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August 28, 2008

Comments

As a Ralph Nader voter, and someone who has through the years become harder and harder to fit into any prefab box, this post makes me think of my daughter's dilemma in trying to get into her school :

What should I say ? What I believe, and who I am, or what I think somebody else wants to hear ?

It all comes down to that, friends. I've already read it elsewhere, but I'll repeat it anyway : what if the American people REALLY want to hear someone who is passionate about what he believes, rather than someone who is pandering for their vote ? What if the whole political spin machine, with publicity/sound bites/etc. has significantly contributed to people's disaffection ?

Traveling through the U.S. this summer after a twelve year absence, I noticed that everyone I talked to about the environment crisis, and the looming economic implosion knew very well what I was talking about. We need someone to talk TRUTH, and to give people the feeling that they can do something about our problems, not another product of the spin machine.

Barack Obama better wake up on this one, otherwise, he just might lose this election, God forbid...

I forgot the most important point : we need another Mr Smith, not a political calculator who has reasoned it all through with the conclusion that the best way to win the election is to speak truth...

Who bought NounVerbPOW.com and linked it to the official McCain site? Nice work.

I believe DesertIslander is referring to www.nounverbpow.com.

(Yes, it is.)

Everything seems very meta. John McCain is more of the same — we’ve heard that. But we haven’t heard enough about what exactly makes him more of the same.

so you didn't hear Kerry's speech?

Thing that stuck in my mind as I watched Biden's speech? We better walk goddam lightly----if walk at all, other than to the exits---in Afghanistan.

If these guys are selling 'more to Afghanistan' crap because that is what they have to do to get elected, fine. Hypocrisy goes hand and glove with the game they are playing.

But if they are really serious? We're going to get our heads handed to us over there. It is an endless death trap.

"what if the American people REALLY want to hear someone who is passionate about what he believes, rather than someone who is pandering for their vote ?"

I doubt being passionate about believing something the American people generally despise would get you very far; What the American people want is somebody who is passionate about believing the same things the American people believe.

In short supply in either party, since the parties are run by political elites, a distinct class in this country who have more in common across party lines than they do with the average person. And are actually pretty effective at purging their ranks of anyone who might be in honest agreement with the majority.

so you didn't hear Kerry's speech?

Or Joe Biden's?

jonst
We better walk goddam lightly----if walk at all, other than to the exits---in Afghanistan.

I'm not sure about this. We have a big IOU to pay to Afghanistan to set up a functioning government. And while I can see that if it is impossible, we should get out, but it seems that NATO is more amenable to assisting in Afghanistan and it is quite possible that political changes in Pakistan might create a situation that doing something would be an opportunity.

The GOP spin that I've heard over the last twelve hours (from whatever Republican consultant MSNBC had on opposite Harold Ford and from America's 9/11! Mayor on NPR) suggests how the next phase of this campaign will be fought.

Both essentially said that Hillary and Bill Clinton didn't really endorse Barack Obama at all. Sure Hillary agrees with Obama on the issues, says Giuliani, but issues aren't that important in a presidential race. What's important is experience. And Barack Obama is the least experienced person ever to seek the presidency (NB: this claim is manifestly false, but that doesn't mean it will go away). MSNBC's official Republican consultant even predicted that Bill and Hillary Clinton will be casting their ballots for John McCain come November, whatever they say.

All of this is breathtakingly cynical. But breathtaking cynicism has been an essential arrow in the GOP quiver for decades. On the issues, more American agree with the Democrats than the Republicans. So to win elections--and the Republicans usually win elections--the subject has to be changed.

(the first version of this comment seems to have been rejected for being too long, so I'm continuing it below...)

(cont.)

As neither a swing voter nor a Democrat (I'm an ex-Democratic, would-be Green, registered Independent in deep, deep red state, who votes for Democrats frequently as the least available evil), the Democratic Convention seemed as effective as it could be at playing defense against this kind of thing. If you actually saw the Clinton speeches, the Republican account of them is ludicrous. But not everyone saw them. And there are probably some people who will buy irrational theories to explain their "apparent" endorsements of Obama.

But the rubber really hits the road on the Republican strategy with the public's evaluation of McCain. They're counting on building their campaign on an image of the Republican nominee as independent and proven. You may not agree with him about everything, but he'll talk straight with you. You can trust him.

