The Economist Endorses Barack Obama

The Economist has endorsed Barack Obama. While endorsements mean very little, and possibly even less when coming from a publication from outside the United States, I was curious to see what they would decide. The Economist is conservative from a European viewpoint, which means that a centrist Democrat can still fall closer to their beliefs than a Republican. While economically conservative, they do not support the cultural conservativism of the GOP. This has led to a set of endorsements in past issues which would not always have been easy to predict.

The Economist endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980 but then apparently became disenchanted with the Republican Party, not making an endorsement in 1984 or 1988. By 1992 they were ready to endorse a Democrat, backing Bill Clinton. in 1996 they weren’t happy with either candidate, backing Bob Dole but writing, “he choice is a lousy one.” They stuck with the Republicans in 2000 endorsing George Bush but learned the error in this and backed John Kerry in 2008.

They have avoided endorsements of an incumbent, and perhaps their lack of an endorsement for McCain could be explained by if they considered McCain to be running for George Bush’s third term. If they accepted the view that John McCain is an independent Republican who would be moderate on social issues their past history would suggest that he would receive their endorsement. Unfortunately for John McCain, they have followed the race closely, leading them to reject McCain for Barack Obama. They did suggest they would have followed this logic, “If only the real John McCain had been running.”

…the Candidate McCain of the past six months has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery, his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated. The fiscal conservative who once tackled Mr Bush over his unaffordable tax cuts now proposes not just to keep the cuts, but to deepen them. The man who denounced the religious right as “agents of intolerance” now embraces theocratic culture warriors. The campaigner against ethanol subsidies (who had a better record on global warming than most Democrats) came out in favour of a petrol-tax holiday. It has not all disappeared: his support for free trade has never wavered. Yet rather than heading towards the centre after he won the nomination, Mr McCain moved to the right.

Meanwhile his temperament, always perhaps his weak spot, has been found wanting. Sometimes the seat-of-the-pants method still works: his gut reaction over Georgia—to warn Russia off immediately—was the right one. Yet on the great issue of the campaign, the financial crisis, he has seemed all at sea, emitting panic and indecision. Mr McCain has never been particularly interested in economics, but, unlike Mr Obama, he has made little effort to catch up or to bring in good advisers (Doug Holtz-Eakin being the impressive exception).

The choice of Sarah Palin epitomised the sloppiness. It is not just that she is an unconvincing stand-in, nor even that she seems to have been chosen partly for her views on divisive social issues, notably abortion. Mr McCain made his most important appointment having met her just twice.

Ironically, given that he first won over so many independents by speaking his mind, the case for Mr McCain comes down to a piece of artifice: vote for him on the assumption that he does not believe a word of what he has been saying. Once he reaches the White House, runs this argument, he will put Mrs Palin back in her box, throw away his unrealistic tax plan and begin negotiations with the Democratic Congress. That is plausible; but it is a long way from the convincing case that Mr McCain could have made. Had he become president in 2000 instead of Mr Bush, the world might have had fewer problems. But this time it is beset by problems, and Mr McCain has not proved that he knows how to deal with them.

Some have endorsed McCain based upon the McCain of the past believing this will be what we would have in the White House. The Economist is correct in realizing that it is too risky to place someone who has campaigned as McCain has in the White House. They are not alone in citing the choice of Sarah Palin is reason not to support McCain. While they have reservations which would be expected from a conservative magazine, they endorsed Barack Obama:

Is Mr Obama any better? Most of the hoopla about him has been about what he is, rather than what he would do. His identity is not as irrelevant as it sounds. Merely by becoming president, he would dispel many of the myths built up about America: it would be far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan if it were led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein; and far harder for autocrats around the world to claim that American democracy is a sham. America’s allies would rally to him: the global electoral college on our website shows a landslide in his favour. At home he would salve, if not close, the ugly racial wound left by America’s history and lessen the tendency of American blacks to blame all their problems on racism.

So Mr Obama’s star quality will be useful to him as president. But that alone is not enough to earn him the job. Charisma will not fix Medicare nor deal with Iran. Can he govern well? Two doubts present themselves: his lack of executive experience; and the suspicion that he is too far to the left.

