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October 14, 2008

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Luck is the residue of design.

-Branch Rickey

But the Palin pick shows that they’re pretty cheap dates.

cheap psychotic dates. You can take em to McDonald's, but don't forget the anniversary or you are toast...

Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.

Louis Pasteur

McCain had the bad luck to exemplify the statement "wherever you go, there you are." Had he tried to run as a bipartisan voice of experience, he wouldn't have been able to sustain it. He can't get away from his own nature, he just needed the opportunity to display it not only to the country, but perhaps to himself. He's not presidential material. He's impulsive, impatient, prone to making uneducated guesses, particularly under pressure. I don't think he could run any kind of campaign but a disastrous one. One favor Bush did for him in 2000 was to run such a dirty campaign that it took attention away from whatever mistakes McCain made.

Opposed to that is Obama's preternatural level-headedness. He had the luck to be born with a resistance to adrenaline. Like Phelps and Jordan, he put in enormous amounts of labor to get where he is, but he started with a better foundation than any politician I've ever seen.

Good post. Obama's lucky in one respect -- you aren't part of the McCain strategy team.

I tend to think that Obama would still have weathered the storm had McCain done as you say--McCain could only separate himself so much from Bush and Republicans in general--but it would be a lot closer now, and my blood pressure would be a lot higher, so I'm glad for McCain's ineptitude.

Good post, my favorite quote along the same vein is variously attributed to either Bobby Knight or boxing trainer Cus D'amato - it goes something like "when two teams step on the floor, only one team deserves to win." The message being that the game has already largely been won or lost before the clock starts.

Alternatively:

KGB: "Good hand. You got lucky, catching that jack on the turn."

Mike McD: "Yeah, Teddy. It was luck..."

"(1) I’m a reformer who bucks the GOP;"

The problem being that he bucks the GOP on subjects where the base actually agrees with the party platform, like illegal immigration and campaign censorship.

He was already more of a "maverick" than the party base could stomach, and he did need their votes at some point.

"But the Palin pick shows that they’re pretty cheap dates."

Actually, it shows they're willing to forgive a lot if they think your heart is in the right place, something they're NOT going to believe of John McCain without more fence mending than he has lifespan left to achieve.

The basic problem for McCain is that,

1. He's starting in a hole the GOP spent years digging.

2. The party base understands he was manning one of the shovels. And he seems to have trouble setting it down.

I agree it's not all luck for Obama, luck does you no good if you're not capable of exploiting it. But, man, the fact that it's even close under these circumstances just amazes me.

"But, man, the fact that it's even close under these circumstances just amazes me."

But, it isn't.

Darn you, J. Michael Neal, for beating me to the Rickey quote.

Running against the GOP hurts downticket races. He'd have hurt himself with party insiders even more than he has with his "maverick" BS, which is a sort of have your cake and eat it attempt to embrace the base while rejecting the things they support.

If McCain had managed to calm his inner loon, and run for the center, he would have lost the right. He'd have Dobson telling the fundies to stay home this year.

What gives me hope for Obama's capacity to govern well is his demonstrated ability to keep his "eyes on the prize," and sacrifice short-term tactical gains in order to achieve long-term strategic victory. This YouTube video, Barack Speaks To HQ Staff & Volunteers After Clinching Nomination in June 2008, illustrates the temperament and management style I hope to see in the next President of the United States.

Examples from the campaign so far:

[1] Obama was hammered by critics last summer when McCain's snarky (and often dishonest) ads hurt Obama's standing in the polls. It took a lot of guts, while die-hard Hillary supporters were still threatening to mount an insurrection at the convention, for Obama to stand his ground and invest in the long-term ground game, rather than anti-snark ads to make himself feel good for the moment.

Obama showed the same resolve in late spring after he had virtually clinched the Democratic nomination mathematically. He didn't waste money and time waging serious contests in states which weren't part of his general-election strategy (e.g. Kentucky and West Virginia). This allowed Hillary to pile up a large, meaningless "popular vote" total. and gave an opening for critics to disparage his "inability to close the deal". Instead he started campaigning in states he needed/hoped to win (or contest strongly) in the general election (e.g. Michigan and Minnesota).

[2] Obama recognized that accepting Federal financing would severely limit the amount of money available for ads whose message he could control. This offered a gawdawful Hobson's choice. Option [a] was "lose with honor": allow a ton of 527 ads from groups "independent" of McCain to bury his own message. Option [b] was "win with dishonor": unleash a whole lot of "independent" (wink wink) 527's of his own, and thus actively participate in the kind of mindlessly partisan politics he had promised to change.

Overall, Obama has run a pretty respectful campaign. Yes, there's been plenty of the exaggeration, quoting out of context, stretching the truth, etc. that's almost inevitable when boiling down complicated facts into 30-second spots. But Obama hasn't stooped to tarring any disagreement with the policies he favors as "unpatriotic".

[3] Obama picked a VP with a view to governing, not to winning electoral votes. He didn't fall for the nonsensical conventional wisdom that Obama-Clinton would be a "dream ticket." (Ironicaly, Hillary's main problem is what made her the front-runner for the nomination in the first place: Bill Clinton. Bill's loose-cannon behavior on the campaign trail made it clear that he's congenitally incapable of playing second fiddle, and that having him as the "Second Gentlemen" would leave an Obama administration -- or a Hillary Clinton administration for that matter -- powerless to control him.)

