We don’t know yet if any of Kerry’s diplomacy in the middle east will pay off, but I feel much more optimistic about his approach than the approach of his predecessor. The New York Times described the difference:
Traveling around the Middle East with Secretary of State John Kerry, particularly for a reporter whose last State Department tour was with Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a seat-of-the-pants experience. Itineraries are notional. Improvisation is the rule.
In the last 24 hours, Mr. Kerry’s aides warned that he might fly back to Israel after his stop in Jordan, then minutes later said that was a false alarm. The next morning they confirmed that he would, in fact, travel to Tel Aviv on Friday for breakfast with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after dinner here with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.
And after that? Who can say? Mr. Kerry seems perfectly willing to upend his schedule based on his instinct that staying a little longer, holding another meeting, flying to another capital, can nudge forward peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Shuttle diplomacy, of course, is nothing new in this part of the world. But after President Obama’s first term, when Mrs. Clinton delegated these Middle East milk runs to a special envoy and kept the peace process in general at arm’s length, it is striking to watch a secretary of state grinding it out in this unforgiving arena.
“What separates John Kerry from Hillary is that he’s put himself in the middle of the mix,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East peace negotiator who is now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Still, it is not clear whether Mr. Kerry’s exertions will make these talks any more fruitful than previous efforts, including the unsuccessful one that Mrs. Clinton oversaw during Mr. Obama’s first term. The mood in Jerusalem and on the West Bank has deteriorated since the talks resumed in late July, with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas squabbling over issues like Jewish settlements and blaming each other for the lack of progress…
Mr. Kerry’s caffeinated style is emblematic of how he has redefined the secretary’s job — moving it away from the town-hall-style meetings and public diplomacy that characterized Mrs. Clinton’s tenure and toward a dogged emphasis on a handful of issues. Most prominent of those issues is the peace process, which Mr. Kerry has single-handedly kept on the list of the White House’s foreign policy priorities.
His eagerness, Mr. Miller said, stems from being in a different place than Mrs. Clinton and serving a changed White House. For Mr. Kerry, this job is the capstone of his career, a post he coveted second only to the presidency, and his aides say he is willing to take considerable risks to cement his legacy as a peacemaker.
For Mrs. Clinton, who still has a potential presidential run in her future, secretary of state was a steppingstone, allowing her to burnish her credentials but also carrying potential risks, not least in the politically charged terrain of the Middle East. While Mrs. Clinton dutifully made the rounds, she rarely took a big gamble on the peace process.
Kerry might still fail in bringing peace to the Middle East considering what a challenging task that is. Still, I do prefer Kerry’s energy and hands on approach. While I know it is very unlikely to happen, if in 2016 we have a choice of two former Secretaries of State in the race for the Democratic nomination, I will ignore inevitability in choosing who to support, as I did in 2008.
The polar icecaps are melting faster than we thought they would; seas are rising faster than we thought they would; extreme weather events are increasing. Have a nice day! That’s a less than scientifically rigorous summary of the findings of the Fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released this morning in Stockholm.
Appearing exhausted after a nearly two sleepless days fine-tuning the language of the report, co-chair Thomas Stocker called climate change “the greatest challenge of our time,” adding that “each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than the past,” and that this trend is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
Pledging further action to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “This isn’t a run of the mill report to be dumped in a filing cabinet. This isn’t a political document produced by politicians… It’s science.”
When I asked him for his headline, Michael Mann, the Director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State (a former IPCC author himself) suggested: “Jury In: Climate Change Real, Caused by Us, and a Threat We Must Deal With.”
What’s more, things are getting worse more quickly than almost anyone thought would happen a few years back.
“If you look at the early IPCC predictions back from 1990 and what has taken place since, climate change is proceeding faster than we expected,” Mann told me by email. Mann helped develop the famous hockey-stick graph, which Al Gore used in his film “An Inconvenient Truth” to dramatize the sharp rise in temperatures in recent times.
Mann cites the decline of Arctic sea ice to explain : “Given the current trajectory, we’re on track for ice-free summer conditions in the Arctic in a matter of a decade or two… There is a similar story with the continental ice sheets, which are losing ice — and contributing to sea level rise — at a faster rate than the [earlier IPCC] models had predicted.”
But there is a lot that we still don’t understand. Reuters noted in a sneak preview of IPCC draft which was leaked in August that, while the broad global trends are clear, climate scientists were “finding it harder than expected to predict the impact in specific regions in coming decades.”
