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September 29, 2008

Rebirth of the Hoover Republicans

So, is the House Republican opposition to the bailout package a resurgence of Hoover Republicans, the Great Depression era ideologues whose anti-government policies no doubt led to the economic chaos of the 1930s—and whose hostility to The New Deal posed the most serious political threat to economic recovery of Roosevelt’s first term?

Yes, and the connection is a bit too close for comfort.

As FDR ramped up his New Deal reforms in 1934 a group of radical, laissez-faire writers, politicians, and business leaders formed the American Liberty League. For a short time it became the intellectual brain trust of the Republican opposition in congress. As summarized by a sympathetic historian, David Pietrusza (cribbing from “liberal” historian George Wolfskill), the league advanced,

a remarkably coherent libertarian position. They believed, he said, that the New Deal was a threat to the Constitution and represented a danger of tyranny via centralization; that it was based on coercion, deceit, and false economic principles: that recovery was in fact retarded by government intervention; that government agricultural controls were “a cure worse than the disease”; that the New Deal combined aspects of socialist and fascist economic systems; that private enterprise was being damaged; that deficit financing and high spending threatened the nation with inflation; and that the banking community was now under the political control of the federal government.

Statements by American Liberty League spokesmen were of a solid anti-statist cast. Howard Pew lashed into planned economies, charging that they lead to “lower living standards, national decay and the sacrifice of liberty... whether the dictator is a usurper by force or is elected under the forms of popular government.” Journalist Neil Carothers charged: “The materials for a disastrous inflation have been built up, and no one knows when these inflammable materials will be set ablaze. Our currency measures have disorganized foreign trade, cruelly embarrassed the gold standard countries of Europe, deepened the misery of China, and retarded recovery the world over.”

In their view, Roosevelt was a democratically elected dictator—an authoritarian whose “socialist” policies would ultimately destroy American capitalism. Of course, as most historians agree, the New Deal actually propped up American capitalism (a point once made disparagingly by numerous New Left historians of the 1960 such as Howard Zinn).

So, what ever happened to the American Liberty League? Though they disbanded after a short life, they still became the intellectual grandfather of and prototype for the business sponsored conservative think tank, the most notable current example of which is The American Enterprise Institute. The brain stust of the class of Reagan Republicans who today brought the world economy close to the brink of collapse.

Posted by stevemack at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2008

The 700 Billion Dollar End of Reaganism

The 700 billion Wall Street bailout represents the end of Reaganism—the second installment of a two-part historical drama.

Reaganism was, from the outset, a political and cultural reaction to the New Deal. When the banks failed in 1933, at the start of FDR’s first term, and Congress pushed for a depositor insurance plan to rescue troubled institutions, it’s worth noting that the president himself was deeply skeptical. His fear was that insurance would essentially protect irresponsible bankers. Well, perhaps it did—but it did so by directly addressing the needs and interests of individual citizens. It also pulled the rug from under laissez-faire orthodoxy that had rationalized wild and destructive boom-bust swings in the American economy since the Civil War, replacing it with a comfort for sensible economic regulation that lasted until the Reagan years. Then, of course, the mindless mantra became ‘government is not the solution to the problem—it IS the problem.’

Anti-government Reaganism has been a two-headed hydra, with both economic and pop culture strains. Though related, however, each has had something of a life—and perhaps death—of its own. When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, they campaigned on an anti-government economic platform, the “Contract With America”. But the political energy behind its success was considerably more emotional, more pop-culturish. Anti-government sentiment was palpable and virulent, expressed in everything from hostility to the postal service to subterranean sympathy for a host of militant crackpot religious sects. Bill Clinton capitalized on that energy (or co-opted it) when he announced in his 1996 State of the Union message that “the era of big government is over.” He won reelection ten months later. But in retrospect, he probably didn’t need to: what was really over was the anti-government pop culture. It had reached it’s zenith the previous year, on April 19th, to be exact: The day Timothy McVeigh pushed anti government ideology into the psychotic stratosphere and blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. For the first time in a generation the government had human faces—and human babies. Principled skepticism of unbridled government power did not become less philosophically defensible, but visceral and reflexive hatred of government did. Postal service jokes just weren’t quite as funny anymore.

But the other hydra head, the Laissez-Faire economics of Reaganism, has continued to limp along. Years after the Oklahoma bombing, deregulation-lite in the Clinton Administration and the more toxic variety practiced by the Bush crowd has proceeded unchecked by any countervailing economic wisdom with political or cultural muscle. Now, of course, things have come full circle: As Wall Street comes with its tin cup to Congress it does so with the implicit—and sometimes explicit—admission that it needs regulation after all.

