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As most of you know, our little gang here found each other first at the old Centerfield blog site, started by the Centrist Coalition. The creators of that site wound up letting it go defunct, essentially, and the pages got filled up with spam and malware links. Last year, when the creator who had been paying the hosting fees decided he had to cut back expenses, I agreed to pick up the tab for awhile to keep the site up. I had hoped to have time to clean it up, purge the spam links, and upgrade the blogging software, or at least archive it all somewhere. A lot of us wrote some pretty good stuff on it, back in the day, in posts or comments.
At any rate, as a result of my news, I must myself cut back some financial commitments, and can't keep paying the $24 per month hosting fee. Before I cut it off, I wanted to let all of you know, and let anybody who is interested have an opportunity to take over the account. It'll be a shame to see the site disappear.
Hi, everybody! If you're wondering why I've been even more out of sight than ordinary the past few weeks, it's because... I'm getting married! Yep, I finally found somebody whacky enough to put up with me. Very soon now, I'll be a proud husband to a wonderful woman and step-father to a great 12-year old, and step-petter to a not-too-hyperactive Golden Retriever. The whole crew is moving into my house, so there have been a lot of adjustments (all wonderful) going on in my life.
I'm sure I will soon return to my only regularly lackadaisical mode from the extreme lackadaisical mode I have been practicing the past month or so.
and Emily Bazelon lets the hate flow through her:
Why do I loathe, loathe, loathe my 68-year-old four-term senator? My feelings are all the stronger for being fairly irrational. Lieberman's views are closer to mine than many politicians on whom I don't expend one iota of emotional energy. This, of course, is his power: He never loses his power to disappoint. Then there is the spectacle of it all: After each act of grand or petty betrayal, each time he turns on his former supporters, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration came back begging for more. Throughout the last Congress, he never let anyone forget he was the 60th vote.
On to the more familiar recent history: Lieberman's unrequited, unquenchable love for the Iraq war. (All the more misguided if, as my friend David thinks, Lieberman saw his hawkishness as in the service of Israel and Jewish identity in America.) His romance with John McCain, which won him a speaking role at the 2008 Republican National Convention. His irritating, me-me-me flirtation with caucusing with the Republicans after he lost his Democratic primary to Ned Lamont and then won the 2006 general election running as an Independent.
she closes out:
My friend Leslie says that her vote for him in the primaries in 2006 is the vote she regrets most; I wasn't living in Connecticut that year. Even Lieberman's retirement announcement is an irritant. I'll never get to throw the bum out.
There is a lot of standard-issue left-wing resentment of Lieberman's centrism here, not to mention the ever-present derangement that support for the Iraq war by Democrats triggers in anti-war Democrats. On one point, she hits the target:
After the arrest of Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, Lieberman proposed a bill that would have automatically stripped Americans of citizenship for being charged—not convicted—with a terrorist act. Add that one to the list.
This move by Lieberman was pure insanity, and I still am at a loss as to what got in to the Senator's head, that such a policy is somehow compatible with a free society. All things considered, however, I've had something of a love-hate relationship with the senior Senator from Connecticut. He's been right on a lot of the core issues, and he's been wrong on many as well. Contra Bazelon, and the anti-war Left, I respected and appreciated his principled support for the Iraq war, and railed against his being effectively driven out of the Party, in this very space. He was wrong on his absurd attempts to censor movies and video games. His complicity in the Terri Schaiavo affair is worthy of scorn, and his attempts to block health care reform in the Senate, considering what he ultimately settled for, were incoherent and irrational. His support for the above-mentioned automatic citizenship revocation policy was insane. However, his views are essentially JFK-FDR-Clinton muscular liberalism, and he is a tireless advocate for Israel. Oh, and his leadership did help put the final nail in the DADT policy.
At the end of the day, even though I've had issues with a number of his positions, I have no problem seing him as a basically decent and principled pol who tried to do what he thought was best for the country. He got it right many times, and got it wrong many times. Many have offered up hate, but from me, I have no problem giving him my respect, and congratulations, for a good career.
I watched the whole thing, and loved it. If you didn't watch, or go, here it is:
Kudos to James Fallows for the link to the clip.