There are some possibilities that are deliberately left out of the IPCC projections, because we simply don’t have enough data yet to model them. Jason Box, a visiting scholar at the Byrd Polar Research Center told me in an email interview that: “The scary elephant in the closet is terrestrial and oceanic methane release triggered by warming.” The IPCC projections don’t include the possibility — some scientists say likelihood — that huge quantities of methane (a greenhouse gas thirty times as potent as CO2) will eventually be released from thawing permafrost and undersea methane hydrate reserves. Box said that the threshhold “when humans lose control of potential management of the problem, may be sooner than expected.”
Box, whose work has been instrumental in documenting the rapid deterioration of the Greenland ice sheet, also believes that the latest IPCC predictions (of a maximum just under three foot ocean rise by the end of the century) may turn out to be wildly optimistic, if the Greenland ice sheet breaks up. “We are heading into uncharted territory” he said. “We are creating a different climate than the Earth has ever seen.”
Fact checkers at their best provide a very useful service. However, putting a label of Factchecker on the works of a columnist does not automatically make them a credible source. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post loves to award Pinocchios for statements he considers false (or, as is often the case, disagrees with). His assessments are frequently not supported by the facts. At times even his own newspaper has printed evidence contradicting stands taken by Kessler. He once again ignored most of the pertinent facts in claiming John Kerry was lying when saying he opposed the Iraq War.
The confusion on Kerry’s view on the war stemmed from the primary battle in which Howard Dean sought to position himself as an opponent of the war and Kerry as a supporter, despite the two holding essentially the same view. Dean did this by turning the 2002 vote into a sole litmus test when the issue was actually far more complicated.
To understand Kerry’s view, it is first important to look at his statement at the time of the vote:
“My vote was cast in a way that made it very clear, Mr. President, I’m voting for you to do what you said you’re going to do, which is to go through the U.N. and do this through an international process. If you go unilaterally, without having exhausted these remedies, I’m not supporting you. And if you decide that this is just a matter of straight pre-emptive doctrine for regime-change purposes without regard to the imminence of the threat, I’m not going to support you.”
At the same time Bush was claiming that the vote was not necessarily a vote to go to war. Bush said this about the vote: “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean some.”
Bush was probably not being honest here and Kerry should not have voted yes (as he later admitted) but this vote when interpreted in light of Kerry’s statements on the vote, is not evidence of support for the war. It is necessary to look at additional statements to clarify this. Kerry wrote this in an op-ed in The New York Times at the time of the vote:
For the sake of our country, the legitimacy of our cause and our ultimate success in Iraq, the administration must seek advice and approval from Congress, laying out the evidence and making the case. Then, in concert with our allies, it must seek full enforcement of the existing cease-fire agreement from the United Nations Security Council. We should at the same time offer a clear ultimatum to Iraq before the world: Accept rigorous inspections without negotiation or compromise. Some in the administration actually seem to fear that such an ultimatum might frighten Saddam Hussein into cooperating. If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community’s already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement, even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act. But until we have properly laid the groundwork and proved to our fellow citizens and our allies that we really have no other choice, we are not yet at the moment of unilateral decision-making in going to war against Iraq.
Bush failed to meet the criteria Kerry clearly set at the time of the vote under which he would support going to war.
Salon later asked Kerry about the vote in an interview on May 28, 2004:
SALON: According to recent polls, more than 50 percent of the American public now believes that the war in Iraq has not been worth the cost. Do you agree with that assessment?
KERRY: I’ve always believed that the president went to war in a way that was mistaken, that he led us too rapidly into war, without sharing the cost, without sharing the risk, without building a true international coalition. He broke his promises about going as a last resort. I think that was a mistake. There was a right way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and a wrong way. He chose the wrong way.
SALON: But you voted in October 2002 to give Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. Was that vote a mistake?
KERRY: No. My vote was the right vote. If I had been president, I would have wanted that authority to leverage the behavior that we needed. But I would have used it so differently than the way George Bush did.
SALON: Would there have been a war in Iraq if you had been president?
KERRY: I can’t tell you that. If Saddam Hussein hadn’t disarmed and all the world had decided that he was not living up to the standards, who knows? You can’t answer that hypothetical. But I can tell you this. I would never have rushed the process in a way that undoes the meaning of going to war “as a last resort.”
SALON: And that’s what you thought you were authorizing — war as a last resort?
KERRY: Absolutely. You know, we got a set of promises: We’re going to build an international coalition, we’re going to exhaust the remedies of the U.N., respect that process and go to war as a last resort. Well, we didn’t.
KERRY: And not only [did we] not go to war as a last resort, they didn’t even make the plans for winning the peace. They disregarded them. They disregarded [U.S. Army General Eric] Shinseki’s advice, disregarded Colin Powell’s advice, disregarded the State Department’s plan. The arrogance of this administration has cost Americans billions of dollars and too many lives.
