Obama, Economy, and State

I have often written about recent political realignments with divisions between left and right being based far more upon social issues and foreign policy (especially Iraq) than upon economic issues as in the past. Capitalism has defeated socialism, enabling left-libertarianism to become a growing philosophy on the left and with liberals often being stronger supporters of the free market system than conservatives who back corporate welfare. Some conservatives continue to believe right wing taking points that liberals support socialism and oppose the free market, but this has been changing. Via Andrew Sullivan I find this post from Warren Coates which shows that some conservatives understand this change. Coates describes his political philosophy and why he is comfortable with a move towards the left:

I am a Barry Goldwater Republican. I believe that we and our families and friends are largely responsible for our own well being, that government should be kept small and focused on what only it can do well, that free markets are the most effective way to create and allocate wealth, that the individual freedoms, checks and balances on government, and separation of church and state in our constitution and its Bill of Rights provide the best environment for my personal moral and material development and in which I can live in harmony with my neighbors, and that if I work hard (which almost always means serving the needs of others) I have the best chance of doing well for myself and family. I believe in a strong national defense (but not empire building) and international collaboration and cooperation in today’s globalized world. In order to keep them relatively honest, governments operate under significant disadvantages relative to private enterprises with free trade, but there are some things that only government can do or do best and therefore they should be done well.

I think that these principles best serve the establishment of a just and prosperous society for all. Over the years considerable evidence has been developed and presented to support these views. Developing an economic and civil society that reasonably approximates these ideals has made us (and the increasing number of countries that have adopted similar principles) the enormously wealthy country that we are today. Even the poorest in our midst live better and healthier lives than the average person in the rest of the world. This is not because every one is “successful” and does well in free market capitalist economies, but because allowing the cleaver, energetic, and hard working among us to benefit from their efforts generates the enormous wealth from which the losers or handicapped can be compensated or looked after (charity—for which America is famous—and social safety nets.) Goldwater/Reagan republicans helped advance these principles and Clinton’s New Democrats largely embraced them as well. So what era is coming to an end and why is it happening?

While it seems pretty clear that American politics has started to swing to the “left,” I think that the next political cycle will take the form of corrections of some problems and excesses of the Reagan Revolution, not an abandonment of our general preference for market over government production and distribution. Bill Clinton’s New Democrats moved the center of the Democratic Party to the right of Richard Nixon. Even if the swing left overshoots that new center, it is likely to remain to the right of LBJ and Hubert Humphrey.

Important and fundamental arguments between communism and capitalism or socialism were won by the champions of free markets long before the collapse of the Soviet Union (though that was the final nail in the coffin). As a student at UC Berkeley in the mid 60s, it was a rather uphill argument that prices (incentives) mattered and that therefore the market generally allocated resources efficiently and that public policy needed to build on and take seriously the incentives it created for people to behave this way or that. This is no longer questioned by any serious person. Consider Barack Obama’s recent statement that “the market is still the best way to allocate resources productively, that some of the [regulatory] excesses of the 60s and 70s may have hampered economic growth, [and] that we don’t want to return to marginal tax rates of 60 or 70 percent.”

Sullivan responds:

Disenchanted with the statist, utopian and negligent conservatism of the Bush years, he’s ready to give the Dems a shot. The conservative failure has been so deep and its consequences so dire that a new start is needed.

Coates believes, as I do, that it will not be the end of the world for free market conservatives if Obama wins. It wasn’t when Clinton won. Although there are many areas in domestic policy where I disagree with Obama – I’d pick entitlement cuts over tax hikes, I’m leery of cap-and-trade, I worry about the creeping socialization of healthcare – the much bigger issues of a return to constitutional norms, to a realist and prudent foreign policy, a return to the Geneva Conventions, a restoration of America’s reputation in the world, and a rebuke of the Morris-Rove politicking of the past generation compel me more.

I agree with Sullivan’s reasons for supporting Obama but also feel that his concerns, while not without merit, are even less significant than he fears. As a physician I have long been concerned about “creeping socialization of healthcare” but after practicing for well over twenty years I have found the reality has been that corporate control of healthcare has been a far greater problem, and warnings of socialized medicine have been greatly exaggerated. Hopefully Obama will stick to his opposition to mandates, which is essential in keeping government programs honest.

The knee-jerk view of conservatives in support of lower taxes and less government regardless of the situation is one reason why they might have dominated for several years but will never win. Most people on the surface prefer lower taxes, but at some level many realize that what is really important is to get good value for their tax money. After all, few would want to live in the wilderness with absolutely no taxes but also no government services, including the infrastructure which makes the free market system possible.