I'm intrigued by this idea. This is the sort of radical, out-of-the-box thinking I like:
This seems like a radical, and maybe wonderful, idea. Call it Instant Recall voting. No longer would you be stuck with the two turkeys picked by the highly polarized primary electorates of the Democrats and Republicans. Voters could reject them both without having, at the same time, to settle on the candidate they actually wanted. Do you have to have a new boyfriend in order to break up with your old boyfriend? I didn't think so. Faced with the unappetizing choice of Angle or Reid, the electorate could just push back from the table. "Waiter, bring me something else."
Sen. Arlen Specter, the former Republican-lite, fled the Republican Party a year ago and became a Democrat. His motivation was his impending certain loss of the Republican primary in his reelection bid this year. While his perfidy did keep him from losing the Republican Primary, it failed to stop him from losing the Democratic primary.
We had a lively discussion of Sen. Specter's blatant political opportunism last year. I am glad that it did not pay off for him. This fall should show us a revealing and spirited campaign between Democrat Sestak (who who has alleged that national Democrats broke the law by offering him jobs to drop out of the primary) and Republican Toomey.
One less career politician, willing to do anything to cling to power, is gone. So long, Sen. Specter. Enjoy your forced retirement. I hope your replacement learns the right lesson from your loss.
This in keeping with the theme of promoting healthy discourse. I'm starting to become ashamed that TMV used to carry my stuff. Sigh.
Consider this story. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey writes a reasonable op-ed in the WSJ, criticizing Obamacare. I don't agree with all his points, but his argument is reasonable and thoughtful. Apparently, certain hysterical lefties have declared him a traitor, and have launched a boycott of Whole Foods. Hysterical.
This story gets more interesting, because Althouse wrote a blog post on this, and the not-so-moderate way the Moderate Voice handled this. Then, there was this, where the TMV took issue with being accused of endorsing a post on their own blog.
The way I see it, the boycott is totally irrational, as Mackey said nothing that deserves such an overreaction. Also, if you allow it on your blog, you're responsible for it--guest post or not. One needs to be mindful of those voices, even those you may not agree with, that may appear to affect your moderate reputation. Not to mention one's choice of language (the voice has to be moderate).
In other words, boycotting a store chain because the CEO wrote a dissenting op-ed isn't moderate. It's hysterical.
In short, Whole Foods is everything leftists talk about when they talk about “corporate responsibility.”
And yet lefties want to boycott the company because CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed that suggests alternatives to single payer health care? It wasn’t even a nasty or mean-spirited op-ed. Mackey didn’t spread misinformation about death panels, call anyone names, or use ad hominem attacks. He put forth actual ideas and policy proposals, many of them tested and proven during his own experience running a large company.
Is this really the state of debate on the left, now? “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”
As to that last point, for certain Lefties, I guess it is. Whole Foods seems to be the left-wing model of a good corporation, the anti-Wal-Mart, if you will. And then the CEO dissents from the party line, and the company is now evil, and must be destroyed?
This proves that irrational, ideological hysteria is a bipartisan disease.
In discussing Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican party which has provided him with heavy support over the last couple of election cycles despite his frequent straying from the party line, I began discussing with Jim M other issues related to the problems facing the Republican Party. Simon's asked me to post that bit on the front page and, as he has been holding down the fort so much here, I figured I better do as he asks... ;-) I've edited this slightly from its original appearance here. You should really go read the entire conversation Jim and I had, which starts about here.
Certainly in the broader sense the electorate always gets what it deserves, by definition. The problem is, I don't think that, in a more utilitarian and less philosophical sense, the voters really have gotten what they wanted. They want a more reduced size of government, they want lower taxes for themselves, they want less government involvement in the economy (on the whole), but they haven't gotten that. They didn't put the GOP in power to deliver Medicare Part D. They didn't vote for Bush the first time because they wanted an adventurous foreign policy.
My own theory is that the religious right was hijacked and terribly manipulated by folks like Tom DeLay. That wing of the GOP, the wing which basically tore up the Contract with America, wanted power for its own sake, and it was inevitable that they would create the same problems that plagued the power-blinded Dan Rostenkowski Democrats. Folks like Specter (and Snowe and Collins) never pointed their finger at that manipulation. Instead, they railed against the well-intentioned religious voters back home. That was stupid. Very poor messaging.
