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The Collective
Tuesday, October 7, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via Gallup: Bush Job Approval at 25%, His Lowest Yet

President Bush’s job approval rating is at 25% in the latest Oct. 3-5 Gallup Poll, the lowest of the Bush administration, and only three percentage points above the lowest presidential approval rating in Gallup Poll history.

Given that he was already hovering just above historic levels of low approval, it is hardly a surprise that in the wake of the financial crisis that he has hit his lowest level ever for this poll. Given the crisis, I am a bit surprised that the numbers aren’t lower than they are. Indeed, he has seemed a second tier (at best) player in this whole affair, with Paulson and Bernanke and congressional leadership more prominent actors in the process. He has hardly been the epitome of the leader, in any event. One would have thought that that might have further damaged his credibility and therefore his approval numbers.

It does make one wonder (and I am not being facetious) as to what the actual lower limits are for presidential approval numbers.

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Monday, October 6, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

On a conference call today, a McCain attorney, John Dowd, described the Keating Five investigation as “classic political smear-job on John.” (The conference call be heard here, and the quote is at about 14:30). Around 14:10 he stated that there was “no merit” to the allegations against McCain.

Beyond anything else, this is a mistake for McCain tactically. As Ben Smith correctly notes:

I’d always thought McCain’s great strength in defending the Keating affair was that he’d acknolwedged making a huge mistake, and spent his career repenting by recasting himself as a reformer.

I agree. If the McCain campaign is now going to try and recast the investigation as nothing but an attack on McCain, then all that is going to do is create a broader public discussion about those events. Such an approach also damages the whole Road to Damascus/Born Again Maverick narrative.

It will be interesting to see how the campaign tries to deal with this. Dowd, in the conference call, appears aware that his views as McCain’s lawyer differs to some degree from McCain’s interpretation of events (which is an odd way for an attorney to present a situation, but ok).

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

After watching Governor Palin and a number of McCain surrogates1 launch a new strategy over the last few days of trying to accentuate Obama’s associations with William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko, I figured that a Keating Five counter-punch was coming soon.

And the Politico reports: Exclusive: Obama to hit McCain on Keating Five

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Monday is launching a multimedia campaign to draw attention to the involvement of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the “Keating Five” savings-and-loan scandal of 1989-91, which blemished McCain’s public image and set him on his course as a self-styled reformer.

On the one hand, this is something of a blast from the past. On the other, it is a blast from the last time we had a major crisis in the finance sector and the last time that the federal government had to get involved in fixing it. It isn’t exactly the kind of thing that McCain should want to be in the middle of the national conversation at the moment.

McCain will try to counter the story by casting it as his Road to Damascus moment in terms of lobbyist and his rebirth as The Maverick. Still, in terms of the political narrative, this is not the kind of thing that McCain needs to be filtering into the story at this point in time.

It seems exceedingly unlikely that Ayers, Wright and Rezko are going to start resonating now when they haven’t to this point (it should be noted: none of these are new stories and have been in the mix for roughly a year). Given that fact, the “guilt-by-association” card was a dangerous one for the McCain camp to play given that they had to know that the Keating Five was the obvious counter-play.

I don’t think, by the way, that the Keating Five story is some super counter-attack that will lay waste to McCain’s campaign. However, it is more than enough to cause some voters to pause and wonder what McCain was up to during the Savings and Loan crash and to then draw parallels to the current financial bailout. Given that early voting has begun in a number of states, this isn’t good timing for McCain.

In terms of AyersWrightRezko: all that tactic will do is give hardcore McCain supporters and talk radio hosts another reason to dislike Obama. That simply isn’t going to be enough to win this election, not by a longshot.

To summarize: AyerWrightRezko isn’t new and isn’t likely to cause many to change their minds at this point. However, Keating hasn’t been a major focus to date and introducing it is a wildcard in the wake of the financial crisis. McCain’s campaign has made what may turn out to be a serious tactical error by taking this path.

James Joyner has a good write-up on this general story as well.