(to be cont....)

(cont.)

I continue to feel that to win this election, the Democrats (or somebody else...and I have a hard time believing that it will be the Fourth Estate) will probably have to tear McCain a new one. If the American public thinks "hero" and "maverick" when they go to the polls this November, John McCain will likely be our next president. If they think "Mr. Magoo" or "the Manchurian Candidate," McCain will lose.

While the Democrats did a lot to bolster Obama's image in this convention (a good and necessary thing) they did nothing to suggest that McCain is a positive danger to the Republic. Indeed, they suggested that the only problem with their friend and our national hero, John McCain, is that he's wrong on the issues. And I fear that the Republicans already have that problem covered.

I think you make some great points. One of the most pointless discussions, despite the endless dissecting by talking heads and bloggers, is what each speech did and did not accomplish. I would assume that most independents and swing voters are not watching CSPAN and the networks constantly to make their decisions. People watch the recaps and read the summaries and soundbites the next day, if at all.

Every speech and every speaker does not matter. It is how the message of the convention and the single snippets are presented following the conference. That and maybe the speeches from the heavy-hitters (Obama, Clintons, & Biden). This daily, who won, who lost, who did poorly and who "knocked one out of the park" discussion is somewhat inane and more for the benefit of bloggers and pundits than it is for the voters.

I realize that I left a step in Giuliani's "argument" out.

1) Hillary and Bill Clinton (correctly according to Giuliani) criticized Obama for being inexperienced during the campaign.

2) At the convention, the Clintons backed Obama, but they only did so in reference to the issues.

3) This was a subtle way of indicating that they maintain their doubts about his experience, and experience is what really matters in a presidential race.

As I've said before,so far the key moment in this campaign has been the Obama campaigns refusal to back Wes Clark's insistence that being a POW doesn't constitute valuable experience toward being president. Obama's reluctance to directly question the relevance of McCain's Vietnam experience may end up being this year's equivalent of Kerry's refusal to hit back against the swiftboaters.

Obama's reluctance to directly question the relevance of McCain's Vietnam experience may end up being this year's equivalent of Kerry's refusal to hit back against the swiftboaters.

i'd agree. but then i look at the way the press is more than happy to defend McCain on this and wonder: how on earth is Obama supposed to get through a wall like this ?

3) This was a subtle way of indicating that they maintain their doubts about his experience, and experience is what really matters in a presidential race.

Bill Clinton directly addressed experience! He said that he too was painted as inexperienced during his first presidential run, and he unequivocally said that Obama was ready to be president.

Bill Clinton directly addressed experience!

Who are voters going to believe, America's Mayor® or their lying ears...especially if the media doesn't call him on it (and if the voters in question didn't actually hear Clinton's speech)?

I'm pretty sure that the purpose of a party convention is not wholly to appeal to swing voters. It has at least two other purposes:

1) To unite the party behind the nominee

2) (somewhat related) to fire up the base about the nominee

Obviously, winning one swing voter is worth two base voters who wouldn't otherwise vote, but we shouldn't ignore these other functions of the party convention.

Yeah, Ben, but Giuliani doesn't think McCain has the necessary experience either.

KCinDC,

You may have a point. Rudy is, not surprisingly for Rudy, totally full of it...and totally full of himself. Whoever interviewed him this morning on NPR tried suggesting that Giuliani had criticized McCain just as the Clintons had criticized Obama, but Giuliani insisted that he had only criticized McCain on the issues.

The primary campaign suggested that 9/11 America 9/11 had 9/11 stopped 9/11 buying 9/11 Rudy's 9/11 b.s.

Let's hope that trend continues.

Well, I have a point that he said it. I'm not betting that the media will point it out like TPM does. I'm actually surprised the interviewer even brought up the point, but I assume that after Giuliani denied it there was no followup -- certainly no playing of clips to show he was lying.

"A horrible speech with three great sound bites is probably more effective than a great one that goes uncited in the next day’s news cycle."

Biden's speech did not have the polish of the Clintons but it probably contained more sound bites. He did his job.

I don't think the Clintons could have done anymore -- Bill all but said to Barack Obama, "It's your party now."