I agree that nobody so far seems to have stepped up to the plate to provide some leadership to help focus and shape the anger shown in the tea parties (note that "nobody" includes the supposedly wonderful moderate Republicans like Specter, Snowe, and Collins). I don't know of any new Reagans tirelessly working the inner workings of the party to gain support for a new conservative movement (note that Reagan spent most of his adult life doing just that; he wasn't a Schwarzenegger who just showed up one day to turn in his "movie star" hat and run for office).
But part of the problem, I continue to maintain, is that the importance of the party has been weakened too much by several decades of campaign finance reform (as well as some unhelpful over-zealotry by hard-core single-issue folks who took over some party machinery in both parties). As you suggest, party membership is much less important in many elections today, not just because of the voters, but because the party itself is more limited in how it can directly assist the candidate. A stronger party organization would, I believe, lead to better, more centrist policy making.
Why? Well, right now campaign finance caps force political donations to be distributed more broadly. A guy who wants to give $1 million in a campaign cycle can't just write one big check to one candidate or to the party. Instead, he's got to give some money here and some money there, $5,000 to this PAC, another $2,500 to some other PAC, etc., etc., etc. This naturally causes the creation of more and more PACs to compete for those dollars. Would the Club for Growth get as many donations without these artificial limits, or would the party machinery itself have a better chance at getting the dollars? I think the party itself would have a strong leg up in getting those donations. In turn, that means that the party would want to craft as broad an appeal as possible (without violating core principles), in order to attract as much money as possible. Thus, it would impose some moderation by its control over doling out those funds. But today, money flows to Club for Growth and other single-issue organizations, which raise more money by being more ideologically pure.
and this is definitely one of them. Can someone explain to me what experience Leon Panetta has, that makes him fit to head the CIA?
Mr. Panetta has a reputation in Washington as a competent manager with strong background in budget issues, but has little hands-on intelligence experience. If confirmed by the Senate, he will take control of the agency most directly responsible for hunting senior Al Qaeda leaders around the globe, but one that has been buffeted since the Sept. 11 attacks by leadership changes and morale problems.
Given his background, Mr. Panetta is a somewhat unusual choice to lead the C.I.A., an agency that has been unwelcoming to previous directors perceived as outsiders, such as Stansfield M. Turner and John M. Deutch. But his selection points up the difficulty Mr. Obama had in finding a C.I.A. director with no connection to controversial counterterrorism programs of the Bush era.
I guess that's the issue, but you what, I think we need someone with at least some experience, right? Jane Harman would be a good choice, but she is seen by certain Lefties as being Bush-lite on wiretaps. Obama has been making a lot of sensible and pragmatic choices, and it was only a matter of time before he threw the Left a bone, but did he have to do it on this? It's the friggin' CIA we're talking about.
UPDATE: There appears to be the makings of an argument in favor of Panetta at work, that his experience as Chief of Staff, Congressman and manager will serve him as CIA chief. I was flipping channels and caught Bill Kristol of all people basically justifying the choice, and arguing that if the idea is to find a person with no ties to the Bush era, then it's the Left that'll end up being disappointed.
Who knows. I find the choice making more sense today than yesterday, but not by enough for me to be comfortable with it. Oh, and this from Andrew Sullivan is kinda mockworthy, and I think Althouse has a point here:
How is it obvious that Obama has found someone with the right skills? Where do these judgments come from? Do you think some people just have "good sense" and then they automatically know what is "never right" and what is "much less effective"? Whatever happened to deep knowledge and real-world experience? Now, you're willing to go on assertions of good character and a cocky belief in the soundness of what your instincts tell you is obvious and right? That attitude is positively... Bushian. And I remember when Andrew Sullivan loved exactly that about Bush.
ADDED: After thinking it over some more, and reading the comments, this pick sounds a lot less crazy now than it did a few days ago. I'm still concerned, but I'm willing to let Obama make the case.
Patterico's post, to which I linked earlier, has clearly struck a nerve, and exposed a very disappointing level of vitriol and bile on the Republican side of the aisle, masking as "commitment to principles." In another post today, On Obama and Good Men, Patterico links to my post, among other very good ones, to further expand on his point. He said:
I think it’s important for the other side to realize that there are Republicans who won’t write off all Democrats as Bad People because of what they believe.
