Posted by Brad @ 3:03 am on August 31st 2008

Just Keep Talkin’ Democrats…

I am pretty well convinced that Palin was a bad pick, in part based on the direction of the McCain campaign and the timing (if he’d have followed my advice…). I’ll post about that later. But for this weekend, I’m thinking Rojas might have had the GOP playbook right. Just let them talk. Because when it starts devolving to stuff like this

If the red phone rings in the middle of the night and she’s breastfeeding, will she answer it?

…you’re really starting to ask for it.

Stephan Kinsella at LewRockwell.com (who are doing great work on this) nails it.

The contempt for normal America–the bizarre, sneering sexism–just oozes out of this liberal vitriol, doesn’t it? Think middle America won’t pick up on this? Why vote for those who feel they are superior to you and who relegate normalcy to peon status?

Is bashing small towns and motherhood really the tack they want to take?

Posted by Brad @ 5:49 pm on August 30th 2008

My Letter to Lisa Schiffren

Lots of Strongly Worded Letters this weekend…

The Feminist Contrast With Hillary Clinton….

Is striking.

Hillary Clinton is qualified by virtue of her marriage to a President, is a second wave feminist icon, and is so clearly ready to be President on Day One that it is beyond debate. By virtue, near as I can figure, of her being a diva.

Here we have a woman, Sarah Palin, a minor celebrity in motherhood circles, who has spent 16 years in politics, running for PTA, then city council, then Mayor, then Governor, and now Vice President. A self-made politician if ever there was one. A woman that signed crime bills with a baby in a sling, and gave birth between meetings with the Governor’s Association. A woman with no discernible airs, who is nevertheless smart, passionate, qualified (she has roughly the same experience as Bobby Jindal and Tim Kaine, and certainly, Alaska is as “real” a state as Hawaii and Delaware, and is indeed, by most accounts, harder to govern). And the friggin’ knives are out.

From Andrew Sullivan putting her on the cover of Vogue (wonder if he was going to do that if Obama’s selection was Kaine?), to some saying her husband is really the shadow governor, to some questioning whether she was even actually pregnant, and to hysteria breaking out that she can’t be a “serious” candidate for the Vice Presidency, that such is the default assumption. And the burden of proof is on the most popular female governor in America to prove that she’s not an airhead beauty queen who can’t think seriously about “real” issues or hang with the big boys.

Hows that glass ceiling looking, Democrats?

Posted by Brad @ 5:09 pm on August 30th 2008

“Women?! You Want Some Women, John McCain’ll Give You Women.”

Even I had to laugh at the People magazine profile picture.

Posted by Brad @ 4:50 pm on August 30th 2008

Your Regulatory Agencies At Work

While Wyeth v. Levine lurks on the horizon, here’s an interesting little case from Kansas.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court says the government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease.

Because the Agriculture Department tests only a small percentage of cows for the deadly disease, Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows. The government says it can’t.

Larger meat companies worry that if Creekstone is allowed to perform the test and advertise its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday overturned a lower court ruling that would have cleared the way for the testing. The appeals court said restricting the test is within the scope of the government’s authority.

I find myself at a loss to think of anything appropriately snide to add that the article itself doesn’t already perfectly convey.

Posted by Brad @ 4:42 pm on August 30th 2008

More on Sarah Palin

While Andrew Sullivan has gone gutter-fishing, the guys at Lew Rockwell are redeeming themselves.

Ryan McMaken has an interesting post up about Palin’s place in one facet of the third wave feminist movement.

If you’re into attachment parenting, “ecological” breastfeeding, baby-wearing, and such, Sarah Palin is apparently a minor celebrity.

(more…)

Posted by Rojas @ 4:16 pm on August 30th 2008

The impossibility of energy independence, part I: The world is flat

Our eight readers will know that every time a politician of either party declares the need for energy independence, I go apoplectic. Make no mistake, I recognize the political utility of the argument. It’s because the argument has so much currency with American voters that I’ve grown to despise it so much.

