Tuesday, October 14, 2008


from left: Senator Biden's niece, Missy Owens; her mother, Valerie Biden Owens; Hunter Biden's wife, Kathleen; her daughters Maisy, eight, and Finnegan, ten; Jill Biden and daughter Ashley; Senator Biden's mother, Catherine ("Jean") Finnegan Biden; Kathleen's eldest daughter, Naomi, fourteen; Beau Biden's wife, Hallie; and her daughter, Natalie, four. On Jill Biden: Ralph Lauren Black Label cardigan. Anne Fontaine shirt. Michael Kors trousers. Details, see In This Issue.
Photographed by Arthur Elgort.
Sittings Editor: Tonne Goodman.


Posted from dailybeast.com

Christopher Buckley, in an exclusive for The Daily Beast, explains why he left The National Review, the magazine his father founded.

I seem to have picked an apt title for my Daily Beast column, or blog, or whatever it’s called: “What Fresh Hell.” My last posting (if that’s what it’s called) in which I endorsed Obama, has brought about a very heaping helping of fresh hell. In fact, I think it could accurately be called a tsunami.

The mail (as we used to call it in pre-cyber times) at the Beast has been running I’d say at about 7-to-1 in favor. This would seem to indicate that you (the Beast reader) are largely pro-Obama.

As for the mail flooding into National Review Online—that’s been running about, oh, 700-to-1 against. In fact, the only thing the Right can’t quite decide is whether I should be boiled in oil or just put up against the wall and shot. Lethal injection would be too painless.

I had gone out of my way in my Beast endorsement to say that I was not doing it in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column, because of the experience of my colleague, the lovely Kathleen Parker. Kathleen had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen’s mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster. I didn’t want to put NR in an awkward position.

Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it’s pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land. One editor at National Review—a friend of 30 years—emailed me that he thought my opinions “cretinous.” One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have “betrayed”—the b-word has been much used in all this—my father and the conservative movement generally, said he plans to devote the rest of his life to getting people to cancel their subscriptions to National Review. But there was one bright spot: To those who wrote me to demand, “Cancel my subscription,” I was able to quote the title of my father’s last book, a delicious compendium of his NR “Notes and Asides”: Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription.

Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.

My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman. One of his closest friends on earth was John Kenneth Galbraith. In 1969, Pup wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president. (I hasten to aver here that I did not endorse Senator Obama because he is black. Surely voting for someone on that basis is as racist as not voting for him for the same reason.)

My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much. My father was also unpredictable, which tends to keep things fresh and lively and on-their-feet. He came out for legalization of drugs once he decided that the war on drugs was largely counterproductive. Hardly a conservative position. Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

Thanks, anyway, for the memories, and here’s to happier days and with any luck, a bit less fresh hell.


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Palin is a loser on so many levels by Tony Medina.
Palin in her hate filled fervor at recent (borderline klan) rally trying to implicate Senator Obama with terrorists has shown her for what she really is... a desperate house wife seeing her political career going down the drain. She is clearly not what an empowered woman would be defined as... she is McCain's watchdog/stepford wife pawn. She should be sad, because clearly once this is over and Barack Obama is President, she will become an anecdotal footnote soon to be relegated to trivial pursuit board games.

The GOP will then discard her useless political carcass to the winds never again to be heard from, except maybe from a future episode of Surreal Life.

Illustration credit to Mike Thompson

Three 2008 Nobel Laureates In Science Endorse Obama

Barack Obama's campaign will announce today that three 2008 Nobel laureates in Science have added their names to a list of 62 Nobel winners endorsing the Democratic candidate for president: Martin Chalfie of Columbia University, Roger Tsien of the University of California at San Diego, and the University of Chicago's Yoichiro Nambu.

Here's Chalfie's recorded message to voters:

Full text of the letter to the American public from the Nobel winners is available after the jump.


An Open Letter to the American People

This year's presidential election is among the most significant in our nation's history. The country urgently needs a visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness.

We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader, and we urge you to join us in supporting him.

During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country's scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government's scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

We have watched Senator Obama's approach to these issues with admiration. We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation's competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation's and the world's most urgent needs.

Senator Obama understands that Presidential leadership and federal investments in science and technology are crucial elements in successful governance of the world's leading country. We hope you will join us as we work together to ensure his election in November.


Senate Projections, 10/14

Posted from fivethirtyeight.com

The Democrats appear to have nearly as much momentum in the race for Capitol Hill as they do for the White House, and now have approximately a 3 in 10 chance of winding up with a 60-seat working majority in the Senate.