There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and outfought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right.

Political fire, far from rattling Mr Obama, seems to bring out the best in him: the furore about his (admittedly ghastly) preacher prompted one of the most thoughtful speeches of the campaign. On the financial crisis his performance has been as assured as Mr McCain’s has been febrile. He seems a quick learner and has built up an impressive team of advisers, drawing in seasoned hands like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.

It is hard too nowadays to depict him as soft when it comes to dealing with America’s enemies. Part of Mr Obama’s original appeal to the Democratic left was his keenness to get American troops out of Iraq; but since the primaries he has moved to the centre, pragmatically saying the troops will leave only when the conditions are right. His determination to focus American power on Afghanistan, Pakistan and proliferation was prescient. He is keener to talk to Iran than Mr McCain is— but that makes sense, providing certain conditions are met.

Our main doubts about Mr Obama have to do with the damage a muddle-headed Democratic Congress might try to do to the economy. Despite the protectionist rhetoric that still sometimes seeps into his speeches, Mr Obama would not sponsor a China-bashing bill. But what happens if one appears out of Congress? Worryingly, he has a poor record of defying his party’s baronies, especially the unions. His advisers insist that Mr Obama is too clever to usher in a new age of over-regulation, that he will stop such nonsense getting out of Congress, that he is a political chameleon who would move to the centre in Washington. But the risk remains that on economic matters the centre that Mr Obama moves to would be that of his party, not that of the country as a whole.

He has earned it

So Mr Obama in that respect is a gamble. But the same goes for Mr McCain on at least as many counts, not least the possibility of President Palin. And this cannot be another election where the choice is based merely on fear. In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.

Another Conservative Activist Endorses Obama

With the Republicans in recent years becoming the party of big government, and with their support for both the Iraq war and the associated assults on civil liberties, many principled conservatives and libertarians are now backing Barack Obama instead of John McCain. I’ve posted many previous examples of this, with the most recent post here. There’s yet one more to add to the list. In an op-ed in The New York Daily News Larry Hunter explains why he supports Obama.

Hunter describes his conservative credentials:

I’m a lifelong Republican – a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp’s Empower America.

Hunter explains why a conservative activist such as himself is backing Obama:

The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies – this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.

Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats – these are of greater importance.

John McCain would continue the Bush administration’s commitment to interventionism and constitutional overreach. Obama promises a humbler engagement with our allies, while promising retaliation against any enemy who dares attack us. That’s what conservatism used to mean – and it’s what George W. Bush promised as a candidate.

Hunter has reservations about Obama on domestic policy but sees reason to believe that he is not as opposed to conservative views as many on the right are claiming:

…he says just about all the wrong things on domestic issues doesn’t bother me as much as it once would have. After all, the Republicans said all the right things – fiscal responsibility, spending restraint – and it didn’t mean a thing. It is a sad commentary on American politics today, but it’s taken as a given that politicians, all of them, must pander, obfuscate and prevaricate.

Besides, I suspect Obama is more free-market friendly than he lets on. He taught at the University of Chicago, a hotbed of right-of-center thought. His economic advisers, notably Austan Goolsbee, recognize that ordinary citizens stand to gain more from open markets than from government meddling. That’s got to rub off.

It would be more accurate to say that many Democrats are more “free-market friendly” than the right wing noise machine claims. At least many conservatives such as Hunter are more open to considering a Democrat such as Obama, seeing him as more of a centrist than a left wing extremist. At very least, Hunter believes that Obama would do less harm (from a conservative perspective) than the Republicans have done:

But overall, based on his embrace of centrist advisers and policies, it seems likely that Obama will turn out to be in the mold of John Kennedy – who was fond of noting that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Over the last few decades, economic growth has made Americans at every income level better off. For all his borderline pessimistic rhetoric, Obama knows this. And I believe he is savvy enough to realize that the real threat to middle-class families and the poor – an economic undertow that drags everyone down – cannot be counteracted by an activist government.