I imagine that a bailout of some description is the right thing to do. But I’m also glad—or at least hopeful—that something of Franklin Roosevelt’s skeptical spirit is still alive in his party. As the NY Times reports on the negotiations thus far:

The Senate Democrats’ proposals includes two bold provisions. One would grant the Treasury "contingent shares" of stock in any financial institution that wants to sell bad debt to the government; the other would grant bankruptcy judges the authority to modify the terms of primary mortgages, a step aimed at helping homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

The bankruptcy provision is staunchly opposed by the banking, lending and securities industries and by many Republicans in Congress, but Democrats insist that it is one of the few mechanisms to provide direct assistance to homeowners caught in the foreclosure crisis.
The contingent shares would give taxpayers an equity stake in companies seeking help through the rescue program, potentially allowing the government not only to recoup however much of the $700 billion it spends on bad debt, but also to profit should the financial firms prosper in years ahead. The legislation would require the value of the contingent shares to equal the value of the assets purchased by the government.

The 44-page Senate proposal, pulled together by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairman of the banking committee, would require the Treasury to run the rescue plan through a new "Office of Financial Stability" to be headed by an assistant treasury secretary. It would also establish an "Emergency Oversight Board" to monitor the bailout effort, made up of the Fed Chairman; the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and two non-government employees with "financial expertise" in the public and private sectors, one each appointed by the majority and minority leadership in Congress.

Bold indeed. Nothing like it since the New Deal.

Posted by stevemack at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2008

A Putin Of Our Own

In a post titled "Crooked Talk," Reason magazine's Steve Chapman asks:

Why does McCain insist on running such a mendacious campaign? There is plenty an honest conservative might say in opposition to Obama: He's wrong about Iraq. He's wrong about Iran. He's wrong about offshore oil drilling. He wants to raise taxes. He favors abortion on demand. He would appoint liberal judges. He would impede school reform.

But McCain has concluded that a fact-based case about Obama isn't enough to prevail in November. So he has chosen to smear his opponent with ridiculous claims that he thinks the American people are gullible enough to believe.

He has charged repeatedly that his opponent is willing to lose a war to win an election. What's McCain willing to lose to become president? Nothing so consequential as a war. Just his soul.

I cannot think of another time in presidential election history when the fabrications of a major party nominee were so egregeous that they drew nearly unanamous condemnation from all quarters of the press, irrespective of ideological investment. In fact, the press reaction has itself become a sidebar story. Now, increasingly, the story has moved from "whether" to "why," as chapman's comment illustrate. Answers range from desperation, as Chapman formulates it, to shrewd but cynical calculation (see Edsall, for example) to Andrew Sullivan’s notion that the man has simply “lost it.” That last idea may be attractive for some because of the paradoxical subtext of this debate—the vaunted and also universally accepted notion of McCain’s “high honor.” We’d expect this of Nixon, or the Clintons, the line runs—but not war hero John McCain!

Well, let me propose another interpretation, one both consistent with McCain’s take on honor and, at the same time, more disconcerting than other explanations. I’ll call it the “Strongman McCain Narrative.”

One of the more curious things about McCain’s behavior is not that he’s lying, but that he is so brazenly indifferent to being caught. Days after the Palin “bridge to nowhere” canard had been exposed, he continued to repeat it himself (and license his running mate to do the same), and days after his feigned umbrage over Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment was ridiculed for being baseless and trivial, he defended it on The View. Though I’m sure McCain would be quite happy to have these and other lies believed by a large section of the voting public, it also seems that he’s not terribly concerned if they don’t. There’s not the push back one might expect—just newer, outrageous, lies. In most formulations, such conduct is evidence of a character defect. But for the strongman—and those who long for him—brazen and audacious lying is an instrumental virtue. It’s proof that he has the cold, steely nerve to do and say whatever is necessary to achieve power. Indeed, it’s evidence that his resolve cannot be weakened by conscience.

The strongman narrative, even the softer, American version, is one that presents it’s central character as one constitutionally incapable of loosing. He will crush anybody in a bar fight because he is willing to bleed to death in the attempt. He presents himself as the man who has the will and tenacity to beat Romney’s millions and Obama’s crowds. Likewise, it seems to say, he is the man who has the balls to pound Putin into submission.

Indeed, he too sees a soul when he looks into Putin’s eyes. It’s one he recognizes very well.

Posted by stevemack at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2008

The Palin E-Mail

The following is self explanitory. Read the full version.

About Sarah Palin: an e-mail from Wasilla A suburban Anchorage homemaker and activist — who once did battle with the Alaska governor when Palin was mayor — recounts what she knows of Palin's history.

