Thursday, January 31, 2008

Alright, so I changed my mind. What can I say? I'm fickle.

Liveblogging the debate
(Because I seem to do a lot of that these days.)

8:03: In tonight's performance, the part of Doyle McManus will be played by Will Ferrell.

8:04: Wolf Blitzer is a such a joke.

8:06: Holy shit, have there really been 17 debates?

8:10: "The differences between Barack and I..." [are primarily grammatical in nature?].

8:12: CNN's cameras just cut to Ed Helms, in a clear homage to that time they cut to Dave Chappelle during the CBCI debate a few weeks ago.

8:15: We're only about ten minutes in, and both candidates have already made pretty blatant paeans to John Edwards and his brilliant policy savvy.

8:21: I'm fairly certain Wolf Blitzer believes he's actually moderating a debate between two candidates for student body president at L.A.'s legendary Kodak Middle School.

8:26: Obama: "And part of the reason, I think, that [past universal health care plans] have failed, is that we have not been able to bring Democrats, Republicans together to get it done." No kidding.

8:34: CNN's cameras just cut to Jason Alexander, in a clear homage to that time they cut to Ed Helms about 20 minutes ago.

8:48: Gratuitous references to the Bible: Clinton 1, Obama 0.

8:51: Obama: "The only point I would make is that Senator Clinton, you know, gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political. ... And the only reason I bring that up is, to underscore the fact that this is a difficult political issue." Riiight.

8:52: Clinton: "If I recall, about a week after I said that I would try to support my governor, although I didn't agree with it personally, you were asked the same question, and could not answer it. So this is a difficult issue." Boo-ya!

8:52: That last bit had the potential to get snippy, but Clinton pulled it back pretty nicely. Well done, HRC.

8:53: Also, Stevie Wonder is in the audience (and either cheering or having a seizure), along with this guy and some woman that I'm clearly supposed to recognize. We get it, CNN: they're in L.A.

9:02: These viewer-submitted questions are really pretty tedious. (Though both candidates got to tee off on it, which is fun, I guess. Clinton: "We have a president who basically ran as the CEO/MBA president, and look what we got." Obama: "Let me just also point out that Mitt Romney hasn't gotten a very good return on his investment during this presidential campaign.")

9:03: Josh!

9:04: Clinton gets what I can only assume is pity applause after touting her sad little second-string Kennedy endorsements.

9:10: James Bond is in the audience (Pierce Brosnan is apparently a U.S. citizen; who knew?). The camera also hits a be-hatted Diane Lane and a be-suited Rob Reiner. This is just like the Oscars!

9:24: I think they just showed what's-his-name, from Grey's Anatomy. Didn't he go to rehab for being a homophobe?

9:27: And there went a be-bearded Topher Grace. This is fun; it's like People Magazine's annual Politics Issue.

9:28: Good answer from Clinton on the gravitas point.

9:30: Obama: "I mean, they screwed up the execution of [Iraq] in all sorts of ways. And I think even Senator McCain has acknowledged that." Nice.

9:35: Would someone please fire Wolf Blitzer?

9:38: I'm being encouraged to go to to "watch this online discussion that's being waged right now."

9:45: I hope that when Wolf is fired, he takes Jeanne Cummings with him.

9:45: The Clinton campaign is really going to need to come up with another answer to the aggressive-campaigning question besides "both Barack and I have very passionate spouses." Because until Michelle Obama makes some sort of Geraldine Ferraro comparison, I'm not sure the analogy is particularly apt.

9:50: Is it just me, or was Obama's hesitance to say that Hillary Clinton would be on his vice presidential short list a little strange? I mean, what do you lose there?

9:51: Clinton's doing a town-hall on the Hallmark Channel on Monday. The Hallmark Channel. Oh, how far the mighty have fallen.

9:52: The debate's over, and CNN's doing that same weird thing they did last time: the candidates and the two questioners are milling about, the wide-angle camera is swooping around the stage, the audience is applauding, and all the while Wolf continues to babble, focused off-screen on some camera that's clearly not engaged at the moment. Cut his mic!

Tonight's winner: at the end of the first hour, I would have said Obama. But taken as a whole, I think they both did quite well. So I'd call it a tie: a half-point to Obama, a half-point to Clinton, and a half-point to Hollywood, which was clearly the real star here tonight.

I'm not going to bother to liveblog tonight's debate (mostly because I'm not sure I'm even going to bother to watch tonight's debate), but I'd just like to note for the record that the Washington Post's Keith Richburg just said on CNN that he predicts Hillary's strategy will be to "run out the clock, like the New England Patriots. They score one or two touchdowns in the first half, and then they sit on the ball." Clearly the man has never watched the New England Patriots play football, ever.

