It’s no surprise, of course, that Barack Obama was named Time‘s Person of the Year.  In presidential election years, the winner of the election has been named POY in 12 out of 22 times, including 9 of the last 13 and 4 of the last 4. (That’s original research; I counted them up myself.  You’re welcome.)

But I was surprised when I read the magazine’s POY essay. I was expecting a glowing hagiography, reminiscent of when the just-elected Obama was sanctified by the Nobel Peace Prize committee.  Instead I found a clear-eyed assessment of the re-election effort and why it was successful.

The passage I found most persuasive is set up by a statement from the head of the campaign’s research team that “undecided voters… were making a very trust-based assessment between Obama and Romney.”

This became the through line of the brutal and at times unfair Obama attacks on Romney — the cracks about car elevators, the specious mention of his potentially felonious Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the false claim that he supported an abortion ban without a rape exception, the endless harping on a Swiss bank account once held in his wife’s name. It all spoke to a central message built around trust: One man, despite his failures, had voters like you in mind. The other man, by contrast, knew how to make a lot of money for people you will never meet.

Of course, Romney turned out to be Obama’s biggest ally in that narrative.

Indeed he did.  Romney’s “47 percent” blatherings probably ended whatever chance he might have had at victory. As the left gleefully pointed out, he ended up with 47 percent of the popular vote.

One final thought: Is anyone else puzzled by Time‘s decision to dramatically darken the Obama “Person of the Year” cover photo?  Didn’t they learn their lesson in 1994?

A breathless Market Watch

Gimme a break.

Remember Y2K?

I rang in the year 2000 in a windowless Wall Street bunker, part of a multidisciplinary rapid-response team standing by to spring into action and muster resources from across the company in the event of a disaster anywhere in the world.

I performed this solemn duty while playing video games on my laptop.  I also practiced with a putter and golf ball someone else had brought. Every three hours the team assembled for a scheduled conference call with the company’s smaller command centers around the world, giving everyone a chance to tell jokes.

All this comes to mind, of course, during the breathless countdown to the so-called “fiscal cliff.”  Wolf Blitzer shows off the ticking clock every afternoon on CNN, and there are competing websites where you can get your own ticking clock widget for your blog or website. Please don’t.

Here’s Rex Nutting of the Wall Street Journal‘s MarketWatch.com to put it into perspective:

In truth, nothing much will happen to the economy on Jan. 1 or Jan. 2 or Jan. 3, despite the expiration of tax cuts and the automatic reductions in federal spending. … The fiscal cliff is a misleading metaphor. The laws will change on that day, it’s true, but the impact will be spread out over many, many months. In fact, the effects are already being felt, particularly in financial markets. Businesses, investors, workers and consumers have begun to prepare for the changes, and that’s caused the economy to slow a bit already.

It’s not a Niagara Falls, with billions of gallons going over a cliff. It’s more like a bathtub slowly filling up. And, on Jan. 1, it’s going to spill over the edge. Eventually, it will flood the house, but that’ll take time.

Hey Rex, tell it to whoever put a countdown clock on your own website’s homepage! Mercifully, the countdown craze for this manufactured crisis has not yet spread as widely as the craze for the last manufactured crisis — the debt ceiling struggle in 2011.  Here’s my take on that countdown:

Much of the news media is guilty of malpractice for pretending that August 2 was a consequential deadline.  The cable news networks and even the Washington Post had clocks ticking down the number of hours and minutes until midnight August 2, sometimes labeling those clocks as a countdown to default.  But if the clock had struck midnight without a deal in place, the awful consequences would have been… absolutely nothing.

The country would continue to pay most of its bills, including all of its debt-servicing bills, through the time-honored business practice of “maturing their payables” — making some creditors wait.  The next major step would be a partial shut-down of government, which certainly would have ratcheted up the drama.  But we were weeks away from any danger of default.