In continuation of the discussion we’re having in this thread, I’m going to lay out my basic reasons for opposing “energy independence” as a national policy goal, and my preferred alternatives. It’s going to take a while. So I’ll begin with some basic arguments about the nature of the global energy market and why economic isolationism is as bad an idea where energy is concerned, as it would be with any other good or service.

A quick note before I get into the meat of things: you’ll find most of these arguments in more persuasive and detailed form in Robert Bryce’s Gusher of Lies. (more…)

Posted by Brad @ 11:52 pm on August 29th 2008

My Letter to Andrew Sullivan

It’s been a cesspool over there today. Extending what Rojas and I are talking about in this thread, I shot off a Strongly Worded Letter to Sully.

Andrew,

You know, you’re really starting to let this election get to you.

I am a conservative in your sense of the word, who has been leaning pretty heavily against McCain. Palin makes me give a second look, for reasons I would think you can respect.

Sarah Palin is a goddamn impressive figure. A self-made woman, a working stiff with a working stiff family, with kitchen table values (and she lives them) and a strong individualist, federalist streaks, who has gone on to be, in a very short time, one of the most effective (and popular) Governors in Alaska history (no small task, considering the individualist streaks out that way and the cesspool of GOP politics there, most all of which Palin has successfully rallied against). We want outsiders, we want executive experience, we want change agents but with some proven governing ability, we want to reach out to new voters, we want to get outside the safety zone of regular politics. John McCain has done all that with this pick. He deserves some props. Please note: his most obvious pick was Mitt fucking Romney.

The experience charge bothered me coming from the McCain campaign, because I think it’s overstated. I think Obama passes the sniff test of “serious candidate for President”, and I think most of us know that in our gut, even his detractors (who have more invested in being anti-Obama than just questions of experience). Is there some damn reason that Palin is less ready to be President than John Edwards? Fred Thompson? Mike Huckabee? Barack Obama? Hillary Clinton (whose wealth of experience I’m still totally unclear on)? She is the polar (forgive the pun) opposite of the D.C. cocktail party circuit, but she has a history of rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty in a way that even most U.S. representatives (and many Senators) don’t, can’t, or won’t. Is there something about her being a small town mayor that is discrediting? I find that pretty endearing.

McCain has a credible case on being the Washingtonian agent of change. Sarah Palin balances that out perfectly as someone far outside of Washington ALSO operating as an agent of change. Alaska is every bit as “real” a state as Hawaii or Delaware. She balances out almost every charge against McCain—that he’s too old, that he’s too out of touch and doesn’t “get it”, that he’s too insider, that he’s too wrapped up in war-making and playing solider. She has the kind of experience that McCain lacks, as he does for her. That’s a good pairing, and a good nose on McCain’s part. That makes me rethink the perspective he’s bringing to the table here.

One way to take a VP pick is “if the President dies, are they the best replacement?” But that’s not the only way. The fact is, most Presidents (even the old ones) do NOT die (and if they do, it’s pretty unlikely to happen before Palin gets all the experience she needs). Just as valuable a question to ask: are they a potentially good team? Virtually no one is asking that question at present. But for this voter, who has been really, really leaning against McCain, picking someone well outside his comfort zone, and making a real effort to break the mold and pick a fresh faced agent of change, a true outsider, is something I find reassuring, responsive even. Again, please note, he could have picked Joe fucking Lieberman.

The difficulty with McCain is proving that he’s not your Machine Republican, that you’re not going to get your Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove style administration out of him, just a bunch of loyalist machine hacks and yes-men with their own background agendas borne of years of stewing. Sarah Palin is the best bit of evidence we’ve gotten so far for that John McCain really is offering something different. She’s Mrs. Smith Comes to Washington, McCain (correctly) identifying the next generation of Republican leadership and (humbly) adding it to the ticket. It’s worth noting, he could have picked a dull yes-man (please note: he could have picked Tim fucking Pawlenty). Instead, he picked someone who, in their first meeting, was there to raise hell and disagree with him. That that meeting screamed “potential VP” to him speaks very highly of him.

