A McCain Voter Contemplates an Obama Presidency

I was going to write a poignant, insightful post about why this McCain voter is undismayed by the prospect of an Obama victory, but Peggy Noonan beat me to it. Saves me a few pixels, I suppose. An excerpt:

A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd “I have no comment,” or “We shouldn’t judge.” Instead he said, “My mother had me when she was 18,” which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn’t have to.

There is something else. On Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, Mr. Obama won the Alabama primary with 56% to Hillary Clinton’s 42%. That evening, a friend watched the victory speech on TV in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, saw on the screen “Obama Wins” and “Alabama.” She said, “Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school.” She said, “That’s where they used the hoses.” Suddenly my friend saw it new. Birmingham, 1963, and the water hoses used against the civil rights demonstrators. And now look, the black man thanking Alabama for his victory.

This means nothing? This means a great deal.

I’m voting McCain because I believe he has a better understanding of the cost of meekness in the face of fascism. But Obama has demonstrated that he knows he can’t afford to be held hostage by the extreme pacifist wing of his party. Ironically, the success of the surge has worked against its champion, McCain. An Obama Presidency that might have been a disaster two years ago is much less frightening now that the advocates of surrender have lost interest in the war.

For me, the redemptive potential of electing a black man as President is not a sufficient reason to support the candidate I consider less qualified to be commander-in-chief. But if Obama wins, my vote for the other guy will not prevent me from celebrating a joyous milestone. As Noonan wrote, this means a great deal.

Wall Street Compensation in the Bailout Era

As bonus time approaches, Wall Street firms are trying to balance the need to retain key executives against concern about the “optics” of giving boatloads of bailout money to the people who arguably created the need for the bailout.

It’s easy to sneer at what passes for frugality on Wall Street when it comes to compensation… so let’s indulge for a moment. From today’s Wall Street Journal (I think it’s a free link, but if not you can get the gist from the excerpt below):

In a sign that Wall Street is waking up to the political tempest over billions of dollars in year-end bonuses likely to be paid out at securities firms lining up for government infusions, top executives are in discussions to possibly cap their own compensation, according to people familiar with the situation….

“There are going to be some people in the financial-services industry who will show real leadership here and recognize the reality of the situation,” one senior Wall Street official said.

At least one major firm has looked at former PepsiCo Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Roger Enrico’s move in 1998 to give up his $900,000 salary. Instead, Mr. Enrico asked PepsiCo directors to fund scholarships for children of “frontline employees.” Mr. Enrico still got a $1.8 million bonus that year.

Yes indeedy, “real leadership” — give up the high six-figure salary but keep the seven-figure bonus. And of course, the 1998 bonus of a soda-pop CEO is one or even two orders of magnitude lower than what is available on Wall Street in a good year.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’m a fervent capitalist and I lean libertarian, so I believe salaries and other prices should be set primarily by markets, not by government decree. I toiled in the Wall Street vineyards for many years, mostly at Merrill Lynch, and I believe my old firm and its competitors play a crucial role in the economy. I was support staff, not a revenue producer, which meant my annual bonus was a fraction of my salary, not a multiple. But I never complained about executive comp, because when the poobahs got more money, so did the gumbies.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has renewed calls for capping compensation for executives of bailed-out companies at the $400,000 salary of the U.S. President. The idea has a lot of populist appeal — even John McCain expressed support for it during the height of the turmoil last month. (I could probably scrape by on $400K a year. I’d like to give it a shot, anyway.)

But I suspect the best financial minds on Wall Street will continue to find ways to reward themselves handsomely. If such a limit could even be enforced realistically, it would simply drive the top talent into less-regulated pursuits. Do we really want to move the center of gravity of global finance out of the public securities firms and into hedge funds?

So, what should be done about the admittedly scandalous prospect of paying zillions of dollars in bonuses with money ponied up by taxpayers? I dunno… that’s above my pay scale.

The Corner vs. the Messiahmercial

The Web Goddess and I watched the Obamavision special via DVR while snuggling together on the couch. We’re a red-and-blue couple, but in the spirit of bipartisanship, I wore a purple shirt.

I started checking out of the campaign emotionally after the final debate (see “Stick a Fork in Mac, He’s Toast“). So tonight (ok, last night) I took a couple of minor jabs at The One, but afterwards I muted the Obamatron and said to Nina, “he’s good.” I’m in the mode of trying to make the best of the coming Obama presidency, and I was impressed by the performance. His communication skills rival Reagan’s and Clinton’s. I then navigated the DVR to the new Law & Order: SVU that I missed Tuesday night. Up now with a touch of insomnia, I learn that apparently the Phillies won the World Series.