Noteworthy movement since our previous update includes Minnesota, which our model is finally giving to Al Franken after Rasmussen and Quinnipiac polls put him slightly ahead; North Carolina, where Kay Hagan is hardly out of the woods but now clearly appears to be favored, and Georgia, where one poll now shows a literal tie between Jim Martin and incumbent Saxby Chambliss, and several others have the race within the margin of error. Jeanne Shaheen and Mark Udall also appear to be solidifying their positions in New Hampshire and Colorado, respectively.

Indeed, it is difficult to identify any race in which the Republican candidate currently has the momentum. Alaska is perhaps the only state where the Presidential coattails clearly are liable to help them, but with a verdict still forthcoming in Ted Stevens' corruption trial, they have to dodge a bullet that has the potential to ruin their chances of retaining the seat. Meanwhile, the Republicans are being out-campaigned in North Carolina, suffering under the weight of the economy in states like Georgia and Kentucky, and are having difficulty mounting any offense in states like New Mexico where Barack Obama is strong. Even in Minnesota, where Al Franken's campaign has had many false starts, it's now Norm Coleman who is on the defensive.

The Democrats are now favored to take over eight seats from the Republicans: Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Colorado, Alaska, North Carolina, Oregon, and Minnesota. If the Democrats win all eight of those races, they will only need one more to achieve 60 seats, and they have good opportunities in Georgia, Mississippi and Kentucky.

The good news for the Republicans is that they have the financial advantage in most of these races, as the Democratic rank-and-file scrambles to put together a budget for candidates like Jim Martin in Georgia. But, all the money in the world won't help you if you don't have an attractive message to sell, and right now the Republicans' pleas for mercy are falling on deaf ears.

-- Nate Silver at 9:33 AM


It's the Green Economy, Stupid

It's the Green Economy, Stupid

October 14, 2008
This year's explosion of Democratic populism should be no surprise, coming as it does in the midst of an economic downturn and at the end of a Republican presidency reviled for its plutocratic priorities. Democratic candidates just need to stay on message: Oil companies are the problem and green energy is the solution.

Photo by Flickr user Ryan McD used under the creative commons license.

Posted from prospect.org


It may be a little premature for report cards—it's unclear if yesterday's Dow surge was a turning point or an anomaly—but a column in the Financial Times grades the world leaders' performances anyway. The big winner is Gordon Brown, whose British bailout plan served as a model for other countries and quite possibly resuscitated his flailing career. His American counterpart did not do so well. President Bush weathered this one about as well as he did Katrina, says author Gideon Rachman, with a comment—"this sucker could go down—that rivals "Heckuva job, Brownie," in showing off how out of touch he is. Sarkozy also performed well, but the meltdown's biggest winner might not yet be an underclassman: Barack Obama.


Posted from realclearpolitics.com

By Eugene Robinson - WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON -- Since George W. Bush became president, the Republican Party has presided over massive, out-of-control government spending, converted a federal budget surplus into a half-trillion-dollar deficit, and looked the other way while Wall Street's greed and stupidity turned the hallowed free market into scorched earth. Now the party has to watch as a Republican president orchestrates the biggest government intervention into the workings of the private sector since the New Deal.

Can any Republican candidate claim with a straight face to represent the party of small government? For that matter, can any Republican candidate plausibly explain what the party is supposed to stand for these days?

It's pathetic to hear right-wing talk radio blowhards try to associate Barack Obama with "radical" or "socialist" views when a Republican administration is tossing aside "Atlas Shrugged" and speed-reading "Das Kapital."

The Federal Reserve even announced Monday that it will make unlimited quantities of dollars available for currency swaps with the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank, as these institutions scramble to keep major commercial banks from failing -- and potentially taking U.S. banks with them. None of Bush's Cabinet members could be heard sniffing about the effete irrelevance of "Old Europe."

This attitude adjustment is necessary, mind you. The question isn't whether some kind of drastic, frankly socialistic measures are needed to save the American economy, but which ones -- buying up toxic mortgage-based investments (as the White House said it would do), buying up the troubled mortgages themselves (as John McCain wants to do), or pouring money into selected banks and taking part ownership (as the White House now says it will do). Sitting back and letting the dire situation correct itself is not an option, because the market's phoenix-like solution begins with self-immolation.

Politically, though, there is at least some justice in the fact that a Republican president has to deal with this Republican-made crisis. That little piece of irony isn't worth $700 billion, but so far it's all we're getting.

After eight years of the Bush administration, the Republican Party -- to put it bluntly -- is a mess and a fraud.

There is an intellectual case to be made for the economic philosophy that the party purports to represent. I disagree with it strongly, but I respect its integrity -- in a way that this administration and the Republican leadership in Congress clearly did not.