Kerry spoke out against going to war many times in the months between the vote and the onset of the war. In a speech at Georgetown before the onset of the Iraq War:
“Mr. President, do not rush to war,” said Kerry, whose speech marked him as the most skeptical about war of the top-tier contenders for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
While calling for the United Nations to intensify pressure on Iraq to disarm, Kerry urged Bush to give more time to the U.N. inspections process that the administration has increasingly condemned as inadequate.
“The United States should never go to war because it wants to; the United States should go to war because we have to,” Kerry said at Georgetown University. “And we don’t have to until we have exhausted the remedies available, built legitimacy and earned the consent of the American people, absent, of course, an imminent threat requiring urgent action.”
While his vote could create confusion as to his stand, Kerry’s statements leading up to the war showed clear opposition. When Bush did invade, Kerry protested calling for regime change at home, again showing clear opposition to the war. Kessler needs to look at all the facts before rushing to award Pinocchios. Granted this is more difficult here as many of the original sources are no longer easily available on line, but that does not justify Kessler making such inaccurate assessments. In ignoring Kerry’s many statements before the war, Glenn Kessler should be awarded five dunce caps.
There are many important considerations regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria but the media has (as usual) overly simplified matters by raising the “red line.” This is not a matter, as has been portrayed in some media accounts, of Obama having committed himself to military action if Syria used chemical weapons and crossed a red line. John Kerry stated that the decision to go to war was not over crossing Obama’s red line in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (a place where he has been often, from testifying in 1971 as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War to his days on the committee, culminating with becoming chairman in 2009). Obama repeated this today.
Obama did not claim there was a red line which would automatically lead to war in 2012. In response to a question at press conference Obama said: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.” It makes sense that this would change his calculus and lead to the consideration of options he was not considering at the time, but he did not commit to going to war.
While I am skeptical of the remaining arguments for taking military action, it is good to see Obama clearly say that preserving his credibility over the red line is not a reason to go to war. Feeling obligated to take military action based upon a comment made at a press conference would certainly be foolish.
Obama is now saying that any red line is the world’s red line against the use of chemical weapons. I agree with his condemnation of their use. I do not agree that we are the world’s policeman or obligated to act when there are no bodies involved in international law which are willing to act. We certainly are not obligated to take military action when it is not clear how this would actually achieve positive ends.
It is debatable whether the term “red line” should have been used at all but it is difficult for a president whose every word is recorded to never say anything which might be questioned. This was far less a problem than George Bush speaking of the “axis of evil” during his State of the Union Address in 2002.
Obama is also receiving criticism for not rushing to make a decision regarding Syria, and possibly changing his mind. These, along with the decision to go to Congress, are positive attributes. In a situation where, regardless of where one stands with regards to the use of military force, there is no imminent threat to the United States, the Commander in Chief can and should take the time to consider all the options, and consequences of such actions. The reaction, and lack of support, from the international community, many members of Congress, and the American people are all valid considerations. Wouldn’t we have come out better if Lyndon Johnson had decided to reverse his decision and get out of Viet Nam? The war in Viet Nam certainly did show the consequences of engaging in a war after losing the support of the American people.
Thomas Friedman acknowledges the difficulties in negotiating peace between Israel and the Palestinians but also praises John Kerry for getting them this close, and offers some hope that the negotiations could be successful:
Secretary of State John Kerry has pulled off a major achievement in getting Israelis and Palestinians to say yes to the United States. Can he now get them to say yes to each other?
I admire Kerry’s doggedness in getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table for the first time in five years, in part by making clear that whoever said no to America’s urging that they resume talks would be called out publicly. I also like the fact that Kerry dared to fail. It is how you make history as a secretary of state. It can also be helpful to him going forward. Even a little success like this breeds more authority, and more authority can breed more success in other arenas.
That said, the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian deal remain slim. Indeed, if these negotiations were a play, it would be called: “When the Necessary Met the Impossible.”
So why should we even bother? I’ve always thought that the most important rule of journalism is: Never try to be smarter than the story. There is every reason to doubt that these talks will succeed, but when you look under the hood of this story you find there were some powerful forces propelling both sides to say yes to Kerry — and at least consider saying yes to each other, so it’s worth letting this play out a little….
A peace agreement would be fantastic in terms of conditions in the region, and might play a part in domestic politics. If Kerry pulls this off, he will receive tremendous favorable coverage, and probably win the Nobel Peace Prize and be Time‘s Man of the Year. He then would be in a position that no politician has been in since Richard Nixon–losing a general election and then becoming a credible candidate years later. With the demographic changes making it harder for Republicans to win states outside of the deep south and the smaller western states, winning the Democratic nomination may be more difficult than winning the general election. Hillary Clinton might not look like such a sure thing if Kerry succeeds in brokering a peace agreement. Not only would his record as Secretary of State be far greater than Clinton’s, there is no comparison when comparing their achievements in the Senate.
Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestinians. It is too early to say whether the talks will be successful, but it is a hopeful sign that the two parties are engaging in direct negotiations for the first time since 2008 and an attempt in 2010 which quickly fell apart.
Getting this far is a promising sign from John Kerry in just his first year as Secretary of State. Imagine how much better the world might be if things had turned out differently and he had won in 2004, completing his second term as president last year (with perhaps a Barack Obama with four additional years of Washington experience starting his first term this January). A few more voting booths in Democratic urban areas of Ohio might have made all the difference–something to keep in mind as Republicans increasingly turn to voter suppression as an election tactic.
Howard Krutz calls on Obama and Gore to stop whining about the right wing media:
Now it’s true that Fox or Limbaugh can boost or batter any lawmaker, and that they can help drive a controversy into the broader mainstream media. But we’re talking here about the president of the United States. He has an army, a navy and a bunch of nuclear weapons, not to mention an ability to command the airwaves at a moment’s notice. And he’s complaining about a cable channel and a radio talk-show host?
Sure, ultimately Obama is more powerful when it comes to going to war than Fox is, and Obama was able to win reelection because less than half the country believe the misinformation coming out of Fox and talk radio. That doesn’t alter the fact that having a propaganda network disguised as news does cause a substantial number of people to believe many things which are not true.
How many people vote for Republicans based upon blatantly untrue arguments such as that Republicans support small government or fiscal responsibility? How much more difficulty is it to bring about economic recovery when so many voters are misled by Republican Voodoo Economics? How much harder is it to deal with problems such as Climate Change and health care reform when so many people are fooled by right wing misinformation?
Would we have gone to war in Iraq if not for untrue Republican propaganda claiming that Saddam threatened us with WMD and was involved in 9/11? How many votes are affected by falsehoods such as that Barack Obama is a Muslim or a socialist? While Obama did win. would Kerry have won if not for the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars?
How many people are voting for Republicans, against their interests and the interests of the country, based upon fear and hatred instilled by right wing propaganda? Yes, this is not the same as having an army, navy, and nuclear weapons. but that doesn’t mean that the right wing noise machine is not a terrible weapon for evil.
Kurtz argues that “MSNBC can be counted on to defend the Democrats almost around the clock.” First this isn’t entirely true as MSNBC does have conservatives on the network, and MSNBC’s liberals have been known to criticize Obama, not being essentially a part of the party apparatus as Fox is. Beyond this, while MSNBC does frequently correct the misinformation presented by Fox or Rush Limbaugh, this does not reduce the damage caused by the right wing propagandists. Not many fans of Rush Limbaugh turn on MSNBC and change their views once exposed to the facts.
Kurtz has a strange rational for why the right wing media exists:
What liberals sometimes forget is that the conservative media took root because many Americans felt the fourth estate was too left-wing. ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post all strive for fairness, in my view, but there is little question that they have a social and cultural outlook that leans to the left. Collectively, they have far more weight than Fox, talk radio and The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Much of the media (although no longer The Washington Post and broadcast networks) do lean towards the left socially and culturally, meaning they are more likely to support the values of American liberty and Democracy while opposing the authoritarian mindset of the right. As Kurtz admits, they strive for fairness. How does this provide justification for the right wing in responding with media outlets which intentionally promote falsehoods disguised as news? It is difficult to measure which has more weight, but, as I pointed out above, their comparative influences does not diminish the harm done by the propaganda outlets of the right.
Here’s the plan for all my friends from the 2004 campaign. It is admittedly a long shot. As Secretary of State, John Kerry brings about peace in the middle east, brokers a world-wide agreement on reducing carbon emissions (especially looking impressive when he gets China to go along), and convinces Great Britain to give us their secret as to why they have so many cool TV shows which we have to pirate here.
People question why we didn’t elect John Kerry in 2004, realizing that pictures of him wind surfing were not a good reason for him to go down to defeat. Kerry gets the 2016 Democratic nomination, nobody believes anything from the Swift Boat Liars, and John Kerry gets elected president. As an added benefit, American TV finally gets Torchwood right.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Barack Obama has chosen John Kerry to be Secretary of State. This comes as no surprise after Susan Rice withdrew her name form consideration. There is also speculation that Obama had planned to choose Kerry but was forced into defending Rice following the dishonest smear campaign launched against her by Republicans such as John McCain.
Kerry was the best choice four years ago if not for the importance of getting Hillary Clinton out of the Senate. Politically getting Hillary into the administration, as opposed to being a source of potential opposition in the Senate, was extremely important. It was also necessary that Obama’s health care reform not be tainted by HillaryCare–otherwise Obama would not have obtained the support of organizations such as the AMA. Despite the attacks from the right, the plan which passed was essentially the conservative response to Hillary Clinton’s plan.