Or maybe not. But here’s the thing: Even if my hopes on domestic policy are dashed and Obama reveals himself as an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-wool, big-government liberal, I’m still voting for him.

These past eight years, we have spent over a trillion dollars on foreign soil – and lost countless lives – and done what I consider irreparable damage to our Constitution.

If economic damage from well-intentioned but misbegotten Obama economic schemes is the ransom we must pay him to clean up this foreign policy mess, then so be it. It’s not nearly as costly as enduring four more years of what we suffered the last eight years.

Edwards Campaign “Jumps the Shark” in Attacking Clinton

John Edwards took his act to Hanover, New Hampshire with a speech which wound up creating a controversy among Democrats. Edwards made what is being seen as an attack on the Clintons when he said, “The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent, and lobbyist money can no longer influence policy in the House or the Senate.”

As both Jeralyn at Talk Left and Taylor Marsh have noted, using the Lincoln Bedroom has long been a conservative talking point for attacking the Clintons. In a post entitled Edwards Jumps the Shark, Taylor Marsh provides examples of Bob Dole using this attack line in 1996 and George W. Bush using it in 2000. Edwards shows yet once again his lack of sincerity when he attacked other Democratic candidates for attacking other Democratic candidates last month.

The problem with Edwards’ message goes much deeper than whether he attacked the Clintons today. There have been multiple episodes of hypocrisy which contradict Edwards’ message in today’s speech as well as his overall campaign theme of being more pure (or an actual Democrat) compared to the other candidates. Edwards has avoided honest disclosure of the indentities of his major fundraisers. Having a remarkably high percentage of campaign money coming from a single source, the trial lawyers, makes him no less tainted than candidates who receive contributions from a variety of lobbyists. Following the 2004 election Edwards created his Poverty Center which turned out to be a way to continue campaigning, and paying staffers, without being subject to FEC regulations. After Edwards has spoken out against foreclosures on Katrina victims, it was discovered that Edwards had worked for a private equity fund in 2005 and 2006 which was responsible for many of the actions he is now campaigning against. In this speech, as in so many others, Edwards once comes off as the politician who will say anything to get votes.

Republican Humor

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcKw9_4O4f8]

It looks like Saturday Night Live has recaptured the humor of its early years. No, wait, this isn’t an SNL satire of a Republican ad. It is a real Republican ad. (Hat top to Josh Marshall.)

Kevin Drum quotes Hendrik Hertzberg writing about YearlyKos:

No one naked around here. No chaos at YearlyKos. No “sweet smell of marijuana,” as the straight papers used to refer to it. No demands for revolution. No denunciations of bourgeois democracy. The Democratic National Committee Chairman is listened to respectfully and cheered enthusiastically.

I think the difference between today’s left and yesterday’s is partly explained by the difference between the wars that have energized them. Vietnam was, as Bob Dole might say, a “Democrat war.” You couldn’t protest it just by putting your energies into electing Democrats, and of course you couldn’t do it by trying to elect Republicans, who liked the war even more. You had to go to the left of the Dems, and if you hadn’t happened to have already acquired a moral/political compass, you might keep going till you ended up at the feet of Chairman Mao. This war is an all-Republican affair. And this generation, thank God, is perfectly content to stick with Chairman Howard.

Kevin adds:

What’s happening now isn’t a youth revolt, and it’s not powered by free love, free acid, or fear of being drafted. It’s powered by a lot of bog ordinary moderate liberals who have been radicalized by George Bush and the Newt Gingrichized Republican Party. I think a lot of journalists (though I don’t mean to include Hertzberg here) don’t quite get this because they haven’t internalized just how far off the rails the modern Republican Party has gone. Until they do, they’re going to continue to misunderstand what’s happening.

There is a lot of nutty stuff posted at Kos, which is bound to happen at any community blog of that size. Kos has even written some nutty stuff of his own, which I’ve sometimes commented on here. His comments on the contractors killed in Iraq were inappropriate, and during the 2004 election Daily Kos was removed from the blogroll at the official Kerry blog because of this. He made a mistake and appears to have learned from it–which is far more than can be said about the hatred which continues to come from the right, including many of those who are now attacking Democrats for appearing at YearlyKos.

