Friendly Fire (IV)

Wick Allison:

The Bush tax cuts — a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war — led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

Friendly Fire (III)

Peter Suderman:

Podhoretz notes, as I did yesterday, that the candidates are “falling back on their points of comfort. McCain is talking about greed and lack of accountability — all of which are long-standing talking points of his, though they are usually applied to Washington and not to Wall Street.” He argues that this isn’t enough, that McCain needs better economic advice.  Maybe, but I think the fact that he’s recycling tired, pet themes suggests that more detailed economic coaching probably isn’t in the works. McCain may care about the state of the economy, or at least the general public perception of it, but he just doesn’t care much about the details. This isn’t exactly a shocker; as we’ve seen with his health care and global warming plans, when he does try to master economic details, he often fouls things up. The current mess on Wall Street is infinitely more complicated. That McCain is spouting economic bromides rather than talking substantively doesn’t show that he needs to work harder to master the issues so much as it shows that he’s already made the choice not to.

Relative Burdens

Tax policy in a nutshell:


What I find interesting about the split-screen cut that occurs here during this Biden clip is that it occurred on Fox News:

Tough Guys

This quote, a dissenting view from Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy piece on McCain’s views on preemption, stood out because it called to mind a friend’s observation that the Vietnamese are the only battlefield enemy we’ve faced that didn’t crumble under the weight of B-52 strikes:

“We lost in Vietnam because we got beat,” Andrew J. Bacevich, an international-relations scholar at Boston University and a Vietnam veteran, told me. “I served during the period when Abrams was supposedly winning the war, and what I saw there [in the Central Highlands of Vietnam] makes it impossible for me to believe that we were winning. That’s a personal statement, not a scholarly judgment, but what I saw were South Vietnamese forces that were utterly incapable, a South Vietnamese government that was utterly ineffective, and an American Army that was falling apart.” 

My friend’s takeaway point was that the outcome of the Vietnam War said more about the North Vietnamese than it said about us. They’re pure warriors and damn near impossible to beat on their home ground.

Goldberg’s article is worth reading in full.

Feeling Apocalyptic

Kevin Drum and Tom Friedman both see trouble ahead. Drum:

McCain, in his overwhelming desire for office, is unloosing [culture-war] forces that are likely to make the country only barely governable no matter who wins. This would be very bad juju at any time, but George Bush has so seriously weakened the country over the course of his administration that we don’t have a lot of room for error left if we want to avoid losing the war on terror for good and turning America into a banana republic while we’re at it. 


I have long felt that what propelled Obama early was the fact that many Americans understand in their guts that we need a change, but the change we need is to focus on nation-building at home. We’re in decline. We need to get back to work on our country.

Not that Jeffrey Goldberg is any more cheerful:

The next president must do one thing, and one thing only, if he is to be judged a success: He must prevent Al Qaeda, or a Qaeda imitator, from gaining control of a nuclear device and detonating it in America. Everything else — Fannie Mae, health care reform, energy independence, the budget shortfall in Wasilla, Alaska — is commentary. The nuclear destruction of Lower Manhattan, or downtown Washington, would cause the deaths of thousands, or hundreds of thousands; a catastrophic depression; the reversal of globalization; a permanent climate of fear in the West; and the comprehensive repudiation of America’s culture of civil liberties.

Econ 102

McCain pounds away on the tax issue, lying along the way:

“These are tough times. Tough times in Wisconsin. Tough times in Ohio. Tough times all over America,” McCain told thousands packed into the picturesque downtown of Cedarburg, Wis. “My opponent will raise your taxes. My tax cuts will create jobs. His tax increases — increases, he wants to increase your taxes! — he’ll eliminate ’em!”

First of all, I rather doubt many people in that crowd would pay more under Obama’s tax plan. Second, why does the GOP keep getting away with the taxes/jobs meme when according to the Congressional Research Service (warning, PDF) economists say tax changes at this level don’t make much difference in macro-economic performance?

Faulty Memory

Bill Whittle admits being a little hazy on McCain family history:

I knew McCain’s father and grandfather were admirals. I did not know his grandfather was on the USS Missouri, came home, and died the next day after giving everything he had for his country. That’s powerful.

Uh huh. I bet he also didn’t know that the senator’s grandfather helped Bull Halsey sail TF38, the Navy’s World War II carrier strike force, into typhoons, twice, with significant loss of life in one and damage to several carriers in the other. Halsey, by that time a Navy icon, kept his job. The elder McCain got sent to the beach (he was about to be relieved by Admiral John Towers when the Japanese surrendered). There were many in the task force who thought both Halsey and McCain Sr. were past it by that point in the war.

Sharpening Divides

David Frum offers up a letter from an anti-abortion independent:

Obama’s campaign has been premised on an appeal to voters exactly like me -– voters who want a politics that does not so obviously delight in wallowing in the mud.  If there are a lot of Independents like me, Palin is a disaster.  She’s just performed what it is that is driving us from the Republicans.  She’s running against hope and the notion that we need civility in our political life.  She’s running against the notion that we ought to hold our fellow Americans in respect whether they come from small towns or big towns. 

I’m hearing some of the same concerns from swing voters in my circle. They heard from the GOP false notes, and far too many claims that implied a divine right to rule.

Meanwhile, my own read on Palin’s Wasilla career is coming around to a sense that she’s a pure opportunist. More on that over the weekend.

McCain Reaction

James Poulos:

This convention has relied on one drab, perfunctory speech after another to repeat a mantra that wears precious thin after the first listen: because McCain was a prisoner of war back then, he is a hero today, and because he is a hero today, he should be President tomorrow. …

The humility that makes John McCain a hero has been buried by his own campaign. His message of respect and admiration for Barack Obama grates sharply with the style and tone of his ads, assembled and produced by Bush men. On that and related points (including his appeal for Americans to stop shouting at each other), McCain’s rhetoric, which sounded so sincere, like the real McCain, pales in comparison to the snide and smug feel of the McCain campaign — which has taken on a life of its own that somewhat dwarfs and diminishes its candidate.