I’ve had it with Hillary

In the discussion of the rules committee decision about what to do with Michigan and Florida delegates on the morning shows today they said that Hillary's campaign had actually bussed in protesters from Florida.  (Here's a nice story in the Post summarizing the whole nature and history of the dispute).  This is just too much!  though preferring Obama, I used to think that Hillary would make a good president– I think she has incredible policy smarts and underappreciated political skills.  But this ridiculous fight for the Florida and Michigan delegates has really turned me off.  I might not go as far as Jonathan Chait in his criticism, but maybe close:

Hillary Clinton's rhetoric today
about counting the results in Florida and Michigan is simply
incredible. Her speech compares discounting the Florida and Michigan
primaries to vote suppression and slavery:

 Those people, she said ?refused to accept their assigned place as
second-class citizens. Men and women who saw America not as it was, but
as it could and should be, and committed themselves to extending the
frontiers of our democracy. The abolitionists and all who fought to end
slavery and ensure freedom came with the full right of citizenship. The
tenacious women and a few brave men who gathered at the Seneca Falls
convention back in 1848 to demand the right to vote.?

It's worth repeating: They supported this “disenfranchisement.” Here's a New York Times story from last fall, headlined, “Clinton, Obama and Edwards Join Pledge to Avoid Defiant States.”

Moreover, it's obviously true that Obama not campaigning,
organizing, or advertizing in those states hurt him, and helped the
more familiar candidate in Clinton. She decided to campaign to change
the rules only after it became her interest to do so.

This gambit by Clinton is simply an attempt to steal the nomination.
It's obviously not going to work, because Democratic superdelegates
don't want to commit suicide. But this episode is very revealing about
Clinton's character. I try not to make moralistic characterological
judgments about politicians, because all politicians compromise their
ideals in the pursuit of power. There are no angels in this business.
Clinton's gambit, however, truly is breathtaking.

If she's consciously lying, it's a shockingly cynical move. I don't
think she's lying. I think she's so convinced of her own morality and
historical importance that she can whip herself into a moralistic
fervor to support nearly any position that might benefit her, however
crass and sleazy. It's not just that she's convinced herself it's okay
to try to steal the nomination, she has also appropriated the most
sacred legacies of liberalism for her effort to do so. She is proving
herself temperamentally unfit for the presidency.

I think “steal” the nomination is a little strong, but she clearly has absolutely no compunction about situational ethics or breaking rules in pursuit of power.  That bothers me.  And, I think Chait wrote this post before Hillary outrageously started comparing this to Robert Mugabe's election stealing in Zimbabwe.  Hillary's not going to win this fight, but she dramatically demeans herself by fighting it.



McClellan: The Star Witness against George Bush

If you've not read of the recent revelations from Scott McClellan, Bush's former press secretary, John Dickerson has the most interesting summary I've read so far.  A brief highlight from Dickerson:

In general, McClellan describes the president as someone who lacks
inquisitiveness and is also deceitfully self-delusional. Long money
quote: “As I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to
believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his
needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in court who does not
want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about
perjuring himself. So he says, 'I do not recall.' The witness knows no
one can get into his head and prove it is not true, so this seems like
a much safer course than actually lying. Bush, similarly, has a way of
falling back on the hazy memory defense to protect himself from
potential political embarrassment. Bush rationalizes it as being
acceptable because he is not stating unequivocally anything that could
be proven false. If something later is uncovered to show what he knew,
then he can deny lying in his own mind.”

McClellan's account adds
another set of insider anecdotes to the already heaping stack built by
previous Bush officials and advisers. Paul O'Neill first described the
president's blindness to inconvenient facts six years ago when he
talked about Bush's lack of appetite for “analytical rigor, sound
information-gathering techniques and real, cost-benefit analysis.” The
list of administration officials turned bashers includes John Dilulio, Larry Wilkerson, Rand Beers, Richard Clarke, David Kuo, Paul Pillar, and Matthew Dowd.

