Friday, September 26, 2008

We Now Know Who the Next President Will Be

By Robert Shrum of the Huffington Post.
My friend Tim Russert, who didn't pull his words, famously said on the night of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries: "I think we now know who the Democratic nominee will be." Tonight I think we know who the next President will be.

The debate was a crossroads. For two weeks, John McCain has lurched down a dead-end road on the economy, lurch from happy talk about "sound fundamentals" to gloom about economic crisis; alternately out of touch, confused and self-contradictory; then desperately reaching for another stunt with his blundering, transparently opportunistic intrusion into the financial rescue negotiations which crimped his debate prep. He clearly could have used more.

Barack Obama was crisp, reassuring and strong -- in short, presidential, as he has been throughout the financial storm of the past two weeks. McCain was not as bad as he has been recently; but much of this debate was fought on what was supposed to be his high ground. As the encounter ended, Obama not only controlled the commanding heights of the economic issue -- and he not only held his own on national security -- but clearly passed the threshold as a credible commander-in-chief. McCain kept repeating that Obama doesn't "understand." But he clearly did. McCain made up no ground. That's similar to what happened in 1960 when Nixon ran on the slogan "Experience Counts" but found it didn't count that much when voters decided JFK was up to the job after the side by side comparison they saw in the first debate.

So what does McCain have left? Behind on the economy, no longer able to slip into the White House on the now disproven claim that only he can handle national security, he has two more debates but no big offer to the country. And then there's the VP debate -- which is likely to be seen as the peril of Palin. (Can't they give her a basic briefing, maybe in a spiral notebook -- or is it too much to read and too hard to remember?)

McCain has nowhere to go but stunts, warmed over stump lines, and lying ads -- which pollute his brand more than they hurt Obama, and the ugly hope that backlash may save his feckless campaign. The press will mostly miss the point: Obama met and surpassed the test.



How to Score the Foreign-Policy Debate

Has your attention been tied up sorting out the numbers on that $700 billion bailout package? Ilan Goldenberg walks you through tonight's debate.

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How to Score the Foreign-Policy Debate

A year ago, with Gen. Petraeus having just testified in Washington and the Iraq War still at the center of the political universe, it would have been hard to imagine national security playing second fiddle in the presidential election. But with the events of the past two weeks, it has become clear that barring a major foreign-policy crisis, the economy will dominate the remainder of the campaign. The subject of this Friday's presidential debate -- national security -- seems distant and removed. A little blip in what is otherwise an economic tsunami.

Nonetheless, if the Bush presidency has taught us anything, it has taught us that understanding a candidate's philosophy on the matters of war and peace matters. The stakes for the candidates tonight may not be as high as one would have expected a few months ago, but they are still high.

John McCain's candidacy is premised on his experience and national-security prowess. In poll after poll he holds a substantial point lead on the question of who is better prepared to be commander in chief -- leading by 21 points in the NY Times/CBS News poll released just yesterday. Ironically, this means there is more pressure on McCain tonight. He cannot simply hold his own with Obama. He must show his mastery of the issues justifies the advantage the American public attributes to him.

Obama's task is easier, but no less crucial. National security has become a threshold question for Obama. He doesn't necessarily have to outperform McCain. Instead, Obama's task is to reassure Americans that he is in fact ready to lead on the critical issue of security.

With these criteria in mind here are four things to watch during the debate:

Watch the Gaffes

In a perfect world we wouldn't care about trivial gaffes and would focus instead on the real substance of the debate. In the real world, gaffes act as the clearest proxy for a candidate's understanding and knowledge of the issues. An error by Sen. Obama would confirm in some voters' minds that he is not ready. A major factual error on the part of Sen. McCain could be devastating -- undermining the argument that he has the best knowledge and experience to keep America safe.

Unfortunately for Sen. McCain, his campaign has been full of foreign policy gaffes. In March, while travelling in the Middle East, he confused Sunni and Shi'a claiming that Sunni al-Qaeda operatives were being trained by Iran before returning to Iraq. In July, he butchered the history of the Anbar Awakening in an interview with Katie Couric, arguing that it was caused by the surge even though it started months before the increase in troops was even announced. He has on numerous occasions referred to Czechoslovakia -- a country that hasn't existed for 15 years. Last week he gave an interview to the Florida affiliate of Spain's Union radio where he appeared confused about who Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain was, seemingly assuming he was a Latin American leader. Thus far the press has given McCain the benefit of the doubt on foreign policy precisely because of his experience. But he is unlikely to get that type of sympathy under the spotlight of the debate. One glaring mistake could be devastating, especially considering that two days ago McCain was calling for the debate's postponement.