On November 5th, win or lose, Obama won't need to be ashamed of the campaign he waged. St. John the Maverick, otoh, definitely will.

The Obama storylines about his normal all-American boyhood are finally being exposed for the fairytales they really are. It is now becoming crystal clear, with the latest revelations about their family friends, that his mother and grandparents brought Obama up in an atmosphere which makes the cannibal family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre look positively tame.

No, that is not a man who sees America the way normal Americans see America! The McCain campaign should aggressively expose all of Obama’s unsavory associations and point out how far from normal Obama really is.

his mother and grandparents brought Obama up in an atmosphere which makes the cannibal family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre look positively tame.

I don't generally feed trolls, but I just have to know the rationale for this little bit of absurdity.

Mrs. Polly: [McCain is] impulsive, impatient, prone to making uneducated guesses, particularly under pressure. I don't think he could run any kind of campaign but a disastrous one.

Mandy W.: It took a lot of guts, while die-hard Hillary supporters were still threatening to mount an insurrection at the convention, for Obama to stand his ground and invest in the long-term ground game, rather than anti-snark ads to make himself feel good for the moment.

I think these two observations fit with mine that McCain is not just a lousy candidate but would be a lousy president because of his insecurity, vanity and pique. He's used to a certain amount of media adulation, and Obama's rising profile bothered him hard enough to throw out those ridiculous "celebrity" ads. (I'd love to see a remix of those with some scenes from Highlander: "There can be only one!")

In addition, another fatal flaw of the campaign has been reflected in his spokespersons' own words: they couldn't get any attention from the Obama-loving media, they said, so they had to run negative ads to win news cycles.

McCain is an empty shell in some ways. He needs that constant adulation and attention to build himself up. He flips out when he's neglected or criticized. In contrast, while Obama certainly has an outsize ego and a real streak of arrogance, he is much more genuinely confident and secure.

I'll take the stable egotist over the flighty narcissist, thanks.

This is a brilliant post, hilzoy, and it encapsulates much of what we've all been thinking and writing around for the last few months. I agree with pithlord (for once!) that Obama is, indeed, lucky that you weren't McCain's campaign manager. But I also agree with Mrs. Polly's very shrewd observation that McCain's main deficit is, well, himself. He's *never* been the man Mark Salter portrayed him to be. He's never been a thoughtful, above the fray, bipartisan, elder statesman whose outside the beltway values blah blah blah. He just hired a really good writer and played the part, for a while, for a very limited and easy audience of bored talk show hosts and journalists. When the chips were down he ran the campaign into the ground because he actually wasn't capable of continuing to fake it long enough to take the white house. Character is destiny, as it turns out and McCain has shown his character to be that appropriate to a weak, angry, bitter, opportunistic and very short sighted man. such a man simply doesn't have the strength, let alone the intelligence, to fake maturity for the entire of the campaign cycle.

As for the hard work that went into Obama's luck. I agree 100 percent. I keep coming back to the fact that McCain graduated in the bottom of his class. There is no world, except bizarro wingnut world, where Obama graduates in the bottom of his class, never learns to work hard, never cares about working hard, and gets where he got. The recent New Yorker article about the two men and their foreign policy teams underlines this difference. Obama and his team pride themselves on preparation, preparation, preparation. He is advised by a team of hundreds of area and historical specialists who he can tap at a moment's notice. McCain's campaign reacts in rage and contempt at the notion that McCain "needs help" and assures the new yorker that this is as absurd as saying that Tiger Woods needs practice with his golf swing. McCain doesn't need practice, or coaching, or help? Its an interesting inversion of the usual tropes of racism and classism that McCain's people insist on presenting him as a "natural" whose "instincts" will carry him through where Obama must rely on mere "book learning" and "hard work." If the shoe were on the other foot and McCain had a demonstrated ability to study hard for the big test, to work hard and in obscurity for his goals, to test well and Obama could be proved to have been handed his entire life on a silver platter do you think we wouldn't be hearing about how Obama is unprepared and doesn't respect the office of the president?

aimai

Lucky, are you kidding. Fellow politicians, mostly Democrats worked very hard and long to set the stage for this market crash. And the accommodating main stream media joined in with their insane brand of elbow grease. I'm not real enthused with either candidate, but hopefully this ejaculation is premature and fate will serve us well.

A good sign for the future: Troll flalings are becoming more and more desperate.

Andrew, the troll is referring to a National Enquirer report exposing a former mentor of Obama as a sexual offender. Erick Erickson at Red State and, I regret to say, Moe Lane, have been all over this like the cheap, empty suits that they are, giggling over Obama's postulated "underage gay affair", then protesting that their comments are just a satire of Palin Derangement Syndrome.

Jim Henley and John Cole have discussed this already, but I'm loathe to link to any of this garbage from here, even indirectly through those two stand-up guys. Go to their blogs and browse if you're curious. Balloon Juice has some lengthy excerpts.

i almost linked but i rather not dignify that Red State garbage. Henley pretty much captures why it's so disgusting though

Thanks, Mary.

You guys are right. That story disgusting and unworthy of a link.

Running against the Republican party might have worked for McCain. It is working pretty well for Rossi here in Washington. Rossi, a classic Club for Growth meets religious fanatic plus white collar crime Republican is running as the "change" candidate, has ads attacking Gregoire for not supporting foster care andn other traditionally Deomcratic concerns sufficiently. Since he's a Republican he is also fearmongering (sex predators!) and lying (budget deficet!) but mostly he is running as a Democrat.