And that's what so many of the commenters who have turned so viciously against Patterico are missing. They aren't just calling Obama a Bad Man (something we did, in a humorous vein, as part of the campaign), they are calling every single person who voted for him bad people. That's half the population of the country. They seem to truly believe that half of all Americans are "bad" people.... not just that they hold some views which are bad, but they are themselves bad, if not entirely evil. What hope (with small "h") can they possibly have for the country, if they think that half their compatriots are bad, and deserving of the contempt and vitriol they are currently hurling at Obama?
These morons, of course, do not speak for all Republicans or all conservatives, or even many of them. The blogosphere has many, many fine examples of leading conservative displaying an appropriate respect for the outcome of the democratic process, while holding firm to their positions on the policies with which we disagree. Unfortunately, these commenters can do us significant harm. Every harsh word they utter, every display of hypocrisy (and all sufferers of CPD™ display hypocrisy at many levels on a regular basis), will be used by their counterparts on the left, and the media, as being typical of conservatives. That's not fair, perhaps, but it's a fact of life, and we'll only be successful in promoting our policies if we recognize that.
When William F. Buckley was helping to grow the conservative movement, he publicly broke with and repudiated more extreme elements on the "right" side, most specifically the John Birch Society. As Barry Goldwater explained it:
We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.
For the same reason, I feel compelled to oppose the short-sighted fools who can't find it in themselves to put aside the campaign and extend some sort of token statements of good will to the man who will soon be our President. Extending the olive branch is not a sign of weakness, it is not capitulation. I will continue to fight President-Elect Obama on probably every front, and I will spare no rhetorical flourishes in condemning policies which he proposes that I find to be truly horrifying, wrong, bad, and even evil. But I'll be attacking the policies, not the man... and if only these commenters would lend their weight to the effort, that opposition would be easier, and have a greater chance of success.
This isn't really a secret at this point, but I am voting for Obama tomorrow. I guess this is the official endorsement. I put this off to the end for a variety of reasons, mainly due to a lack of time, but I'm not worried about it being too close to Election Day to influence any votes, as it's clear most here have made up their minds already, and I don't suspect I'll be changing them. No big deal. In effect, this is the answer to the question, "Why are you voting for this guy?"
First off, let's get some preliminaries out of the way. I'm a moderate liberal Democrat, who generally comes from the center-Left, DLC/hawkish end of the Party. I'm pro-life, I think the MoveOn-Kos wing of the party has too much influence, and while I've disagreed with most of his policies, I don't have a pathological contempt for Bush.
Ok, so why Obama? To put it bluntly, I think on most of the core issues that are facing the country right now, I think Obama is best equipped to deal with those issues, meaning he has the policy vision, and temperament to lead. I like the guy. What I saw in him in 2004, and in the early days of this campaign, I see in him now. He's got skills. You may not agree with Obama's economic and fiscal policies, but he has been pretty consistent throughout on the key issues, and not just on the economic crisis. McCain on the other hand, has been all over the place. McCain is not Bush, and I do agree that the Dems have used the McCain as Bush meme a bit too much, but with the exception of earmark reform and talks about a spending freeze, he really hasn't clearly laid out how his economic approach will be different than the standard GOP platform. If you're for that platform, that's fine, but a lot of us Dems see things differently. On the recent economic crisis, McCain has been all over the place. First he said everything was fine, then he recognized the crisis, then he was against the bailout, then for it. He suspends his campaign, and tries to postpone the debate, in what has to be called one of the most ill-executed moves in a while. He tries to paint Obama as being on the sidelines, but Obama always argued that one could deal with the crisis and run the campaign. At the meeting with Bush, Obama was engaged, but McCain didn't say much. McCain suspended his campaign, but sat back in the meeting, and when it came time to actually do what he suspended his campaign to do, he didn't get it done. Surely, the bill eventually passed, but it was a more bloated one. What's my point here? While Obama was consistent on the issue, McCain shifted positions several times on this, and then tried to paint Obama as the big spender, while voting for the bill that he once opposed, not to mention adding another $300,000 plan to buy bad mortgages. Again, mileage is your own, but I think Obama showed real leadership.
What about foreign policy, you may ask. Let's be clear. I, for all intents and purposes am a supporter of the Iraq war. Obama, for all intents and purposes isn't. I wish he was as I am on this, but he's not. I have noticed though, and I'm not the only one to notice this, that Obama has always left wiggle room on his support for ending the war. He has always resisted the more aggresive pullout approach from the MoveOn crew. In fact, although Obama does get a lot of support from the anti-war faction, if they're looking for a Carteresque dove, they're deluding themselves. Obama has always been on target about Afghanistan, and contrary to McCain's distortions, he has it right on Pakistan.