This countdown is perhaps slightly more real than the debt ceiling because at least it ends on a date where something actually will happen, whereas the deadline for the debt ceiling was an estimate pulled out of Tim Geithner’s ear three months in advance.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce jumped on the countdown bandwagon early, but to their credit they’re not displaying it now.

As a commenter pointed out in my previous post, the January 1 deadline was created by an act of legislature, and the same legislature can vote at any time to stop the clock or overturn the law altogether. If the President and the House Republicans don’t reach a deal before January 1, both sides will begin discussing plans to undo much of the damage triggered by the law.  Then the Republicans will have to fold their tent on the tax issue, unless they want to vote against a tax cut for the middle class.

One more Y2K memory: Later that holiday weekend, when I was off duty, someone found an actual problem to report! I got an urgent call at home from the communications person who was staffing the increasingly irrelevant command center.  I was the intranet guy at the time, managing the corporate homepage for our far-flung internal website. On a locally managed site overseas (I forget where), the Y2K preparations had missed a problematic bit of code.  A script had updated by adding 1 to the two-digit field for the year, resulting in an internal page dated January 1, 19100.

OK, I said.  I’ll call them Monday.

.

When a co-worker told me late Friday about General Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director, my immediate reaction was profound sadness.  Petraeus is one of the few public servants I’ve ever admired without reservation.  Now that’s been taken from me.  (Yes, it’s about me.)

Petraeus will still be remembered as one of the greatest generals in American history.  President Lincoln supposedly said of my friend’s great-great-grandfather, “I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”  I have this fantasy of President Obama saying, “I wonder if we could find a hot biographer for some of my other generals?”

But back to me: I’ve followed Petraeus’s career off and on since he was a mere colonel walking around the Princeton campus with a briefcase in the mid-1980s.  That’s the detail I remember from the Princeton Alumni Weekly article about him — hey, there’s this guy who looks like he could be a well-dressed grad student, except he carries a briefcase.  Petraeus got two graduate degrees from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.  (I hope I’m remembering the details correctly — unfortunately, PAW articles from that far back are not available online.)

I’ve written about Petraeus a few times here, most notably in “Dog Bites Man: MoveOn.org Twists the Truth” and ““Barack Obama Better Be All In” on Afghanistan “. I know there are people who despise Petraeus, think he’s created a personality cult around himself, blah blah blah, I don’t care.  Petraeus won the war in Iraq, after taking over while it seemed to many — including a disgraceful Senate majority leader — that the war had been lost.

The silver lining in the Petraeus episode is that the debacle in Benghazi will finally get the attention it deserves.  (Note to Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein: If it was appropriate for Gen. Petraeus to testify in your closed-door hearing when he was CIA director, it’s no less appropriate now that he’s a private citizen.)  Here’s VDH with a handy list of questions you should ask:

“We were beginning to sense that the crime of Benghazi (not listening to pre-attack requests for increased security; not sending help immediately from the annex to the besieged consulate; not rushing in additional military forces during the hours-long attack) and the cover-up (inventing the video narrative of a spontaneous demonstration gone wild to support a pre-election administration narrative of an impotent al-Qaeda, a successful Libya, a positive Arab Spring, and a cool, competent Commander in Chief, slayer of bin Laden, and architect of momentous Middle East change) were not the entire story of the 9/11/2012 attack: Why was there a consulate at all in Benghazi, given that most nations have shut down their main embassies in Tripoli? Why was there such a large CIA contingent nearby — what were they doing and why and for whom? Why did the ambassador think he needed more security when so many CIA operatives were stationed just minutes away? What was the exact security relationship between the annex and the consulate, and why the apparent quiet about it? Who exactly were the terrorist hit-teams, and did they have a particular agenda, and, if so, what and for whom? All these questions had not been answered and probably would have been raised during the scheduled Petraeus testimony — which is apparently now canceled, but why that is so, no one quite knows.”