The most recent polls i saw had them tied anns this should be a walkaway for Gregoire.

Of course state level politics is different than national. However the Republican base is used to dog whistles and code words. part of McCain's problem is that he didn't whistle and code talk to get their u\support--he very openly courted and pandered.

So maybe he could have sold himslef to the independents as an independent if he had the right surrogates and the right code words and whisltes.

Still I think that this is just, for many , many reasons, a Democratic year annd even if he had run a decent campaign, he might very well have lost.

To achieve any traction (an unlikely premise given his record) McCain would have had to reject Reagan and he could not have done this prior to the crash. Had he essentially embraced Obama's program he could have presented himself as a moderate leader capable of arbitrating disputes in a heavily Democratic congressional environment and as a conservative brake against excess. Reagan like John Lewis is his hero, if you get the drift.

See no evil, hear no evil, say no...well, two outa three ain't bad. Hypocrisy abounds.

All these comments from the GOP camp about Obama's "luck" put me in mind of a book I once read by a military historian examining Napoleon's career. He was trying to push the conclusion that the Little Corporal really wasn't all that brilliant a commander, and that his years-long string of victories were due mainly to the good luck that most of the opposing generals he fought against were often quite incompetent.

Now when looked at on a battle-by-battle basis, this thesis might have some validity: but as a long-term explanation, it just strains credibility too much: "Luck" can only go so far to account for a string of successes (military or political) - somewhere along the line, a general/politician's native skills have to come into play. Barack Obama is certainly no Napoleon: but his campaign (so far) has been organized and executed at a level Bonaparte would have appreciated. In (surprising) contrast to the Republicans' efforts.

"This is a brilliant post, hilzoy,"

I think so too. But I didn't write it.

I too considered saying something about the Nat. Enquirer thing, but didn't because I don't want to bother linking to it. But here's a good summary, with quotes. Dan Riehl is pretty vile, especially given the fact that the story itself does not so much as begin to support the stuff people are saying. (Not to mention the fact that even if it did, it would be rape, not something that reflects badly on its victim.)

I beg your pardon, publius! It was a brilliant post and you deserve all the credit.

aimai

Y'know, it has been clear for years that the Right would settle on a Dolchstoss theory for propaganda (the famous stab-in-the-back accusation in Weimar Germany). The only thing was, everyone assumed it would be about Iraq. But now we have Blogbudsman's utterly incredible and despicable first comment, above, making it clear that the theory will still be in play, with the Economy replacing Iraq. The notion that all blame for the economy should be laid on partisan Democrats undermining the country in service of their short-term electoral hopes (or, I suppose, a longer-term dastardly plot to achieve Socialism) is completely risible, and its only purpose is to help the Right convince themselves that their political opponents are traitors, perhaps even to justify violence.

Well, logic isn't their strong suit, Warren Terra. I mean, these are the same people who think that Obama was bred in a secret communist laboratory as a union between a white woman and a black man because 44 years later his muslim name, mixed race background, and suspicious history of doing well in a racist society would catapult him *unchallenged* and *unquestioned* to the presidency. Damn their diabolical sneakiness. Imagine how much faster their evil plans would have been implemented if they had only been smart enough to run a white guy from a prominent political family with an anodyne name like george bush! Then we'd already be on the brink of socialism, the nationalizing of banks, total financial collapse, an overstretched military, a destroyed constitution, and etc..etc...etc... As it is their shortsighted attempt to run the obviously suspicious black guy has put their plans for world domination back by eight whole years.

aimai

It is now becoming crystal clear, with the latest revelations about their family friends, that his mother and grandparents brought Obama up in an atmosphere which makes the cannibal family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre look positively tame.

Dude: acid, or meth, but never both at the same time. Just saying.

Fellow politicians, mostly Democrats worked very hard and long to set the stage for this market crash

Goes for you too, blogbudsman.

Thanks -

Ha - no worries. Just to try to mistake me as the author of some hilzoy smackdown post sometime next time. :)

Wonderful post and comments. One point no one seems to be noticing is how very MLK-like Obama's strategy has been as far as attacks. By not responding in kind, Obama made the attacks the story and got everyone, even conservative Republicans looking at their content. (Replying in kind would have caused everyone to simply shrug "Everybody does it.")

Again I find the parallel in King's refusal to reply to the attack dogs, false jailings, etc., and making them the story.

Again, you call it all luck — but it’s really not. When Michael Jordan made his various clutch shots, that wasn’t really luck. Neither was the crazy Michael Phelps finish luck.

You had me until you came up with the sports metaphors. Some luck is blind luck. Some is ability meeting opportunity. Isn't that what you are saying? In that sense, Obama is lucky.

I'm not saying there is no ability there. There obviously is. I never doubted Obama could play the politics game. He has fallen off of his promises to play differently (e.g. last debates boring lack of policy except on health care;). You have it right when he has been running on "(1) I’m change; and (2) he’s Bush." A campaign only a policy wonk could love (not!).

And the media has played Tim Donaghy making it all the easier. See, frex, here (can't CNN even acknowledge that those voter registrations were either all or overwhelmingly democrat? Or even mention Obama's connection?) The Michaels didn't have that advantage. Hard to say what the advantage would be without the MSM in your back pocket.

Here at ObWi is no different. While I appreciate the scathing analysis of McCain and Palin (I mean that, I really do), where is the equivalent of Obama? Frex, where is Hilzoy calling Obama's 95% tax cut a "lie"? (and if you did, Hilzoy, my apologies in advance).