One of the imperatives of Senator McCain's campaign has been to demonstrate that he is not George W. Bush. In no area has he been more associated with the president than on foreign policy. McCain will point to differences on torture and global warming. He will claim that he opposed the Bush-Rumsfeld strategy for Iraq (even though he was an outspoken supporter of going in with low troop levels in advance of the war).

Moreover, it will be difficult for McCain to escape the fact that he agrees with the president on the fundamental issues: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and terrorism. McCain was one of the main spokespeople for the war in Iraq -- calling for toppling Saddam Hussein in the weeks after September 11, and just like the president, dramatically underestimating the difficulty and costs of the war. While Obama was an early opponent of the Iraq War and argued it would distract us from dealing with al-Qaeda, McCain waited until July 15 of this year to enunciate any kind of an Afghanistan policy. In fact, Afghanistan barely even came up during the Republican national convention. On Iran, McCain has promoted tougher sanctions and no direct diplomatic engagement -- a policy that the Bush administration has tried for years with no success as Iran has moved further along on its uranium enrichment program and a bipartisan consensus for direct talks has emerged. It's hard to imagine how McCain can convince the country that he is the change candidate when he agrees with the president on all these issues.

It's the Economy Stupid

The economy isn't the central issue of this debate, but it is the issue most on voters' minds, which will certainly not escape the notice of moderator Jim Lehrer. Watch how the candidates link foreign policy to the economy and how they respond to questions about the financial crisis. Voters may have less appetite for John McCain's more aggressive military-focused approach than they had only two weeks ago. This is not to say that the American public is ready to return to isolationism. But given the current environment, spending $10 billion per month in Iraq or growing the military by 150,000 troops, as Sen. McCain has suggested, becomes much less appealing. The economic crisis of the past two weeks may cause voters to reject a foreign policy that in anyway resembles the costly adventurism of George W. Bush, and that could spell trouble for Sen. McCain.

Meanwhile, Sen. Obama has an opportunity to employ his firmer and surer response to the financial crisis to bolster his commander-in-chief credentials. Tying the leadership he has shown in the past two weeks to his response during a foreign-policy crisis could go a long way toward assuaging voter concerns.

Temper, Temper

Both candidates will have to demonstrate that they have the temperament to lead in crisis. For McCain, the question is a sensitive one. He has a past reputation for a hot temper among his Senate colleagues -- a temper that has not been on display during the campaign. One blow up could be quite damaging. But even without a visible burst of anger there is still the question of McCain's judgment. Throughout his career he has shown a tendency to lurch from crisis to crisis. In the aftermath of 9-11 he called for expanding beyond Afghanistan and considering military action against Iraq, Iran, and Syria. In the run up to the Iraq War he called our European allies "vacuous and posturing" referring to them as our "adversaries." Last year he joked about bombing Iran. And when fighting broke out this summer between Russia and Georgia, he immediately lurched toward a hard-line position instead of taking a more cautious initial approach -- the approach taken by President Bush, Sen. Obama, and other world leaders.

In the end, the debate is an imperfect metric for measuring what each candidate's foreign policy may actually be as president. After all, in 2000 George Bush warned against arrogance and promised a humble foreign policy. But what the debate will give us is another indication of whether or not each candidate has the knowledge and judgment to be commander-in-chief and whether or not they can bring real change to Washington and manage America's foreign policy in a time of economic crisis.


POSTER BOY FOR ‘HOPE’: L.A.-based artist Shepard Fairey created the now-ubiquitous graphic of Obama, who wrote to him, “Your images have a profound effect on people.”" height="300" width="500">

Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles Times

POSTER BOY FOR ‘HOPE’: L.A.-based artist Shepard Fairey created the now-ubiquitous graphic of Obama, who wrote to him, “Your images have a profound effect on people.”

Artists including Shepard Fairey and Ray Noland head to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, home of's Manifest Hope Gallery Contest.
By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 23, 2008
ON A brick wall in downtown Atlanta that usually is splattered with graffiti tag names, a spray-paint portrait of Barack Obama now gazes over the streetscape.

In Chicago, an abandoned warehouse on the city's South Side displays a life-size silhouette of the Illinois senator, microphone in hand.

And all over Los Angeles -- on stop signs, underpasses, buildings and billboards -- hundreds of posters and stickers of Obama, emblazoned with the word "Hope," have been slapped up, guerrilla-style.



French politicians want couture fashion
Mr Sarkozy and Carla Bruni go smart/casual in Egypt

The couture houses of Paris have grown accustomed to requests from film stars to borrow their latest designer dresses, but now they are being inundated with requests from a new quarter - France's female politicians.