Regardless of whether the Petraeus testimony gets uncanceled, now the media is in the hunt. The Obama-supporting mainstream media had no stomach for Benghazi when they thought it might hurt their guy’s election chances.  Even after the election, until the Petraeus revelation, the media could think it would be potentially embarrassing (to the media) to dig into Benghazi too much, let’s move along, maybe there’s nothing there anyway.

But now? The CIA director admits to banging his biographer just days before he’s supposed to testify (behind closed doors) to a Congressional committee? I can practically hear some top editor at the New York Times: “HOLY CRAP!  Flood the zone! I want a reporter on every aspect of this story, we can’t let the National Enquirer scoop us like they did on John Edward’s love child! What’s the Congressional hearing about? Ben-whozi? Whatever, get someone on that too.”

I’m having some fun with this topic, but let me be clear (to borrow a phrase from my favorite currently-serving American president): Adultery is wrong.  He shouldn’t have done it.  I don’t know whether he initiated it or she did, but it doesn’t matter.  Even if she instigated the affair as relentlessly as Monica Lewinsky did, Petraeus still had a duty to resist (as did Bill Clinton).

But while what Petraeus did may be inexcusable, it’s not unforgivable. I forgive him for the minor transgression of tarnishing one of my heroes.  I hope his wife will forgive him for his far-worse offense against her. My faith tells me God will forgive him.  And unless something far worse emerges out of the coming feeding frenzy, I have no doubt history will forgive him, too.

Does Hurricane Sandy Help Obama or Romney?


To my East Coast peeps: In between charging your cell phones on the neighbor’s generator and driving around looking for gas lines, I know many of you have been wondering, “what’s Kirk’s take on how Sandy affects the election?”

In all seriousness, the election Tuesday will be far more consequential than any mere hurricane. Sandy gives Obama a chance to look presidential, which he has been taking advantage of, as he should.  It may take people’s minds off the economy in the closing days, which tends to help Obama.  It also takes attention off of the administration’s missteps regarding Benghazi, although the mainstream media is largely ignoring that story anyway. But in the end I think the storm will be a non-factor, or perhaps help Obama slightly.  I can’t see any way Sandy helps Romney, but would welcome any ideas to the contrary in the comments.

The hardest-hit states appear to be New York, Connecticut and my beloved New Jersey.  I’m quite confident in predicting that Romney will get precisely zero electoral votes from those states, which is part of why I don’t think Sandy helps Obama much.

I think it’s going to be a very close election — I just hope it’s not TOO close.  The Florida recount saga of 2000 was a national tragedy, and I would say that even if it had gone the other way. (In fact, I voted for Mr. Gore, before becoming a 9-11 Republican.)

The respected and vaguely left-leaning uber-pollster Nate Silver gives Obama an 84% chance of winning, but is careful to explain that it’s not a lopsided race, he’s going on the basis of consistent small margins in battleground-state polls. He says “For Romney to Win, State Polls Must Be Statistically Biased” — and then he also carefully explains how such bias could exist without malfeasance on anybody’s part.

Right-leaning commentator Kathleen Parker runs through a variety of factors and concludes,

Combining all the above in some sort of meta-analysis, facing East while balancing on one foot and slicing carrots on the diagonal, you have to figure Obama will be our president for another four years.  Then again, people are unpredictable.

I also like Parker’s closing words:

As for the two fine men vying for this impossible job, each should remember that no mandate comes with this victory. The winner of the pie-eating contest gets more pie.

The Web Goddess and I are without power at home, and I’m writing this in the dining room of a left-leaning friend, so I need to get it posted before my friend realizes what I’m doing.  (We are safe and dry, and our minor roof damage has already been repaired at a cost less than our deductible.)

If anybody is counting blog endorsements, count me as favoring Romney.  I think he has a better chance of prevailing than Silver’s analysis would suggest, but that’s just a gut feeling.  Ohio is key: if it gets called for either candidate early, that guy wins.  We’ll know in a few days — I hope.