The Obama-Biden ticket looks like the face of America to me: one big messy family. I hope the electorate likes what it sees and rejects a party that favors the rich and their special interests.

liberal japonicus,

What big IOU do we owe Afghanistan? It may, or may not be in our nation's interest to be there. It may be a noble thing to do. I think it is not...since I see the task as impossible. But I don't see we owe them any big IOU. To think otherwise, to me, resembles paternalism. The Afghan are where they are, to a great extent, BECAUSE of the Afghan people. And we, in the West, have done little to help them. So, I am not letting us off the hook. But owe them? A big IOU? I think not. Anyway, not as big as what we owe to avoid putting Americans GI's in the middle of no win for about 10th time in the last 50 years. At to changes in the Pak govt....that govt, and the one before it, does not govern the Northwest territories. To be begin. Second, so long as the Pak intel agencies are intact....I trust nothing about them. Period.

For instance, I agree that Clinton and Kerry's speeches were great. But, they were both on before prime time, so the networks didn't cover them. Nothing really matters except the prime time speeches and the soundbites.

Clinton and Kerry's speeches were great. But, they were both on before prime time

Clinton started at 9 EST.

Did the networks really not carry Bill? It seems unlikely, but stupider things have happened.

Nothing really matters except the prime time speeches and the soundbites

But it matters to me. Sure it's preaching to the choir but the choir has been so brow-beaten for 30 years it needs to be told repeatedly that it really is a big, powerful force. We need Clinton saying, "Hey dumbasses, when the Republicans get what they want, everything turns to shit. How hard is that to see?" We need Kerry saying, "Cut out the 'Un-American' bullshit because we ARE America motherfuckas". Maybe we can attract swing voters by being right and proud instead of meta-tiptoeing around thinking we need to entrap them.

Following on the comments by Debra and Brett Belmore: As one not at all representative member of "the American people," I would like a candidate who would do what Debra says -- tell the truth -- and then follow it up with: "But this is not my country, it is our country...." And then attempt to govern as if it is.

I do understand that that is pie in the sky for every conceivable reason. I am not naive, I know all the reasons why that isn't going to happen.

Still, I wish I lived in a world where it could.

apparently msnbc didn't even cover kerry's speech.


I'm pretty sure that the purpose of a party convention is not wholly to appeal to swing voters. It has at least two other purposes:

1) To unite the party behind the nominee

2) (somewhat related) to fire up the base about the nominee

Obviously, winning one swing voter is worth two base voters who wouldn't otherwise vote, but we shouldn't ignore these other functions of the party convention.

This comment is right on the money. The Democrats have to come out of the convention fired up and ready to go.

If this election is all about optics in the media, then Obama has already lost. The MSM is almost completely in the tank for McCain, and that will not change between now and November.

This is the same MSM which has yet to express a mea culpa for the role they played as cheerleaders and propagandists for the invasion of Iraq, and the quality of their discussions and analysis on display thus far would constitute a shameful embarrassment in a 6th grade social studies class. There are only two classes of analysts on most of the TV shows right now: hard core GOP people savaging the Dems while claiming to be neutral and moderate, and embittered Clintonista operatives like Bergala and Carville who are out in the cold if Obama wins and will not stop grinding their axes on behalf of racist Appalachian white voters because they are the best remaining strength of the old DLC.

I expect the debates to be an appalling spectacle of bias and distortion (e.g. like George Will in 1980 coaching Reagan behind the scenes and then as a pundit commenting on how well he did afterwards), with media commentary consisting of more of what we’ve seen thus far.

The path to victory for Obama is via grass roots word of mouth (friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers), bypassing the MSM. This election is to a greater degree than I can ever remember, a contest between two different models: the McCain campaign is a top-down media campaign (they had little choice, given that the tepid relationship between McCain and the religious right has put a dent in the usual GOP grass roots system), and the Obama campaign is much more of a bottom-up campaign.

We don’t normally get to see such a stark contrast in the general election campaign because grass roots efforts normally falter during the primaries. The last true insurgency campaign to win the Democratic nomination was McGovern’s in 1972. Fortunately, this year Obama’s team are much more organized and disciplined than that doomed effort, and McCain is no Nixon when it comes to running a campaign, so the grass roots effort is not necessarily doomed this year the way it would be normally.