Jon Stewart last night made what I think is a pretty shrewd political assessment:

I think John Edwards dropped out, and I believe this to be the case, to boost Barack Obama going into Super Tuesday. I feel like Edwards would have siphoned votes, I think he did it to make this a real battle between the two to see who comes out.
But then -- in, like, his next breath -- he lumped John McCain in with Barack Obama:
Stewart: I feel like a McCain-Obama presidential election would be such a tonic for this country. And I mean that, I'm not even talking about specifically policy, but both are figures that seem not products of a pure system, of a pure political system. And to have those two choices, might seem... whoever gets it, I believe could change the tone quite drastically.
Peggy Noonan: I get what you're saying. They don't seem like machine guys.
Stewart: Right, they don't seem like machine guys. They don't seem so crass, maybe, is- or craven, I should say.
I probably wouldn't have had as much of a problem with that in 2000 (though there's plenty to suggest that maybe I ought to have), but come on: he can't honestly still think of John McCain as that same Independent Maverick Moderate Whatever, can he?

Right now, this election is clearly the Democrats' to lose (as was 2004, of course, and look how that turned out). But recent polling has shown that, of all the Republicans, John McCain -- John "Jerry Falwell" McCain! John "Judeo-Christian" McCain! John "I'd Prefer a Christian President" McCain! John "Bomb Iran" McCain! John "100 Years" McCain! -- seems to have the best chance of actually holding on to the White House.

I'm hopeful that those numbers reflect mainly the fact that a lot of people are still relatively underexposed to the new McCain, and are answering pollsters' questions based on the Independent Maverick Moderate Whatever that they remember from eight years ago (and that, accordingly, a well-run campaign from either Democrat could swing those numbers pretty rapidly). But I also really do think that the continued support of people like Jon Stewart is a not-inconsiderable explanation for McCain's "moderate" street cred.

McCain's appearances on The Daily Show demonstrate very clearly that Jon Stewart holds John McCain in the highest personal regard, and I have no issue with that. But I hope Stewart's able to separate that personal regard from a tacit endorsement of McCain's candidacy. Because if we head into November with people like Jon Stewart continuing to frame the campaign as "finally, a race between two guys who aren't craven," then we could be in for a world of trouble.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

So that's that. The Edwards campaign is no more. (Or, more accurately, the Edwards campaign is "suspended," which is -- as Andrea Mitchell was quick to pedantically explain -- just "a technical term" meaning "over." Technical in what sense, exactly?) A couple of thoughts:

  • Chris Matthews is really a lot to take, even in small doses. Why doesn't someone forcefully switch him to decaf?
  • A final James Lowe shout-out!
  • Pretty cool story about the homeless people under the bridge.
  • "It's time for all of us to make the two Americas one." ... And dropping out of the race is apparently the best way to do that. Or something.
Now I've got to go scrape a bumper sticker off my car. More thoughts to come, later. Unless I'm feeling lazy.

Say it ain't so, Jo[hn]!

(Reminder: it's been ain't so before [though this time, admittedly, a dropout looks a bit more certain].)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rudy "15%" Giuliani, addressing supporters during his in-fucking-terminable, Fred-Thompson-esque concession speech just now:

"In an era of personal attacks, negative ads, and cynical spin, we ran a campaign that was uplifting."
Are you having a laugh? Is he having a laugh?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Liveblogging the State of the Union
(Because it's tradition around these parts.)

9:01: On PBS, Ruth Marcus is metaphorizing. The primaries are a "reality show," and people keep getting "voted off the island." ... Where the hell is Mark Shields when you need him?

9:02: Ted Kennedy is looking sharp.

9:03: "The President has left the holding room," says Jim Lehrer.

9:04: Blue tie.

9:06: I love when Members of Congress ask the President for his autograph. Stay classy, guys!

9:06: That was just about the saddest thing I've ever seen at a State of the Union. The President reached out to rub some Congressman's bald head (I'm pretty sure it was Louie Gohmert), but the guy thought he was getting a hug, so he leaned forward and kind of half-hugged the President's midriff for a few seconds, while the President patted him awkwardly on the head.

9:09: That was an awful lot of applause considering that all he's done so far is walk in the door.

9:13: The camera just caught Charlie Rangel scoffing. Good timing, PBS director!

9:15: We're six minutes in and already on our third standing ovation (this time in response to Bush's promise to veto any bill that raises taxes). This is going to be a long night.

9:18: Hillary's pissed that Bush is trying to steal her health-care thunder. Meanwhile, Obama and Ted Kennedy are chatting. Also: want to make Congressional Republicans cheer like they're at a football game? Mention the need for a robust privatized health care industry.

9:20: "Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act. And today, no one can deny its results." Can't argue with that.