By Anne Kilkenny

Editor's note: The writer is a homemaker and education advocate in Wasilla, Alaska. Late last week, Anne Kilkenny penned an e-mail for her friends about vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whom she personally knows, that has since circulated across comment forums and blogs nationwide. Here is her e-mail in its entirety, posted with her permission.


I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Gov. Sarah Palin since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first-name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99 percent of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she's like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice for vice president and won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because she is a "babe."

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is "pro-life." She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin's kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her lifestyle ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She's smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time) and less than two years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration, most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings, which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative." During her six years as mayor, she increased general government expenditures by more than 33 percent. During those same six years, the amount of taxes collected by the city increased by 38 percent. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax, which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefitted large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenue during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list, though — borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt but left it with indebtedness of more than $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? Or a new library? No. $1 million for a park. $15 million-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex, which she rushed through, on a piece of property that the city didn't even have clear title to. That was still in litigation seven years later — to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5 million for road projects that could have been done in five to seven years without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as governor Sarah proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenue: Spend today's surplus, borrow for needs.

She's not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As mayor, she fought ideas that weren't generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren't evaluated on their merits but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was mayor of Wasilla, she tried to fire our highly respected city librarian because the librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the city librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the "old boy's club" when she first ran for mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys." Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the city and as governor, she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal — loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the state's top cop.

As mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla's police chief because he "intimidated" her, she told the press. As governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a state trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than two dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town, introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal city administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Gov. Frank Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil and gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job, which paid $122,400 a year, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this commission (who was also the state chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the "old boys' club," when she dramatically quit, exposing this man's ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Sen. Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the "bridge to nowhere" after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects — which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance — but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as "anti-pork."

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The state party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla, there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as "AGIA" that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned "as a private citizen" against a state initiaitive that would have either protected salmon streams from pollution from mines or tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on whom you listen to). She has pushed the state's lawsuit against the Department of the Interior's decision to list polar bears as a threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for president; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being president.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there are a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

Claim vs. Fact
"Hockey mom": True for a few years
"PTA mom": True years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
"NRA supporter": Absolutely true
Social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, but vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
Pro-creationism: Mixed. Supports it, but did nothing as governor to promote it.
"Pro-life": Mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby but declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation.
"Experienced": Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
Political maverick: Not at all.
Gutsy: Absolutely!
Open and transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
Has a developed philosophy of public policy: No.
"A Greenie": No. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
Fiscal conservative: Not by my definition!
Pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
Pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
Pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla's history.
Pro-labor/pro-union: No. Just because her husband works union doesn't make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.
Why am I writing this?
First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name, you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I've always operated in the belief that "bad things happen when good people stay silent." Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don't have a job she can bump me out of. I don't belong to any organization that she can hurt. But I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that's life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the city librarian against Sarah's attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

Caveats: I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending and taxation two years ago (when Palin was running for governor) from information supplied to me by the finance director of the City of Wasilla, and I can't recall exactly what I adjusted for: Did I adjust for inflation? For population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall — they are swamped. So I can't verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my "about 5,000" up to 9,000. The day Palin's selection was announced, a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-1990s.

Posted by stevemack at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2008

McCain's Missed Opportunity

I’m hardly a neutral observer, but McCain’s acceptance speech last night was a sad thing to watch. It’s not that the policies were stale Republican boilerplate (go with what you got, I guess), nor is it that he’s simply a weak public performer (speaking ability is neither the only nor the best judge of leadership). And, though they were amusing to watch, the surprisingly amateurish stagecraft (green screen; Walter Reed Middle School?) shouldn’t count against him personally. Moreover, the protestors who interrupted him gave me no pleasure—in fact, I might be willing to give him a couple of sympathy points: on this occasion (if few others) he deserves an unfettered chance to make his case. Or, perhaps more precisely, we deserve to hear whatever case he has to make. No, the real problem here was the speech itself. It was an absolute mess.

The speech’s centerpiece, of course, was his POW story. It is in all candor an extremely powerful story, one that I find very moving. It is an exquisite illustration of personal strength and both moral and physical courage. And it testifies (albeit incompletely) to the man’s depth of character and patriotism—things that are wholly appropriate to consider in weighing someone’s fitness for office. But—and here’s the point—personal fitness for office cannot be the only argument one makes for their candidacy. The people should (and generally do) cast their vote based on policy or political ideology. To be relevant, meaningful, and, indeed, effective, personal stories must also connect organically to a candidate’s public vision. McCain’s story didn’t. And the fact that it didn’t is either a rhetorical or a political problem—or both.

