Another Sign Kerry Was Right About Terrorism

Jake Tapper compares John Kerry’s comments on terrorism which the Republicans attacked in 2004 with a new Pentagon report and finds that their language is very similar.

McCain’s Straight Talk Express Crashes

The Straight Talk Express has crashed. I’m not writing metaphorically about John McCain’s decision to resort to a dishonest Rove-style campaign. A van literally hit the Straight Talk Express. There have been no injuries from the Straight Talk Express–beyond the damage already done to the truth.

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The Uncertainty of Polls and the Independent Vote

Yesterday I noted the problems in using polls to predict the outcome of the presidential election. I subsequently found this story in CQ Politics which deals with the same topic. They note a few problems pollsters are having:

First, with an African-American atop a major party ticket for the first time, many experts in opinion research are concerned that public support for Obama could easily be misrepresented. This is not only because it’s difficult to assess Americans’ attitudes about race, but also because the Democratic senator from Illinois derives considerable support from African-American and young voters, whose behavior is particularly hard to predict because they have not historically turned out to vote in large numbers.

In addition, both Obama and McCain are reaching out to a growing number of disaffected voters who are concerned about the economy, the war in Iraq and the nation’s future and who are increasingly pessimistic about government’s ability to solve problems. Pollsters are having to assess whether members of this highly courted subset are warming to any particular campaign messages, or will simply sit out the election.

Finally, there are logistical concerns. Experts inside and outside the industry question whether pollsters are capturing big enough samples of the population at a time when Americans are increasingly on the move and more likely to be at work or in their cars in the early evening, when many surveys are conducted.

The article continues to look at these factors and additional ones. The discussion of independents might be particularly important this year:

This has a particular bearing in questions about party identification and political attitudes. As many as half the respondents to some surveys identify themselves as independents when asked their political affiliation. Pollsters tend to find this an inadequate characterization and push the individuals by asking whether they “lean” Democratic or Republican. The tactic has proven a useful barometer of public sentiment in a year such as this, when growing numbers of people are identifying with the Democratic Party, partly out of dissatisfaction with President Bush. However, experts caution that the identification question may be unreliable for predicting election results because other, more rigorous polls indicate that the Democrats’ public standing has not improved significantly; it’s more a function of the Republican Party losing support among independents.

Gallup, working with USA Today, took another measure of voter independence in June, concluding that 23 percent of 1,310 likely voters it surveyed are “swing voters” who could change their minds before Election Day. That suggests that Obama and McCain would be best served by focusing their pitches on uncommitted voters instead of concentrating on mobilizing their respective bases. But Moore, the former Gallup managing editor, suspects that the public mood isn’t quite as volatile as the survey suggests, and that many of these individuals haven’t even decided whom to support. He suggests that pollsters could obtain a more accurate characterization of undecideds by rewording their questions and asking people up-front if they know whom they will support in November.

“Most independents don’t vote all the time, but when they do, they tend to really be undecided going into the final days of an election,” Moore said. “Many are susceptible to some kind of influence from media coverage, and past surveys showed one in six didn’t vote the way they said they would a few days earlier. So a lot of the answers are still out.”

Each party nominated the candidate who has the best chance to pick up the votes of independents. Since independents have become opposed to the Republican Party more than they support the Democrats, John McCain is able to remain close as long as he can keep up the pretense of being independent and different from Bush.

Obama has the edge, but we would have a totally different situation if the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton. While the Democrats’ standing has not improved significantly with independents, Obama is able to pick up the support of many who remain uncomfortable with the Democratic Party. Not only would Hillary Clinton be unable to do this, but she would increase the likelihood of independents backing McCain to prevent her from being elected, seeing McCain as the only alternative to what they oppose in each party. As frustrating as it might be for some to only see Obama up by a few points in most polls, if Clinton was the nominee she very well might be trailing McCain at this point.

Scandal Might Cost Edwards His Role at Democratic Convention

The pictures of John Edwards with his alleged love child continue to tarnish Edwards’ reputation. The Gun Toting Liberal has posted what they bill as a clearer picture (above) than the one I posted yesterday from The National Enquirer, but in this one the “love child” looks much more like Dick Cheney than John Edwards. The mystery deepens.

More seriously, the scandal is beginning to have real repercussions for John Edwards. MaClatchy reports that Edwards was promised a prime time speaking role at the Democratic convention following his endorsement of Obama:

If Edwards fails to clear up the story in short order, he risks party officials deciding not to have him speak or, if they do, creating a distraction from a week focused on Barack Obama accepting the nomination.

