Sunday, August 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

This is the kind of thing that will, I expect, become an ongoing punchline.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos about Sarah Palin’s lack of foreign policy experience, Cindy McCain stated:

McCAIN: You know, the experience that she comes from is what she’s done in government, and remember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia. It’s not as if she doesn’t understand what’s at stake here.

The video:

Ok, it semi-works to say that a governor of, say, Texas or California has some international relations experience because of the very real relations that the governments of those states have with the governments of those countries. Even then, the degree to which those things equate to “foreign policy” experience is a bit much.

However, to suggest that the governor of Alaska has any actual interaction of any serious nature with the government of Russia is ridiculous and borders on a SNL skit to suggest that it conveys foreign policy bona fides on Palin.

And yes, I know that Mrs. McCain didn’t specifically say that Palin has directly interacted with Russia, but she is clearly suggesting that geographic proximity to the hinterlands of Russia means that Palin has some operative understanding of the politics of Russia’s international behavior. This is something of a stretch, shall we say.

h/t: Think Progress.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Today’s National Journal Online poll of bloggers is about the Palin pick. There is clear divergence between left of center (loc) bloggers and right of center (roc) bloggers.

None of the loc bloggers think Palin will “Help a Lot” while 11 roc bloggers think Palin will “Help a Lot”.

I was the lone roc blogger who thought she would “Hurt a Little” because:

She takes away McCain’s ability to attack Obama’s lackof experience with any credibility

On balance, as I noted yesterday, I think that the experience issue is one of McCain’s best lines of attack, and it is now blunted (and I am not alone in my belief that this pick wasn’t the best option for McCain. For example: here).

I do think she helps with the base, but if one has to excite one’s base at this late date, then one has a problem. Indeed, based on reading initial reactions to the pick, Palin excites the base more than McCain ever did or ever will. Of course, the fact that at the moment she is essentially a blank slate helps on that score (i.e., she can be whatever people want her to be).

So take the positive of exciting the base with the loss of the experience argument and include also the fact that we really don’t know how well she will perform on the national stage and you get hurts a little to potentially hurting a lot.

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Saturday, August 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

I remain skeptical that the Palin pick will be good for McCain in terms of the election–I think we don’t have enough data to determine her exact effect at this time (although as mentioned, the positive effects of a veep selection are negligible, so the real question is whether she will do any harm).

However, I will say this: it is a pick that will clearly excite the base. It will therefore provide good fodder for the convention and a vehicle for base-mobilization. In that regard, it was a smart pick–at least in the short term.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Greg Weeks has the lowdown:

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Corner Ramesh Ponnuru mentions some pros and cons of the Palin pick, and focuses on the cons. Specifically:

Inexperience. Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain’s age raised the stakes on this issue.

As a political matter, it undercuts the case against Obama. Conservatives are pointing out that it is tricky for the Obama campaign to raise the issue of her inexperience given his own, and note that the presidency matters more than the vice-presidency. But that gets things backward. To the extent the experience, qualifications, and national-security arguments are taken off the table, Obama wins.

And it’s not just foreign policy. Palin has no experience dealing with national domestic issues, either.

I think that all of this is correct, on balance.

Let me reiterate the experience issue: it was McCain’s most potent attack on Obama and regardless of what I have heard and read from some Republican-leaning circles about the relative experience of Obama and Palin, the bottom line is that at best it is a tie, and that in reality, Obama’s experience (being a member of the US Senate, representing a major state with a population of well over 12 million) trumps being a governor of a state with a population of less than 3/4th of a million.

I know that some will disagree, but regardless of how one scores it, McCain has damaged his ability to play the experience card. While it is technically true that Palin is ready from day one to assume the office of the presidency (as she is a citizen over 35 years of age), but her resume is actually quite slight.

Ultimately, of course, it may not matter. As has been pointed out, the political science is pretty clear: VP candidates rarely have a positive effect on a campaign, although they can have a negative one. Even if think in historical terms, despite all the talk every four years about how a given veep selection will help a ticket electorally, the only real example that I can conjure of that happening was 1960, when LBJ’s presence on the ticket clearly helped JFK win Texas in a very tight election. And, of course, Alaska was hardly a battleground state to begin with.

For McCain, the issue really isn’t what Palin brings to the table, per se, but what it ultimately says about him and his decision-making abilities. If she is ends up not being ready for prime time, that will negatively redound to McCain. Given that she comes from a very small (population-wise) state that is geographically isolated from the lower 48, and has a very unique governing context (the oil revenues), the chances that she is fully prepared for the national stage is legitimately in question.