The Corner’s still on the case, however. Some of the Cornerites are trying too hard — “If any undecided voters are moved by this nearly unwatchable garbage, then we will get what we deserve.” But there’s a link to a useful AP deconstruction of the ways in which “Barack Obama was less than upfront in his half-hour commercial.” Then there was this:

I was struck by the guy at the Ford plant; it noted that his father and grandfather had worked at Ford and retired with full benefits. And now he’s only paid to work every other week. Is he suffering currently because of the state of the economy and George Bush’s economic policies, or because his dad and grandad’s union extracted exorbitant benefits and retirement packages that mean Ford is now saddled with crushing financial obligations?

… which eloquently captures the half-formed thoughts that were swirling through my mind at the time.

Nina and I both joked about the “amber waves of grain” that opened the show. Later on we saw the “purple mountain’s majesties” in the backdrop of the Albuquerque (Hi Mom!) vignette. K-Lo came through with the best dig:

“He had me at the waving wheat.” [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
That’s how Rachel Maddow began her show tonight. Must turn off MSNBC.

Woman Bites Candidate on CNN

I just set the DVR to record Obama’s half-hour, blanket-the-airwaves infomercial, since I’ll be out when it airs. It’s a good reminder that I wanted to blog about a woman-bites-candidate story I saw on CNN.

I first became aware of the existence of Campbell Brown when she questioned the significance of Sarah Palin’s role as commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard. It struck me as a fair line of questioning, albeit certainly aggressive, but the McCain camp reacted by canceling McCain’s appearance with fellow CNN talking head Larry King. That’ll fix ‘em!

To her credit, this week Campbell proved she can jump ugly in both directions:

One year ago, [Obama] made a promise. He pledged to accept public financing and to work with the Republican nominee to ensure that they both operated within those limits.

Then it became clear to Sen. Obama and his campaign that he was going to be able to raise on his own far more cash than he would get with public financing. So Obama went back on his word.

She even quoted an Obama supporter using the word “hypocrite” in describing the situation. You go, girl!

After a lively conversation in the comments of an earlier post, I’m tempted to go through Campbell Brown’s commentary line by line and look for anything that might be interpreted as “racial code,” but I suspect both she and her editors did that beforehand. If she were commentating on Fox News, people would be straining to find dog-whistle language in it.

And speaking of dogs and strained metaphors, my “woman-bites-candidate” reference is not racial code — it’s poking fun at left-leaning media.

Closer to Home…

I know you must be just aching for yet another post boasting about my recent flurry of traffic from all over the world (where the heck is Malta?), but it’s time to go hyper-local for a moment.

Susan Mangasarian, much-beloved 84-year-old matriarch of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Maplewood, NJ, led the local CROP Hunger Walk for the third year in a row Sunday on a beautiful fall afternoon. The walkers, representing several local churches, raised $2,500 for international and local hunger relief.

Previous walks have been covered in the local weekly, but this year — big-time PR guy that I am — it finally dawned on me that we might even be able to get some coverage in the Star-Ledger. After an advance call to a former co-worker from my ink-stained days in the 1980s, photographer Tim Farrell was dispatched with a long lens and a willingness to extend himself to get just the right perspective.

Susan later told a Star-Ledger reporter that fighting hunger has been a key issue for her since childhood. She was born in this country, but her parents were Armenian, and her mother often told her about how hungry the family was when they were surviving the Armenian Massacre in 1915. But the Ledger ended up running just a photo and caption, above. (No link, as the photo ran only in the print edition of the paper.)

That’s me, the paunchy guy in the middle — I’m saying, “you get what you need, Tim?” (That’s how big-time PR guys chat up the press.) The photos of Farrell are by my wife, the lovely Web Goddess, who also documented Susan’s two previous excursions. The Web Goddess also captured 56 seconds of live-action footage of this year’s walk.

Facebook Bleg

I wish I’d thought of this before my BFF Andrew Sullivan sent more than 5,000 of his readers to my “Catfight” post, but here we are. For those of you who have found your way back here, I have a “bleg” (as in “blog beg,” a parallel coinage with “blog” from “web log.” Forgive me if you already understand this, I’m explaining it for my mother. Hi Mom!).

For the rest of you, if you belong to Facebook, could you visit my Facebook blog page and click the link to become a “fan” of this blog? Here’s the page:

http://apps.facebook.com/blognetworks/blogpage.php?blogid=61111

If I get just a few more “fans” it will confirm to Facebook that I’m the owner of the site, and then I’ll be able to upload my blog posts to my Facebook page more easily. But (I hear you thinking), what do you get out of doing this?