As an added, and major benefit, having Hillary Clinton in the administration set up the situation where Bill Clinton became a significant source in Obama’s reelection campaign. Bill Clinton’s fantastic convention speech and subsequent campaigning in battleground states was a tremendous help to Obama. Now Obama has become free to choose the person who is most qualified for the position, and most likely his preferred choice since 2008.
The last three posts were on the detachment of Republicans from reality. (Here, here, and here). In the first of these posts I noted how conservative assessments of the election showed how they were out of touch with reality–just as with most of what comes out of the right wing noise machine:
Conservative fantasy met reality on election night. Similarly we have seen conservative fantasy to justify war in Iraq, with some conservatives still believing Saddam was behind the 9/11 attack and had WMD. We see conservative fantasy economic theories, which do not work in the real world. We see conservative denial of science, including on evolution and climate change. Conservatives have their own alternative history, such as denying the fact that the Founding Fathers established the United States with a secular government characterized by separation of church and state, recognizing that this is essential to guarantee religious freedom.To prevent contamination from liberal (i.e. reality based) ideas, conservatives have their own descriptions of liberal beliefs, which are not held by any liberals in the actual world.
National Review demonstrates this with an article by Charles C. W. Cooke which contains a description of Obama’s beliefs which are totally out of touch with reality:
A president of the United States just ran a reelection campaign based on the promise of government largess, exploitation of class division, the demonization of success, the glorification of identity politics, and the presumption that women are a helpless interest group; and he did so while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the looming — potentially fatal — crisis that the country faces. And it worked.
Worse, as David Harsanyi has observed, “the president’s central case rests on the idea that individuals should view government as society’s moral center, the engine of prosperity and the arbiter of fairness.” This stunted and tawdry vision of American life was best summed up in his campaign’s contemptible Life of Julia cartoon, which portrayed the American Dream as being impossible without heavy cradle-to-grave government, and in which the civic society that Tocqueville correctly saw as the hallmark of the republic was wholly ignored — if not disdained outright. “Government is the only thing we all belong to,” declared a video at the opening of the Democratic National Convention. In another age, this contention would have been met with incredulity and confusion; in ours, it was cheered.
Any Obama voters see the man they voted for as being remotely like the faux-Obama described above?
It is rather ironic that he cherry picks a rather trivial line from a video at the Democratic Convention while the entire Republican National Convention was themed around an attack of an alleged view held by Barack Obama which they made up selectively editing a statement to give it an entirely different meaning. That’s the way it goes. They lack the honesty to even discuss actual liberal values so they make up something totally bizarre, showing no relationship to actual liberal beliefs.
The full article by Cooke is similarly inane, such as with attacking health care reform with a total lack of understanding of the failures of our system which made reform so urgent, along with a total lack of understanding of the plan which passed. To conservatives, Obama has launched a government take-over of a successful system, even though this is neither a government take-over nor a system which could have survived much longer.
The failure of Republicans to respond to actual Democratic views reminds me of this comment from Bill Maher from August:
You know, Republicans have created this completely fictional president. His name is Barack X and he’s an Islamo-socialist revolutionary who’s coming for your guns, raising your taxes, slashing the military, apologizing to other countries, and taking his cues from Europe or worse yet, Saul Alinsky. And this is how politics has changed; you used to have to run against an actual candidate, but now you just recreate him inside the bubble and run against your new fictional candidate.
That’s how Bush won in 2004, by running against John Kerry, a French war criminal. And speaking of Bush, I know conservatives are saying oh Bill, come on Democrats did the same thing to him. No. Say what you will about the left’s hatred of Bush, at least we were hating on the real guy. We didn’t invent a boogeyman who tanked the economy, took us to war on false pretenses, and tortured prisoners. That was the actual guy.
But run down the list of complaints about fantasy Obama. He wants to raise your taxes, even though he’s lowered them. Confiscate your guns, even though he’s never mentioned it, and read terrorists their rights, yeah, like he did Tuesday in Somalia. And look what Gingrich said about him this month. (Video of Gingrich claiming Obama is against work). Yes, Obama is anti-work. You remember the bill he championed, The Grab A Corona And Call In Sick Act.
You see, the difference is the Republicans hatred of Obama is based on a paranoid feeling about what he might do. What’s he’s thinking. What he secretly wants to change. Anger with Bush was based on what he actually did. What Bush was thinking didn’t matter, because he wasn’t.
Just as Romney lost partly due to being out of touch with reality as it quoted the ideas of the right wing noise machine, future Republican candidates who read articles such as this will be at a severe disadvantage in failing to understand the actual ideas of those they run against.