While controlling expenditures on entitlement programs is essential, a majority also realizes that Medicare and Social Security are two government programs of value which also respond to weaknesses in the market economy. Medicare has managed to provide health care to the elderly and disabled, two groups excluded from employer-based coverage, far more economically than the free market is capable of, while preserving greater choice for both patients and physicians than is provided by corporate medicine. We can argue whether our current system or a government-run single payer system is better nation wide, but for the individual market (including the elderly and disabled) there is no viable option other than government. While Social Security is no substitute for retirement investments, it provides a necessary safety net which only the extreme right would consider eliminating.

Iowa Expert Demonstates Obama Would Have Won Without Edwards in Race

I have recently had two posts (here and here) which look at the question of how the Democratic race would have turned out if John Edwards was not in the race. Another analysis reported by The Los Angeles Times also demonstrates that Obama would have probably won:

An e-mail sent today by the school’s news service says that polling on caucus night supervised by Redlawsk indicated “that the absence of Edwards would have helped (Barack) Obama.”

The survey, which quizzed a randomly selected caucus participant in every Iowa precinct, asked the voters about their second-choice preferences. Among the 82% of Edwards supporters willing to back someone else, 51% named Obama as their next choice, 32% picked Clinton.

Wolfson’s claim “that two-thirds of Edwards supporters would have supported Clinton is just not supported in data collected directly from those who actually participated in the caucuses,” Redlawsk says in the e-mail. “Had Edwards not been running, and if nothing else had changed, my data suggest that Obama would have ended up even further ahead of Clinton than he was.”

(Obama won the caucuses with 38% of the vote; Edwards edged Clinton for second place, 30% to 29%.)

Redlawsk, from his perspective as an Edwards volunteer, went on to say: “As the campaign progressed, few Edwards supporters I knew gave any indication that Clinton …

… was their second choice. In my own caucus, which I chaired, when our Edwards group was initially declared non-viable, there was discussion of moving — but to Obama, not Clinton. In the end, we gained viability by bringing over (Bill) Richardson and (Joe) Biden forces and by negotiating with the Obama group.”

The e-mail continued: “Redlawsk noted that by the time Iowa’s county conventions rolled around March 15, Edwards had dropped out. Many Edwards delegations remained a separate viable group, but where they did not, the move to Obama was massive. In the end, Obama picked up nearly half of Edwards supporters, while Clinton picked up almost none.

Of the four Iowans elected as Edwards national convention delegates, including Redlawsk, all publicly moved to Obama on June 3. None went to Clinton.”

It adds up to a pretty powerful rebuttal of Wolfson, making his comment sound more like sour grapes than informed speculation. Indeed, Wolfson seems to have put out of his mind the organizational problems that, as various post-mortems have detailed, plagued the Clinton campaign in Iowa.

Obama Leading McCain Among Christian Voters

The Barma Group, a  Christian polling and research organization, has a poll out which shows that Obama is leading McCain among Christians, but some of this support has been eroding:

A new nationwide survey of people’s candidate preference conducted by The Barna Group some movement over the past two months, with Sen. Obama maintaining a substantial 43% to 34% lead among those who are likely to vote in November, with 5% selecting minor party candidates. That lead is a decline for Sen. Obama’s since early June, when he led his Republican rival 50% to 35% among likely voters. In the past two months, more voters have gravitated to third-party candidates (5%) and a higher proportion is now undecided (up from 15% to 21%).

Sen. McCain has struggled to ignite widespread interest in his candidacy, as evidenced by the fact that a majority of just three out of the sixty voter segments studied would vote for him if the election were held today. In startling contrast, a majority of the likely voters from 16 voter segments would back Sen. Barack Obama. Among the segments in which neither candidate has majority support, Sen. Obama leads among 35 of those groups while Sen. McCain leads among only three.

