McCain: Wrong and Unserious on National Security

June 27, 2008

Reading this sort of thing drives me up the wall: “When asked who “would best protect the U.S. against terrorism,” 53% of respondents chose McCain to just 33% for Obama. And nearly half, 48% to Obama’s 38%, trusted McCain to handle the war in Iraq, though 57% said they believed the U.S. was wrong to invade Iraq and 56% said they would like to see the troops brought home within the next two years.”

Why isn’t the DNC running ads, right now, that show all of McCain’s errant predictions about Iraq, along with his false claims now about how he was the Bush administration’s biggest critic, with the buzzer noise from Family Feud across all of them?

“And I believe that the success will be fairly easy” and “There’s no doubt in my mind that… we will be welcomed as liberators.”  [CNN, Larry King Live, 9/24/02. MSNBC, Hardball, 3/24/03]

“I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past… I don’t believe it’s going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991.”  [Face the Nation, 9/15/02]

“There’s not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias. So I think they can probably get along.” [MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]

McCain was asked, “at what point will America be able to say the war was won?” He responded, “…it’s clear that the end is, is, is very much in sight.” [ABC, “Good Morning America,” 4/9/03]

Exactly one year before violence in Iraq peaked:  “Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course.”  [The Hill, 12/8/05]

He can get the *ding* noise and applause for this one: “no one has supported President Bush on Iraq more than I have.”

Reductionism

June 27, 2008

Tyler Cowen (via):

Another possibility is that Republicans don’t get much electoral credit for pro-poor initiatives (just as many voters simply won’t believe that “Democrats can be tough”).  The more competitive political messaging becomes, the more this constraint binds and so the policies of upward redistribution are more likely to be enacted by Republicans in the resulting political equilibrium.

For gosh sakes, Tyler, the stuff they teach you in Econ 101 is a series of useful simplifications, not absolute truth.

First off, perceptions about parties and candidates are not a perfectly competitive market— note that John McCain is billing himself as having stood up to the president in defense of the environment.

Plus, people and parties do not have perfect information, much less rational preferences.  Witness Mitt Romney’s insistence that preventing nuclear proliferation is a “liberal” concern.

The GOP, forever pandering to its jingoistic, enemy-craving base, is a deeply irrational party.  “Political equilibria” have nothing to do with it.

Concern can Be Sincere

June 17, 2008

Atrios isn’t really very impressed with this NYT blog post urging a Sister Souljah moment for John McCain.  I suppose he’d argue that McCain, as the candidate of the Republican Party, shouldn’t be saying bad things about Republican constituencies in an effort to curry favor with reflexively centrist, policy-averse media commentators.

That’s fair enough, but the GOP is extraordinarily unpopular and wrong about everything.

So it might genuinely be good politics and good policy to, say, give James Inhofe a public lecture about global warming.

It probably won’t happen because McCain is already having trouble with ginning up enthusiasm among the GOP base, in large part because his 2000 campaign was the Sister Souljah Express.

Conservatism Not Quite Dead

June 17, 2008

George Will’s column defends the view that people should be hesitant to give the government the power to detain people without judicial oversight– and includes a correction of a factual error in an earlier column!

Lessons from History, Personal and Political

June 15, 2008

The Times has a lengthy article on John McCain’s 1974 thesis on lessons of Vietnam.

Adm. Jim Stockdale wrote that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was based on completely false impressions (not deliberately so, but false nonetheless).  He also thought that the US should have bombed the dickens out of Hanoi, and, like McCain in his thesis, argued that congressmen who opposed the war were rooting for failure and surrender.

Lord knows that they earned all manner of admiration for their toughness and defiance in the Hanoi Hilton.  That doesn’t mean that they drew the right lessons for US policy, though. Strategy has to involve some awareness of costs and benefits, and you just don’t get it from McCain, not on Vietnam, and not on Iraq.

He did have some concept of it on Somalia, though.  Was it that he connected the Vietnam war to the threat from communism, and the Iraq occupation to the threat from terrorism?  That conservative Republicans tended to support both of them, but not Somalia?  Who knows.

In the Main in Spain, They Really Hate McCain

June 14, 2008

The entire world, except Jordan, has more confidence in Obama than McCain.  I would guess that about 3 percent of Americans know that the world has strong views on this, and that maybe a quarter of them care.

We Create Our Own Reality

June 11, 2008

Conservatives like Andrew Sullivan’s emailer never seem to be too concerned with facts.  They tend to dismiss policy proposals, such as expanding the number of Americans with health insurance, as embodying “collectivist strands” without considering the likely results of the proposal.

In a world with a collective action problem, multiple equilibria, and a whole bunch of countries that have a better, more cost-efficient means of insuring their citizens, it sure seems worth taking a look at these proposals rather than merely rejecting them out of hand.

But hey, I’m just a conservative empiricist, so I don’t really have anything in common with Republicans.

All Is Forgiven

June 7, 2008

Sen. Clinton is being unequivocal and forceful in throwing her support behind Obama. *Sigh of relief*

An optimistic, rousing speech.  She’s become a terrific campaigner.

Let Them All Talk

June 4, 2008

Carpetbagger notes the McCain camp’s proposal of a series of debates.

I hope it happens.  Anything that forces discussion of issues, and backs us away from the brain-off, balls-out style of political discourse that the Lee Atwater/Newt Gingrich/Karl Rove GOP has favored is good for America.

I’d love to see a variety of formats— town hall with audience, no audience, no moderators, etc.  It will be harder for McCain to say silly things like that Gen. William Odom wanted to “surrender” in Iraq, and that our problem with health care is that there isn’t enough “choice.”  Obama doesn’t tolerate that sort of nonsense.

Obama knows more, speaks better, and has more popular positions than McCain.  I think it would go well.  And it would be great to think that people cast their votes because they prefer one candidate over the other for substantive reasons, rather than because Obama is too Muslimy.

Benen writes that “There’s a reason the McCain campaign is pushing the idea, and it’s not their love of spirited discourse.”  But I think that McCain actually might just like spirited discourse.  Back in 2000, he proposed doing a US version of questions for the Prime Minister.  He thinks of himself as a modern day Teddy Roosevelt.  Maybe he’s sincere in proposing this.  Regardless, I think it would work to Obama’s benefit.

Deflation

June 4, 2008

Somebody somewhere was saying that Obama should name a VP really soon to tamp down the clamor for him to name Clinton.  But the air is going out of the Clinton balloon.  Her speech last night managed to make McCain’s look regal and inspiring by comparison.

She lost, the focus turns to Obama vs. McCain.  Her appeal is on the decline.  Obama should just let it happen, if she chooses to “stay the course” Bush-style.