he needs to look salt of the earth.

I think McCain benefited from the visuals of his town hall stops, regardless of the policy discussed. Obama should have countered with his own town halls. It is not too late to do that. He should spend as much time as possible up close and personal with people (I pray the Secret Service is up to the task of dealing with this).

Also, if he is going to stick to the high ground on energy policy and not cave in to the pandering cries of "Drill baby drill", then he needs to pair his alternative energy plans with visuals. He needs to be seen* in factories where ordinary people have jobs making stuff to deal with energy needs. He needs to spend time being photographed* in local neighborhood gas stations talking with ordinary people as they are at the pump gassing up their cars. He needs to do things to counter the idea that his long term view of how to deal with our energy problems is just being above it all and out of touch (which is the GOP framing).

*not just once or twice, but over and over again. In advertising repetition drives home the message - the same applies here.

If he want to make the point that the drilling the GOP wants to do will be a drop in the bucket for global energy supplies, then make it visual. He could stand at a gas station and hand out dixie cups filled with gas to people, to illustrate how much extra difference that drilling will make in their lives, and counter that with the gallons per person that will be saved under his energy policies.

Do these things sound childish? Yes. Do they seem beneath the dignity of the POTUS? Yes. Do they work - see past elections for details.

My $0.02.

LeftTurn: "It doesn't matter if you don't know what will move these voters - you just keep trying all sorts of different things until you find something that clicks with them, and then press it home."

That is why "Drill, Baby, Drill" has become a GOP mantra.

They see it's working, so they are pressing it home. People show up at McCain/Palin rallies with "Drill, Baby, Drill" signs. They're sold.

Setting aside all of the real-world, real-time benefits, voters don't have to think twice about what that slogan means. It feels their pain, gives them hope, and makes them think people care.

I'm with LeftTurn: In an election that could be determined by a single state -- Ohio? Michigan? -- I don't think you can say "So what?" to a single voting bloc.

Re Obama's response to McCain's plan to drill drill drill, I ask:

"So what is Obama's plan to help people where it hurts? No one knows what he stands for except some change which no one cares about unless it is specific to their needs."

Eric's response:

"The plan is hidden in plain sight on his website. He also cleverly hides it in the middle of his stump speech. He hid it at his convention speech right in the middle as well"

See Erik, this is exactly what I mean:

McCain's plan is to "drill drill drill".

Obama's plan is "go read about it on my website"


Eric, if it is so plainly obvious then why cannot even you, who presumably know what it is, state it plainly and simply in a manner people can understand and get behind?

See what I mean?

Left Turn,

I think if Obama follows your advice the inauthenticy of his persona will dominate. Clinton could and did do this with authenticity. That is why she won in all the big states where actual voting took place. Obama I'm certain cannot do the same no matter what he tries.

A lot of us tried to head off this disaster before Obama was given the nomination by the Washington establishment who refused to listen to what the actual voters were saying.

It's too late now.

ken,

I think your assessment of the Democratic primaries is so colored by your personal dislike of Obama (which at times appears to shade over into hatred) as to be very unpersuasive, but that’s just my opinion.

This on the other hand, is spot on:


Eric, if it is so plainly obvious then why cannot even you, who presumably know what it is, state it plainly and simply in a manner people can understand and get behind?
See what I mean?

Regarding whether these more colorful tactics can be used now to beat McCain, I agree that they are a poor fit with Obama's temperament and personality (which is cool rather than hot – think of the famous photo of LBJ making an angry and rude gesture at somebody behind the photographer while JKF restrains him from behind with a look of concern. Obama = JFK, not LBJ), but that is what surrogates, and especially the VP nominee are for. In most campaigns the VP is the attack dog, with the top and bottom of the ticket playing good cop-bad cop.

It is time to unleash Biden, not against Palin but against McCain. That is what I would do. Get him out to the gas stations handing out Dixie cups full of gas and mocking the GOP energy plan.

"I think your assessment of the Democratic primaries is so colored by your personal dislike of Obama (which at times appears to shade over into hatred) as to be very unpersuasive, but that’s just my opinion."

And your opinion has a great deal of merit. I have never hidden my intense dislike for Obama.

But what is more interesting is that I find myself, a lifelong liberal, who wants to support our parties nominee absolutely loathing the guy. I read his bio and decided early on I would support him over Clinton who I disagreed with vehemently on her vote on the Iraq war. But I am a realist by nature so my opinions can change, and they did. Clinton won me over time and time again. Obama completely turned me off.

I can never forgive him for useing racism against the Clintons. I am one of those people who will get into strong arguments over affirmative action, preferential hiring and the like. I have walked out on my family get togethers when my mother expresses racially insensitive views. I do not tolerate racism. I thought liberals shared my view. But soon discovered that it all goes one way: whites can be racist but blacks are never racist. That is what Obama has done to liberalism and to my party. I am done with it.

I have lost friendships over my support for what I believe in. Obama has made my efforts and sacrifice worthless. Screw him.

ken,

I'm sorry that things have gone that way for you and that you feel that your efforts and sacrifice have been rendered worthless. I'm not going to try to persuade you otherwise because you obviously feel strongly and no words from mere me are going to have much effect on that.