Eager to look their best in the court of Nicholas Sarkozy, where appearance is often as important as performance, French ministers are beating a path to the doors of Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint-Laurent.


Bad Men's Fashion - irresponsible politicians

Posted by Mark; from today's

President of Paraguay Turns Down Meeting with Sarah Palin

palin computer.jpg

palin computer.jpg

I'm not kidding.

Paraguay President Fernando Lugo, while attending both the United Nations General Assembly meetings and the Clinton Global Initiative, shared with friends over dinner some of the other meetings he had been having in New York.

He met this head of state. . .and that head of state. . .and so on. . .

. . .but then the room went silent and then broke into subdued laughter when he confided that he was approached about meeting with GOP Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

President Lugo turned the meeting down.

With all due respect to Paraguay and its great citizens, something is really wrong when the Paraguayan President won't even hang with Palin.

But note to world leaders, PLEASE start meeting with her.

Otherwise, she'll never get any credible international experience.

-- Steve Clemons,





John McCain yesterday tried to invoke his maverick magic to address the economic crisis, while George Bush attempted to explain the current crisis without blaming Wall Street. The financial titans of the past would have been pleased.

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Posted by Mark from The American

The Ghosts of Bankers Past

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

McCain Channels Morgan

Let's consider where John McCain was when he and his staff concocted their scheme to call off Friday's debate, fly down to Washington, and resolve the nation's economic crisis through sheer force of McCain's character.

They were in the Morgan Library, on East 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan, prepping for the debate.

It was there, 101 years ago, that J.P. Morgan -- in part through the sheer force of his own character, not to mention his intellect and his economic clout -- summoned New York's other major bankers, locked the doors, and did not let them go until they sifted through the balance sheets of failing banks, decided which to bail out and which to let die, and put up the money to make it all happen. (It was 4:45 a.m. on the night in question when his fellow bankers succumbed to his pressure and Morgan finally unlocked the doors.) Thus was the Panic of 1907 abated.

For a brief time thereafter, Morgan, generally excoriated in Progressive-era America for wielding more economic power than any one man should possess, was uncharacteristically celebrated. He was the man who'd saved the economy from a depression (and having spent most of the 1890s in a depression, America did not want to go there again). But soon thereafter, the idea that one man controlled the credit flows by which the nation's economy lived or died struck Americans with renewed force, and a campaign began to establish a national central bank, under at least some governmental control, to supplant private citizen Morgan. In 1913, Morgan died, and a few months thereafter, Congress established the Federal Reserve.

Fast-forward 101 years. McCain's advisers have long argued that this election was about character, not great issues of state. It was about McCain demonstrating he was decisive and could deal across partisan divides. When the public turned its attention to the economy over the past 10 days, however, McCain began to tank in the polls. What better way to return America's wandering focus to his own leadership qualities than to become a latter-day Morgan? So he summoned the nation's political leaders to a meeting, from which they doubtless would not emerge unless they embraced the McCain Plan, whatever that might be. And woe betide Barack Obama if he declined to sign on.

McCain, it's become clear over the course of the campaign, personalizes everything. Who needs Congress, or a central bank, or a debate between the presidential candidates, when by his swooping decisiveness, his steely nerve, John McCain can ride to the economy's rescue? The only thing more Napoleonic than John McCain is John McCain imbued with the spirit of J.P. Morgan. Win or lose, he should never be allowed inside the Morgan Library again.


Posted by Mark...and also thought of

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic-depressive illness, is a condition that affects more than two million Americans. People who have this illness tend to experience extreme mood swings, along with other specific symptoms and behaviors. These mood swings or "episodes" can take three forms: manic episodes, depressive episodes, or "mixed" episodes.

The symptoms of a manic episode often include elevated mood (feeling extremely happy), being extremely irritable and anxious, talking too fast and too much, and having an unusual increase in energy and a reduced need for sleep. It's also very common for someone to act impulsively during a manic episode, and engage in behaviors that are risky or that they later regret, like spending sprees. And in over half of all manic episodes, people are troubled by delusions or hallucinations. For example, they may think they have a relationship with someone famous, claim to be an expert in an area they really know nothing about, feel paranoid (unusually fearful), or hear voices that are not there.

The symptoms of a depressive episode often include an overwhelming feeling of emptiness or sadness, a lack of energy, a loss of interest in things, trouble concentrating, changes in normal sleep or appetite, and/or thoughts of dying or suicide.

A mixed episode includes symptoms that are both manic and depressive.