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  1. Apparently, the subject of Obama associates was the topic of Sean Hannity’s America on FNC last night as well. []
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Sunday, October 5, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

One of the responses from the debate that I have been to go back to is the following from Biden. I was confused by it at the time, and wanted to see the transcript.

The question:

IFILL: What has this administration done right or wrong — this is the great, lingering, unresolved issue, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — what have they done? And is a two-state solution the solution?

The answer (with the bolded part being the subject of this post:

BIDEN: Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion.

But you asked a question about whether or not this administration’s policy had made sense or something to that effect. It has been an abject failure, this administration’s policy.

In fairness to Secretary Rice, she’s trying to turn it around now in the seventh or eighth year.

Here’s what the president said when we said no. He insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, “Big mistake. Hamas will win. You’ll legitimize them.” What happened? Hamas won.

When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”

Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.

The fact of the matter is, the policy of this administration has been an abject failure.

And speaking of freedom being on the march, the only thing on the march is Iran. It’s closer to a bomb. Its proxies now have a major stake in Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip with Hamas.

We will change this policy with thoughtful, real, live diplomacy that understands that you must back Israel in letting them negotiate, support their negotiation, and stand with them, not insist on policies like this administration has.

The response is a jumbled mess. He is referring to the period after the Hezbollah/Israel conflict in 2024, although he has the narrative rather confused.

Some of the problems:

-The US never kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, with the help of the French or not. That is simply nonsense. One might think that he means they were kicked out of Israel, but apart from the initial cross-border raid that sparked the conflict, I am fairly certain that the fighting consisted mainly of bombardments from Lebanon into Israel, with any actual fighting taking place in southern Lebanon. Beyond that, neither the US nor the French were involved at that point.

-It is true that the French participated in a peacekeeping force after the end of the conflict.

-The mission was a UN one, not a NATO one. Indeed, it was an enhancement of an existing mission that was started in 1978 (UNIFIL).

-Hezbollah was already a member of the Lebanese government prior to the conflict, so it wasn’t as if some failed policy of the Bush administration led to that outcome. (Indeed, I noted Hezbollah’s status as a political party here, in one of the few (only?) instances in which I favorably quoted John Bolton).

Really, Biden’s answer makes no sense, and had Palin said anything along those lines, she would have been skewered.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the Columbus Dispatch: Obama opens lead on McCain Columbus Dispatch Politics.

The numbers are:

49% Obama
42% McCain
8% Undecided
1% Others

The MOE is +/- 2%, making Obama’s seven point gap rather substantial.

These numbers are far more significant than the previously noted Minnesota polls. While not impossible, it is extremely difficult to envision a McCain victory if he loses Ohio.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via Rasmussen: 59% Would Vote to Replace Entire Congress

If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, 59% of voters would like to throw them all out and start over again. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 17% would vote to keep the current legislators in office.

And, I have no doubt that if we had a national referendum, that there might be a support to actually push the reset button. However, the real question is whether the voters will toss out their own reps en masse. This strikes me as rather unlikely.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

It has been a bit difficult to get a good feel for Peggy Noonan’s view on Governor Palin. A few weeks ago, an unknown open mic seemed to indicate that Noonan was far from impressed with Palin. Then, on Thursday night after the debate, she was quite effusive in her praise of Palin’s performance (stating, amongst other things, that she “killed”). Her post-debate column was a bit of a mix. In that column she did ponder a not so complementary notion:

A question is at what point shiny, happy populism becomes cheerful manipulation.

She expanded on that populism note this morning on MTP:

MS. NOONAN: Oh, but some people are naturals. She is a natural. I, I will tell you, I, I feel increased concern about her, I think, what she thinks of populism, as her populist approach. There are two ways—you know, her stuff about “I’m Main Street, you’re not, you’re the elite. I’m not the East Coast, I’m Joe Six-Pack.” She actually says, “I’m the Joe Six-Pack candidate.” This left me thinking, “Gosh, would Lincoln say, ‘I represent the backwoods types?’ Would FDR say, ‘Yeah, the New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun. Vote for me.’” It—there’s something weird about it. But there’s also something, for me, concerning populism as a tactic is justified often in politics. “I need this program, the people want it.” Populism as a strategy, “We’re the good guys, you’re the bad guys,” is not good, and, and if that’s the road they’re going, that’s not a good road to be on. It’s not helpful to the country.