Chris Matthews Has Lost the Tingle

I never thought I would link to Chris Matthews, but here he is in full panic mode after his guy’s dismal performance (2:11):

Update: to me, this is the line that shows Matthews at his most nakedly partisan:

“Listen to this stuff he [Romney] got away with! Emergency room — the latest thing we got from Romney, because he said so, is you know what I want to do with people when they’re poor? Shove ‘em in the emergency room.  Why didn’t Obama say that?”

I thought Matthews was talking about the muddled and embarrassing 47 percent speech, but I just looked at the Mother Jones transcript, nowhere there does Romney even mention the word “emergency”.  But then I found this:

QUESTION: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?

ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we — if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

C’mon, Matthews… that’s a long way from saying Romney wants to “shove” “poor people” in the emergency room.   Romney is making a distinction, which too often gets lost, between “health care” and “health care insurance,” the latter being what those 50 million people do not have.  And of course the ER is not the best way to provide routine care, nobody disputes that.  But it is a safety net for emergency care that is available to virtually all Americans.

Taking Another Look at Newt Gingrich

Much to my annoyance, Newt Gingrich has reshuffled the deck by trouncing Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary.  Coming on top of the announcement from Iowa that they think maybe Rick Santorum actually won the caucuses there (I am so glad we entrust Iowa with such a pivotal role in presidential politics), we have three contests won by three different candidates, for the first time since 1980.

I’ve already got the Romney bumper sticker on my car.  Can we just move on already?

From a conversation yesterday in the global headquarters of All That Is Necessary:

Me: “I guess I’d better stop bad-mouthing Newt Gingrich, I might have to vote for him.”

Web Goddess: “Please tell me that you won’t vote for Gingrich.  You said it yourself, he’s temperamentally unsuited to the presidency.”

Me: [one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi] “I’m planning to vote for Romney.”

It seems very clear that Marianne Gingrich’s 11th-hour attack actually helped her ex-husband. Apparently conservative qualms about infidelity are outweighed by loathing of the mainstream media.  That’s Gingrich’s theory in the interview below, where he also acknowledged that he fully expected to be put on the spot in that debate.

As Gingrich concedes in the video, if it were a popularity contest, Obama would win in a walk, “he’s a very likeable person, but the presidency is not about likeability.”  In the clip, Erin Burnett talks about a conservative voter who switched from Romney to Gingrich because the latter is “a complete person.”  Apparently one American out of 20 has been married more than twice — that’s a bit higher than I would have guessed.

A President Gingrich would not be the first serial philanderer elected to the nation’s highest office. On November 6 there’s going to be a choice between two flawed candidates. I’m still hoping one of them will be named Mitt.

A U.S. Navy sailor greets an Iranian crew member after the rescue. (Public domain photo from U.S. Navy)

If you read only one news article today, you must read the dramatic NY Times account of the U.S. Navy’s rescue of Iranians from Somali pirates.  As luck would have it, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter and photographer were embedded on one of the naval vessels.

It’s hard to pick the best aspect of this story.  There’s the irony of the U.S. rescuing Iranians. There’s the mental image of the pirates throwing grappling hooks over the rail of the target vessel.  There’s the clever tactic of setting the first set of pirates free, only to follow them to their mother ship.

In another bizarre coincidence, the U.S.S. Kidd, part of an international anti-piracy task force, happened to have on board a chief petty officer who speaks Urdu.  Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, not of Iran… but the Iranian captain was from near the Pakistani border. Even as the pirates listened, the captain was able to ask for help in Urdu.

Of course, whenever a news development reflects well on the U.S. military, some people quickly look for ways to diminish it. On CNN’s “Security Clearance” blog, someone named Larry Shaughnessy snarked:

The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus put on a full-court press Friday after the U.S. Navy rescued 13 Iranian fishermen from a group of suspect pirates. But for all the back-patting of U.S. efforts to save sailors even from an “axis of evil” country, it turns out the true hero in the whole incident was the quick-thinking Iranian captain.