To be fair, McCain has consistently supported the surge, and did so when it wasn't popular. He has my utmost respect for that. If this election were just about Iraq, or if I genuinely felt that Obama would somehow surrender to terror, things would be different. Obama was wrong on the surge, and he has yet to openly admit that, but he has acknowledged its success, for the most part. On Israel, I'll say again that if I doubted for a second that Obama wasn't committed to Israel, I couldn't vote for him. As to Iran, he did prevaricate on preconditions, but I think he has come around to an acceptable position.
The McCain camp continues to bring up Obama's supposed vote to defund the troops. Obama dealt with this in the first debate, but the charge keeps coming up. The issue at hand was not funding the troops, but timetables. Obama voted for the timetables troop-funding bill, and McCain voted against it, because of timetables. The non-timetables troop-funding bill Obama voted against, was because of timetables. I suspect Obama voted against it, knowing it would pass either way. I suspect he was trying to make a political statement, and made the same mistake Kerry made in 2004. Honestly, I would've voted against it, because I don't really support artificial timetables, but let's be clear: The issue at hand was timetables, not troop funding. Obama has a consistent record of voting to fund the war, despite his opposition to it, much to the chagrin of many anti-war Lefties.
On the Russia-Georgia conflict, overall I thought Obama handled himself fairly well, with the exception of one pernicious gaffe, which fortunately he has not repeated.
There is of course the question of experience, or rather Obama's lack thereof. compared to McCain. McCain has an impressive record, and is a veteran on the battlefield, and in Congress. He is a man of honor, and sacrificed immensely for his country. Obama doesn't have that resume. He just doesn't, and there's no getting around that, but I believe he does have the temperament, policy vision, and judgment on the key issues, moreso than McCain. Heck, maybe it's just that I agree with Obama more, but I don't think so.
Let me say though, that both these candidates have their flaws. Obama is hardly perfect, and has some issues. I am concerned about the possibility of an unfettered Democratic majority in Congress. The Pelosi-Reid era hasn't exactly lived up to its expectations, and while I don't doubt his sincere belief in bipartisanship, he doesn't have the record that McCain has. McCain has a clear record of bipartisanship, not to mention opposing his own Party, and Bush. Obama doesn't have that much of a legislative record, but he does have good relations with many Republicans (and not just the ones endorsing him), and he has worked with Republicans in the State Senate, as well as the U.S. Senate. He was President of the Harvard Law Review, let's not forget. My concern, to the extent that I am concerned, isn't that Obama won't work with Republicans, but whether he will be able to oppose his own party when necessary. Say what you want about Sarah Palin, she has opposed her own party. The thing is, I'm not really sure about her record of working with Democrats, though. McCain to his credit, has done both. Obama has resisted many of the impulses of MoveOn.org, and he did defy the Party leadership and campaign for Lieberman in 2006. Yeah, it's thin I know, but I'm willing to gamble. After all, how Left can Obama really go, with Blue Dogs in the House, and many Red-state Dems in the Senate?
Again, I'm concerned about the card check bill, and the possibility of the Fairness Doctrine coming back, but I'm willing to take the risk.
As to the negativity of the campaign, I freely cede that neither candidate has been pure. The Obama campaign has put out some questionable ads, and one or two that were kind of sleazy. As I see it though, most of Obama's ads have been policy-based, while McCain's ads have been straight-negative for the last three months, and many were just straight up personal attacks. Obama has never questioned McCain's patriotism, or belittled his military service (at least not intentionally). The McCain crew and his supporters have gone personal on everything, and I may be the only one who feels this way, but in the last few months, it's been over the top. True, many Obama supporters, and in certain instances Obama himself have brought up the race card, but it seems that they've gone after Obama on everything but race ("palling around with terrorists," real America vs. fake America, Obama is a liar, Obama is a socialist, etc), and it's gone beyond the pale, in my book. I will not lay that blame for the lunatic conspiracies (Obama as Muslim invader, phony birth certificate, Bill Ayers as ghostwriter of Obama's book, Obama's logo, etc) on the McCain campaign, but McCain and Palin have launched some beyond the pale attacks, and frankly it's beneath a man of McCain's character.