He picked a figure that can appease all GOP constituencies (social cons, Sam’s Club Republicans, small government federalists, etc.), without being of or beholden to any one of them (please note: he could have picked Mike fucking Huckabee). That shows both, yes, an ear for the political, but also a characteristic pushback against regular interest-group politics. That’s what we wanted out of McCain, yes?

Will she need some on-the-job training? Yes. But then again, so will Barack Obama. The difference is, Obama gets it from his Vice President. Palin gets it from her President. The Republican ticket is molding a leader of tomorrow. The Democratic ticket is molding a leader of today.

This preemptively deciding that Sarah Palin is CLEARLY unfit to lead, not even 12 hours after she’s been announced, is indeed phenomenal to behold. I have to say, given her reception from some quarters at the moment, I’m rooting for her.

Let’s give her a chance, huh?

Posted by Brad @ 10:14 pm on August 29th 2008

Heh

Hear ye, hear ye:

Whoever regged VPilf.com is a friggin’ genius.

Posted by Brad @ 9:16 pm on August 29th 2008

Tooting Our Own Horn

You know, we get things wrong a lot, and in the chatter, say a lot, but it occurred to me today that we’re also racking up a damn fine track record this season.

James, as we’ve been arguing, more or less correctly identified the Hillary Clinton speech for what it was, and has been more or less right on her throughout the primaries. Rojas cut through the noise and nailed the likely truth behind the John Edwards fiasco. And I managed to get all four major candidates right.

In December of last year, I correctly picked not just both major party nominees (I called it Obama and McCain before Christmas), but more or less accurately predicted the ORDER of how all the candidates would finish (McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani/Paul; Obama, Clinton, Edwards)(though the reasonings didn’t all pan out 100%, but what do you want, voting hadn’t even started). And, as I’m crowing about presently, by July, I nailed both VP candidates (though that wasn’t a prediction per se). So I’m mildly impressed with myself tonight.

The Crossed Pond: Where You Go When You Want Right.

Posted by Brad @ 7:53 pm on August 29th 2008

Music Video of the Weekend

My 17-year-old sister and I are bonding. She’s become obsessed with the movie Labyrinth.

Posted by Brad @ 6:13 pm on August 29th 2008

Whither the Ron Paul Republicans?

The chance that they’re going to vote McCain at any point is pretty damn slim, but worth noting, Palin was often bandied about as a good choice of VP for Ron Paul.

Palin also had some praise for Ron Paul way back in February:

In this interview, Palin calls controversial Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul “cool.” “He’s a good guy,” she added. “He’s so independent. He’s independent of the party machine. I’m like, ‘Right on, so am I.’ ”

Lew Rockwell and company call the race for McCain on the strength of her.

I haven’t thought Obama had a chance for a long time, given Republican ability at swiftboating, but his abandonment of the pro-peace, pro-civil liberties portion of the Democratic base, indeed his open warmongering against Pakistan and Russia and refusal to criticize the Bush police state, clinched it. Biden?! Then there was the People’s Temple last night, followed by McCain’s brilliant pick for VP.

Sarah Palin is smart, articulate, attractive, pro-life, and pro-gun, and was even a Buchananite in 1996. Her political career has been based on fighting Republican corruption. Her ratings as Alaska governor are very high. She has a compelling life story, as they say. Her husband is one-quarter Yupik Eskimo. They have five children, including one with Down’s syndrome, whom they refused to abort. Palin will bring the whole Republican base home, and some Independent and Democratic women. Palin even blunts Hillary for 2012.