Rasmussen typically has a two point Republican bias. Still, just showing a tie has Dick Morris backing off on his predictions which I discussed earlier this week.
Romney could still win, but would have to out-perform the polls by over two percent to have a chance. The Denver Post has nine electoral college predictions–showing different combinations of states which lead to an Obama victory.
Supporters of each party are looking for ways in which their party could out-perform the polls (with Obama merely needing to match the polls at this point). Both parties have argued that early voting is helping them. The problem for the Republicans is that much of their early voting is occurring in southern states which will go Republican regardless of when people vote. The real question is not who is getting the most early votes, but whether Democrats will increase their total turnout with early voting. Polls of all registered voters typically show the Democrats doing five points better than polls of likely voters. If the Democrats can narrow this gap they can boost the numbers above.
Back in 2004 liberal blogs were counting on the Incumbent Rule to give Kerry the victory. The basic idea is that if the incumbent is running at under 50 percent, the majority of undecided voters will break for the challenger (already knowing the incumbent), giving a challenger who is close behind the victory. That didn’t work for Kerry, and it doesn’t look like this will work for Romney.
Other factors might also alter the results compared to the polls. The Libertarian Party, along with the Constitution Party in Virginia, might take a small number of votes away from Romney. I don’t see the Green Party as being a threat to Obama this year as Nader was to Al Gore in 2000. The Constitution Party’s candidate, Virgil Goode, is from Virginia and has the potential of taking enough votes from Romney to give Obama the state in a close race, while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson might be a spoiler in some western battle ground states.
There is speculation that the polls might be under-counting Latino votes, possibly enabling Obama to do several points better in some states, as Harry Reid did when running for reelection two years ago.
Under counting cell phone users might also play a part. Polls using robocalls are legally not allowed to call cell phone, underestimating younger voters who are more likely to vote Democratic (assuming they do show up to vote). Polls not using cell phones do try to adjust their numbers but at least one Democratic pollster believes that Obama is actually doing much better than the polls show.
These factors favor Obama, and there is one more trend which helps Obama. He had the far better week, denying Romney the chance to regain the momentum he held after the first debate. Besides just dominating the news, he benefits from comments from Chris Christie, the endorsement from Michael Bloomberg, and the report of an increase in jobs created. There is very little time left for something to happen to change the trajectory of the race.
Obama appears to have gone into the debate looking to protect his lead and take no chances. As a result he came off too wonkish. He responded to some Romney lies but allowed many others to go unchallenged. Romney better understood how these “debates” work in ignoring the actual questions and ignoring the facts. The debates are not about actually answering questions or about giving the most scholarly answer. Romney will be awarded the win by the pundits, but it is doubtful anything he said will really convince many people to vote for him. John Kerry beat George Bush far more decisively than Romney won tonight but still lost the election.
On taxes, Mitt Romney decided to shake the Etch-A-Sketch and ignore everything he has supported to date. While Romney has told many lies, he was at the most dishonest on health care. Obama did a fair job of responding to Romney’s lies about a board which will be making health care decisions but Obama failed to respond to Romney’s distortions about Medicare cuts.
Romney was the far better bullshitter while Obama was the one up on stage who was able to give serious answers. Unfortunately the television debate format is not a good place for such professorial explanations. I am tempted to say that this was the most boring debate I have watched but realistically if there were boring ones in the past I wouldn’t recall them for comparison. I was waiting for them to debate which state has the trees which are the right height or whether planes should have windows. I am now worried that Romney plans to tie Big Bird to the top of his car.
Obama generally had the wrong strategy for this debate, but at times did effectively challenge Romney, such as in asking for specifics of which deductions Romney would cut. My bet is that Obama will take on Romney more forcibly in the next two debates.
The post-debate coverage is often more important in influencing opinion than the actual debate. Romney won the debate on style but as the fact checkers are looking at the debate Romney is losing points. Further discussion of topics such as Romney’s tax plan, the actual facts about Medicare, and health-care reform could wind up benefit ting Obama more than Romney.
Update: Or, as wound up happening, the media could concentrate on simplistic stories about who won (based upon style) and ignore the issues.
It was another strong day for the Democrats, leading up to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. While Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and ultimately Barack Obama dominated their evenings, there were many other strong speakers throughout the convention. The Democrats’ “second string” did a better job than the major speakers at the Republican convention. There was a wide variety of speakers, but they all showed a fundamental difference between the parties. The Democrats offer a big tent while the Republicans tell you to buy your own umbrella.
The two speakers who I have met in the past each did an excellent job. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, spoke on Obama saving the auto industry:
The entire auto industry, and the lives of over one million hard-working Americans, teetered on the edge of collapse. And with it, the whole manufacturing sector.