The bright spots for Sen. McCain in the latest results are the support from evangelicals (among whom he holds a 61%-17% lead), the notable shift away from Sen. Obama among several key faith communities, and the increased share of undecided voters since the beginning of June. However, at this stage most of these realignments reflect a softening of support for Sen. Obama more than a surge of allegiance to the Arizona Republican…

For the most part, the various faith communities of the U.S. currently support Sen. Obama for the presidency. Among the 19 faith segments that The Barna Group tracks, evangelicals were the only segment to throw its support to Sen. McCain. Among the larger faith niches to support Sen. Obama are non-evangelical born again Christians (43% to 31%); notional Christians (44% to 28%); people aligned with faiths other than Christianity (56% to 24%); atheists and agnostics (55% to 17%); Catholics (39% vs. 29%); and Protestants (43% to 34%). In fact, if the current preferences stand pat, this would mark the first time in more than two decades that the born again vote has swung toward the Democratic candidate.

However, while there has been little movement since the beginning of June among most voting segments (such as ethnic groups, age groups, or geographic slices), there has been substantial churn among religious segments. During the past two months, Sen. Obama’s lead has eroded substantially among non-evangelical born again Christians (a decline of nine points); active Christians (a 20-point drop); Protestants (down 13 points); and Catholics (down 11 points).

While some Christian voters seem to be questioning their early support for Obama, the McCain candidacy does not seem to be gaining momentum among evangelicals. Since June, the current level of support Sen. McCain has among evangelical voters has declined significantly (dropping from 78% to 61%).

Chuck Todd on Clinton’s Chances Without Edwards in Race

A top Clinton aide has suggested that, if John Edwards had been forced from the race early because of the Rielle Hunter scandal, Clinton woud have won in Iowa and gone on to win the nomination. I previously noted the absurdity of this belief here, with Chuck Todd showing agreement with this view in a column today.  He also presents compelling arguments that without Edwards in the race Obama might have clinched the nomination more easily. Todd wrote:

There are so many reasons why this theory is off, I don’t know where to begin.

As network entrance polls pointed out, Barack Obama topped Clinton nearly two-to-one when it came to second choice picks by Edwards backers.

Assuming this is the actual breakdown of how things would have split among Edwards’ thirty percent, this scenario would have given a little more than 50 percent to Obama and a little less than 40 percent to Clinton, guaranteeing him a double-digit Iowa win.

It’s also likely that Obama may have snatched somewhere closer to 60 percent, given that Iowa had already turned into a two-person contest. But maybe Joe Biden or Bill Richardson would have popped up on the radar in an Edwards-less field.

The idea that Clinton’s standing would have somehow improved in Iowa without Edwards is just not supported by data or observation.

Both Edwards and Obama were running as populist change agents. They pigeon-holed Clinton as the status quo politician.

If anything, Edwards’ relative strength with labor unions kept Obama from getting key early endorsements — backing that could have secured an Iowa blowout and possibly a victory in New Hampshire.

If anything, Edwards was the reason why Obama didn’t rule the roost pre-Super Tuesday.

But I want to touch on another aspect of the Edwards story that no one seems to be paying attention to in Clintonland.

Had this affair come to light during the Democratic primary process, it could have potentially destroyed Hillary’s candidacy.

Why? A smooth-talking Southern politician getting caught having an affair with an eccentric “blonde” woman? Sound familiar? Exactly.

An Edwards revelation in late 2007 or early 2008 would have forced Hillary and her campaign to relive all things Monica and Gennifer and Paula.

How helpful would that have been? You think the cable pundits were tough on Hillary because of her gender? Imagine a world where Bill’s paramours were front and center once again.

Hillary Clinton: Memos Show She Was Not Ready To Lead From Day One

The memos from the Clinton campaign, which I previously discussed here, show both that Hillary Clinton was neither ready to lead or ethically fit to lead. Joshua Green began his review of the memos with this observation:

Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence—on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.

It appears that the campaign paid attention to some details while ignoring others. One detail they did not ignore was Monica Lewinsky. Green wrote that “campaign staffers in Portland, Oregon, kept tabs on Monica Lewinsky, who lived there, to avoid any surprise encounters.”

One of many problems seen in Hillary Clinton during the campaign was the manner in which she acted like a victim whenever things did not go her way. This might have been reinforced by the manner in which Mark Penn performed his job, in contrast to how Karl Rove might have handled similar situations:

Penn’s memo is also notable for its tone: it reinforces rather than confronts the Clintons’ biases. “The biggest problem we have is the troika that has been set up to tear Hillary down,” he wrote.

It is a vast right and left wing conspiracy. Listening to Brit Hume say that Obama is surging while Hillary failed to do X is almost comical and certainly transparent. The right knows Obama is unelectable except perhaps against Attila the Hun, and a third party would come in then anyway.By contrast, top consultants like Karl Rove usually aim to temper their clients’ biases with a cold dose of realism. I suspect the damaging persecution complex that both Clintons displayed drew much of its sustenance from memos like this one.