Then again, maybe I don't completely agree because you brought back my nightmare of Bryon Russell falling down as Michael drained a jumper at the buzzer over the Jazz in Game 6 (and no, I don't think that Michael should have been called for an offensive foul, in case your asking). And yes, I realize how this video plays into your analogy.

where is the equivalent of Obama?

I think there is a "false" that you forgot to add somewhere. I know it's hard for you to accept, but McCain/Palin's behavior/rhetoric has been qualitatively worse than Obama's, and this isn't really arguable unless you really think that comparing someone's admitted foibles (Keating 5) is on par with an evidence free assertion calling someone a terrorist.

More luck? Now McCain wants the subject of Ayers to come up at the next debate? Go for it, John

I don't really get bc's point--or rather, I do because Dan Balz started to make it today, to much derision. Here's the thing--its a two party race. Two different parties and two different candidates. If one party has a platform that you don't like, and in addition has a candidate that you don't like, you really have no choice but to vote against that party and person and choose the opposition--almost regardless of whether the opposition candidate and party are perfect or not.

As it turns out McCain's party and campaign are a disgrace, from my perspective. It wants what is bad for the country, doesn't seem to be well organized, and is fronted by two people (mccain and palin) who I personally dislike and find deceptive and dangerous. But even if I loved mccain and palin I still wouldn't vote for their ticket because I won't vote for their party and its platform. And they know it because they refuse to be honest and upfront about what they plan to do. Lying about the details of their policies is the least of it. They won't even say what their policies will be for fear that they will be rejected by the voters on the merits.

So whether Obama can or can't "lower" or "freeze" or rebate taxes on 95 percent of the population, or only 94 percent, is just an absurd question. Whether Obama is cruelly "smearing" McCain with remarks like "erratic" that imply he's too old when McCain only honorably and reasonably raised questions about whether Obama himself is a secret guided missle of an islamic terrorist sleeper cell seems like some kind of joke. As Pooh says there's simply no comparison between the level of mendacity of the two campaigns, just as there is no comparison between the level of jingoistic, nationalistic, race baiting between a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, coalition party and one that has deliberately shrunken itself to be the party of white racist fear mongers who think fiscal responsiblity is for other people and christianity belongs only to them.

aimai

Good post and agree. However one point that should be emphasized on McCain not making his own luck was the Palin pick. Had he gone with the more convential base pick of Governor Huckabee think how the last month would have played out. First, it is hard to see the Republican Base being materially less enthused about Huckabee than Palin - so the recovery that you saw with McCain's standing in Republican circles post Palin would have recovered to that level with Huckabee, give or take a point. Second, Huckabee has typically shown more grace to his opponents - I remember his comment on the peak of the Wright hysteria (on Fox News, no less) that while he didn't agree he understood the chip on the shoulder having been raised in the south. Palin in turn has shall we say shown less grace, and this resulted in her being a great fundraising tool for the Obama campaign - similar to what William Safire said when he called Hillary Clinton the best fundraiser for the Republican Party.

As the only governor on a major ticket, with 10 years at that, the argument of 'he has executive experience' would have had more weight and credibility than applying that to Palin as mayor of Wasilla.

As Huckabee had already campaigned for a year for President, he knew how to handle the press...no way does he mess up an interview with Katie Couric.

In the debates, Biden would have pushed harder against him, increasing the 'gaffe potential' of Biden...Huckabee held his own very well in the Republican debates.

Finally, remembering his populist campaign of "I'm the guy you work with not the guy that fired you" would have been a very good in this economic environment. You can see he'd bring alot more credibility in the Ohio/Michigan/PA/Wisconsin territory.

Whether the headwinds would have proved too much is unknown however it is hard to see how Huckabee could have made things any worse, and lots of ways he could have made things better for McCain.

It strikes me that Obama (presuming he wins, did you hear that evil-eye?) will be the first President since Reagan to not come into office claiming to be not-like-those-other-guys-from-my party. Bush II was a "compassionate conservative", meaning "not Gingrich". Clinton didn't have a corresponding slogan, but he signaled "not terribly liberal Democrat". Bush I, of course, was "kindler and gentler", meaning "not Reagan". Reagan, though, ran as an unashamed Republican.

For what it's worth, my apologies to aimai.

As it turns out Obama's party and campaign are a disgrace, from my perspective. It wants what is bad for the country, doesn't seem to be well organized, and is fronted by two people (obama and biden) who I personally dislike and find deceptive and dangerous. But even if I loved obama and biden I still wouldn't vote for their ticket because I won't vote for their party and its platform. And they know it because they refuse to be honest and upfront about what they plan to do. Lying about the details of their policies is the least of it. They won't even say what their policies will be for fear that they will be rejected by the voters on the merits.

Well played, blogbudsman! well played. Except--could you tell me which of the two campaigns has released a major speech with a high level of detail on the economy in the last week? And can you point me towards the section of the McCain/Palin website that details their plans on anything for more than a paragraph or two? thanks in advance!

aimai

I know Obama did, he's going to 'spread the wealth'.

blogbudsman, do you understand why your attempt at parity/parody falls flat?

Not even the most fervent opponent could honestly characterize the Obama campaign as disorganized.

Likewise "lying about the details of their policies", much less "won't even say what their policies will be" are so at odds with demonstrable reality that the whole comment loses plausibility.