Arrgh.  Props to the Iranian captain, but why go out of your way to try to tarnish what the Navy did?  I prefer to stay focused on the positive story line. Of course, I’m a sucker for any Navy-versus-pirates narrative, since I’ve got a son in the biz.

Those of you who have not yet read my previous post about Keith Olbermann — I’m looking at you, Web Goddess — must read that first before watching this wonderful video.

Hat tip: Jonah.

.

Conservatives Rally Behind Olbermann, Sort Of

Olbermann, from Wikimedia Commons

Like the good Christian I aspire to be, I try to respect people with opposing points of view.  Like the sinner I am, I make exceptions.  One of those is Keith Olbermann, he of the permasmirk and the infantile nightly “Worse, Worser and Worst Person in the World”. With his smarmy delivery and sanctimonious preening on behalf of left-wing positions, the man almost literally makes my skin crawl.

So I confess I immediately felt a frisson of delight at the news that he had been suspended indefinitely for violating MSNBC policy.  But despite charges of hypocrisy, even by liberal commentators, that label is more accurately applied to MSNBC itself than to its $30 million headliner.

Interestingly, Olbermann is getting significant support from the right flank of the blogosphere. In The Corner, Andy McCarthy adds his name to a list of conservatives who already had opined that Olbermann was getting a raw deal:

I’m with K-Lo, Jonah [Kathryn Lopez and Jonah Goldberg of NRO], Bill [Kristol of the Weekly Standard], and other lovers of free speech. If this hadn’t happened, and we didn’t know about NBC’s cockamamie policy, wouldn’t you have assumed that Keith Olbermann donated money to left-wing candidates? I certainly would have — if I had cared enough to give it a second of thought. …

Why … should MSNBC’s sparse viewership, which tunes in because it adores Olbermann and lefty pols, be deprived of their Keith-fix just because, besides promoting lefty pols, he supports them financially?

One of two things must be going on. Possibility no. 1: NBC News really is clueless: i.e., they actually believe, when they put Olbermann on “news” shows with other “objective, non-partisan journalists” like Chris Matthews, that we don’t realize opinion is being masqueraded as news — and thus they’re worried that Olbermann’s political contributions risk revealing the charade. Since it is a charade anyone who cares is already on to, consider the more likely possibility no. 2: as usual, there’s more to the story than we’re hearing.

A cynic might argue that conservatives are sticking up for Olbermann because his existence on the left provides protective cover for Fox News on the right.  In fact, a cynic has argued that.  Rachel Maddow:

“Let this incident lay to rest forever the facile, never-true-anyway, bull-pucky, lazy conflation of Fox News and what the rest of us do for a living,” she said. “I know everybody likes to say, ‘Oh, that’s cable news, it’s all the same. Fox and MSNBC, mirror images of each other.’ Let this lay that to rest forever. Hosts on Fox News raise money for Republican candidates. They endorse them explicitly, they use their Fox News profile to headline fundraisers. Heck, there are multiple people being paid by Fox News now to essentially run for office as Republican candidates….They can do that because there’s no rule against that as Fox. They’re run as a political operation; we’re not.”

Sorry Rachel, but what it lays to rest is the conceit that MSNBC is any less partisan than Fox.  Even at liberal Tina Brown’s “Daily Beast” site, Howie Kurtz points out the real hypocrisy:

On Election Night, Olbermann anchored the channel’s coverage, along with Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Lawrence O’Donnell. There was no attempt to add a conservative pundit for balance.

It’s not that I have any use for Fox News either, by the way.  Set aside the clownish Glenn Beck and the blowhards Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.  From what little I’ve watched of Fox’s sub-marquee journalists, they seem to do a serviceable job of presenting news from a conservative perspective, thereby providing an alternative to the overwhelmingly liberal mainstream media.  But I would have more respect for Fox if it owned up to its political leanings, rather than trumpeting  that Fox is “the only fair and balanced network” where “we report, you decide.”