Well, you should only do it if you think the site actually is worthy of attention, or if for some inexplicable reason you want to suck up to me. Oh wait! I thought of something else — if you think the blog is stupid, you could leave a message to that effect on my Facebook Wall.

Thanks!

“Catfight” Post Sparks a Sullivalanche


Further info about traffic on the Catfight post that sparked today’s Sullivalanche

The full daily stats have not been posted to my Google Analytics “dashboard” yet, but it turns out that doing a customized search for a time period pulls out data that is more current than the dashboard.

The graphic above shows my total traffic for the past week, as of about 5 p.m. today. If the text in the graphic is too small to read, here’s a summary: For the seven prior days, my total visitors ranged from a low of 6 (yesterday) to a high of 13. Not 6 thousand — just 6.

Today, thanks to my BFF Andrew Sullivan, as of 5 p.m. the system was showing 2,906 viewers. Virtually all of those visits came from Sullivan, according to my Feedjit live feed, although a few came from sites that linked to Sullivan’s post, such as 3 Quarks, Bloglines and Straight Dope. A bunch came from Google Reader, making me wonder how it could be that someone in Grenole, France could have my RSS feed in their Google Reader. After a few moments I realized that the French visitor in question undoubtedly has SULLIVAN’s RSS feed in their Google Reader, and they clicked on the link to me.

If you’re still here, welcome, French person!

Saturday Update: Sullivan’s post has continued to drive traffic because he has had it featured all day in his “Recent Keepers” list of posts. Google Analytics tells me the two-day total is 4,815 “Absolute Unique Visitors,” and that they came from 57 countries or territories. In order of number of visitors, those countries are:

United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Japan, France, Ireland, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Finland, Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Norway, Israel, Sweden, South Korea, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Denmark, Thailand, Puerto Rico, China, Colombia, Greece, Argentina, Vietnam, Paraguay, Mozambique, Poland, Pakistan, El Salvador, Qatar, Costa Rica, Philippines, Guatemala, Portugal, U.S. Virgin Islands, Croatia, Senegal, Indonesia, Serbia, Hong Kong, Dominican Republic, Austria, Malta, Ukraine, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, Iceland, Russia, Ghana, Italy.

Average number of page views per visit was 1.32, reflecting the fact that 80% of the visitors left the site without looking at another page. My single visitor from El Salvador, however, spent 40 minutes on the site and looked at 15 pages. Gracias, amigo!

Update 11/2: Seven more countries, for a total of 64: Singapore, South Africa, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Egypt, Kenya and Cambodia. More than 5,300 total visitors since Sullivan’s post went up. The Catfight page has gotten 6,480 page views, compared with about 2,200 combined page views for every other page for the history of the blog, including the homepage. No return visit as yet from my amigo in El Salvador (or any other Salvadoran).

OK, I’ll shut up about this now.

Catfight in The Corner! Lopez vs. Parker

Welcome, Andrew Sullivan and 3QuarksDaily readers. While you’re here, I hope you’ll take a look around and leave a comment! The “Labels” section in the right column can be used as a menu.

I’m a big fan of National Review Online’s group blog, called The Corner. It has been described as “the Id of Conservatism,” and it’s the first political blog I visit on most mornings. I visit multiple times on most days — there are a dozen or more contributors who participate with varying degrees of regularity, which means there is fresh content throughout the day.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, known as K-Lo, is the Editor of NRO. She’s also the most frequent poster in The Corner, and serves as its “Mother Hen,” keeping her predominately male colleagues in line when they spin off on tangents such as Star Trek discussions. [Sexist metaphor alert: This post contains politically incorrect, gender-specific references, starting with the headline. What can I say -- I'm a man, and men are pigs.] I disagree strongly with Lopez on social issues (she’s an anti-abortion absolutist and opposes gay equality), but I admire her work ethic and I admire, evaluated as a whole, the product she produces at NRO.

In short, I’m not a K-Lo basher (cf. Sullivan, Andrew).

But she made a cryptic post this morning that inspired me to drop everything and figure out what the heck it was about. She thereby called my attention to a column on her own site that she finds “embarrassing and outrageous,” and that I likely would not have seen otherwise.

She doesn’t link to the column in question. Whatever could she be talking about? I had a hunch, but didn’t want to leap to a false conclusion. So I did some research.