Huckabee has typically shown more grace to his opponents

This is an important quality in a leader, to know that there is a time and a place for everything, including going after the opposition vs. backing off.

An observation about Obama, which also applies in part to Huckabee as well: some people see their dignity as deriving from the respect and deference shown to them by other people, while others have a sense of their own dignity which is more internally generated and express it by showing their respect for others, even in situations where doing so is optional. We have a number of different words to describe this quality: class, grace, etc.

Obama has this quality. It is a characteristic that is especially valuable in situations where a person has to persevere in the face of difficulties imposed from outside - such as weathering abuse and criticism, or carrying out a lengthy task whose payoff comes much later on after a long laborious struggle.

It seems to me that both of these conditions (the abuse, and the long struggle) describe salient aspects of this Presidential campaign - one of the reasons for Obama's success is that he has the right character for this moment in time and this process.

Blogsbudsman's post makes me think that the Repubs have already conceded the Presidency, and to entertain themselves until November 4th are now having a competition to see who tells the most hilariously absurd, bald-face lie.

Over the weekend, Spunky Sarah took the lead with her cheery assertion that last Friday's Troopergate report had "vindicated" her, since it found "absolute no abuse of power".

But Blogsbudsman may have done her one better with his assertion that Obama's campaign is "not well organized".

It's nice to know that while the GOP may be totally incompetent at governance, they have bright futures in stand-up comedy.

In your eyes, Nell, in your eyes. McCain's plane don't stink.

Publius' description reminds me of a Horatio Alger story. Sure, the protagonist always gets lucky. But his key to success is to always be prepared to take advantage of that luck.

"and, I regret to say, Moe Lane,"

It's sad to see Moe reducing to advocating ad hominem:

[...] PS: I'm a firm believer in letting idiots be idiots; so why am I mentioning this? Because you guys need something to wave in people's faces when they start blathering to you about how awful the GOP is, of course.
I guess Moe and his friends would find it convincing if, whenever they have a legitimate criticism of McCain's followers, Democrats simply brought up some other issue. It's a fallacy? Who cares?

"In your eyes, Nell, in your eyes. McCain's plane don't stink."

Now tell us about our mothers, please.

blogbudsman: Obama's party and campaign... doesn't seem to be well organized

...the f***? Could you possibly explain why you think this?

Lying about the details of their policies is the least of it. They won't even say what their policies will be for fear that they will be rejected by the voters on the merits.

If you're talking about McCain and the GOP, that's almost exactly right. Obama, otoh, has been pretty damn upfront about what he wants to do and has veritable tons of policy papers on his website to prove it.

Seriously: wtf are you talking about? It's like you mixed up the two parties or something...

BTW, it's almost as if the GOP has forgotten the number of Republican sexual predators in Congress...

Seriously: wtf are you talking about?

Anarch, I think the correct description for what you are witnessing is something along the lines of "Disciplined cadres always maintain a correct attitude towards the party line..."

We are dealing with Redstate Maoists. Sort of a NASCAR Shining Path as it were.

Street's Demands May Stir Public Wrath is a quick WSJ article about the tin ears of Wall Street bankers:

You would have thought the Street's last surviving chieftains would be a contrite bunch by now, eager to reform their industry and help rebuild their country.

At least until you heard Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s Lloyd Blankfein, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.'s James Dimon, Blackstone Group LP's Stephen Schwarzman, BlackRock Inc.'s Larry Fink and Silver Lake's Glenn Hutchins assemble for a panel session at the New York Stock Exchange last week organized in part by The Wall Street Journal.

To the 75 Wall Street titans there nodding in agreement, the discussion must have seemed banal. But any outsider, from Washington or the dismissed realms of "flyover country," would have been amazed at the goings-on.

While America buckles in for years of sacrifice, the five chiefs took a different approach. The group pulled straight from the what-government-can-do-for-you school of 2006, lobbying for Wall Street tax breaks, the repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley and against the distraction of class-action lawsuits.

Even John McCain knows enough to attack Wall Street and enough to know that blaming the Democrats is insane.

blogbudsman, do you understand why your attempt at parity/parody falls flat?

Good comedians know that jokes that cut as close to reality as possible are the best; you can't do, for example, a Martha Stewart parody if the actor doesn't behave anything like Martha Stewart.

blogbudsman sounds like he was a writer for the Fox 1/2 Hour News Hour.

Publius' description reminds me of a Horatio Alger story.
Socratic_me, have you actually read Horatio Alger, or just about him? I've never read any, so I could be way off, but I remember reading an interesting essay or blog post about how, after growing up with the cliche of "Horatio Alger Story" and seeing it constantly conflated with "The Protestant Work Ethic", someone went and actually read a bunch of Horatio Alger stories - and found that rather than tales of hard work being rewarded, they were tales of cleancut young men having good fortune descend upon them through a stroke of good fortune (young man cleans himself up, is in the right place at the right time, and gets to marry heiress, that sort of thing). Now, I'm relying on my recollection of a secondhand report here, so it could be nonsense - but have you read them, or are you just citing the cliche?

Warren Terra,
You are correct. Horatio Alger stories were always about young, handsome, boys who just happened to be in the right place at the rigtht time and who are helped along out of poverty by the charity of a good rich man. Pluck, luck, and fortune not hard work.

aimai

Warren Terra, I'm sure I've read the same essay you did about Alger. I could have sworn it was by Orwell, but a search of my print indexes and Google doesn't back it up. Would it have been this essay by W.S. Ross? Or maybe this was a common enough realization that more than one writer mentioned it, because I can't remember ever reading Ross myself.