Penn was responsible for much of the negative tone of the campaign, and even wanted it to be more negative than Clinton was willing to accept, such as with his use of xenophobia:

Penn also left no doubt about where he stood on the question of a positive versus negative strategy. He made the rather astonishing suggestion to target Obama’s “lack of American roots”:

All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light.
Save it for 2050.

It also exposes a very strong weakness for him—his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values. He told the people of NH yesterday he has a Kansas accent because his mother was from there. His mother lived in many states as far as we can tell—but this is an example of the nonsense he uses to cover this up.

How we could give some life to this contrast without turning negative:

Every speech should contain the line you were born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century. And talk about the basic bargain as about the deeply American values you grew up with, learned as a child and that drive you today. Values of fairness, compassion, responsibility, giving back.

Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American Century, the American Strategic Energy Fund. Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.

Although Clinton’s nomination was initially felt to be inevitable, by late 2007 it was obvious that the campaign was not ready for prime time. In early December I wrote a post entitled Hillary Clinton Jumps The Shark which included criticism for her ridiculous attacks on Obama based upon an essay he wrote in kindergarten. The article provides some background on this attack:

On December 1, Clinton and her husband attended a private dinner with the influential Des Moines Register editorial board. Seated at opposite ends of a long table, they were stunned to hear journalists praise the skill and efficiency of the Obama and Edwards campaigns and question why Clinton’s own operation was so passive.

On the next morning’s staff conference call, Clinton exploded, demanding to know why the campaign wasn’t on the attack. Solis Doyle was put on a plane to Iowa the next day to oversee the closing weeks. Within hours of the call, the panicked staff produced a blistering attack on Obama for what it characterized as evidence of his overweening lust for power: he had written a kindergarten essay titled “I Want to Become President.” The campaign was mocked for weeks.

Many tactical errors were made by Clinton after that, such as ignoring the caucus states, and the campaign became increasingly desperate and dishonest. Even before the campaign went this route, Clinton’s victory no longer appeared inevitable. It was by December that I decided that, considering how the race was effectively down to Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, that Obama was the only reasonable choice. Events of the past week, including the publication of these memos and the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal, have only acted to reinforce what I felt by the end of 2007. Despite being new to the national stage, of the three top tier Democratic candidates only Barack Obama was both capable of winning a national election and was the only one of the three who was fit to be president.

Why The Media Must Fact Check Politcal Attacks

Republicans, as well as dishonest Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, have often gotten away with having dishonest attacks repeated by the press as reporters often feel obligated to report what is said without providing their opinion. Other reporters do feel that journalists should provide the facts when a politician is saying something which they know to be untrue. Brent Budowsky of The Hill discusses this issue at Editor and Publisher.

What is the responsibility of reporters, editors and publishers when a candidate for high office is the target of a campaign of attack and personal destruction employing the systematic use of lies, smears, innuendo and character assassination?

J’accuse: What is happening in the 2008 general election is that Senator McCain has (literally) hired highest level operatives who worked for George Bush and Karl Rove (this is simply a fact) and is employing the carbon copy tactics that Rove used against his political opponents (including McCain himself).

When the Bush campaign, and independent committees whose leaders and fundraisers had long and close ties to Bush and Rove, waged a campaign of personal destruction
against the heroism of Senator Kerry in Vietnam, was it proper that these attacks were given by many in the media credibility and visibility?

It is true, Kerry fell short in responding, which Kerry is the first to concede today. It is also true that the many in the media became de facto partners and propagators of the smear by inadequate fact checking, a false understanding of the proper notion of balance, and sporting event style
coverage during which the smears were given equal weight with the truth.

This is a fact: Today Barack Obama is subject to what is probably the greatest concentrated attacks of smears, lies and innuendo in the lifetime of anyone who reads these words.

Consider this: John McCain in personal appearances, in his
campaign staff presentations and various media and ads, falsely and aggressively accused Barack Obama of neglecting wounded troops.

McCain, widely reported by most media with virtually no fact checking or refutation until days after McCain’s attacks, accused Barack Obama of planning to bring
political reporters to his visit with wounded troops. As every single reporters from every media organization
covering Obama knew, that charge was either a deliberate lie or a total ignorance of the facts.

