Putin: Americans Were in Combat Zone

Maybe. He says perhaps to influence the election to one candidate’s benefit. Take with a large grain of salt. Note also how he responds to the question late in this CNN interview about guaranteeing other border states against Russian attack.

UPDATE: See also this backgrounder from The Economist. Money quote:

After years of cultivating xenophobic sentiment and persuading Russians that they face an enemy, the Kremlin had prepared the population psychologically for war. That, says Boris Dubin, a sociologist, is why Russia’s propaganda fell on fertile ground. In the public mind, he claims, the cause of the war is to be found in “America’s expansionist plans and desire to establish control over Russia’s neighbours.”

Gustav Line

Via Galrahn, the Department of Defense at least is ready for Hurricane Gustav:

The command has activated four defense coordinating elements at the regional FEMA headquarters. The command provides unique DoD capabilities for disaster response. Rowe said three active-duty military installations have been designated as FEMA logistics points: Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.; and the Naval Air Station at Meridian, Miss. 

The 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Fort Drum, N.Y., is the quick-reaction force for the homeland. “They are provided with situational awareness and provided with prepare-to-deploy orders if needed,” Rowe said. 

In addition, Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., has given direction to three amphibious ships — the USS Bataan, the USS Nassau and the USS Ponce — to be prepared to sortie if needed. The command also has at its disposal additional communications, engineering, and aviation units.

Unfortunately, it looks like they’ll be needed:

Palin Polling: So Far, A Wash

538 has the latest numbers from Rasmussen:

Voters have a favorable impression of her by a 53/26 margin; however, by a 29/44 margin, they do not believe that she is ready to be President. … 

At this stage, it is not clear how impactful her selection will be: 35 percent of voters say they’re more likely to vote for McCain with Palin on the ticket, and 33 percent say they’re less likely. …

Opinions of Palin are very strongly determined by ideology. 

None of this is very surprising. Read the post. Nate has more on a reverse gender gap. Unlike him, I don’t think that’s the headline.

More Qualms from the Right

Shannen Coffin at NRO:

Her career in the “city council” and as mayor of a town few outside of Alaska have ever heard of doesn’t exactly prepare her to preside over National Security Council meetings in the President’s absence, to serve as a close adviser to the President on counterterrorism issues, or to have the nuke “football” at her side 24/7.  And I say this as a guy who 1) grew up in a similar sized town in Louisiana that no one outside of Webster Parish has ever heard of, and 2) spent the 2005-07 as Counsel to the sitting Vice President — so I have some perspective on both from whence she came and what the job can involve.  That lack of experience is a political liability for the very reason that it is a real liability. 

Coffin also echoes the idea this is a Hail Mary play by McCain.

Stay Away from the Trooper

As I said previously, if the Dems try to make an issue of the to-do over Palin’s state trooper brother-in-law, they’d be making a tactical mistake of the highest order. Flopping Aces has the details.

Wolfson Can’t Leave It Alone

Howard Wolfson, former Clinton spokesflack:

“The fact that Palin is pro-life and pro-gun will be a block for many of Senator Clinton’s supporters — but not all. And it will raise the question for many why Senator Obama didn’t pick Senator Clinton as his running mate.”

Hey, jackass, get a clue. It’s already clear having what amounts to two presidents in one administration is a bad idea. Picking Hillary, we’d have three. Bill comes in the bargain.

Palin a Buchananite?

There’s considerable evidence. The folks at Think Progress have questions. Good ones, I’d say, given my familiarity with the way Pat Buchanan’s take on 20th-century American history has evolved.

Drawing Dead

To continue the McCain/Palin poker-related analogies, David Frum thinks Obama just picked up the nuts:

It’s a wild gamble, undertaken by our oldest ever first-time candidate for president in hopes of changing the board of this election campaign. Maybe it will work. But maybe (and at least as likely) it will reinforce a theme that I’d be pounding home if I were the Obama campaign: that it’s John McCain for all his white hair who represents the risky choice, while it is Barack Obama who offers cautious, steady, predictable governance.