We looked everywhere for help. Almost nobody had the guts to help us – not the banks, not the private investors, and not Bain Capital. Then, in 2009, the cavalry arrived: our new President, Barack Obama! He organized a rescue, made the tough calls, and saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saw the same crisis and you know what he said: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
Sure, Mitt Romney loves our lakes and trees. He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build, and sell those cars? Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator – the workers get the shaft. Mitt Romney says his business experience qualifies him to be President. Sure, he’s made lots of money. Good for him. But how did he make that fortune, and at whose expense? Too often, he made it at the expense of middle-class Americans.Year after year, it was profit before people.
With the auto rescue, he saved more than one million middle-class jobs all across America.
John Kerry had a strong speech on foreign policy, turning around the classic Ronald Reagan line: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.” Full video of Kerry’s speech is above.
Joe Biden returned to the line he has used many times: Osama bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive. Biden was brilliant to tie in Romney’s position on the auto industry to the Bain way:
When I look back now on the President’s decision, I also think of another son of an automobile man–Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit. His father ran American Motors. Yet he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt. It’s not that he’s a bad guy. I’m sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did. I just don’t think he understood—I just don’t think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant-to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets. Write-offs.
Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it’s not the way to lead your country from its highest office.
When things hung in the balance, the President understood it was about a lot more than the automobile industry. It was about restoring America’s pride. He knew what it would mean to leave 1 million people without hope or work if we didn’t act. He knew the message it would have sent to the rest of the world if the United States of America gave up on the industry that helped put America on the map. Conviction. Resolve.
He was similarly hard on Romney’s mistaken view on bin Laden as he described Obama’s strength:
We sat for days in the Situation Room. He listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. And he asked the tough questions. But when Admiral McRaven looked him in the eye and said– “Sir, we can get this done,” I knew at that moment Barack had made his decision. His response was decisive. He said do it. And justice was done.
But Governor Romney didn’t see things that way. When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, he said, and I quote, “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.”
He was wrong. If you understood that America’s heart had to be healed, you would have done exactly what the President did. And you too would have moved heaven and earth–to hunt down bin Laden, and bring him to justice.
Biden summed up the different visions offered by the two parties: “A future where we promote the private sector, not the privileged sector.” So much for more bogus Republican framing. As he demolished Romney’s poor decisions, perhaps BIden should extend his line to “Osama bin Laden is Dead, General Motors Is Alive, and Mitt is a Twitt.”
Finally the man smart enough to marry Michelle Obama (as Clinton called him yesterday) came on. It was a terrible moment for Mitt Romney. There was no empty chair. Barack Obama showed how successful he can be by campaigning on his record, demolishing a common Republican bromide. First he summarized the differences between the parties and had the best line of the evening:
Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:
“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.”
“Deficit too high? Try another.”
“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it – middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.
Obama countered the Republican false framing that Democrats are the party of big government. Instead he explained that Democrats are the party which understands that there is a role for government:
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
In contrast, Obama pointed out that Republicans are the party of big government intruding in the private lives of individuals, warning about “Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.” He promised to prevent Medicare from turning into a voucher program, to protect seniors, and to protect the middle class:
I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.
And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.
This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”
Republicans avoided talk about Afghanistan and supporting veterans. Obama joined other speakers in warning of the dangers of making someone as inexperienced and uninformed as Mitt Romney become Commander-in-Chief:
So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.
After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.
This election is far more about the economy than foreign policy, but will Americans elect a president who is so clearly over his head on issues of national security?
It will be interesting to see what effect this convention has on the polls. I’m not sure that there are many voters left who haven’t made up their minds to provide the types of convention bounces we have seen in the past. Romney received little to no bounce after his convention. The Democrats put on a far better convention and we will soon have an answer as to whether any convention can provide a big bounce. Gallup has shown Obama with a one point lead through the entire Republican convention and into today. As they use a seven day average it will take a few more days to see whether their is a bounce. Reuters is receiving a lot of attention in the conservative blogs for saying there has been no bounce for Obama, but this was after only one night, before the speeches by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
I think the biggest mistake made by John Kerry in his campaign against George Bush was to insist that all the speakers at the Democratic convention be positive without attacking George Bush. Needless to say, the Republicans did not follow the same policy. Kerry was leading during the summer, but fell significantly behind Bush after the Republican hate-fest. I’m glad to find that Barack Obama will not be making that mistake:
Advisers to President Barack Obama are scripting a Democratic National Convention featuring several Republicans in a prime-time appeal to independents — and planning a blistering portrayal of Mitt Romney as a heartless aristocrat who “would devastate the American middle class,” Democratic sources tell POLITICO.