This is running long, so I'll wrap this up. As for Obama's alliances, at the end of the day, they don't bother me that much. He did flip on public financing, as I said before, that's the one typical politician move I cannot defend. At the end of the day, though, despite his weaknesses, I believe he is the man we need right now. He is not however, the Messiah. Many of his supporters are drunk with hero worship, but in the end, he's just a man, a mere mortal. If you're expecting him to heal the breaches of the universe, prepare to be disappointed. He may be running as a new kind of politician, but he's still a politician. He's run an impressive and historic campaign, but he's made mistakes.
I was technically undecided up until late September, although to be honest, I've leaned Obama's way most of the time. I've seriously considered backing McCain many times, and I think what took me so long was that I still contend that the choice is between two decent, patriotic men. I say one more time that McCain is an honorable and decent man, and despite my issues with his campaign, he still has my respect. As for Sarah Palin, my view of her has diminished over the last couple of months, but she still seems a decent person, and she does have a record.
Many will justify their votes against Obama because of the pro-Obama bias in the press, and the press has made quite the fool of itself this election cycle, but to borrow a phrase, you punish the press for its failures, not the candidate(s).
If Obama wins, he will be the first black President. As an American, and as a black man, that is a great thing for me, but that's not the reason I'm voting for him. The fact that he's made it this far is proof that the barrier has been torn down, and if Obama loses, it won't be because America is a racist country. It won't be because America didn't want a black man to be President, rather they didn't want this particular black man, for a variety of reasons. Will racism be out there? Surely, but I think most Americans won't stoop to that. Sue me, I'm an optimist.
And that's what I want to end this on. If Obama wins, this republic will survive. Yes, it will. If McCain wins, this republic will survive. If Obama loses, I'll be disappointed, but I'll get over it. If he wins, I won't gloat (although I fear others might).
And that's it. Go vote, if you haven't already.
David Frum makes his case for John McCain. He has some entirely valid points in there, but I must respectfully disagree, as I'm for Obama. Frum's a first-class guy though, and proves that he is above the fray with this:
This is a great and greatly enduring country. It flourishes because of the genius of its institutions and the decent and moderate instincts of its people. I look to the American future with confidence always - under a President McCain preferably, under a President Obama if it must be.
Well said. Call me crazy, but I still contend that this election will come down to a choice between two good and decent men. I really believe that. My case for Obama is coming sometime tomorrow, if anyone's interested.
and sensible, moderate McCain supporters strike back:
Good work by Daniel Zubari, and the McCainacs who stood up to the crank, and not only recognized the threat to decency and civil discourse in this country, but to their own candidate's electoral chances. Those knuckle-dragging know nothings claim to be pro-McCain, but as the decent McCain supporters asked, are they trying to sabotage the campaign?
Only 9% of Americans think that we're going in the right direction. As troubling as that may be, the number is desperately misleading. Although it could (and will) be taken to imply consensus, it does no such thing. It has nothing to say about why people are dissatisfied, still less what they regard as the right way forward.
Consider that Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama both passionately believe that we are going in the wrong direction and that we need "real change" (in Gingrich's argot) in America. Do you think they agree on what that direction is and what the changes ought to be? Of course not. Similarly, suppose that myself and Justin, one of our more liberal friends in the comments, were polled today and were asked that question ("are you satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time"). I would say that I was dissatisfied - horrified, even - with the way that things are going in the United States, and I fancy that Justin would give a similar answer. The poll would count us on the same side. But I would answer that way in part because I look at recent poll numbers, and I look at Obama's grimly depressing sunset logo, and I feel very much that we are in the last dim moments of twilight before a very long, very dark, very cold night. I doubt that Justin et al would subscribe to that, so it is a flawed poll indeed that would suggest that we actually agree.
For these reasons, such polls should be taken with skepticism and the suspicion that they are hiding a deeper and more fundamental complexity behind a very thin veneer of facile consensus.
Support John McCain (11/3/08)
Sunstein suggests that in matters of "constitutional law, the Republican presidential nominee is anything but conservative." This contention is buttressed solely by the observation that McCain wants to see Roe overruled. I suppose that, if your idea of judicial conservatism starts with the second Justice Harlan and ends with Justice Souter, you could say that McCain isn't a conservative by that definition. But that's an odd and quite crabbed -- contrived, to tell the truth -- idea of judicial conservatism. If your idea of judicial conservatism includes any of the four members of what's considered the court's conservative bloc today - the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito - it seems clear McCain would seem at home under that caption, at least in a generic political sense.