“If there is not an explanation that’s satisfactory, acceptable and meets high moral standards, the answer is ‘no,’ he would not be a prime candidate to make a major address to the convention,” said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chair…

“He absolutely does have to (resolve it). If it’s not true, he has to issue a stronger denial,” said Gary Pearce, the Democratic strategist who ran Edwards’ 1998 Senate race. “It’s a very damaging thing. …

“The big media has tried to be responsible and handle this with kid gloves, but it’s clearly getting ready to bust out. If it’s not true, he’s got to stand up and say, ‘This is not true. That is not my child and I’m going to take legal action against the people who are spreading these lies.’ It’s not enough to say, ‘That’s tabloid trash,’ ” Pearce said…

An appearance at the convention would only highlight the unresolved story, said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant and former aide to then-Vice President Al Gore. A convention speaking appearance could become the moment that drives news media coverage of the alleged affair to explode.

“You want to address these issues long before you get to that point,” Lehane said. “Otherwise people who haven’t written about it before, now start writing about it.” Edwards’ decision not to take questions about the alleged affair has allowed doubts to linger and political bloggers to speculate. The National Enquirer has reported that he fathered a child with a former campaign worker and met with her in a Beverly Hills hotel last month. He made no response to the National Enquirer’s posting on Wednesday of what it said was a photo of Edwards and his illegitimate child. Two weeks ago, after the National Enquirer ran the story about the hotel liaison, he dismissed a reporter’s question in Houston and used the “tabloid trash” line.

The article proceeds to describe how Edwards, rather than explaining the situation, has been avoiding reporters. It is appearing that such stonewalling will not work much longer as reputable news sources such as McClatchy are picking up the story despite showing intitial reluctance. The convention angle makes it easier for such news sources to justify coverage. Similarly yesterday two publications found reason to write about the story after it was revealed that Edwards’ alleged mistress, Rielle Hunter, had previously dated Jay McInerney, who modeled a character in one of his novels on her.

Past Performance Does Not Predict Future Results

Business consultant Roger Bloom has an op-ed in The Orange County Register on the role of experience in choosing presidents:

The fact is, Barack Obama already has more pre-presidential experience in government than three of the four guys on Mount Rushmore. Of those greats, only Thomas Jefferson surpasses Obama’s 11-plus years in elective office, comprising almost eight years in the Illinois Senate and 3 1/2 years in the U.S. Senate.

In contrast, how about this for experience: member of the Pennsylvania Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate (with multiple terms in each body), not to mention secretary of state, ambassador to Russia and ambassador to Great Britain.

Sounds pretty solid, right? It seems to have it all: state and federal, legislative and executive, domestic and foreign. It’s even more impressive than Sen. McCain’s 25 years in Congress. In fact, it’s arguably the most extensive and expansive government resume of anyone ever elected president of the United States.

And it belonged to James Buchanan – often ranked by modern historians as the worst president ever.

Luckily for the country, Buchanan was followed by Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest president. But Lincoln’s prior experience was modest at best: eight years in the Illinois Legislature and a single two-year term in the House. And he’d been out of office entirely for 12 years before winning the highest office in the land.

But Lincoln’s 10 years of pre-presidential government experience is hardly the lightest of resumes among the nation’s chief executives. For instance, Lincoln is joined in granite immortality in South Dakota by Teddy Roosevelt (a year as assistant Navy secretary, two years as New York governor and six months as vice president) and George Washington (a few months total in the first and second Continental Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, plus eight years as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army).

Presidents ranked in the next tier, call them the near-great, include Andrew Jackson, Dwight Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson – none of whom had more than four years of government experience going in – and, sometimes, Ronald Reagan, who had eight years as governor of California.

Meanwhile, keeping company with Buchanan near the bottom of most rankings are Richard Nixon and Andrew Johnson, who both entered the presidency with extensive electoral resumes encompassing most of their adult lives. Other heavy hitters on paper who, while not total busts, generally land in the middle or lower in historical rankings, are John Q. Adams, Gerald Ford, William Taft, George H.W. Bush and Martin Van Buren.

So it appears there is a relationship between governmental experience and presidential prowess all right, but it’s inverse.

He next presents some examples of people with experience who did go on to be good presidents, as well as those with little experience who went on to be poor presidents. With experience turning out to be a poor predictive factor, he concludes:

So it seems that presidents are like mutual funds: past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

Maybe George Bernard Shaw was closer than Jimi Hendrix to having it right. Shaw said, “Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.”