This is a roundup of some of the best commentary I’ve seen on the bizarre dismissal of Juan Williams.  Cliff May sets the scene:

Juan Williams

So much for National Public Radio’s commitment to freedom of speech. As just about everyone now knows, NPR fired commentator Juan Williams for expressing not an opinion but a fear — one that millions of Americans almost certainly share.

“When I get on a plane,” Williams told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, “I’ve got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

This reminded me: A few years ago, I was traveling with a government official from the Middle East. His name clearly identified him as a Muslim. We were screened at two airports, and I noticed he was not searched thoroughly. He told me that was not unusual — and he was not pleased by it. Why not? Because, he said, “If they’re not scrutinizing me, who else are they not looking at? I don’t want to get killed in a terrorist attack any more than you do.”

To express that fear in public cannot be a firing offense.

Dr. K cites an unexpected authority to emphasize a similar point:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I want to start by having people look at this quote from Jesse Jackson about 18 years ago in which he says, I hope we can put it up on the screen, that when he walks down the street, hears footsteps, and he starts thinking about robbery, he looks around and when he sees someone who is white, he feels relieved.  Jesse Jackson is saying this. In other words, if the people he looked at were black, he would feel anxiety or fear.

Now, this — there is nobody in his right mind that is going to say that Jesse Jackson is a racist, anti-black racist. He’s not.

From the left flank, here’s Tim Wise (h/t Tigerhawk):

Yet what had Williams done, exactly? He acknowledged his own biases, and then explained the fallacy embedded therein. He was being honest, and in so doing, demonstrating an important fact that the nice white liberals who predominate at NPR try to deny, especially for themselves. Namely, that even the best of us can be taken in by racism, by religious bias, by ethnic chauvinism, by prejudice. No matter our liberal bona fides, the bottom line is this: advertising works, whether for selling toothpaste, tennis shoes, or stereotypes….

The only difference between Juan Williams and the people who fired him is this: Williams is honest enough to admit his own damage. And importantly, what the research on this subject tells us is that it is precisely those persons who are able to see and acknowledge their biases who are the most likely to challenge themselves, and try valiantly not to act on them. In other words, it is the Juan Williams’s of the world whose self-awareness in this regard will minimize the likelihood of discriminatory behavior. Meanwhile, it’s the liberals who deny to their dying breath that they have a “racist bone in their bodies,” or who swear they “never see color,” or insist that they are open-minded, forward thinking and free of prejudice, who are often unable to see how their internalized biases effect them, and move them around the chessboard of life without them even realizing it. Frankly, those are the ones from whom racial and religious “others” probably need the most protection.

Seth Lipsky in the Wall Street Journal describes the forces aligning against government-subsidized broadcasting:

At least one good thing has come out of National Public Radio’s firing of Juan Williams. NPR’s vice president had barely hung up the phone after informing Mr. Williams that he was being terminated—and refusing to meet with him, a long-time colleague, to discuss the matter—when the calls began for Congress to cut off funding for NPR entirely.

Bill O’Reilly… called for “the immediate suspension of every taxpayer dollar going into NPR.” Sarah Palin issued a Facebook posting called “Juan Williams: Going Rogue,” in which she wrote: “If NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it’s time for ‘National Public Radio’ to become ‘National Private Radio.’”

Then South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint issued a statement saying that he would introduce a bill to end federal funding of public broadcasting. Most significantly, the man who may be the next House Speaker, John Boehner, told National Review Online: “We need to face facts—our government is broke. Washington is borrowing 37 cents of every dollar it spends from our kids and grandkids. Given that, I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network—and in the wake of Juan Williams’ firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is.”

Jennifer Rubin:

With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

 Page 1 of 4  1  2  3  4 »