Because of this contrast in campaign styles it will be very hard to tell what is going to happen until election day – this election is one where the irresistible force of organization is up against the immovable object of the media and it is hard to forecast which one will prevail. I think the pollsters are having all sorts of problems finding an accurate and effective “likely voter” screen, and so the polls we are reading this year are (to a greater degree than usual) artifacts of the pollster’s methodological choices. We won’t really know what is going to happen this year, the polls could be way off. As Sean at 538 pointed out yesterday, the early voting data will give us an indication as to what turnout is likely to be (but not how swing voters are swinging).

Anybody who tells you that they really know what is going to happen in this election is deluded or trying to sell you something.

As a Ralph Nader voter,

How's that working out for you?

By the way, on behalf of all Americans, I want to thank you. Your bold insistence that despite the limitations of our crummy constitutional system, third parties can too participate productively is quintessentially American. You know, like pretending that creationism is a science.

It all comes down to that, friends. I've already read it elsewhere, but I'll repeat it anyway : what if the American people REALLY want to hear someone who is passionate about what he believes, rather than someone who is pandering for their vote ?

But what if what Americans really want to hear is that Americans are the greatest people in the world and that they can have anything they want for FREE and they don't ever need to go without? What then?

Alternatively, instead of asking questions, you could make a declarative statement about how you believe that the American public desperately yearns for authenticity. I don't think there is any real evidence to support that assertion, but maybe you have some.

What if the whole political spin machine, with publicity/sound bites/etc. has significantly contributed to people's disaffection ?

What if there was evidence to support this assertion? What kind of world would we live in were that the case?

Traveling through the U.S. this summer after a twelve year absence, I noticed that everyone I talked to about the environment crisis, and the looming economic implosion knew very well what I was talking about. We need someone to talk TRUTH, and to give people the feeling that they can do something about our problems, not another product of the spin machine.

1. I seriously doubt that you spoke with a representative sample of people: I have spoken to many people who don't think there is an environmental crisis or a looming economic implosion.

2. I don't see why we should believe that the people yearn for truth. Human beings are not rational after all.

Barack Obama better wake up on this one, otherwise, he just might lose this election, God forbid...

Wait, what is he supposed to wake up to? I'm glad that someone with your tremendous political gifts (who can forget the great political accomplishments of the Naderite voters?!) is willing to second guess a political professional who took on the Clinton juggernaut and won, but I'd like to see some specifics. What precisely do you want Obama to do, and why do you think it would be better?

Ooops -- Sorry for the misspelling of Bellmore.

cleek - the big 3 didn't cover clinton though

I may have said this before on this blog, but to quote an article in the Atlantic some years ago: "The Democrats can't win and the Republicans can't govern." And it ain't getting better.

Actually I think the Big Dog did it best. I know five Hillary die hards now committed to Obama based solely on Bill's persuasive case.

cleek - the big 3 didn't cover clinton though

That's only fair, I'm sure they won't show any speeches by Bush at the RNC either.

jonst: What big IOU do we owe Afghanistan?

On April 27, 1978, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan staged a coup and took over the government of Afghanistan. (The last king of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah, had been ousted in another coup on July 17 1973 instigated by Mohammed Daoud Khan.)

In 1978 and 1979, the CIA, looking for local opposition to the PDPA, found it in the Taliban and other extremist Islamists, who were appalled by the PDPA's nakedly Communist policies of education for women, land reform, etc. Afghanistan had always been an unspoken battleground between US and USSR funding (see Dervla Murphy's eyewitness account in Full Tilt from a journey she made through Afghanistan in the 1960s).

This new war of money and guns was hotter: the US were funding the mojaheddin rebels, and the USSR were funding the government. Perhaps the PDPA would have asked the USSR for help anyway (they would certainly have got none from the US) but the increased threat from the US-funded mojaheddin certainly provided an impetus. The USSR invasion of Afghanistan is formally reckoned to have begun on December 25 1979, and from then on the US support of the mojaheddin was clear.

The Soviet-Afghan war lasted 9 years: 1 800 000 Afghans were killed during it (given the relative populations of Afghanistan and the US, this was the equivalent of a 9/11 attack happened daily). American paranoia about the "Communist threat" finding allies in the Taliban bears a large part of the responsibility for that war.