The Republican Party said it believed in free and unfettered competition, but it picked winners and losers through a system of crony capitalism. All it takes to make my point is a name: Jack Abramoff.

The Bush tax cuts, which heavily favored the wealthy, showed that the president and his allies in Congress didn't believe in progressive taxation. I think that's outrageous, but the administration goes further and actually seems to prefer a regressive tax scheme. That's the only explanation I can think of for why hedge fund managers making hundreds of millions of dollars a year pay taxes at a lower rate than their chauffeurs.

Now that it's election time, the party -- as usual -- is trying to convince Americans that it stands on the side of the little guy. Sarah Palin has been trotted out to convince everyone that the party cares deeply about the eternal roster of cultural issues -- God, guns, gays, abortion, etc. If McCain and Palin were elected, the party would doubtless return these issues to the storage locker until the next election, at which point they would be dusted off once more.

Oh, and isn't the Republican Party supposed to stand foursquare against intrusions on privacy? Then why were Republicans so unmoved when it was revealed that the Bush administration had been conducting unprecedented surveillance of Americans' private electronic communications?

When Ronald Reagan was president, I had a sense of what ideas and principles his party stood for. When Newt Gingrich and his "Contract with America" brigade took Washington by storm in 1994, I knew what they believed -- loopy though it was -- and what they hoped to accomplish. I defy anyone to give a coherent explanation of what today's Republican Party, under George Bush and now John McCain, wants to do except perpetuate itself in power.

When a political party reaches the point of lurching incoherence, the most effective cure is a good, long spell in the wilderness. Americans should help Republicans out by sending them home to get their act together.

The Moment

by: John Cory, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Arizona Senator John McCain. (Photo: Gunby / AP)

Senator McCain. Was this the moment? The epiphany? The realization that stoking the flames of bigotry and fear had come home to roost?

As I watched your town hall gathering, I wondered what was going through your mind when you came face to face with the incendiary results of your campaign tactics. What did you see and feel when that elderly woman said Obama was an Arab? Or the man who said he feared an Obama presidency? And all the others?

I saw your face. I watched your body language as you took the microphone and quickly distanced yourself from that one.

At that moment, did you see your reflection in the mirror of her eyes? A reflection, not of a maverick, but a pariah? Did you see the decades of American scar tissue? Birmingham? Burning crosses? The noose? Did you see that awful year in American history when Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, cut down in the prime of their dreams for a better America?

Did you hear the echo of Dr. King's words about being "judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character," and suddenly realize that it was not your opponent's character in question - but yours? Perhaps you heard the whisper of Langston Hughes when he asked, "What happens to a dream deferred ...? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?"

Did you suddenly smell the rot and fetid acrid aroma of fear and hate, the carcass of mendacious political tactics decaying at your feet? Or did you sniff the flop-sweat of your own campaign standing in a puddle of decimating poll numbers?

I watched your mouth dry up and wondered if you could taste the bitter words like "Arab," "terrorist," "treason," "kill him," - all served up on the plate of red meat politics by your campaign. Did it make you choke and want to spit out the rancid flavor of ignorance and violence? Or did you want to savor the success of the politics of personal destruction?

Did you feel the cold chill of defeat? Did your heart pound with the all-encompassing realization that you would never be president? Could you sense that the America you appeal to is stale and dying out and being replaced by the freshness of hope and tolerance and a rainbow of change?

No doubt, the media will genuflect before your image and be pushed by your campaign spinners to reanoint you as a maverick and honorable man in rising to the defense of your opponent. But your ads still sully the airwaves. Your surrogates still spew their venom. After all, this is just politics. People need to understand that. Nothing personal - it is just politics.

But here was this moment. And you know it, regardless of whether or not you were reading from cue cards or just looking down to avoid having to face the ugliness before you - you know.

And when the crowd booed as you struggled to use words about decency and honorable character to defuse the situation you created, you must have recalled the words from Proverbs, "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind ..."

This is not a moment for you to be proud of in this campaign. Garnering credit for coming to the defense of Senator Obama is like an arsonist claiming heroism for saving lives after having set fire to the building in the first place.

It does not matter how the media or your advisers and consultants spin this moment because it can only reflect badly on you. If it is tossed off as politics as usual, your campaign appears shallow and less interested in what's best for America than what is best for John McCain. If it is said that there is no room for this kind of rhetoric in a presidential campaign, then you look weak and unable to control your own staff that continue to push these messages. If it is about leadership and going against the flow, then we see that a McCain presidency will be divisive and reinforce the meme of "two Americas." We have already had eight years of a divided country from the man who ran as a "Uniter not a divider."

This was a defining moment.

And you, sir, lost.