Eric Dondero at Libertarian Republican is ecstatic:

She is known to have spoken to two Libertarian Party meetings in 2004/05. She was endorsed by the Libertarian Party of Alaska in the final days of her race for Governor in 2006, even though the LP had it’s own candidate. On election night, Ms. Palin at the Egan Center, went out of her way to acknowledge the Libertarian Party’s support in her victory speech. Immediately afterwards, she embraced then LPA Chairman Jason Dowell in the crowd. Dowell, and other Libertarians had stood on street corners waving signs for Palin the final two days.

And the Club for Growth is as well:

“At a time when many Republicans are still clinging to pork-barrel politics, Governor Palin has quickly become a leader on this issue,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “She is a principled reformer who understands how badly wasteful spending has marred the Republican brand.”

And as Dondero mentioned, she was a Buchananite in 99 (as well as 96, as Lew mentions). It’s worth noting that Adam Brickley of the Palin for VP blog is a contributing editor to said Libertarian Republican site.

McCain could have made a pick to ingratiate himself to Sam’s Club Republicans (Pawlenty), could have gone the evangelical route (Huckabee), but instead, went with one of the very, very few candidates that mostly passes muster for the Ron Paul Republican wing of the party. That may well be a coincidence (in fact, it most likely is), but it is interesting.

Posted by Brad @ 6:00 pm on August 29th 2008

The Case for Palin From Alaska

From the Anchorage Daily News on August 2nd:

Palin, the 44-year-old mother of five and popular governor of Alaska, would add a lot to a Republican ticket that will face an uphill battle no matter who is picked. First, the attractive young governor, like Jindal, would provide much-needed energy and youth to a ticket whose main candidate is frequently on the receiving end of “he’s so old” jokes. McCain should remember that this did not work out too well for Bob Dole, another senior war hero.

Second, Palin would give Hillary-voters frustrated by their candidate’s loss and still unsure about Obama a reason to shift over to McCain. And there is no doubt this former Miss Alaska pageant contestant would give red-blooded men in purple states like Ohio a reason to watch the vice-presidential debates.

Third, Palin is as far from a Washington insider as you can get, given she hails from Alaska and is a new face in Republican politics, untainted by any association with the Bush clan or the big-spending congressional Republicans.

Fourth, and critically, given the price of oil, Palin can help McCain focus on energy security, an issue that could be Obama’s Achilles’ heel — if the Republicans could overcome McCain’s opposition to things like drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The environment might be wildly popular on the coasts, but in the middle where this race will be won, a candidate who could credibly sell a plan for lower prices at the pump will move votes.

But most important, Palin could do something few Republicans seem interested in or able to do these days: Help fuse the two pillars of the Reagan Revolution, traditional conservatives and libertarian Republicans.

Posted by Brad @ 5:52 pm on August 29th 2008

Ruh Roh

If the pick is indeed Sarah Palin you are going to have a lot of women voters wondering why Senator Obama didn’t tap Senator Clinton as his running mate.

Howard Wolfson

Better hope that gripe doesn’t take hold in pro-Hillary circles.

Posted by Brad @ 5:42 pm on August 29th 2008

The Ratings War

I said in our liveblog thread of Obama’s DNC speech that it was clearly intended to introduce him to first look voters. Which made it seem, at times, stale to me.

But I was right, it wasn’t intended for me:

NEW YORK (AP) – Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was seen by more than 38 million people.

Nielsen Media Research said more people watched Obama speak than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final “American Idol” or the Academy Awards this year. Obama talked before a live audience of 80,000 people in Denver.

His TV audience nearly doubled the amount of people who watched John Kerry accept the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush four years ago. Kerry’s speech was seen by just over 20 million people.

Obama’s audience might be higher, since Nielsen didn’t have an estimate for how many people watched Obama on PBS or C-SPAN Thursday night.

That’s a helluva haul—roughly a third of the total number of voters from 2004—and, in retrospect, Obama was probably wise to make it his last and most clear primary stump speech.