I do have the following observations: no efforts made sincerely and in a good cause can ever be rendered worthless by someone else's actions - you have no way of knowing what the world might be like today if you had not made an effort to make it a better place.

Try not to dwell in bitterness on what might have been, but instead take some pride in what you've done that you can be proud of for it's own sake, without worrying about the outcome as dictated by others and by events beyond your control.

Second, I have found in my life that over time I have sometimes come to have a greater degree of respect and understanding for public figures whom I initially loathed for one reason or another (GHB and the Willie Horton ads in 1988 come to mind). I hope that if Obama is elected and does a good job while in office, that at some point you will have a chance to reassess your feelings towards him and the events of this year's election. You may (or may not) find that things look different with the passage of years, than they do to us now "in the heat of the battle" so to speak.

Or so at least it has worked for me, in the past.

LeftTurn,

I am not going to live my life in bitterness. But I also will no longer support afirmative action, preferential admission policies and other programs designed to assist minorities gain access to good job opportunities.

In good conscience I just cannot support them any more. My nephew who graduated magnu cum laude from a major California University in June was not admitted to medical school. I have lots of family in the medical profession and we all expected him to get in. But we also know that when somone like him does not get accepted it is because they made room for a minority applicant with lower GPA. Skin color made all the difference.

His disapointment is huge.

In the past I would have counseled him that if this door has been closed off to you then with your brains (he is brilliant) and looks (stunningly handsome) and personality (honest, charming, modest) many other doors will open elswhere and you can find another way to use your enourmous talents.

Now I can longer honestly tell him not to be bitter about his rejection. I share in it. It is not just me who is sacrificing but now my nephew is suffering also. And all for nothing as far as I can see.

So how did my support for preferential admission policies make the world a better place? I don't see it. My nephew was not admitted to medical school because of policies I supported and I do not even have the comfort of knowing that it was for a higher good - the reduction of racism in our society.

All we did was replace one kind of racism with another. Had Obama respected the virtues of Hilary Clinton and how she had left the republican party in 1972 because of its racist policies, and then consistently fought racism so that the nation could reach the stage where it was possible for a black man to be a true contender for the nomination of a major party - if he had recognized and honored this, I would have admired him for it. But instead he used black racism to demonize her and Bill in order to gain solidarity among black voters.

I have walked out on my family when I hear racist remarks. Obama spent twenty years in active support of a church preaching hatred of whites.

My nephew? He will move on and do well. So will I. But neither of us will ever again support the kinds of polices that made his rejection possible. We are not fools.

Another difference between random button pressing on an airplane (esp. if it is already airborne) and testing the political waters until one strategy works is that (at least in the US and with the media on your side) failed strategy tests fade into oblivion fast. Since for the GOP a failed attack usually fades into oblivion within days (for the target group), the number of failed attempts before hitting the right button does not matter much. Airborne planes are rarely as forgiving. The same tactic is not viable for the Democrats because their failed attempts will be kept alive by the GOP and the media that do its bidding. Another "advantage" for the random button pressing strategy is the possibility to test each new approach in a different place. The GOP has mastered a system of sliming certain groups in one state to woo another group in that state while doing the exact opposite in another state (the same way that Rupert Murdoch is anti-German in Britain and Poland, anti-Britain and anti-Poland in Germany*)

*I remember occasions were two Murdoch papers insulted and slimed each other, obviously betting that the typical reader would not realize that both papers belonged to the same company)

Shorter Ken: If a white man doesn't get into medical school and people who aren't white or male do, it must be because policies put inferior students in ahead of superior students: it couldn't be that Ken's nephew, a white man, just wasn't good enough when so many ethnic minority students were good enough...

jes, Your comment about me is typical racism. I find it disgusting.

Besides being totally unfounded it shows an elitist arrogant know it all attitude that is very off putting.

You have no idea. I have many family members in the medical profession from nurses to hospital secretaries to doctor of internal medicine to a brain surgeon to a public hospital administrator and a medical school patient quality control supervisor. Needless to say we all have many friends in the medical field as well. And at various times over the last thirty years or so we have discussed these issues openly and honestly.

The facts I shared on admission policies are widely known among the medical community. Many a minority medical or nursing school student will admit to gaining a place due to preferential admission policies as they know as well as anyone else what their GPA was. This is not secret stuff. But prior to Obama I felt it was justified and defensable. Many of us did.

So next time you find yourself about to express a racist attitude towards someone you should first do a reality check so as not to make a compete and total a** out of yourself.

ThatLeftTurn, I agree with your analysis of issues vs. emotions. I don't think any Presidential campaign has ever been won on the issues. They are won on symbols and tribalism. The symbols may stand for issues, the tribalism may embody class differences (e.g., Andy Jackson), but it's not a rational process. People don't try to learn the issues, and it's not entirely clear they should try -- that's the politicians' job. And I like your suggestions about the dixie cup and so forth. I'm annoyed at Obama for not thinking outside the box.

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