As such, this was a roll of the dice and we really don’t know where they will land.

I will say this: it was a much more interesting pick than, say, a Pawlenty or even a Romney.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Cuba punk rocker spared jail term

A court in Havana, Cuba, has ordered a punk rock musician to pay a fine of $30 (£15) for public disorder for playing his band’s music too loud.

However, Gorki Aguila was cleared of a more serious charge that could have led to a jail sentence.

The lead singer of band Porno Para Ricardo is known for songs that ridicule Cuba’s communist government.

He had faced a possible four year term in prison for the crime known in Cuba as social dangerousness.

While the headline and the fact that the band is Called “Porno for Ricardo”1 give the story a somewhat lighthearted feel, this strikes me as clear example of liberalization, albeit on a small scale, in Cuba. If a band whose public raison d’être is criticizing the government is left off the hook for nothing more than essentially a noise violation, that bespeaks of a move towards less control over dissent.

Or, maybe, Raúl just likes their music.

  1. Surely its not for Ricky Ricardo–that would just be wrong. []
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By Steven L. Taylor

Gustav has bulked up to category 3 overnight and the refined projected path has NOLA squarely in its sights.

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Friday, August 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Obama’s speech seen by 38 million-plus viewers.

For some perspective:

More people watched Obama speak from a packed stadium in Denver on Thursday than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final “American Idol” or the Academy Awards this year, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. (Four playoff football games, including the Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots, were seen by more than 40 million people.)

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.

Very impressive and I think it bespeaks of a high level of interest in this year’s campaign and in Obama specifically. At a minimum, the Obama campaign has to be thrilled that they were able to get their message out to that many potential voters. And the thought occurs that if this is what “celebrity” will do a politician, I am thinking that McCain would like to have some of that next Thursday.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I was in class, so missed the initial news.

CNBC: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Is McCain’s Choice for VP

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a self-styled “hockey mom” who has been governor for less than two years, is GOP Presidential candidate John McCain’s choice for Vice President.


Palin, 44, was a relatively surprising pick, but one aimed at appealing to women voters who might have been disillusioned by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s decision to pick Biden as his No. 2 instead of Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

James Joyner has a media round-up.

My initial responses:

  • McCain just damaged (if not completely removed from the table) the “Obama is inexperienced” line of attack. Given McCain’s age, and the very real possibility that he might not finish four years in office, let alone eight, the fact that he has put a person with no more experience than Obama “a heartbeat away” from the president will damage the notion that experience alone is an argument to not vote for Obama.
  • Biden will likely roast her in the debates, especially on foreign policy.
  • This will not work to attract disaffected Hillary voters. Palin is extremely pro-life, and so just the fact that she is female will not be enough to get the PUMA types.
  • It is going to take a while for “Palin” not to mean “Michael Palin” (of Monty Python fame) to me when I hear the name.

More later.

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By Steven L. Taylor

One of the specifics from last night’s speech that I did find outlandish was Obama’s statement about dependency on foreign oil:

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

While I think that we do need a national vision towards energy policy change, the bottom line is that such changes are going to come about because of the price of oil, not because of proclamations from politicians.

I don’t have the time to go into the issue in detail, but Megan McArdle already has:

Barack Obama just promised to end our dependance on oil from the Middle East. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, horse puckey.

It doesn’t matter what we do: drill, research alternative energy, raise CAFE standards . . . in 2024, we’ll still be using oil. Even if we discovered a magic source of clean renewable energy tomorrow, we’d still be using a lot of oil, because transitions of that magnitude take time. A lot of time. If a price competitive solar heating system came out tomorrow, would you run out and buy one? Or would you wait until the oil heater broke?

She goes on to detail a host of other issues (such as plastics, which no one seems to mention when petroleum is mentioned).

Further, the ten year time-horizon is wholly arbitrary and is hardly based on any known technological potential.1 Politicians like to pick nice, round numbers for their broader visions, and the ten-year time horizon is always somewhat amusing to me for any presidential candidate, given that the most years that they can serve in office is eight.

I am not stating that we aren’t at a juncture wherein serious consideration to energy policy isn’t at hand, I am just opposed to wild promises on the subject.

  1. As such, James Joyner’s description of the proposal as the “magic energy pony.” []
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