To be fair, Socratic_me mentions luck first and foremost, so I wouldn't say that comment was that far off from most people's view of Alger's stories.

"Seriously: wtf are you talking about? It's like you mixed up the two parties or something..."

Obama hasn't revealed his Sekrit Plans for re-education camps, self-criticism sessions for landlords, abolition of private property, dhimmitude of all citizens, and so on, you see. Folks like blogsbudsman know that those sorts of things are in the cards, along with the Return Of The Fairness Doctrine, full funding of the Communist Party, the installation of an all-black government, and so on, so the fact that Obama hasn't admitted it is prima facie evidence of lying and concealment.

What does one do when at least a quarter to a fifth of one's fellow citizens seem to be quite insane?

What does one do when at least a quarter to a fifth of one's fellow citizens seem to be quite insane?

What about splitting the USA into two different nations, and letting them go their separate and distinct ways in terms of governance?

No, that wasn’t a joke.

There were good reasons for preserving the Union in 1860 that simply don’t apply today. If we were to split the USA into the BSA (Blue States of America) and RSA (Red States of America), each one would be large enough to survive on its own, having a big enough economy and military to cope with competitors and enemies. The European Union has shown us that large scale and long distance commerce can be conducted across national boundaries without a crippling loss of efficiency.

What are the advantages of continuing to imprison within the same political entity millions of people who seemingly cannot agree on anything and passionately hate each other, reasons that are sufficiently large to outweigh the costs?

The details of the split would be messy, and there are probably a dozen or so states which would have difficulty establishing a consensus regarding which nation to belong to, but we are already a very mobile people so large scale migration would fix that problem within a generation or less. If the split were given a long term timetable then it could be accomplished in a planned fashion rather than turning into something like the partition of India and Pakistan.

Any takers?

I sure wouldn't mind waving goodbye to Alaska and Texas. And there are plenty of advocates in those two states for such a plan. Perhaps, rather than try to incorporate every state into some sort of split, we could simply let those two secede as wingnut havens.

Any takers?

My default position is that we are stuck with each other, and that we need to learn to get along.

I think if you went down this path, you'd end up with more than two countries. It's not just red and blue, each region of the country kind of has its own traditions and its own way of going about things. The states that couldn't agree as to whether to be "blue" or "red" would likely end up banding together with other, similar states and carving out their own thing.

Maybe a federation of smaller states, but united for purposes of common trade (and probably defense) policies, along the lines of the EU?

I could also live with the same basic structure we have now, but with a much higher level of federalism and devolution of control and policy to the state level.

But basically, I think it's kind of a non-starter. I think we're stuck with each other.

Thanks -

I have read both Ragged Dick and Mark the Match Boy. I took an honours history class in college in which we read period pieces related to the American history we were studying at the time. It also caused me to read A Traveler From Altruria, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and exceprts from The Deminine Mystique among others. Fantastic class. At the time, I desparately wanted to make a T-shirt that had "Ragged Dick" stamped across the front in huge letters and then a picture of the cover on the back, which I guess shows my base sense of humor.

As for whether Alger's heroes succeeded through hard work or luck, this is an argument we had in class back then. Yes, Alger's young men always found success through a stroke of luck and a benefactor. However, they also always worked hard and were honest, and their luck was often tied to some positive act they had undertaken. For example, I believe that Ragged Dick found his benefactor by saving someone who fell off the side of a boat. (He did not know that the person was the son of a very rich man at the time.) So Alger's protagonists were always lucky, but that luck did always spring, in some way or another, from their own character.

This is actually why I found Publius post to be similar to an Alger story. Say what you will, but Obama has had the good fortune to find himself in general election contests that play to his strengths. In many cases, his oponents have been pretty horribly flawed. However, I feel that this really occurs in large part because Obama's character puts him in a great position to take advantage of such weaknesses in his opponent (or strengths in political circumstances).

The economic turmoil would not be such an advantage to him were he not preternaturally calm. Similarly, he is better able to capitalize on Bush's weakness (and Palin's similarities) in part because he is clearly thoughtful, intelligent and articulate. Clinton was defeatable because she couldn't ever explain her stance on Iraq. Obama could only capitalize because he was prescient in 2002. The list goes on and on.

I honestly have a hard time believing that Obama's large bore, measured style could have won 8 years ago. He is lucky to be campaigning when he is. But the only reason that he can capitalize on that luck is because his own character leads him naturally toward positions that maximize the good he can create out of the luck that has found him.

LeftTurn:

Why think small? Consider The Nine Nations of North America.

--TP

Socratic_me, thank you for your interesting elaboration.

Tony P., we could always aim for the two nations of North America. Snark aside, the problem is that these maps are silly, because partisan identification is much more strongly predicted by population density than by geographic location: most cities in red states are blue, and most rural areas in blue states are red.

In many cases, his oponents have been pretty horribly flawed

Alan Keyes? "Horribly flawed?" Really?
/snark

I urge you all to vote McCain for the sake of keeping this thing interesting. think of the media! prick them, do they not bleed, even-handedly?

I'm quite aware of the dangers of jinxing things. Nevertheless, this election is O-VER.

I urge everyone to vote Obama, strictly to spare Byrningman the chagrin they would suffer if that last phrase in their comment were to be incorrect.