After 1989, when the USSR occupation had withdrawn, the US - which had, under Reagan/Bush, been providing arms and economic assistance while the mojaheddin were fighting the USSR - suddenly lost interest. Afghanistan was a country without government or law, and the US under the first President Bush had no interest in helping to rebuild. The country was under the control of warlords who funded their fiefdoms both in the traditional way of taking what they wanted and in the new way of growing opium poppies for sale to drug traders. That was the environment, which the US had helped to create and then walked away from, that made the Taliban look like a better alternative.

So yeah. Big IOU to Afghanistan. Owed by Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.

jonst,
sorry, I missed your comment. Even if you dismiss Jes' points as ancient history (I don't, btw), moving against Afghanistan post 9-11 seemed to have been predicated by a notion that it was a state with no effective government and our intervention was going to work to set up a state strong enough to prevent Al-Queda from returning. While I'd argue that it is in our interests to have countries like Afghanistan have a strong civil government because it is going to be a lot easier for them to police themselves than for us to intervene and then say we aren't going to help you, but you had better make sure no one causes us problem, I think the exchange is that we are going to help you set up such a government and you will prevent groups like AQ from getting a strong foothold. That goal was mentioned often in the runup to our invasion of Afghanistan, enough so that I believe it constitutes an IOU.

The first debate will get more viewers than both conventions combined. The spin on debates is worthless since the people are seeing it with their own eyes. Big if's: Bad moderators could ruin everything. But I expect Obama to make mincemeat out of McPOW.

Judson, why would you expect that? Obama is a great speaker, but he's not great at debating. The Saddleback forum wasn't a debate, but it was a lot closer to a debate than speeches are. I expect McCain to do pretty well.

ThatLeft, maybe there won't be a Bush speech to cover.

Obama is a great speaker, but he's not great at debating.

KCinDC, are you judging by the primary debates, or something more?

Frankly, debates are much like gymnastics: a 'judged' sport. I'm not sure there's an objective way to determine greatness or lack thereof. To my own taste, rebutting your opponent's argument by actually addressing it (rather than lapsing into your own stump speech, or 9/11, or POW) is how you score in a debate. I have seen no evidence that McCain is especially good at that. Maybe Obama wasn't either, in the primary debates, but I say the dynamics of going one-on-one with an actual Republican will be different. We shall see.

--TP

@publius:

Please send Hilzoy best wishes.

I hope she's having an excellent time and doesn't feel pressure to post, even if she's been able to overcome internet troubles.

Tell her just to take good notes; we'll look forward to retrospective thoughts.

Is it really true that the major networks didn't carry Bill Clinton's speech? And they didn't carry Kerry's either?

I'm honestly shocked.

To my own taste, rebutting your opponent's argument by actually addressing it (rather than lapsing into your own stump speech, or 9/11, or POW) is how you score in a debate.

Do you have any reason to believe that your scoring system has anything to do with the effect of the debates on the media and most voters?

I'm not saying Obama will do badly, just that the expectation that he will somehow blow McCain away seems unrealistic, and in fact plays into the Dubya technique of being declared the winner because you avoided drooling.

Nell -- the networks (ABC/CBS/NBC) only carry from 10-11pm. There have been some stellar speakers in the 9pm hour, but they don't make "prime time broadcast."

"The spin on debates is worthless since the people are seeing it with their own eyes. "

That may be a little optimistic. Gore won the first debate with Bush, according to the instant polls, but the press did its best to change their minds, and they may have had a significant effect. The link below doesn't document what later polls said and I haven't looked, but I do remember the juvenile coverage given to Gore's "sighs".


Daily Howler link

"I'm not saying Obama will do badly, just that the expectation that he will somehow blow McCain away seems unrealistic, and in fact plays into the Dubya technique of being declared the winner because you avoided drooling."

The Republicans excel at the lowering-the-expectations game.

In addition to playing before a friendly audience, McCain benefited from this at the Saddleback forum.

Also, and I guess it is a compliment, but Obama isn't treated as a normal "rookie" -- as KC alluded, people expect him to be special when the cameras are on.