9:21: Kennedy is reading studiously. It's a good thing someone gave him a copy of the speech, or he'd clearly be scrolling through email on his Blackberry right now.

9:24: One unidentified Republican stood up to applaud for the inherent greatness of "products that say 'Made in the U.S.A.'" Way to march to the beat of your own drummer, buddy.

9:26: First use of "nuculer." Rangel laughs openly.

9:27: "Let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and reverse the growth of greenhouse gases." That's pretty rich.

9:28: Stephen Breyer seems to have chosen to wear knickerbockers under his robe.

9:30: Bush's judicial nominees will "rule by the letter of the law, not the whim of the gavel." [Cite]

9:31: "Tonight, the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast." Did he write this thing himself?

9:36: That was quite a list of terror attacks he had there, wasn't it? He's like a walking, talking Wikipedia.

9:40: Some Air Force guy in the audience was about 40% asleep, but seemed to realize at the last minute that he was on camera. D'oh!

9:42: Is it just me, or is Pelosi crying?

9:43: There's something seriously perverse about citing an Osama bin Laden propaganda video to support the assertion that The Surge Is Working.

9:46: I'm running pretty low on patience, here. Be more faster!

9:49: I think the entire "Iraqi government is making progress" section was actually just lifted, en masse, from last year's speech.

9:56: "America opposes genocide in Sudan." Oh. Well, good.

10:02: "So long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the state of our union will remain strong." Woohoo!

10:03: I guess you have to respect the man for his willingness to end the speech with jazz hands.

And that's that.

I can't wait until we have an articulate president, so these things aren't so intolerable every year.

[10:05: As Bush walks out, some woman I don't recognize asks for his autograph and says, I swear to God, "You make me proud to be an American." Whoever she is, I sure hope she was being sarcastic.] (Update: It was Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. And no, she was not being sarcastic.)

Krugman on the stimulus package:

Why would the administration want to do this? It has nothing to do with economic efficacy: no economic theory or evidence I know of says that upper-middle-class families are more likely to spend rebate checks than the poor and unemployed. Instead, what seems to be happening is that the Bush administration refuses to sign on to anything that it can’t call a “tax cut.”

Behind that refusal, in turn, lies the administration’s commitment to slashing tax rates on the affluent while blocking aid for families in trouble — a commitment that requires maintaining the pretense that government spending is always bad. And the result is a plan that not only fails to deliver help where it’s most needed, but is likely to fail as an economic measure.

The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt come to mind: “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”

And the worst of it is that the Democrats, who should have been in a strong position — does this administration have any credibility left on economic policy? — appear to have caved in almost completely.

Wake-Up Call notes expected Obama endorsements today from Toni Morrison, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Rep. Xavier Becerra, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Good heavens.

This Obama fella, I think he's going places.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Talk Show Roundup!

Face the Nation

  • Rudy "I Just Look Terrifying All the Time, Now" Giuliani condescendingly explained how he will raise revenues by... wait for it... cutting corporate and capital gains taxes. (Clearly an econ major.)
  • Hillary Clinton spun the South Carolina beatdown into, "[Obama] and I have now each won one primary and one caucus." Obama's wins: IA caucus (+9 points; +1 delegate), SC primary (+28 points; +13 delegates); Clinton's wins: NV caucus (+6 points; -1 delegates), NH primary (+2 points; +0 delegates). Yeah, that's about even. (She also mentioned her win in Michigan, which was funny.)

    Meet the Press
  • Crazy John McCain went Cheney-mode:
    Governor Romney obviously said there had to be, "timetables," although they had to be secret because we weren't going to tell the enemy when we were leaving. I mean, that's--that's just a fact. And if we'd have done that, as the Democrats and some Republicans wanted to do, we would've lost that surge and al-Qaeda would be celebrating a victory over the United States of America.
  • Meanwhile, in sophomoric news, Russert asked about the fact that McCain "seems to embrace [Joe Lieberman] on the campaign trail," and McCain responded, "Well, I embrace him anywhere and at any time."

    This Week
  • Stephanopoulos mentioned Dick Harpootlian by name about four minutes into the show, presumably just to make Dave Barry happy.

  • Well that should just about wrap that up:

    Of all the endorsements in the Democratic Party, [Ted] Kennedy’s is viewed as among the most influential. The Massachusetts senator had vowed to stay out of the presidential nominating fight, but as the contest expanded into a state-by-state fight — and given the tone of the race in the last week — associates said he was moved to announce his support for Mr. Obama.
    (He probably just watched this great video.)

    Barack Obama, by virtue of being Barack Obama, has set the oratory bar pretty high. And tonight's victory speech was, you know, fine. It was very good. But I didn't really think it was anything special, by Obama standards (aside from the fact that he kind of kidnapped John Edwards's stump speech). So what's the big deal?