(She made a similar point in her column).

Really, Palin’s basic appeal is populistic, plain and simple. She isn’t from Washington, she is a working Mom, she is small towner, she isn’t an “East Coast elite” and so forth. She is “just like you” (well, some of you). The problem, of course, for the McCain ticket, is that that populistic appeal only is likely to influence certain segments of the base. I don’t think it will resonate beyond there.

One thing that also strikes me: one is an “outsider” only up and until the point that one wins. And, further, in the case of someone as inexperienced as Palin, one has to rely very heavily on “insiders” for information and advice.

Bring it back to her column, Noonan notes the following, connecting this populistic appeal to a means of deflecting criticisms of Palin:

I find obnoxious the political game in which if you expressed doubts about the vice presidential nominee, or criticized her, you were treated as if you were knocking the real America—small towns, sound values. “It’s time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency,” Mrs. Palin told talk-show host Hugh Hewitt.

She also connects it to the current administration:

As for the dismissal of conservative critics of Mrs. Palin as “Georgetown cocktail party types” (that was Mr. McCain), well, my goodness. That is the authentic sound of the aggression, and phony populism, of the Bush White House. Good move. That ended well.

Indeed, there is a lot about Palin that reminds me of Bush, and that isn’t a compliment. Specifically that lack of specific knowledge is somehow a virtue (or, at a minimum, an unimportant fact).

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the Strib: Minnesota Poll: Obama leaps ahead of McCain

The poll, conducted last week among 1,084 likely voters, found that 55 percent support Obama, while 37 percent back McCain.

That’s a huge difference from the last Minnesota Poll, conducted in September, which showed the race dead even, with each candidate backed by 45 percent of likely voters.

The issue at hand in the poll is, not surprisingly, the economy.

On the one hand, Minnesota hasn’t gone Republican since 1972 and the Nixon landslide. Indeed, it was the only state to go against Reagan in his landslide of 1984.1 On the other, there was, at one point, a serious possibility that McCain could challenge Obama in Minnesota, given that the gap in 2024 was only two points (Gore won 48-46, of course Nader had 5%) and three points in 2024 (Kerry won 51-48).

Part of this is the normal shaking out of states that at one point seem to be in play, but end up not being such. However, it is also about two important dynamics in this campaign.

First, it shows (along with the Michigan retreat) that the McCain camp cannot hope to do anything other than to seek to repeat Bush’s electoral victories. As such, so much for the notion (which, really, has been dead for a while2 ) that McCain really is a Maverick in an electoral sense (i.e., that he had a real chance to appeal to moderates in some “blue” states and therefore win some of them).

Second, the gap in the Minnesota numbers above (and the already mentioned Michigan pull-out) show the way that the economic crisis is roiling through our politics, and acutely so in some states. This will not help McCain.

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  1. The Democratic nominee that year was Minnesota native son Walter Mondale. Mondale also won DC. []
  2. That is to say, this hasn’t been McCain 2024 []
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Saturday, October 4, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

So, you manage to get off on a double homicide and end up spending a lot of time “looking for the real killer” on the golf course.

So, what do you do? You manage to get yourself thrown in jail over sports memorabilia.

As the commercial says: priceless.

Via the BBC: OJ Simpson convicted of robbery

OJ Simpson has been found guilty on 12 charges of armed robbery, conspiracy to kidnap and assault with a deadly weapon by a court in the US city of Las Vegas.

The former US football star and actor was accused of robbing two sports memorabilia dealers a year ago.

The armed robbery charges carry a mandatory jail sentence, and kidnapping carries a possible life term.

Sheer genius.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Ok, make that two things:

1. She has generated a great deal of interest.

2. She is quite polarizing.

Of all the things that I have blogged about of late, the posts about her have generated the most traffic and the most comments (not to mention the most arguments).

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