Nice to see that I was immediately disqualified simply for mentioning the name "Ralph Nader". Some people definitely have a BIG CHIP on their shoulder. Like hindsight is always so much better than foresight, isn't it ? Almost 20/20, at least for the present...
I don't need evidence for saying what I'm saying. And what, pray tell, would that evidence be ? A poll ? Since when was a poll evidence of anything ? There is no way of predicting human behavior, regardless of all the brainwashing to the contrary that you have received from the spin machine.
Sorry, but I do consider that I have some vision about my country from my position as a long term expatriate that you don't have access to : that's the incredibly heavy price that I daily pay for REALLY living away from home. It puts me in the uncomfortable position of seeing what's wrong (and right) with my country, in comparison with another. Incidentally, the same is true of American immigrants, many of whom I spoke with this summer.
Not representative, my sample ? Who says ? I spoke with people of all social classes, both sexes, and in states in different parts of the country, East Coast, and Rockies, and Southwest.
What I heard were people very disillusioned with the political game, and the WIN WIN WIN philosophy. "What do we need to do to win ?"
I'm really tired of this mindset. A lot of people just want to hear someone who isn't calculating, slick, and, yes, seems authentic.
Like Mr. Smith.
What's wrong with that ? Are you telling yourself you have to be REALISTIC and not believe that it's possible ?
Maybe that's what wrong with this country.

What's wrong with that ?

Nothing.

Except...be careful in your judgements yourself. For example, I consider rejecting Nader because of his ideology as different from rejecting Nader as an administrator.

And, certainly, the people that I talk to seem to be different from the ones you're talking to. I hope you're saying that my conclusions are less valid than yours.

Ralph Nader was this country's foremost consumer advocate -- that's a huge part of his legacy.

However, fairly or unfairly, I will always remember his candidacy in 2000 as what opened the door for the Bush/Cheyney administration. We'd have to be better off if these were the closing months of eight years of Al Gore -- if only because the U.S. Constitution was still intact.

I don't know what you are looking for, Debra. But Barack Obama, beginning with his roots as a community organizer, is as close to anti-establishment as anyone in the establishment of the Democratic and Republican parties has been in a long time.

A lot of people just want to hear someone who isn't calculating, slick, and, yes, seems authentic. Like Mr. Smith.

If I remember the movie correctly, Mr. Smith went to Washington because the party bosses selected him as a non-entity who would not upset their Willet Creek Dam pork-barrel project. In real life, the only way to elect a non-calculating, non-slick, regular guy to the White House is to change the Constitution and select our president by lot.

--TP

Nice to see that I was immediately disqualified simply for mentioning the name "Ralph Nader". Some people definitely have a BIG CHIP on their shoulder. Like hindsight is always so much better than foresight, isn't it ? Almost 20/20, at least for the present...

It didn't take much foresight to recognize in 2000 that there was no real chance that Nader's run would improve America. After all, the structural barriers to third parties in the US are immense. Moreover, Nader was actively campaigning in swing states as opposed to safe states and he said that he actually preferred Bush. Playing chicken with the Presidency is profoundly irresponsible. You gambled. We all lost.

And of course the last eight years have demonstrated that the whole idea of trying to push the Democrats further to the left by voting for spoiler candidates that are partially financed by Republicans doesn't work: losing the Presidency forced the Democrats to turn rightward on Iraq because they couldn't control the agenda. Brilliant!

I don't need evidence for saying what I'm saying.

No you don't. I mean, you certainly won't drop dead for lack of evidence. On the other hand, if you want to convince other people, then, you know, evidence is pretty useful. If you don't want to convince anyone, I'm not sure why you would write these things on the internet?

And what, pray tell, would that evidence be ? A poll ? Since when was a poll evidence of anything ? There is no way of predicting human behavior, regardless of all the brainwashing to the contrary that you have received from the spin machine.

I don't know, but I'm not the one who is claiming that Americans hunger for authenticity in their politicians above all else. You are.

Let me suggest however that your hypothesis is inconsistent with some recent facts that we know. Consider that Americans voted in favor of a man who left his National Guard billet during Vietnam against a decorated war hero who volunteered for service. Now, maybe Americans don't think highly of military service. But I think they do and I think that if Americans were interested in authenticity, being a decorated war hero would count for something. Also, consider that Americans very much want moral leaders. Yet they repeatedly vote for people who, say, cheat on their wives and trade in for younger models, even when those same people boast about their morals. Now, again, maybe Americans don't really care about moral leaders, but I suspect they do, so their preference for hypocritical leaders is hard to explain.