Posted by James @ 4:15 pm on August 29th 2008

Pond Scum

Pond Scum 8-29-08

Posted by Brad @ 3:58 pm on August 29th 2008

The Case for Palin, Redux

The reaction on the Palin pick seems to be decidedly mixed. Already, people are talking “Harriet Meirs!” and “Dan Quayle!” I think McCain made a mistake picking her second; she was a choice made to be rolled out prior to the conventions to get some biography and narrative going, and to give her a cycle or two that the McCain people could devote themselves to. Nevertheless, while the timing complicates things, I still hold that she’s a high-risk high-reward pick, and by choosing her, McCain has shown an uncharacteristic amount of savvy.

Let me re-up my premises: McCain isn’t going to win by running a 2002 campaign. That’ll get him close, but close isn’t going to do it for John McCain. All terror-and-tough-talk all the time is a losing strategy…necessary, but not sufficient. What McCain needs is to broaden his appeal, and to both reinforce the notion that he is not your George Bush’s Republican, and that there is more to him than just fire-breathing on Iraq, Iran, and Georgia. Palin does exactly that for him, and while she is absolutely a compensation pick—a woman, an outsider, a youthful agent of change, a NextGen Republican—she also, in some savvy and not immediately apparent ways, is a double down pick as well. What’s more, one of the things being missed right now is she passes muster with every segment of the GOP base—social cons, Sam Club Republicans, even small government federalists—without being quite of any one of those portions of the base (which might scare the other segments away or close off avenues to broadening the appeal). That was the biggest challenge McCain had to face, and he stuck the landing here.

But first, the obvious strengths. Yes, she is a woman, and that is not unimportant. McCain has been making a clear play for Clinton voters lately, and Clinton herself didn’t do much to pour water on that fire, and now McCain has chosen a self-described “hockey mom” as her VP. There was not a single woman on the GOP bench that can both play to that demographic appeal and expand it. She is a woman, but not a token woman. She is a social conservative suburban mom, and just as importantly, she is a mother of a soldier shipping off to Iraq. Both McCain and Biden have sons in Iraq as well, but there is something unique about being the mother of a solider that allows her, when she says “McCain is who I trust as commander in chief” to have an immediate resonance. She becomes, in that sense, the representative mother-of-a-solider, and pairing that with McCain is a powerful, powerful matchup. It both reinforces McCain’s message that Obama is not a serious commander in chief pick, and it moves that argument along, refreshes it, expands it. She does not have foreign policy experience, but in a queer way, she reinforces his. She remakes the Iraq War issue into a kitchen table issue, and that’s a recast that is very, very inspired.

Second of all, she is the single credible outsider on either ticket. Alaska is far, far away, and though she can certainly claim executive experience, it makes the charge that McCain is just an uneventful Bob Dole pick fall a little flat. She is a small Western state reformer, Mrs. Smith come to Washington, and you’re going to get a lot of “Well I don’t know how you do it in D.C., but in Alaska, we don’t rely on government, we rely on our neighbors” sort of talk from her (if they’re smart).

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 2:49 pm on August 29th 2008

Attention: I Am Right About Everything

I would just like to call you attention to the fact that on June 28th, I declared Sarah Palin to be the best possible choice of John McCain. And on July 30th, I called it Joe Biden for Barack Obama.

Bit of a “holy shit” moment this morning.

John McCain electrified the Republican Party and presidential race today by choosing a young, conservative and little-known governor of Alaska as his vice-presidential running-mate.

The surprise choice of Sarah Palin, 44, a fiscal and social conservative, mother of five, avid hunter and a first-term governor, thrilled Mr McCain’s Republican base and in a stroke virtually wiped out coverage of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. But it also triggered immediate worries over her inexperience.

Mrs Palin was given a raucous reception at a rally in Ohio during a poised and forceful speech in which she displayed clear signs of grit, a muscular, family-oriented conservatism, while also reaching out to the disaffected supporters of Hillary Clinton.

