General Casey Backs Obama’s Story

Watching tonight’s debate I was impressed by the degree to which Clinton and Obama have exchanged places compared to the early debates. Initially Clinton was the front runner and dominated the debates. Obama gradually improved in the debates and has certainly changed positions in the national polls. By the time they got to the current one on one debates, Obama has become the one who looks presidential while Clinton looks like a desperate has been.

I’m actually holding off for a transcript and more reaction to comment further on tonight’s debate but there is actually some significant news related to last week’s debate. Right wingers have claimed that the story Obama told last week of inadequately supplied troops was untrue. Another source is backing Obama’s story–Army chief of staff General George Casey:

Army chief of staff Gen. George Casey, testifying on troop strain before the Senate Armed Forces Committee Tuesday, said there is “no reason to doubt” Sen. Barack Obama’s military shortage story during CNN’s debate in Austin, Texas, last week.

“You know, I’ve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon — supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq,” Obama told CNN moderator Campbell Brown.

“And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough Humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief,” he added.

War supporters have challenged the story, but Casey said he had “no reason to doubt what it is the captain says.”

McCain Repudiates Right Wing Smears on Obama

I’ve said before that if the election turned out to be John McCain versus Hillary Clinton I would have a tough time deciding. While I might agree with Clinton more if we were go make a laundry list of issues, McCain has an edge over Clinton based upon character. We saw that again today. After further rounds of Clinton going negative against Obama we saw a clear distinction from McCain. The Swamp reports that Bill “Willie” Cunningham, a conservative radio talk show host in Cincinnati, spoke before McCain and resorted to a number of attacks on Obama such as using his middle name and calling him a Chicago hack:

So McCain apologized. He told reporters after the rally that he hadn’t heard Cunningham’s schtick because he hadn’t arrived at the hall yet. But after his staff told him what Wild Bill said, McCain wasted no time in saying he was sorry.

“I take responsibility and I repudiate what he said,” McCain gamely said. “I will not tolerate anything in this campaign that denigrates either Sen. Obama or Sen. (Hillary) Clinton.”

The Caucus also reports on McCain’s apology:

“It’s my understanding that before I came in here a person who was on the program before I spoke made some disparaging remarks about my two colleagues in the Senate, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton,” he said. “I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, that I will treat them with respect. I will call them Senator. We will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may have been made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans.” Responding to questions from reporters, Mr. McCain said he did not hear what Mr. Cunningham said, saying that when he arrived, Mr. Portman was on stage.

“Whatever suggestion that was made that was any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong,” he said, “I condemn it, and if I have any responsibility, I will take the responsibility, and I apologize for it.”

He called Mr. Obama a “man of integrity” and said he was someone he had come to know “pretty well and I admire.”

He also said that it was not appropriate to invoke Mr. Obama’s middle name in the course of the campaign.

“I absolutely repudiate such comments,” he said. “It will never happen again.”

After seeing many dirty campaigns from Republicans, as well as seeing Hillary Clinton’s campaign this year, it will be a welcome change if a Obama vs. McCain campaign were to remain at this level.

Obama, Pragmatism, and Liberal Principles

I’ve looked at Obama’s advisers in the past, such as in quoting Daniel Koffler‘s post at The Guardian where he describes Obama as a left-libertarian. I’ve felt that it is an exaggeration to actually consider Obama to be a left-libertarian, but that he definitely leans in that direction while Clinton and Edwards have views in the other direction. Obama is more libertarian on civil liberties and social issues, while more pragmatic on economic issues. I find this to be a big plus compared to most politicians on the scene.

The problem with politicians and economics is that most take an ideological or partisan view and try twist economic reality to fit their ideology. We see many on the right who argue that any government program is bad, and always manage to fudge the data to show this. I don’t recall ever seeing an article in Reason concede that, even if they might be ideologically opposed, there are situations where government actions are beneficial. On the other hand, many on the left are too quick to accept a big-government solution to problems and ignore the many situations where the free market does work better. Many on the right will twist economics to satisfy their personal goals, such as rationalizing lower taxes and eliminating government regulation. Many on the left do not understand that where ever possible it is preferable to tax people as little as possible and allow them to make their own business decisions with as little regulation as possible.

Moving into the political realm, another problem is that both Democrats and Republicans have their special interests. Democratic politicians will taper their economic views and policies to favor the goals of unions and the poor (or at least the middle class) while Republicans taper their economic views and policies to favor big business and the wealthy. Both sides use economic arguments to support their policies while having little concern for objectivity.

The New Republic has a must-read article on Obama’s economic advisers which does stress their pragmatism over ideology:

Despite Obama’s reputation for grandiose rhetoric and utopian hope-mongering, the Obamanauts aren’t radicals–far from it. They’re pragmatists–people who, when an existing paradigm clashes with reality, opt to tweak that paradigm rather than replace it wholesale. As Thaler puts it, “Physics with friction is not as beautiful. But you need it to get rockets off the ground.” It might as well be the motto for Obama’s entire policy shop.