McCain Throws the Hail Mary

Well, as commenter Ted predicted last Sunday, McCain has picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. The ‘sphere is now all akimbo with everything from plaudits on the right for McCain’s brilliant play for the PUMAs to brickbats on the left comparing Palin to Dan Quayle.

I stick with my original take, which is that VP selections generally don’t make presidential campaigns. Absent a Tom Eagleton-level disaster, the only name that matters when people go into the voting booth is that of the person on the top line. The election is still McCain v. Obama. The folks at 538 have it right, this is a long-shot play by McCain. In poker terms, he’s behind and is chasing a hand.

That said, Palin’s elevation does have some interesting sidelights.

I think the PUMA factor is greatly overrated. If you’ve run into more than a few hard-core types from either side over the course of a career, it’s easy to take in the existence of a vast and noticeable difference, perspective-wise and socially, between Republican women and Democratic women. They don’t mix. They don’t go to the same restaurants, they don’t have the same hobbies, they talk differently and they never, ever, vote for someone on the other side. Especially if that someone is another woman. And even from this remove, it’s obvious Palin is Republican-woman to the core, albeit with a few Alaska-specific quirks thrown in.

There are still pitfalls here for the Dems. Sexism in word or deed would backfire and there’s already evidence that some people just can’t keep their lips zipped. I would, for example, caution against making too big a thing about the squabble over Palin trying to get her ex-brother-in-law state trooper canned. There’s a nasty custody battle going on and it has the feel to me that the trooper has maybe been behind-the-scenes threatening to his ex. Which needless to say would put rather a different spin on things. And even if he hasn’t, a lot of women will suspect he has anyway and not greet with any warmth an attempt by the all-male Dem ticket to stick up for the trooper.

I agree with those who say this choice takes the experience factor off the table as an issue this fall. Palin’s main experience to date is a couple terms on the Wasilla, AK, city council, a couple terms as mayor, a failed campaign for lite-gov and then a winning campaign for her current position abetted heavily by the fact her name isn’t Murkowski. Wasilla is a small town — population 6,715 by its own count. Its budget now is a bit less than $10M a year and was no doubt significantly less in the late 1990s when Palin was running it. On the upside for her, it has a strong-mayor system, which means she was actually the chief executive in a town that has an airport and a water and sewer system. On the downside, executive experience doesn’t scale. What you learn running a small business or small town won’t help you run IBM or Chicago. In my area we have towns of 6,000 people, 20,000, 50,000 and 200,000 that are perfect examples of this. There are people who do a fine job of being mayor or city manager at one level would be totally out of their depth in the same position at the next. You don’t see the pros trying to climb the ladder. We have seen some of the pols, however, migrate down one level, moving to a smaller town, because they felt it would enhance their chances of winning office.

I think the same problem of scale is true of government at the state level. As Matt Yglesias points out, there are 16 cities in the US with larger populations than Alaska’s. And the biggest problem a President Palin would face, if that came to pass during a McCain term, is that being until now an Alaska-only pol, she’s not really at all familiar with the GOP talent base, in terms of would-be officeholders. A president’s toughest job isn’t the 3 am phone call, it’s finding and appointing a couple thousand people who can work together as a team. Palin can’t possibly know who on the GOP bench is good, who’s good but has to sit this one out because he can’t stand so-and-so and would backstab him at every opportunity, and so on. She just wouldn’t be able to form a team that could help compensate for her personal lack of experience.

But that probably doesn’t matter to the people McCain cares about. This pick, at the end, highlights the rural/urban split between the GOP and the Dems generally, and between the McCain and Obama tickets and platforms specifically. Palin will drive urbanites nuts, but she’ll appeal to rural voters just fine. The problem McCain faces is that between the economy and Obama’s organizing prowess, this probably doesn’t start as a 50-50 election, demographically speaking, like the last two.