Big Tent Democrat Makes It Clear: Obama Should Not Pick Clinton

Clinton supporters continue to push Hillary for VP, and have an unrealistic view of her impact on the ticket. Still, even if we follow their assumptions, at least as presented in this post, we have a strong case for not choosing Clinton. Big Tent Democrat believes that Clinton increases Obama’s margin of victory:

Pick Hillary as his VP and Obama will win in a landslide – a 7 to 10 point win. Don’t pick her and it will be a 2-5 point win. It is that simple, as it has been since June.

So, if this was true, Obama wins either way. A 2-5 point win is still a win. Sure, a 7-10 point win would be better, but not at the cost of having Hillary Clinton a heartbeat away from the presidency.

If Obama can win either way, there is no reason to compromise principle and choose a running mate who destroys his message of change. You cannot claim to have a ticket which will bring about change when you have a running mate who has adopted the same type of dishonest and unethical behavior as we have been protesting when it came from George Bush. You cannot run on based upon your opposition to the war from the start, and disagreement with the arguments for that war, when you choose a running mate who not only supported the war but echoed the Republicans in using fear of terrorism as an excuse to go to war. You cannot run as a post-partisan candidate with a big government junkie and proponent of the nanny-state who represents all the worst characteristics of the Democratic Party which must be eradicated if the Democrats are going to change from a minority party to a party which both can win and which deserves to govern.

If Big Ten Democrat is right and Obama wins either way, he should not choose Clinton even if she would bring in additional votes. The reality is far different as adding Clinton to the ticket would lower and not increase Obama’s vote in November.

The fault in Big Tent Democrat’s reasoning is making assumptions based upon current polls, which actually have virtually no value in predicting what will happen in November. If we paid attention to early polls, George H. W. Bush would have never lost to Bill Clinton. Michael Dukakis and John Kerry both looked like they would win in the summers before their defeats. There are simply far too few people paying attention until fall for current national polls to mean a thing, and there are many events ahead of us which will shape the outcome more than anything which has happened to date.

Polls have an even tougher time than usual in predicting the outcome as nobody knows for sure who will turn out to vote. If Obama is able to get the young to turn out for him the way he did in the primaries, he wins by a big margin (and adding Clinton to the ticket will not help him there). Marc Ambinder points out that, “right now, the type of voter who’s paying attention is primed to support John McCain. After the conventions, when younger voters typically tune in — and by younger here, I mean, under 55 or so — then Obama’s margins will widen because these folks are his folks.”

The election will be decided largely by the conventions, the debates, and by events between now and November which we cannot predict. Obama has the edge, both in the polls and due to many tends which favor the Democrats in 2008, but the results are not yet certain and current polls are of little value. What is clear is that Hillary Clinton would make a poor running mate and certainly should not be vice president.

Chávez Grabs More Power

We might have had problems here the last eight years from a president who has ignored Constitutional limitations on his power, but things are worse in other such as Venezuela. I thought that Hugo Chávez lost the vote last December to grant him increased powers. It appears that he has gone ahead with grabbing such powers despite losing, and  he didn’t even need a terrorist attack as an excuse.  The New York Times reports:

President Hugo Chávez is using his decree powers to enact a set of socialist-inspired measures that seem based on a package of constitutional changes that voters rejected last year. His actions open a new stage of confrontation between his government and the political opposition.

The government quietly revealed last week that the president had approved 26 new laws on Thursday, when the 18-month decree powers bestowed on him by Congress were set to expire, but officials withheld offering the full text of the new laws until this week.

Some of the laws significantly increase Mr. Chávez’s power. For instance, one law allows him to name regional political leaders who would have separate budgets, which could help him offset possible victories by opposition candidates in state and municipal elections scheduled for November.

(In a further blow to the opposition, the Supreme Court upheld a measure on Tuesday that prohibits more than 250 people from running for office while the comptroller general investigates claims of corruption against them. The measure will prevent Leopoldo López, one of the country’s most popular politicians, from running for mayor of Caracas.)

Mr. Chávez is also trying to assert greater control over the armed forces through a decree creating militias, a new military branch he has pushed for.

Reigniting private property concerns, another law allows his government to “occupy and temporarily operate” private companies not in compliance with bookkeeping rules.

The set of decrees stops short of removing term limits for Mr. Chávez, which was one of the most polarizing measures in the package voters rejected in December. But more than a dozen of the laws are strikingly similar to items included in the failed constitutional overhaul, angering the president’s critics.