Here's the key section of the speech:

When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn't know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me.

Now, this is the perfect pivot point. He could either have turned the story outward, making it about more than himself, making it about politics and policy. Or he could have turned it back inward, making it about himself. To make it about politics and policy, he might have said something like:

Now, my fellow Americans, those brave men who held me up did not do so because they were commanded to by military edict. They didn’t save my life because there was some tax advantage in it. And they didn’t do it because we all worked for the same American government. They did, pure and simple, because they were Americans and that’s what Americans do. An enemy government may have bound us, but it was our love of country, of freedom, of each other that brought us together. I learned that day that no government can blah blah blah. And that real Americans who love their country and each other can blah blah blah. Today, I’m calling for a new spirit of Volunteerism blah blah blah).

Well, he could have said that. But he actually said:

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's.

That is, it's all about me.

Posted by stevemack at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2008

Palintology (Or: the new Alaskan Gold Rush)

There's just too much to say about McCain's extraordinary choice of Sarah Palin--so here's a quick catalogue:

I agree with most other reasonable voices that the Troopergate scandal is the most serious challenge to her personal ethics (as opposed to those that might reflect on McCain). And, more important than the gravity of the substance, is what it says about her overarching governing temprement. I'll sum it up with a qu from Josh Marshall:

We rely on elected officials not to use the power of their office to pursue personal agendas or vendettas. It's called an abuse of power. There is ample evidence that Palin used her power as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. When his boss refused to fire him, she fired his boss. She first denied Monegan's claims of pressure to fire Wooten and then had to amend her story when evidence proved otherwise. The available evidence now suggests that she 1) tried to have an ex-relative fired from his job for personal reasons, something that was clearly inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, though possibly understandable in human terms, 2) fired a state official for not himself acting inappropriately by firing the relative, 3) lied to the public about what happened and 4) continues to lie about what happened.

These are, to put it mildly, not the traits or temperament you want in someone who could hold the executive power of the federal government.

Both the challenge to Obama's experience and the corresponding claim that Palin IS experienced missed the point entirely: Experience is a wonderful thing for a candidate; if you have it, it makes good sense to tout it. But experience does not predict success in office, and the lack of it does not predict failure. James Buchannan, 15th president, had lots of it but still brought us to the brink of civil war; his successor, Abraham Lincoln, had almost none, yet skillfully led us through that civil war.

Experience is essentially one of several possible credentals one may offer to demonstrate readiness to serve. Its absence is a red flag to voters that they need to look further (or elsewhere) to verify a candidate's claim that she/he is prepared for office. Those who raised questions eighteen months ago about Obama's personal abilities to govern were right to do so. Likewise, those same people are justified in saying that his performance over the last year and a half satisfies their concerns. (A marathon run for the presidency is a a graduate level education in the office--with exams taken daily and in public, administered by media-proctors who want you to slip up.) Over the coourse of the campaign he's grown into the role. Just as importantly, we've had that time to study him.

Sarah Palin might be ready--or might be able to mature into readiness. But we don't know and we won't know. And nothing we do know gives me any confidence.

Vetting I:
The most troubling thing about the Palin choice is that she was not seriously vetted. And that, of course, is a disturbing comment on McCain. It confirms the worst fears about him--that he's a hip-shooting risktaker who lacks the temprement to be president. Presidents must be decisive, but not impulsive, bold, but not reckless. So much of McCain's career (going back to his fighter pilot days) is marked by his "by-the-gut" penchant for high stakes gambling.

Vetting II:
If I were a Republican I'd be damned pissed. Regardless of what you think of the (mounting number) of disclosures and accusations about Palin, the recognition that Palin has not been seriously vetted is nothing if not red meat to the press. When a candidate has been properly vetted it tells the media that the bad stuff is already out; you can nose around if you want, but if there was anything to be found we would have already have found it, told you about it, and put a spin on it before the other guys can. But the news that Palin has not been seriously vetted tells the media something else: there might be gold in them thar hills. McCain has triggered a media feeding frenzy that will, at the very least, raise even more questions about Palin and derail their attempt to define her as a good government type. At the most, it may put on solid ground the perception that she is a rank amature.

Posted by stevemack at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

"A Whitman for our Time."
- Jerome Loving,
"Stephen John Mack's The Pragmatic Whitman: Reimagining American Democracy, [is] The most thoroughly informed philosophical reading of Whitman to appear in decades. Mack develops the premise . . . That Whitman shares with John Dewey a vision of democracy as a 'civic religion' in America, a profoundly secularist and progressive perspective.

- M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Texas A & M University
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