McCain charged that Obama wanted to bring cameras to photograph the event. Totally false and every reporter on the Germany trip knew it. McCain charged that Obama chose playing basketball instead of visiting wounded troops. Totally false and every reporter on that trip knew it. McCain charged that Obama wanted to bring political staff people to the wounded troops and that, too, is totally false.

Let’s be crystal clear, Obama was accompanied by a giant horde of reporters and every one of them knew these charges were totally untrue, completely, fairly described as slander or smear and arguably constituting direct lies when they were repeated by McCain and his staff, again and again, well after the facts were clear to all.

For McCain to repeat false charge after false charge about Obama’s desire to visit wounded troops, when every reporter with Obama knew they were false, and for the major media to take almost a week to timidly and belatedly
note that the charges were false, well after the political damage to Obama had been done, with the truth given virtually no prominence compared to the falsehood, is a professional failure of countless reporters, editors and publishers covering the campaign.

After further discussion he adds that, “ Obama is currently facing an underground campaign of racial and religious attacks from sources outside conventional media and outside the campaign management of candidates. He is also subject to a deliberate, orchestrated and sytematic personal attack from his opponent including attacks that have included false charges, included in ads that have been run and rerun on television news shows, at no charge to McCain, without aggressive and simultaneous refutation of false charges as in the wounded troops case.” He concludes that, “the target is Barack Obama, and while it is his job to run his campaign, it is our job, as columnists, reporters, editors and publishers to find and report the truth and whether the charges in campaigns of personal destruction are true or false.”

Budowsky is correct in considering reporting on the validity of charges in campaigns of personal destruction as part of the job of the news media. When they ignore this duty and repeat untrue charges without evaluation we might as well not have a news media as they become little more than reprinters of campaign talking points.

Voters receive an inaccurate view of the candidates and issues when untrue statements from the candidates are not corrected. In recent years we have also seen candidates who have campaigned based upon lies become elected and then govern based upon lies. The media’s publication of Republican lies without investigation have both helped enable Bush to be elected and have facilitated his entry of the United States into a war based upon lies.

More Revelations On Edwards Affair Cast Further Doubt On His Credibility

Yesterday I noted that John Edwards might be making the recent scandal worse by failing to be honest during his confession last Friday, resulting in a continuing stream of stories as further evidence comes out conflicting with Edwards’ account of events. He appears to be continuing the same type of behavior based upon his view that he can get away with anything, despite having been proven wrong on this last week. An interview on Larry King Live last night with David Perel, editor of The National Enquirer, shows that there is more of this story to come out:

KING: How did — by digging into all of this, and the fact that it keeps coming, does that surprise you? You’ve done a lot of stories. Does this one surprise you?

PEREL: This story did surprise me, Larry. It surprised me that John Edwards, who had a reputation as being a very honest and moral man, could stand there before the American public while running for president and just lie so brazenly. I have to admit it shocked me and it shocked the team at the Enquirer.

The truth is there will be more revelations. He was not totally honest during that “Nightline” interview. There is more to the story that’s going to come out in the Enquirer.

KING: Can you give us a hint what’s coming this week?

PEREL: Yes, I can. As a matter of fact, we can tell you that he met three times with Rielle Hunter at the Beverly Hilton this year. that he has been in contact with her since, that she has now been flown out of California by private plane to an undisclosed location. And significantly, on the money trail, that he absolutely knew she was being paid, and she told him that she was being paid, and how much and where it was coming from.

KING: Drew Griffin, what do you make of that?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Very, very interesting. You know, kudos to the Enquirer. They have been on this story from this story from the beginning, Larry. Really, their source has been very deep and knowledgeable of this.

The money angle is what we’re chasing now at CNN. When did she get the money? Is she actually getting cash or is she just getting flown around and being able to stay in houses rent-free? That’s a big question we have. Also, what, if any, of that 114,000 she did get legitimately from the campaign could have been part of something else?

The Swamp has more on the allegations that Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter actually began before Hunter was hired by his campaign.

The Trail is impressed with Edwards’ chutzpah as photos reveal that he had taken his mistress with him on his 2006 presidential announcement tour. Multiple photos of Edwards and Rielle Hunter are now being published.

I have long been amazed by how so many liberals have been fooled by a con man such as John Edwards. I could see where many liberal bloggers might have ignored this story until the accusations were proven, despite how guilty Edwards appeared, but it was a different matter when action was taken to cover up the story at an open community such as Daily Kos Lee Stranahan has posted more today on how Kos not only acted to attempt to cover up the story, but how he was 100% wrong.