At least this is consistent. The Bush campaign screened people at their campaign rallys to keep out those who disagree with him.  Most of the current Republican candidates are afraid to answer questions posed by users of YouTube. In contrast, Democrats are willing to appear before normal people who utilize the internet, but Republicans attack them for this.

Kerry Crew Mates Urge Rejection of Fox Nomination

Senate Democrats and Kerry’s Vietnam crew mates are joining John Kerry in opposing the nomination of Sam Fox to be ambassador to Belgium. AP begins their report saying, “As one of the GOP’s most prominent national fundraisers, Sam Fox should have an easy road to an appealing diplomatic post.” During the hearings Kerry’s questioning made it clear that Fox had no qualifications for the position other than for having raised large amounts of money for Republicans. Under normal circumstances this might have been enough, but Fox made the mistake of donating money to one of the most despicable smear campaigns in modern political history.

Kerry questioned Fox about his contributions to the Swift Boat Liars, with Fox describing Kerry as a hero during the hearings. While right wingers continue to spread unsubstantiated claims which contradict the military record and the testimony of those who witnessed Kerry’s actions, most of those who actually served with John Kerry have substantiated the offical accounts which show that John Kerry deserved his medals. Kerry’s crew mates have sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging members to oppose Fox’s nomination:

With a vote on Fox expected Wednesday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry’s Vietnam crew mates on Tuesday sent a letter urging committee members to oppose Fox’s nomination. A copy of the letter was obtained by the Associated Press.

”In our judgment, those who finance smears and lies of combat veterans don’t deserve to represent America on the world stage,” said the letter signed by James Rassman and 10 other Vietnam Swift Boat veterans who served with Kerry.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Tuesday he opposes the nomination because Fox ”refused to apologize for his behavior” during his confirmation hearing last month.

”U.S. Ambassadors need to be both responsible and credible, and Mr. Fox’s support for an organization known to have spread falsehoods illustrates neither,” said Dodd, who is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Among other Democrats on the Committee, Barack Obama was critical of Fox’s actions. Not surprisingly, ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman supported Fox.

Last year I had a series of posts on the Swift Boat Liars and John Kerry’s military record at The Democratic Daily. The posts are reprinted under the fold.

Update: Fox Nomination Withdrawn
(more…)

Ic To You, Mr. President

There’s not much meaningful to say about the State of the Union Address–a statement so weak in ideas that it seemed like Jim Webb was the real speaker tonight and George Bush was just his amateur warm up act. His domestic policies will go no where, including his health care proposals which I already discussed here and here. His Iraq plan is just more of the same failed strategy.

In a speech which lacked substance the tone might be more important. Bush typically uses code words which must be evaluated to determine the real meaning of his statements. Past speeches have included code words to the religious right to reassure them that he is on their side even if he is claiming to be a compassionate conservative. Rather than taking advantage of the State of the Union to bridge the partisan gap, Bush carefully chose his words, deviating from the prepared text, to show that he has no intention of cooperating with Democrats. Washington Wire, a blog at the Wall Street Journal, describes the important variation from the prepared text:

President Bush departed from the prepared text of his State of the Union address to graciously congratulate Nancy Pelosi on her history-making selection as the first female Speaker of the House. Then he departed from the prepared text a second time to take a jab at Pelosi and the rest of the new Democratic majority of Congress.

[George Bush]
George Bush

In the prepared text of the speech, sent out by the White House some 40 minutes before Bush ascended the House rostrum, the president was to say, “Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate – and I congratulate the Democratic majority.” When Bush delivered the line, however, he paid tribute to the “Democrat majority.”Dropping the “ic” from the word “Democratic” may seem insignificant, but it was almost certainly a deliberate move by Bush, who has used the phrase “the Democrat Party” for months as a way of needling his opponents.