Two good articles I just saw which illustrate the "slow buildup, late payoff" aspect of Obama's run, as mentioned above:

the new organizers

Note the risky and previously untried (at least on this scale) emphasis on early organization building rather than voter contact. This may explain why Obama's polling numbers slowly sagged during the summer and then dramatically went up in the weeks following the DNC (see 538's tracker chart for example).

and this shows Obama looking beyond the election to relations between the WH and Congress (something which was a millstone around the neck of the Carter admin.):

Looking Ahead, Obama Builds Ties With 'Blue Dogs'

Obama's campaign had the correct strategy from the beginning, and McCain and Clinton fell for it entirely. Obama made the election, both primary and general, a referendum on him. Then he was boring, easily sailing past the 'credibility' threshold impervious to the misguided attacks of his opponents.

Had McCain or Clinton competed on the issues, or made the election referendums on their own personalities, things made have turned out very differently. On the issues alone, Clinton would have beaten Obama in a Dem primary. Had McCain resisted his advisors' siren song of attack attack attack, and made the campaign about him, it's hard to see a dull but talented young man beating him.

I guess, Publius, I am disagreeing with your basic thesis. This was a year in which generic Democrat won. As far as I can tell, Obama has done his best to turn himself into generic Democrat in the past few months; the appeals to 'hope' in his convention speech were fairly perfunctory IMHO. It does seem like his campaign has built a very impressive electoral machine, but it seems like overkill now, it's hardly needed to get to 270.

Osama Bin Laden could release a video in which he has Sarah Palin tied to the train tracks, and he twirls his menacing mustache and cackles "only John McCain can stop me now!", and Obama still wins this.

Or, in other terms. If Obama loses this, he's an even greater chump than Gore (whose rehabilitation continues to mystify me).

byrningman, I don't think there is such a thing as an unlosable election. The Dems have shown great talent for shooting themselves in the foot, and the media loves them some manly-men warriors with comfy chairs for the press. Any Democrat would have benefited from the economic chaos, and any Democrat would have had a hard time winning without it, but you still need competence to not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Significantly, Obama positioned himself to catch two successive waves of "kick the bums out" -- he turned pretty quickly from being the Guy Who Was Right About The War, to being the Guy Who Can Take Charge And Fix The Economy. In both cases, it was because he started laying the groundwork for that image months if not years beforehand. That's more than luck. It's also a very good sign that he'll be a proactive President.

Which is not to say he's going to magically fix things - nobody can. But he'll probably do better than most people could.

byrningman - Nevertheless, this election is O-VER.

I wish. By my quick count of the Yahoo/RCP poll, there's 6 states with 87 votes where Obama is leading by 5 or less percent. There are almost no states where McCain is leading by so small a margin. It may seem unlikely all these will flip to McCain, but it's never over until it's over. We've seen too many "surprises" (queue Jes on Diebold) for me to rest easy.

OT - I got my first McCain campaign interaction today. Surprising, since I live in Ohio. It was simply a computer phone call that went negative on Obama for spending more time in Hollywood than with his economic advisors on the day they took the rescue package vote. Pretty lame, but maybe somebody would fall for it.

By my quick count of the Yahoo/RCP poll, there's 6 states with 87 votes where Obama is leading by 5 or less percent. There are almost no states where McCain is leading by so small a margin.

Worse imaginable case: Obama has all the Kerry states plus IA and NM. He's lost NC, NV, MO; and CO, OH, VA and FL are 50/50. He only has to win one of the latter four to reach 270. The probability of him losing all 4 50/50 tossups is 6.25%.

No consider that he has quite sizable leads in all of those four, and is very competitive in 4-5 other Bush states. He has more money than he knows what to do with. His ground operation is supposedly superb. And early voting has already started in several states, which he is currently well ahead in, and which he only needs to win 1 to get to 270.

Over.

It also caused me to read A Traveler From Altruria, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and exceprts from The Deminine Mystique

I'll bite: what's so mysterious about four and a half?

TLTIA, Tony P et al: if you're gonna break the US apart like that, shatter it.

[Super fun beer'n'pretzels game, btw...]

The probability of him losing all 4 50/50 tossups is 6.25%.

byrningman,

While I hope your overall analysis is accurate, this particular statement is not correct. The results in close states are not independent. They are likely highly correlated, so the probability of losing four states that look like tossups today may be closer to 50% than 6.25%.

This sounds pedantic; maybe it is. It's important nonetheless. Nothing's worse than a premature gloat.

The probability of him losing all 4 50/50 tossups is 6.25%.

Not true. These are not independent uncorrelated events, like say 4 flips of an unbiased coin. The probability distribution of projected wins and losses amongst these four states is unlikely to resemble a Gaussian distribution. That means the chances of Obama losing all four of those states is not 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5.

These states are not perfectly correlated with each other either - their demographics are noticeably divergent for example, so calculating the probability of all four of them going for McCain is complex - that is why Nate at 538 is using a Monte Carlo simulation technique to estimate the probability distribution of various possible combinatorial outcomes.

Oops, sorry Bernard - I didn't intend to double up your comment. It wasn't up yet when I started writing and got called away from the computer, and I forgot to check on preview before posting.

I'm quite aware of that. My point is that it is inconceivable that he would not remain competitive, at worst, in those states, and that the chances of him losing them all at this point are extremely small. Simply positing that all those states might have deteriorated to the point of just being competitive is acknowledging the fact that there is a correlation between them.