“I would be honoured to serve next to the next president of the United States,” Mrs Palin declared, with four of her five children behind her.

“I know it will demand the best that I have to give, and I promise nothing less.”

Mrs Palin, who described herself as an “average hockey mum” – a clear bid for America’s swing-vote suburban mothers and disaffected Hillary Clinton Democrats – said her eldest son, Track, will be deployed with the US Army to Iraq on September 11. He was named after his mother’s passion for running.

“As a mother of one of those troops, John McCain is the kind of man I want as our commander-in-chief,” she said.

I’ll re-make my case for Palin this weekend. It has changed somewhat since June. But it is still strong.

John McCain dodged a lot of pitfalls with this pick. He may have stepped in a couple, but for this voter, the door to voting McCain remains open.

Big shout-out to “Draft Sarah Palin for VP” as well.

Posted by James @ 12:51 pm on August 29th 2008

Quote of the day

Amazing.

“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said in a statement.

She’s the Governor of Alaska, you dolt. What is Obama and, moreover, what was he? Wow.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:56 am on August 29th 2008

It’s Palin. No, really.

In fairness, I wasn’t the only one fooled. A lot of money was lost at InTrade.

So: if nothing else, a bold choice along Brad’s preferred lines. And the most overt possible play for Hillary’s supporters, whom I can’t help but expect are mostly still in play. Clearly a gamble on a national, rather than a regional, strategy.

I still need to be convinced that Palin is anything more than a very generic, cookie-cutter Bush Republican who attained prominence in Alaska by not being spectacularly corrupt.

Two additional thoughts:

1. Given Palin’s inexperience as a national politician, I think this takes the one-term pledge off the table.

2. You do NOT want to be a Steller Sea Lion from this day forward. This VP selection is, if nothing else, a clear and obvious mandate to HUNT and SLAY those oily, barking bastards. Every single goddamn one of them. And not a moment too soon, if you ask me.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:01 am on August 29th 2008

BA-ZING!

Rod Dreher cuts straight to the heart of the matter:

No, you know what makes people cynical about government? When politicians promise things like ending dependence on foreign oil within 10 years, and don’t deliver because they can’t deliver.

If Obama had produced a single line that good (and true) tonight, the speech would have been an A- instead of a B.

Posted by James @ 8:56 pm on August 28th 2008

Obama-rama LIVE!

Keep your hands and feet within the vehicle at all times.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:51 pm on August 28th 2008

Wow

I wish I was liveblogging Gore at the moment. He’s giving the worst speech of the convention not foisted by an extemporizing governor of Montana.

“The reason this election is so close is because the forces of the status quo are desperately afraid of the change Barack Obama represents.” Way to insult every single undecided voter, Al. Now go away.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:47 pm on August 28th 2008

Somebody in the sound booth has a sense of humor

The musical choice for the entrance of global warming maniac Al Gore?

“Let the sun shine in.” :)

Which is marginally funnier than the description of will.i.am as a “recording legend,” an appellation that they DIDN’T apply to Stevie Wonder.

The musical theme of the night, for cynics, is no doubt Sheryl Crow’s call to “get out of our heads and get into our hearts.”

Posted by Rojas @ 8:30 pm on August 28th 2008

McCain sneak attack

Just saw an ad I hadn’t heard about before–purchased 30 minutes in advance of Obama’s speech on all the major cable networks, being all gracious and honoring his achievement in winning the nomination.

That sneaky bastard. :) A clever attempt to make Obama look nasty when he goes on the attack tonight. If I were Brad, THIS is the ad that I’d be offended by…very effective, and disingenuous as all hell.

I’ll see if I can’t find a YouTube.

EDIT: Can’t figure out to post it here; link is here. Sneaky, devious, effective.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:03 pm on August 28th 2008

How good does he have to be?

Pretty damned good, I think.

