Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Last week really ought to have been the end of the McCain campaign. With the whole country feeling (and its financial class acting) as if we lived in a sweltering, bankrupt banana republic, and with this misery added to the generally Belarusian atmosphere that surrounds any American trying to board a train, catch a plane, fill a prescription, or get a public servant or private practitioner on the phone, it was surely the moment for the supposedly reform candidate to assume a commanding position. And the Republican nominee virtually volunteered to assist that outcome by making an idiot of himself several times over, moving from bovine and Panglossian serenity about the state of the many, many crippled markets to sudden bursts of pointless hyperactivity such as the irrelevant demand to sack the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
And yet, and unless I am about to miss some delayed "groundswell" or mood shift, none of this has translated into any measurable advantage for the Democrat.

Al-Qaeda leaders, maybe because they spend a lot of time trapped and bored in safehouses, seem to be obsessed with calendars. They like anniversaries and they pay attention to elections abroad. So I'm sure they have the American election in mind. My last well-sourced conversation is a few weeks dated, but last I checked the US intel system was very quiet in terms of "chatter" or other indicators of any attack in the U.S. What seems more likely are more attacks against US-affiliated targets in the Pak-Afghan region, coupled with media tape releases, similar to Osama's election-eve video of 2004. They like to be heard at big moments in American politics, and this campaign is certainly such a moment.

Biden has outdone himself. First he repudiates Obama's ad calling McCain computer illiterate, then he misstates Obama's position on coal, and lastly he badly garbles his Depression era history. Well: at least he's talking in public. And where the hell are his medical records? C'mon!

I'm going to go out on a limb here and do something I try really hard to never do, make a prediction. Sarah Palin is the nail in the McCain campaign's coffin. No Vice-Presidential nominee--not Vice-President--can be this much drama. Constantly defending old girl's record, having to expend resources to shut down investigations in Alaska, and having to actively shield her from reporters has to exact a price. At the very least it knocks Joe Biden's gaffes right off the radar.

An Alaska friend tells me that Palin has always benefited from being underestimated. Maybe I’m doing that. Maybe I’ve been around polished politicians too long to appreciate the unvarnished authenticity that obviously appeals to many voters. But there’s no Palin interview I’ve listened to, before or after her selection, that gave me the sense that she had anything but a millimeter-thin understanding of the issues facing the country she hopes to help lead.

The late selection of vice presidential nominees has led to a gaffe-filled contest in which each campaign is pointing the finger at its rival's running mate.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) has, in recent days, lived up to his reputation as a gaffe machine, breaking with his running mate on a few occasions and, in at least once instance, drawing a soft rebuke from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Democrats would no doubt like to return fire, but are left to lament the bubble Republican candidate John McCain's campaign has erected around his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and note her limited record is hard to contrast with McCain’s 26 years in Washington.

Russia's post-Georgia strategic moves — sending warships to Venezuela, making aid offers to Bolivia, etc. — don't make a great deal of sense. Soviet mucking around in Latin America never accomplished much of anything for the USSR, but it was at least in keeping with the broader strategic logic of the Cold War. The current situation is totally different. Russia basically got what it wanted out of the war with Georgia. But it did harm its relationship with the United States and to some extent with Europe. The smart play would have been to consolidate gains in the Caucuses by making nice with the West, and making Americans and Europeans wonder how much we really care about Georgia. Picking new fights just increases the chances that we'll decide to help rearm the Georgians in a robust way.


When all the banks have been bailed out and all the debts paid off, the big takeaway for the historians from the financial crisis will be the complete and utter failure of President Bush as the nation's leader. Set aside the blame for the mortgage meltdown. Set aside whether the Paulson plan is a good idea. At a time when American taxpayers and global investors need to see a strong, confident president in the White House, they simply don't have one.

Cartoon by Ben Sargent/Universal Press Syndicate

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