August 2, 2008

McCain's spooky ads

One lesson that the GOP has learned and applied for many years now is that for an ad to work, it must tap into the subconscious and strike fear. Thus came the Willie Horton ad, Jesse Helms' "Hands" ad, the RNC's "Call me" spot attacking Harold Ford, etc. John McCain is dutifully fulfilling this tradition with a commerical of his own, the now infamous "Celeb" ad. Rick Perlstein notes the similarity of the chanting, German crowds for Obama in McCain's ad to an old Nazi propoganda film -- with still frames to back him up. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

A less talked-about and probably little-noticed McCain advertisement I found online while looking at an article on The New York Sun's website has some interesting features, too:

Appearance of a random opinion poll? Check.

Strongly loaded language in "question"? Check.

Visual association of Obama with despot? Check.

Clicking on ad takes you to Unfortunately, I can't verify it at this point, but it's probably a pretty safe guess.

July 27, 2008

Berlin helps Obama

Two weeks ago, Anne Applebaum argued for the wisdom behind Barack Obama's big speech near the Brandenburg Gate and more generally his tour of the world. Among other reasons, Americans might support Obama's appearances abroad because

It matters how America is perceived abroad, and not just because it's nice to be popular. When America and American values are admired in other countries, American politicians have more influence on foreign affairs.

Right. And since Obama is clearly the more popular choice in Europe, the large, adoring crowds that greeted him in Germany demonstrated his appeal -- and, perhaps, his potential ability to use that appeal to advance American interests.

It's also apparent that the visit helped him domestically. Nate Silver explains how:
Gallup shows [Obama] ahead by 7 points, tying his best-ever margin in that poll, while Rasmussen has him ahead by 6. What Obama's foreign policy trip may have done, and particularly his speech in Berlin, is to refresh enthusiasm among his core supporters. Fully 60 percent of Democrats now have a very favorable opinion of Obama, according to Rasmussen's latest numbers. That number is improved from 53 percent a week ago. During that time frame, Obama has gained 6 points of support among Democrats, capturing 82 percent of their votes rather than 76. Half of that gain comes from undecided voters, while the other half comes from McCain.

July 4, 2008

Justice served

Recently the Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees have the right to challenge their detentions in federal court. Naturally, this provokes the Chicken Little response from the White House. Dana Perino warns the ruling means that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be able to roam the streets of Baltimore, or Fort Lauderdale, or wherever he pleases! Well, the only way this happens is if the United States government has been unable to compile any evidence whatsoever that he is a threat to the public or that he has committed acts of war against the United States. And if no such evidence exists, why should he be held in a military prison?

The truth, as detailed in the above AP article, is much more nuanced. Yes, the ruling may expedite the release of prisoners who are actually not terrorists, but cases of mistaken identity or simply unlucky Muslims civilians. But KSM would almost certainly still be confined to Guantanamo. And those who have been released would not necessarily be placed on US soil. In fact, the Supreme Court has not indicated where these detainees would be released, nor has any other federal court.

This is one of many examples where the so-called "liberal" justices are actually giving deference to the executive branch and yet still upholding the rule of law. They are ensuring that Guantanamo detainees are afforded proper legal protection, yet still giving the executive branch almost complete control over their fates. This is not judicial activism in the slightest. It is the last line of defense against a secretive and stubborn administration who just likes to do things their own way.

May 15, 2008

An insight into Bush-McCain foreign policy

President Bush likes to stir the pot sometimes. So he decided to travel to Israel for its 60th birthday bash -- an event noticed and celebrated by Democrats and Republicans alike -- and managed to make it half a stump speech for John McCain. He said:

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

Barack Obama felt perhaps rightly that this was a swipe at his position that the United States ought to talk without preconditions to countries like Syria and Iran -- an idea I have not supported but might if the practitioner of talks was more competent than this president. (The White House, as it has many times, by acting like the American public was born yesterday and claimed that the remarks had nothing to do with him.) Obama has not, however supported talks with Hamas until they meet the 3 criteria levied against them: cessation of violence, recognition of Israel, and adoption of past agreements. Still, it provided Bush with an opportunity to support his buddy McCain from overseas and hit Obama. And it shows us the GOP's simplistic view of foreign policy.

To Bush and McCain, meeting with Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-Il is "appeasement," -- yes, this is the word Bush used -- akin to giving away the Sudetenland for free to Adolf Hitler. As Obama said in a recent interview, "We don’t do nuance well in politics and especially don’t do it well on Middle East policy." Truer words have not been spoken this year.

McCain, the so-called foreign policy heavyweight, was no more nuanced in his reaction. He remarked, "It shows naivete and inexperience . . . My question is, what does he want to talk about?" The kids? Baseball? Use your imagination, John. And to speak of naivete! McCain has a very poorly-earned reputation for foreign affairs expertise. And one of McCain's foreign policy advisers, former Secretary of State James Baker, would in a private setting would say it shows "naivete and inexperience" NOT to talk to Ahmadinejad and others.

This is not to say Barack Obama is James Baker. Nuance, people, nuance.

May 8, 2008

Jews and Obama

On this, the 60th birthday of the State of Israel, we are also coming to a finish with the Democratic nomination for the presidency. And so we also have some new information regarding the attitudes of Jewish voters this time 'round. The Gallup Organization reports that American Jews favor Barack Obama 2-to-1. Rumors of a Muslim past and ties to the anti-Israel Jeremiah Wright evidently are not weighing heavily on Jews' minds. We know this because New York-based Hillary Clinton does only about 5% better in the general election than Obama. Among Jewish preferences within the Democratic Party, Clinton wins only by 50-43. This is remarkably close given that this is in line with other white Democrats. In other words, Obama has no more trouble courting Jews than other white voters -- which is a whole other story. But I think we can say that on May 8, both Barack Obama and the State of Israel can live to celebrate a bit.

April 19, 2008

So this is what moderation looks like

Evidently, darkness. This is what Sderot residents are seeing now after a Qassam rocket hit power lines in the beleaguered city. Thank goodness Hamas has now embraced a more moderate position! Jimmy Carter's visit has worked wonders! Can he defuse the Iranian problem, too?

Another word about Hamas: can we get over the falsehood that Iran will not work with Sunnis? When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Khaled Meshaal exchange kisses and pleasantries in public, do we think they are just discussing the sports scores?

Colbert to the rescue

Stephen Colbert is quite a phenomenon. Apparently, his "Colbert Bump" for visiting politicians may have some truth to it. This even for a basic cable show! Bill O'Reilly likes to brag that his viewers know their stuff and The Daily Show/Colbert Report's viewers are "stoned slackers." Yet viewer research by Pew shows that in fact, TDS/Colbert viewers know slightly more about the news than O'Reilly viewers (and dramatically more than FOX watchers in general). They are also more educated (31% have a college degree vs. 24% for O'Reilly), even though they are younger (26% under 30 vs. 16%). If Colbert truly does have influence on this election, may Barack Obama's act of putting "distractions" from the real issues "on notice" actually have an effect.