Sorry, but I do consider that I have some vision about my country from my position as a long term expatriate that you don't have access to : that's the incredibly heavy price that I daily pay for REALLY living away from home. It puts me in the uncomfortable position of seeing what's wrong (and right) with my country, in comparison with another. Incidentally, the same is true of American immigrants, many of whom I spoke with this summer.

As the child of immigrants and as someone who often travels abroad and is married to someone who has worked abroad for quite some time, I read this comment with amusement. I'm pretty skilled at seeing how my country compares with other nations, even when the comparison is unfavorable. Amazingly, I developed this skill without living abroad for 12 years.

Not representative, my sample ? Who says ? I spoke with people of all social classes, both sexes, and in states in different parts of the country, East Coast, and Rockies, and Southwest.

It doesn't jive with my experience. Which is why I was hoping you could substantiate it with some other evidence. If you can't, then I'll just have to remain unconvinced. I'm not sure why you think that your sample tells us anything: after all, it looks to me just like a poll, and you've already explained that polls don't tell us anything. Right? Granted, this particular poll doesn't seem to have been conducted in a rigorous matter by people who know something about statistics.

What I heard were people very disillusioned with the political game, and the WIN WIN WIN philosophy. "What do we need to do to win ?"

Well, winning is kind of important if you want to avoid disastrous wars that kill a million people. This isn't a game.

And yes, I'm sure you did hear that. In my experience, people often hear what they want to hear, regardless of what was actually said.

I'm really tired of this mindset. A lot of people just want to hear someone who isn't calculating, slick, and, yes, seems authentic.
Like Mr. Smith.

How can you tell when someone is calculating? If I said that I thought you were being very calculating in your comments here, could you prove me wrong? What if I said that about Obama? Can you prove that he is or is not calculating?

And how exactly are these people going to know whether someone is authentic? Many people thought that Bush was authentic with his pretend ranch and his pretend flight suit landings. If people can be fooled so easily about authenticity, then what use is it?

Let me suggest something to you: people who want to elect a Republican are going to find McCain more authentic and people who want to elect a Democrat are going to find Obama more authentic. "Authenticity" has no objective meaning that voters consistently recognize.

What's wrong with that ? Are you telling yourself you have to be REALISTIC and not believe that it's possible ?
Maybe that's what wrong with this country.

Well, I do think I have to be realistic. Don't you? I also think that I can't create new reality just by believing things are true. I'm silly like that.

More to the point, I think you're making some fairly strong claims with zero empirical support. In addition, those claims don't really make sense to me. I'd overlook that if you had some evidence, but you don't.

I suspect that you think that your analysis is some hard fought wisdom that you have stumbled on, but it is actually very popular with some elites. These elites are not, in my opinion, very smart. You may wish to read this for more information in that regard.

And yes, I'm sure you did hear that. In my experience, people often hear what they want to hear, regardless of what was actually said.

People also tend to say what they think their listeners want to hear. It's a tendency that makes personal conversations almost useless as a way of judging public opinion.

What the American people want is somebody who is passionate about believing the same things the American people believe.

The American people want victory in Iraq, and they want to get the hell out as of yesterday.

They want to outlaw abortion and they want to preserve access to abortion for everyone.

They want handguns banned and they refuse any restriction on gun ownership.

Who are the American people, and what do they believe? I'll be damned if I can tell you.

The only thing that is clear to me is that they are united in their hatred of arugula and wind-surfing.

But what if what Americans really want to hear is that Americans are the greatest people in the world and that they can have anything they want for FREE and they don't ever need to go without? What then?

I think this position has been, hands-down, the clear electoral winner for the last 40 years. Certainly since 1980.

Were JFK to stand up today and say, "Ask what you can do for your country", IMO he would be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail. Unless, of course, what you can do for your country is buy more stuff.

My prediction is that McCain will run on some variant of this. In spite of everything we've seen for the last 8, and 28, and 40 years, I put the odds of a Republican victory in November at slightly better than even.

Thanks -

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