Tempted though I am to document my sleuthing with step-by-step screen captures, I have actual professional obligations to get to today. So suffice it to say that I laborious opened each and every column listed under the daily “New on NRO” digest, below:

On each column I searched for the word “Monica,” and found it, as I expected, only on Kathleen Parker’s “Tragic Flaw” column. (Hence the “catfight” reference in the headline — they’re both women, get it? Har, har, har.)

A month ago, Kathleen Parker became one of the earliest and most prominent conservatives to go public with a strong condemnation of the Palin selection, saying she should withdraw for the sake of the party and her country. Pundits and bloggers on the Left gleefully plastered links to the column all over the Internets, while a few on the Right did so more in sorrow than in anger.

Gotta wrap this up, my phone keeps ringing — a happy problem for a self-employed writer/consultant. In today’s column, Parker suggests, without actually saying it in a quotable soundbite way, that McCain picked Palin because he thinks she’s a hot babe. The “Monica” in K-Lo’s headline, as you may have guessed, is a reference to Monica Lewinsky. Here’s the closing of the column:

It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama — under any circumstances. And though it isn’t over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree [McCain apparently "proposed" to Palin under such a tree -- Ed.]. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman’s power, made the wrong call?

Had Antony not fallen for Cleopatra, Octavian might not have captured the Roman Empire. Had Bill resisted Monica, Al Gore may have become president and Hillary might be today’s Democratic nominee.

If McCain, rightful heir to the presidency, loses to Obama, history undoubtedly will note that he was defeated at least in part by his own besotted impulse to discount the future. If he wins, then he must be credited with having correctly calculated nature’s power to befuddle.

K-Lo (and apparently some readers who corresponded with her) are outraged at the idea that Parker arguably has compared Sarah Palin with Monica Lewinsky, and by extension arguably has compared John McCain with Bill “Can’t Keep it Zipped” Clinton. One can certainly interpret the column that way, but I urge you to read the whole column and consider whether the Lewinsky/Clinton analogy is central to her thesis.

I think Parker is on to something — it boils down to “men are pigs.” I don’t think McCain is nearly as big a pig, in the sexual sense, as Clinton… but I think an analogous dynamic is at work. It’s the best explanation I’ve seen for throwing caution to the winds and making the disastrous Palin selection.

I’m not a Palin-basher either, btw, at least not in any absolutist sense… I criticized the choice the day after it was made (“The Five Stages of Adjusting to Palin“), then was wowed by her convention speech (pig that I am, no doubt) and tried to make the best of until Palin became too much of a national joke. Here’s a link to all of my Palin-related posts.

Update: From the comments, Pretty Lady (who blogs about relationships, sex, politics, spirituality and other matters) offers a thoughtful personal perspective on how men relate to, well, pretty ladies:

When I adopted my blog moniker, I thought of it as a staggeringly obvious and overtly ironic joke. I was shocked to discover that it was taken absolutely seriously by the vast majority of bloggers and their commenters, and that it entirely colored their initial take on my observations.

Simply, people pay much more attention to words coming out of the mouth of a Pretty Lady. They may reflexively deride those words, or fawn on them, but they are definitely responding to context, rather than content.

Update: This post led to a Sullivalanche.

McCain Swings for the Fences with October Surprise

The five-run homer gambit (the Palin selection) didn’t work. But now McCain may have hit on a winning strategy: exposing how Barack “Lefty” Obama’s rank hypocrisy may endanger the integrity of our National Pastime:

Standing just miles north of Philadelphia, whose Phillies will represent the National League starting Wednesday against the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, McCain noted Obama has identified himself with both teams while campaigning in their two politically important home states.

Obama said over the weekend in Philadelphia that while he was a Chicago fan, “Since the White Sox are out of it, I’ll root for the Phillies now.” On Monday in Tampa, Obama was introduced by a Rays pitcher and said, “I’ve said from the beginning that I am a unity candidate, bringing people together. So when you see a White Sox Fan showing love to the Rays — and the Rays showing some love back — you know we are on to something right here.”

McCain told employees at TCI Millwork Inc. in Bensalem: “Now, I’m not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states. But I think I may have detected a little pattern with Sen. Obama. It’s pretty simple really. When he’s campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, and when he’s campaigning in Tampa Bay, he `shows love’ to the Rays.”

That’ll work. I’m still planning to vote for McCain, but man, I’m getting tired of him. And now it turns out that the RNC has spent $150,000 on clothing and accessories (presumably including lipstick) for his running mate.

Can we please just have the election already, so Mr. Obama can start planning his transition?