Obviously mine is not a very sophisticated model, it was simply intended to be a mental exercise showing that, even in the most abject conditions, Obama's chances of reaching 270 are very very high.

TLTIA - estimate the probability distribution of various possible combinatorial outcomes

Or, in place of all those complicated techniques, one could simply look at the futures market on the election. IIRC, it's about 3/1 for Obama. Markets never lie, right?

Markets never lie, right?

I've got some mortgage backed securities that say otherwise...

Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies.


Obviously mine is not a very sophisticated model, it was simply intended to be a mental exercise showing that, even in the most abject conditions, Obama's chances of reaching 270 are very very high.

No problem.

The precision with which you gave the 6.25% answer suggested otherwise. At least when I was in school, they taught us to leave off the last 2 significant digits when engaged in making an argument by arm waving.

;-}

These poll numbers are pretty awesome.

TLTIABQ, your decimalist prejudice is showing: you saw three significant figures and thought it meant high accuracy, while if you considered the same number as a fraction or in binary, it is clearly 1/16 or 2^-4, and much more of a ballpark figure.

blogbudsman: In your eyes, Nell, in your eyes.

ZOMG, blogbudsman's been hiding the blinding light of his comedic talent under a bushel. He's really the Medium Lobster!

The Medium Lobster is a higher being from beyond the boundaries of space and time. From his perch atop ethereal dimensions whose heights defy mortal comprehension, all of reality as you know it is laid out before him like so many ants at a summer picnic. To your limited perception, he appears to be an ordinary lobster, neither especially large nor particularly small. To your limited perception.

byrningman: On the issues alone, Clinton would have beaten Obama in a Dem primary.

Only if she'd acknowledged how wrong she was on Iraq.

Plus, even then, she'd need to have top-level staff who understood the delegate selection rules and their implications -- because in primaries it doesn't matter how much you've won over voters in general on the issues: you've got to get your voters out to the caucus or the polls.

Organization. Obama's chief producer of "luck". Organization of a kind that hasn't been seen in campaigns in this country ever outside a few cities, much less applied to the whole country.

Organization of a kind that hasn't been seen in campaigns in this country ever outside a few cities, much less applied to the whole country.

"Oh, *that's* what community organizers do!" said sad Sarah Palin as she boarded the plane back to Alaska.

Thanks -

And Obama is still black!

"What about splitting the USA into two different nations, and letting them go their separate and distinct ways in terms of governance?"

Wait, wait, I've got an idea: We could come up with a system where the states were largely self-governing, with a central government which only handles truly national issues like defense, and relations with other countries. We could call it, oh, maybe "federalism".

I'd just like to confess to posting while inebriated last night (PWI), so I did perhaps make my case rather more forcefully than intended. I don't want to jinx anything, but it does seem incredibly hard for him to lose now. It would take a massive reversal of fortunes for him even to be reduced to a minimum platform of 264 electoral college votes, at which point statistically the chances of him winning still seem overwhelming.

But I don't want to jinx anything...

I do have say though, if it seems like I'm being tough on him lately, it's because I've found him very unimpressive since the convention. I guess it's the right strategy and all, but I've just found him very boring and extremely cautious. I do think his entire response to the economic meltdown has been to say "I'm a Democrat". I mean, I've admired his political discipline until lately, and I still do, but man is he boring me to tears at the moment.

Tonight's debate might be interesting, as it may well be McCain's last stand. Then again, we said that about the first three debates, and they were all dullsville...

I said back in the spring that Obama's problem wouldn't be getting elected this year, but getting re-elected in four years. That was largely because he's become such a target of people's unrealistic hopes that he is bound to let a lot of people down. I think that's more true than ever now, what with the country being kinda broken and all. Although on the other hand, maybe it's lucky for him that the country broke before he took over, would have sucked for him to win and the financial meltdown happened early next year...

byrningman,
I think that the financial crisis was one where, had Obama been more out in front, that the current admin could have really screwed him. Also, as DeLone says, get something passed now to prevent meltdown and wait till January. That seems like good advice.

I think Obama's reelection chances highly depend on Congress. If the Democrats achieve a filibuster-proof majority in the senate, I see a chance. If the GOP retains the obstructionist option, then my bets are on them first in 2010, then in 2012.
Should the Son of Cain become president instead, it will likely be necessary to invoke the Bush doctrine against the regime in Washington (even before Not-the-other-Palin ascends to the throne by Richardthirding* him).

*The Shakespearean guy, not the historical one.

You trying to butter me up Nell?

Chicago politics goes nationwide:

Pollster: Hello, I'm taking a poll to determine if you favor the incredibly wonderful and extraordinarily organized Barrack Obama or that dastardly dunderheaded John McCain.

Registered Democrat:

Pollster: Hey buddy, what's you're problem?

Registered Democrat:

Pollster: Listen you racist buffoon, can't you answer a perfectly legitimate question?

Registered Democrat:

Pollster: That's it, you arrogant t*rd, if you're going to be that rude to me, I'm turning you in to the Secret Service. They'll come knocking on your door and scare you even more than you should be already. Harrumph!!

Registered Democrat:

Knock! Knock!

They're heeeeereeeeeer!!

TTLIA,

I'm always glad to have someone who knws what they're talking about confirm what I write.

We could come up with a system where the states were largely self-governing, with a central government which only handles truly national issues like defense, and relations with other countries.

I've never heard someone so openly pine for the Articles of Confederation.

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