[Nancy Pelosi]
Nancy Pelosi

Republicans have periodically referred to their opponents as belonging to the “Democrat Party” for many decades, and the phrase was a particular favorite of former Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. A recent Washington Post column filled in the backstory: according to the Columbia Guide to Standard American English, McCarthy “sought by repeatedly calling it the Democrat party to deny it any possible benefit of the suggestion that it might also be democratic.”The phrase lay largely dormant for years, however, until President Bush resuscitated it during last fall’s midterm election season and made it a mainstay of his public remarks about the opposition party. It has since been widely adopted by many Republican lawmakers, conservative political activists, and conservative commentators and pundits at media outlets like Fox News.

For all of Bush’s talk tonight about crossing party lines to work with the new Democratic Congress, it is the missing two letters that may offer the clearest indication of whether partisan tensions are really like to fade in the waning years of Bush’s presidency.

They did make one error in attributing the resumption of “Democrat” to Bush last year. Actually Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz have been promoting this since the 1990’s. Hendrick Hertzberg, writing in The New Yorker, also quotes Bob Dole as once resorting to this insult. It isn’t as important whether it was Bush who resumed this McCarthyite tactic. What matters is that Bush chose to perpetuate this, quickly providing an answer to those watching the State of the Union for clues as to whether Bush has learned anything about bipartisan cooperation after losing control of Congress.

Bush and Cheney Keep Clean

Before 2001 I would have never believed that we’d have a situation where I’d side with one political party over the other on every issue but Bush and Cheney have been remarkable for their ability to be wrong on, to put it briefly, everything. Until now. The New York Times reports on an issue where I must side with Bush and Cheney over Bill Richardson and Howard Dean–the use of Purell to clean hands after shaking hands with crowds of people.

For once George Bush’s simple explanation is actually true: “Good stuff, keeps you from getting colds.” Physician and Senator Tom Coburn explains in more detail that, “Every time you’re with big groups of people, you’re going to be exposed to rhinoviruses, adenoviruses and the viruses that cause gastroenteritis.”

It’s safe to assume that if George Bush says something, Howard Dean can be counted upon to say the opposite, which makes Dean correct virtually every time, except on this issue. According to Dean, “If you’ve had children, you’re immune to everything.” Bill Richardson holds the Guinness Book of World Records for shaking the most hands over an eight-hour period–13,392, at the New Mexico State Fair in 2002. He refuses to use Purell, saying “It’s condescending to the voters.”

Despite the positions of Dean and Richardson, Purell is increasingly popular among politicians. Bill Clinton started using Purell after being chastised by doctors for eating a pie with his hands when their was no fork available after shaking dozens of hands. Purell wasn’t an issue in the 2000 election as both Gore and Lieberman promoted its use. Donald Trump was also a supporter when he considered entering politics:

“One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands,” Mr. Trump wrote in his book “Comeback.” “I happen to be a clean-hands freak.”

Other cited as supporting the use of Purell include John McCain, Bob Dole, Harry Reid, and Barack O’Bama.

Spitzer’s Message

I’ve often been impressed with the way Elliot Spitzer gets out his message. For example, see his article Capitalism With A Democratic Face. (Also available in the Kerry Reference Library.) Spitzer takes on the sterotype of liberals spread by the right wing as opponents of capitalism, concluding with:

By taking up the mantle of efficient, forward-looking, and market-oriented government action, Democrats can move from being a party that simply opposes Bush’s tainted version of laissez-faire to one that advocates for the progress that comes with real market freedom. It is a powerful argument, a true argument, and it is ours for the making.

Now that he is running for Governor of New York, Spitzer is showing the same skill in getting out the right message. Check out these ads. Really, these are ads which are worth looking at. Kos didn’t believe a political ad firm could have made commercials this good, so he did some digging about who made them:

The ads are written by screenwriter, Madison Avenue maven, and political novice Jimmy Siegel and produced by Moxie Pictures. Siegel worked until recently at the legendary firm BBDO. He put together the Super Bowl Visa ad with Bob Dole and the “Yo, Yao” ads with Yao Ming.

Democrats have wondered how they can counter the right wing noise machine without copying their deceit and hatred. Eliot Spitzer may have found the way.