Whatever else may be said about this event–and quite an event it is–the Democrats have not managed expectations here. They’ve selected a candidate largely on the strength of his oratory and have encouraged the media to hype said skills to the moon. They’re attempting to portray him as Pericles with the Greek facade behind him (which, by the way, I rather like). They have deliberately chosen to break with all tradition and stick him in front of 70,000 people rather than a convention crowd.

A whole hell of a lot is being staked on this throw.

A couple of things to bear in mind for starters. First of all, from the perspective of the TV audience, the crowd is not going to be as loud as one might expect. Invesco is an open-air facility not particularly known for its ability to retain crowd noise. I have no doubt that they will do everything within reason to mic the crowd strategically, but I think it is a fair assumption that the overall level of ambient noise will be less than we’re used to at political conventions. In some respects, that is a good thing; Obama is (blessedly) not reliant on applause lines for his overall effectiveness and can play a relatively quiet crowd just as skillfully as he can play a loud one. It would not totally shock me if he eschewed the traditional call-and-response here in favor of a more intimate, narrative style in order to reach out to the TV audience.

Second: the water-cooler effect. Really good convention speeches tend to be associated with terrific sound-bite lines. “Read my lips, no new taxes” (that was SUCH a good line that it probably cost Bush I the election four years later). “A bridge to the 21st century”. To a considerably lesser extent: “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty.” Bill Clinton produced a doozy last night with “not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example”. Obama tends to call on his audience to go a little deeper than sound bites would necessitate, but I think that tonight he HAS to produce at least two real zingers. The “distant, ethereal intellectual” feel doesn’t help him right now; he needs no less than two quality one-off lines. Those are not as easy to produce as you might think; it is easy to produce MEDIOCRE ones, but not top-notch “Labour isn’t working”, “There you go again,” “Silver foot in his mouth” word-bombs.

Third: the policy conundrum. One of the weird dynamics to watch is that Obama is caught betwixt and between with regard to policy wonkery. For some reason, he is broadly percieved as insubstantial on policy detail (I agree with Brad that the criticism is unfair, but it is real and must be addressed). Obama, traditionally, does not do policy detail well. He HAS to do it tonight, and he has to do it without losing the emotional momentum of his speech. That is going to be a hell of a challenge for Favreau and for the speaker himself.

Fourth: devices to watch for. Obama is really, really good with the use of repetition, where he builds a series of anecdotes around a common phrase which he repeats in order to reinforce its importance. For a historical precedent, consider MLK’s use of “let freedom ring” in the “I Have A Dream” speech. A second device to expect from Obama tonight is contrast, or the use of two parallell phrases with a distinction between them. Clinton’s quote last night is an excellent example of this, as is “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Third, on anecdotal examples, expect Obama to rely on archetypal examples: “the woman in the inner city who works two jobs to put food on the table” rather than go the Hillary Clinton/John Kerry route by identifying particular individual human beings he met on the campaign trail. This, I expect, will please Brad.

This is not a “do or die” for Obama, but it is fair to say that this will be a turning point, one way or another, in the momentum of the race. An average performance probably puts McCain ahead nationwide at the close of the GOP convention. Obama at his absolute best could produce a ten-point convention bounce and completely recapture the momentum he lost over the late summer.

Make no mistake, though: he can’t be the exact same guy we’ve seen in the primaries. As good as his game has been, he has to freshen and improve it tonight.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:38 pm on August 28th 2008

It’s Pawlenty

And the dam breaks…

Without explanation, Pawlenty called off an Associated Press interview at the last minute, as well as other media interviews in Denver, site of the Democratic National Convention.

Remember what InTrade did to Biden’s stock 24 hours prior to the announcement? Today, Pawlenty is up 30 points to the mid-50s.

The nation doesn’t know Pawlenty well-enough to make judgments about him yet. Neither do I, frankly, but I find this to be an intriguing pick which is blessedly free of the “deliberate suicide” factor intrinsic to the Romney pick. I do NOT instinctively regard him as a lightweight; in a state that is purple at best, he has survived a couple of election cycles that produced near political genocide among more prominent Republicans.