There are also comparisons to the Clinton years, showing a difference in approach. The point is that the pragmatism doesn’t mean they do not hold liberal principles, but does suggest that the Obama people have a better chance at reaching workable solutions to problems:

Bill Clinton favored what you might call a “deductive” approach–an all- encompassing, almost revolutionary idea, out of which fell lots of smaller proposals. In a series of speeches in 1991, he unveiled the product of all his late-night bull-sessions with people like Reich and Galston, which he called “The New Covenant.” The old model held that government had certain unconditional obligations to its citizens. Under Clinton’s reimagining, many of these obligations would disappear. The government would help only those who fulfilled their responsibilities as parents, workers, and taxpayers. For instance, the government would no longer provide unlimited welfare benefits. It would instead require recipients to work after two years of assistance.

For their part, the Obama wonks tend to be inductive–working piecemeal from a series of real-world observations. One typical Goolsbee brainchild is something called an automatic tax return. The idea is that, if you had no tax deductions or freelance income the previous year, the IRS would send you a tax return that was already filled out. As long as you accepted the government’s accounting, you could just sign it and mail it back. Goolsbee estimates this small innovation could save hundreds of millions of man-hours spent filling out tax forms, and billions of dollars in tax-preparation fees.

Think of the contrast here as the difference between science-fiction writers and engineers. Reich and Galston are the kinds of people who’d sketch out the idea for time travel in a moment of inspiration. Goolsbee et al. could rig up the DeLorean that would actually get you back to 1955.

Like their intellectual godfather Thaler, the Obama wonks aren’t particularly interested in tearing down existing paradigms, just adjusting and extending them when they become outdated…

The Clintonites were moderates, but they were also ideological. They explicitly rejected the liberalism of the 1970s and ’80s. The Obamanauts are decidedly non-ideological. They occasionally reach out to progressive think tanks like the Economic Policy Institute, but they also come from a world– academic economics–whose inhabitants generally lean right…

And yet, just because the Obamanauts are intellectually modest and relatively free of ideology, that doesn’t mean their policy goals lack ambition. In many cases, the opposite is true. Obama’s plan to reduce global warming involves an ambitious cap-and-trade arrangement that would lower carbon emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. But cap-and-trade–in which the government limits the overall level of emissions and allows companies to buy and sell pollution permits–is itself a market-oriented approach. The companies most efficient at cutting emissions will sell permits to less efficient companies, achieving the desired reductions with minimal drag on the economy.

In transcending ideology, and understanding the concerns of conservatives as well as liberals, Obama has managed to find ways to promote progressive goals while avoiding the problems which have made proposals like HillaryCare unable to pass in Congress. Obama’s advisers similarly have a pragmatic streak on foreign policy:

The real difference between the Obama campaign and, say, Hillary Clinton’s, is twofold. First, while many of the Obamanauts had previously served in the Clinton administration, they tended to be younger or less influential than the officials who signed on with Hillary. Clinton advisers like former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke tend to be “more invested in justifying or glorifying” the Clinton record, says one Obama foreign policy hand, whereas the Obamanauts don’t have the same “permanent need to fight for the legacy of your time in government.”

The second difference is that the Obama hands tend to feel less hemmed in by establishment opinion. As one Obama adviser puts it, “Democrats want to be just a little bit different from Republicans, but not so different that they get attacked for being weak.” Like Hamilton, the Obamanauts generally reject this calculus–not because they favor some radical alternative, but because clinging to received foreign policy wisdom can preclude highly practical courses of action.

Some Clinton supporters are twisting this article to support their meme that Obama is too conservative as he is not an ideological leftist. This line of attack has not really worked considering that Obama has received the support of MoveOn and liberals such as Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Russ Feingold, and most recently Chris Dodd. This also ignores the liberal goals which Obama is pursuing. Just as Obama is pursuing liberal economic goals, even if considering pragmatic economic principles, Obama also differs from Clinton on issues such as going to war in Iraq and over banning cluster bombs.

The net result of these pragmatic streaks isn’t pure left-libertarianism, but does lead to less reliance on big government and the nanny state than is seen with Clinton. When combined with Obama’s more libertarian views on civil liberties, social issues, drug laws, and government transparency there is a clear difference between the candidates. There is also far more substance behind Obama’s views than the Clinton supporters would claim.

Monica Goodling and Michael Krempasky to Marry

Congratulations to Monica Goodling and Michael Krempasky on their engagement:

Monica Marie Goodling, of Alexandria, is engaged to be married to Michael Krempasky, of Falls Church. The wedding is planned for later this year.

The future bride, a consultant, previously served as senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Justice. She graduated cum laude from Messiah College and received J.D. and M.A. degrees from Regent University.

Mr. Krempasky is a senior vice president at Edelman, a full-service, global public relations firm. He is also a founder of RedState, a leading conservative blog.

Yes, we disagree with aspects of their political views, but is that any reason for the announcement of their engagement to be the source of a number of attacks around the blogosphere? Surely we don’t have to dwell on political disagreements 24/7. Best of luck to both of them.

Chris Dodd Endorses Obama

Chris Dodd has endorsed Barack Obama:

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut has endorsed Barack Obama, his former rival in the Democratic presidential race.

“He’s ready to be president and I am ready to support him in this campaign” Dodd said at a joint news confernece with Obama.

He said Obama “has been poked and prodded, analyzed and criticized, called too green, too trusting and for all of that has already won” more than half the states and millions of votes.