According to convention planning documents, the three-night convention in Charlotte, N.C., early next month will seek to “[e]xpose Mitt Romney as someone who doesn’t understand middle class challenges” while also burnishing “the President’s image as someone whose life story is about fighting for middle class Americans and those working to get into the middle class.”
It is fun to watch the Republicans whine when Obama hits them with critical but generally honest attacks considering that Republicans have been running far harsher attacks on Democrats for years which also are notable for their dishonesty. There is nothing coming from Obama ((unless you believe this story in The Onion) which compares to Republican lies that Obama is a Muslim born outside of the United States, that he is a socialist, that he is bringing about a government take over of health care, that he raised taxes when he actually cut them, or blaming him for the Bush deficit. There’s no Democratic comparison to the all the recent noise misquoting Obama, falsely claiming he said that businessmen did not build their business or the lies about Obama’s welfare proposal. Same is true of several other misquotations Republicans have campaigned on. There’s nothing coming from Obama which compares to the Swift Boat Lies, which have been tied directly to Karl Rove and the Bush White House. There’s no Democratic 24-hour cable channel which spends the day promoting partisan talking points and lies disguised as news.
It will be interesting to see which Republicans will be included. Will they be individuals from outside of government who have voted Republican in the past and are now backing Obama, or will there be former Republican office holders? There certainly are a lot of moderate Republicans, and even some conservatives, who are no longer welcome in this far, far right wing GOP. I’m hoping for a seance in which Barry Goldwater repeats his old warnings about the religious right taking over the party and Ronald Reagan explains how the party has moved far to the right of him.
Earlier in the week there was reason to hope that the most entertaining Republicans of this election cycle, the Huntsman daughters, might be convinced to change parties. Abby Huntsman did say she was joining the Democrats but later said she was kidding. She also remains unsure as to who she will be voting for, so there is still hope of seeing videos from the Huntsman daughters backing Obama. It might be a family affair. There is speculation that Jon Huntsman, Sr. is the source for Harry Reid’s questionable claim that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years. Who knows, maybe Jon Huntsman, who already served as Obama’s ambassador to China, might show up at the Democratic Convention to back Obama.
Rob Diamond, director of veterans and military family voting for the Obama campaign, said Romney is fabricating his claim: “The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to make sure every Ohioan, including military members and their families, has early voting rights over the last weekend prior to the election.”
Obama political adviser David Axelrod, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said Romney’s claims are “false and misleading,” and that the lawsuit is about “whether the rest of Ohio should have the same right” to early voting as members of the military.
“I think it’s shameful that Governor Romney would hide behind our servicemen and women to try and win a lawsuit to deprive other Ohioans of the right to vote,” Axelrod said.
It was believed after the 2004 election that an insufficient number of voting machines led to long lines in Democratic areas, suppressing the vote, and that if not for this problem Kerry might have beat Bush. It is therefore obviously in the interest of the Obama campaign to do everything possible to facilitate voting in Ohio.
While Fox is running this with a misleading title and some misinformation, they at least are including the facts of this case:
Top Obama campaign officials told Fox News in interviews that the lawsuit in no way tries to restrict the voting rights of military members. All they are trying to do is even the playing field for all voters in Ohio by allowing early voting up until Monday for everyone, including members of the military, because they believe a two-tiered, early-voting process is unfair.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request of this Court the following equitable relief:
A. An order declaring that lines 863 and 864 of Sec. 3509.03(I) in HB 224, which amended Ohio Revised Code § 3509.03 by changing the deadline for in-person early voting from the close of business on the day before Election Day to 6 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, and the SB 295 enactment of Ohio Revised Code § 3509.03 with the HB 224 amendments, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution;
B. A preliminary and permanent order prohibiting the Defendants, their respective agents, servants, employees, attorneys, successors, and all persons acting in concert with each or any of them, from implementing or enforcing lines 863 and 864 of Sec. 3509.03 (I) in HB 224, and/or the SB 295 enactment of Ohio Revised Code § 3509.03 with the HB 224 amendments, thereby restoring in-person early voting on the three days immediately preceding Election Day for all eligible Ohio voter
Nowhere does Obama try to take rights away from military personnel.
President Obama’s lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage. The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote. I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters, and if I’m entrusted to be the commander-in-chief, I’ll work to protect the voting rights of our military, not undermine them.
It has been the tactic of the Republicans, not the Democrats, to attempt to suppress the vote, contrary to the interests of a democratic system of government. It is also damaging to democracy for one party to concentrate on misinforming the public while avoiding discussion of the actual issues while campaigning. This is just one in a long list of Romney lies–a much longer list of Romney’s lies can be seen here.