More importantly, Sunstein charges that McCain "would almost certainly make fundamental changes in the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court." He concludes by asking: "Is this really the change we need?" The obvious rejoinder is "that's change you can believe in - hope for America!" But the more important point is that Sunstein ignores the political realities that McCain faces. Let us suppose, arguendo, that McCain does in fact want to appoint judges in the general ballpark of Scalia or Alito.1 Can he? I suggested recently that "for centrists who are particularly concerned about the courts and judges, there's an additional inducement to vote for McCain: a Senate that will almost certainly be controlled by the Dem[ocrat]s. If Obama is President, this Democratic Senate will allow Obama to appoint as far to the left as his heart desires, [creating] a bench stacked with a new generation of [9th Circuit Judge Steven] Reinhardts. McCain, by contrast, may or may not want to appoint the next Robert Bork (I doubt it), but couldn't do so ... [even if he wanted to. H]is choices are constrained by the Democratic Senate. McCain will be limited to more centrist picks ([10th Circuit Judge] Mike McConnell, for example), or candidates so self-evidently brilliant that it would be hard for the Senate to resist (John Roberts, paradigmatically, but I think Steve Calabresi would fall into this category too)."
As predicted by many, Joe Lieberman's speech endorsing McCain didn't sit well with a lot of Democrats, and the leadership has practically prepared his excommunication:
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that Lieberman's status within the Democratic caucus is in jeopardy.
"Senator Reid was very disappointed in Senator Lieberman's speech, especially when he appeared to go out of his way to distort Senator Obama's record of bipartisan achievements in the Senate," said Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley. "The Democratic caucus will likely revisit the situation with Senator Lieberman after the elections in November."
Uh-huh. Consider this:
"He clearly went too far," Manley said of Lieberman.
Democratic leaders have considered stripping him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The strongest reprimand would be to strip him of all his committee assignments, which would effectively be a banishment from the Democratic caucus.
Simon brought this up earlier, and I posted on my own blog about the fallout from Lieberman's speech, but I'll just say this again: It is purely by Lieberman's will that the Democrats have maintained a majority in the Senate, and considering the way he was first sold out by the Party leadership (although to be fair, Obama did campaign for him in 2006), he's given the Party a lot more than they deserve. As to him supporting McCain, besides he and McCain being close friends, I suspect Obama's opposition to the surge, his support of a premature withdrawal from Iraq, as well as his prevarications on Iran no doubt affected his choice.
I will say that I was a bit surprised that he went out of his way to praise Palin, though, and considering the attitude about Palin amongst many lefties and Democrats, it's no wonder that pissed them off, not that the left-wing base wasn't gunning for him already Let it never be said that opposing your Party is without consequences, not that putting principle above Party wasn't the right thing to do.
UPDATE: I modified this post somewhat, in order to dispel any doubt that I stand with Lieberman. I kinda felt I might not have been clear enough at first.
Joe Lieberman made his plea for McCain tonight, and he was good:
Senator Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But eloquence is no substitute for a record - not in these tough times.
In the Senate he has not reached across party lines to get anything significant done, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic party.
Contrast that to John McCain's record, or the record of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who stood up to some of those same Democratic interest groups and worked with Republicans to get important things done like welfare reform, free trade agreements and a balanced budget.
Especially at a time of war, we need a president we can count on to fight for what's right for our country - not only when it is easy, but when it is hard.
When others were silent, John McCain had the judgment to sound the alarm about the mistakes we were making in Iraq. When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground.
John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge, and because of that, today, our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure, but in honor!
Indeed. I'll tell you straight, that Lieberman damn near persuaded me tonight. It could be based on other things I've been feeling about the election in recent days, and the far-Left pile on Sarah Palin, but let me say that as far as my vote goes, Obama is lucky the election isn't being held tonight.
In another place, a commenter charges that Obama is not a pragmatist, but is just pretending to be one to get votes. I disagree and offer this formulation:
"Pragmatism is a route, not a destination."
Does this proposition hold, and to the extent that many moderates and centrists view pragmatism as a virtue, what are its implications?