Whatever else may be said of the pick, it is NOT conventional in the sense of the usual Republican agenda. In fact, a case can be made that, policy-wise, it represents the most radical Republican choice in a generation. A great introduction to Pawlenty’s hardscrabble, Horatio Alger, anti-corporate message can be found at The New Republic. Whatever else may be the case, Pawlenty is now a Republican of national importance, and that is hugely important in that it could signal a radical shift in the party’s economic message four or eight years down the road.

Posted by Rojas @ 5:38 pm on August 28th 2008

Favreau’s moment

As a man who analyzes rhetoric for a living, I consider Jon Favreau’s story to be one of the most intriguing of the 2008 campaign.

By most accounts, this very young man of little prior distinction came into his job as Obama’s chief speechwriter almost by accident. Lucky accident for Obama. Make no mistake, Obama would make a lot of speechwriters sound good; still, it has been consistently impossible to listen to Obama’s most notable speeches on the campaign trail and not be amazed by how precisely the rhythm of the language is calibrated to Obama’s skill set. Anyone can dig up an anecdote or an example, but for Obama, as for most speakers, it’s the style in which the story is told that makes it stick in the mind.

Bad speechwriters think that there is one correct way to craft a speech. Good speechwriters recognize that speeches have to be crafted for the individual speaker’s way of using language. Great speechwriters develop a special synchronicity with their patron and find ways to take his or her voice to a higher level. Based on all the evidence, Jon Favreau is a great speechwriter.

The media is going to go berserk with praise over Obama’s speech tonight unless he does something like eat his own leg or pisses his pants. But I don’t know that the viewing public is necessarily going to follow their lead. Expectations for Obama as an orator have been jacked into the stratosphere by the media machine, with some justification. The DNC has compounded those expectations by surrounding their man with 70,000 screaming fans and dropping him onto the set of a Greek temple. Under these circumstances, a speech of average quality for a Presidential nominee would be something of a disaster.

There have already been signs that the effectiveness of Favreau’s formula is beginning to fade–Obama’s struggles in the late primaries, for instance, and his stagnation in the national polls despite frequent visibility in high-profile speaking situations. Which puts the man–young and inexperienced as he is–in one hell of a spot. He’s got to find some kind of new mojo, a new angle to attack from in order to turn the general tide of the campaign. He’s got to be more policy-heavy in his approach than he’s ever been before, and he has to do it in the service of a speaker who’s not at his best when talking policy. And he’s not going to get a dry run at it. The one and only chance he’ll get to make it fly is going to be the single most watched speech of the modern political era.

For my money, Favreau is already the unsung hero of the Obama movement. Tonight, he has the chance to become a demigod among speech junkies like myself. The expectations are almost impossible to meet and the stakes could not be higher. He’ll get no credit for rising to the occasion and all the blame if he doesn’t.

Does he have it in him?

Posted by Brad @ 4:14 am on August 28th 2008

Some Unfortunate Shading

Before I get roasted: this means nothing, and was clearly unintentional.

That said, gotta show a local affiliate some love.

Turns out that when Obama supporters hold up signs for CHANGE over his head, and your black border cuts off the first and last letters, an unfortunate effect is produced.

Posted by Brad @ 12:39 am on August 28th 2008

Quote of the Day

From my mom, immediately after Biden concluded.

“I wish he had been running!”

Posted by Brad @ 9:52 pm on August 27th 2008

Biden Time

Post your thoughts here.

Right off the bat: my concern is, with the announcement timing, he blew a lot of good material accepting the VP nod. If you didn’t get a chance to see Obama announcing him and Biden accepting, it’s good stuff, you can find it here.

I also expect that he goes hard against McCain and the Republicans. I hope so, anyway, as it’s about damn time for this convention to do so. A Zell Meller-esque speech out of Biden tonight would not be inappropriate.

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