Monday, July 21, 2008

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Talks with Iran over its nuclear program end in resolving nothing even after the Bush administration sent a "senior diplomatic official" to attend (but not speak). I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, that the mere presence of a Bushie at this diplomatic conference didn't force Iran to its knees begging for forgiveness for ever offending the mighty United States.

We're in a poker game, ladies and gentlemen, and Iran just called Bush's bluff. Now one of three things can happen: Bush can fold and agree to serious talks without pre-conditions, which would be advisable. Or he can continue bluffing, pretending that "terrible things will happen should Iran not come to its senses, but leaving this issue for the next President to handle. Or he can choose Option No, 3. You know the one I mean, the one that's never, ever off the table.


The best thing to happen to John McCain was for the three network anchors to leave him in the dust this week while they chase Barack Obama on his global Lollapalooza tour. Were voters forced to actually focus on Mr. McCain’s response to our spiraling economic crisis at home, the prospect of his ascension to the Oval Office could set off a panic that would make the IndyMac Bank bust in Pasadena look as merry as the Rose Bowl.

“In a time of war,” Mr. McCain said last week, "the commander in chief doesn't get a learning curve." Fair enough, but he imparted this wisdom in a speech that was almost a year behind Mr. Obama in recognizing Afghanistan as the central front in the war against Al Qaeda. Given that it took the deadliest Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul since 9/11 to get Mr. McCain’s attention, you have to wonder if even General Custer’s learning curve was faster than his.


Bush has agreed in all but name with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on a timetable for US troop withdrawal from that country. As usual Bush's staff made up an implausible euphemism for the timetable, calling it a "time horizon" for "aspirational goals?" Language like that is a sure sign that Bush is too embarrassed to call it like it is.

You might expect that after brash declarations like "Mission Accomplished" (2003), "last throes" Part I (2005), "last throes" Part II (2006), and Rich Lowry's infamous "We're Winning" cover photo and story (2005), Iraq war supporters would have developed a little healthy circumspection. You could have assumed that after declaring every new development over the past 5+ years the turning point and pivot to victory (the killing of Uday and Qusay, capture of Saddam, handover from CPA to interim government, elections, constitution, etc), that a more mature and cautious "wait and see" approach would be the norm. You would, of course, be wrong (you always are).

John McCain on the campaign trail lets the American people in on the best kept secret: we've actually already won the Iraq war. Who knew?


In the aggressive new McCain campaign ad, the Republican nominee hits Barack Obama on his votes against the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

"[Obama] voted against funding our troops," the narrator says, with the words, "Against Troop Funding" appearing on screen, in all caps. "Positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing to help himself become president. John McCain has always supported our troops and the surge that's working."

Now, we know Obama isn't "changing" on Iraq at all. In fact, McCain has criticized him for not changing enough, so the campaign and the ad are running contradictory messages.


It seems that the rising number of people who don't own landlines is having only a very tiny impact on political polling. But this looks like something that may be a real problem in 2012 or 2016.


The VP buzz surrounding Romney is getting louder and louder. The NY Times calls him McCain's "wingman extraordinaire" on the cable circuit. Romney just announced he's swallowing the entire $45M he borrowed for the primaries, thus taking one for the team. And now McCain is heaping praise on Mitt and getting cozy with the whole Romney clan. Kornacki thinks a McCain-Romney ticket "is beginning to feel as inevitable as the John Edwards buzz was four years ago."

K-Lo must be quivering.


A major reason that Obama’s rhetoric seems to soar so high is that our expectations have sunk so low. In a new book, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, Elvin T. Lim subjects all the words ever publicly intoned by American presidents to a thorough statistical analysis—and he finds, unsurprisingly, an alarmingly steady decline. . . . Today’s State of the Unions inspire roughly 30 seconds of applause for every 60 seconds of speech. Although it’s tempting to blame the sorry state of things on the current malapropist-in-chief, Bush is only the latest flower (though, obviously, a particularly striking one) on a very deep weed. Our most brilliant presidents, Lim says, often work hard to seem publicly dumb in order to avoid the stain of elitism—amazingly, Bill Clinton’s total rhetorical output checks in at a lower reading level than Bush’s. Clinton’s former speechwriters told Lim that their image-conscious boss always demanded that his speeches be “more talky”; today, he’s widely remembered as a brilliant speaker who never gave a memorable speech.

Obama seems to have taken the opposite tack: He’s a Clinton-style natural who flaunts the artifice of his speeches and refuses to strategically hide his intelligence. Compared with his rivals, Obama’s skill-set seems almost otherworldly. His phrases line up regularly in striking and meaningful patterns; his cliché ratio is, for a politician, admirably low; his stresses and pauses seem dictated less by the usual metronome of generic political speech than by the actual structures of meaning behind his words. . . . The signature project of his candidacy—before health care or housing or Iraq—seems to be the reuniting of presidential discourse with actual, visible thought. It is not a trivial achievement.


Cartoon by Tom Toles/Universal Press Syndicate

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