As Dickerson makes clear, we really don't learn all that much new from McClellan.  It is largely, further, stronger evidence that Bush is disturbingly lacking in intellectual curiosity, willfully ignorant of unpleasant information, and capable of amazing feats of self deception.

What's so compelling about McClellan's account is that he's truly a long-time Bush loyalist, since way back in the Texas days, not just someone who joined the administration in Washington.  For McClellan to make this strong indictment against Bush really adds something.  One of the key lessons from my Psychology of Attitudes class back in grad school was the importance of the source and source credibility in persuasion.  For a long-time, loyal supporter to make these accusations makes them all the more persuasive, despite the White House's pitiful attempts to swat them down (i.e., a “disgrunteld former employee”).  

This got me thinking, if there were a trial against George W. Bush, McClellan would now definitely be the star witness.  As for this trial, if it were a civil trial, I think you could safely conclude that the case against George Bush reaches the standard of “clear and convincing” evidence.  At this point, given the evidence on Bush's flaws of character, decision-making, and presidential management, it is simply unreasonable to reject the ever-growing chorus highlighting these serious flaws in Bush and his administration. 

The fact that Karl Rove has now famously characterized McClellan's revelations as something that seemed as if it came from a “left-wing blogger” I think also speaks tremendously well of the left-wing blogosphere.  We've been saying these things about Bush for years, and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests these criticisms are true.  When it comes to the most accurate depiction of the Bush administration, it may very well exist in mainstream, left-wing blogs.  The mainstream so-called liberal media (i.e., the Times, Post, etc.) is so hung up on “fairness” that they typically give Bush much more of the benefit of the doubt than the evidence suggests he deserves.  To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, quite simply the truth has a liberal bias (at least in the case against GWB), and to report otherwise is to introduce a new form of bias. 

“Merely” Nazi slave labor

I'm not interested in being like the right wing nuts and blaming the whole liberal establishment for the crazy statements of a few fringe elements, but Fox news is not exactly a fringe element.  The story (via The Carpetbagger Report):

On Wednesday, Republicans collectively went completely berserk
after Obama said a great-uncle had helped to liberate the Auschwitz
death camp at the end of World War II. Once they realized Obama had a
great-uncle who had actually helped to liberate Buchenwald, the first
camp liberated by Americans, and Obama just misspoke about the Nazi
camp in question, conservatives slinked away, waiting for the next
manufactured outrage to come up.

But before we leave this non-story altogether, it?s worth pausing to consider what else Obama?s GOP detractors said about this.

Fox News, for example, was even more shameless than usual. One of
the hosts of ?Fox and Friends? said, ?It wasn?t Auschwitz. It was a
labor camp called Buchenwald.? As part of the same segment, Fox News
ran this all-caps message on its bottom-of-the-screen ticker: ?Ohrdruf
was a work camp, rather than an extermination camp.?

It is amazing that some would stoop to trying to diminish the horrors of Buchenwald for cheap political points.  And, in case your curious about the reality of Buchenwald:

Menachem Rosensaft,
founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish
Survivors and a leader of the Second Generation movement of children of
Holocaust survivors, who was not at all pleased with Republican smear efforts this week.

I never thought I?d see the day when the Holocaust would
be used as a tool for ?gotcha? politics. But over the last two days, we
have seen John McCain?s supporters at the Republican National Committee
and at Fox News launch tasteless attacks on Barack Obama. In their
attempt to score a few political points, they have diminished the
experience of those who suffered and died at Buchenwald, and
disrespected the service of the heroic American troops who liberated
them. [?]

Here are some facts about Buchenwald, which is one of the most
notorious Nazi concentration camps. At this ?work camp,? prisoners were
often worked, starved, tortured, or beaten to death. Sometimes they
were simply murdered. Roughly 250,000 people were imprisoned there
between 1937 and 1945, many of them Jews. Over 50,000 people lost their
lives.

Just a “labor camp.”

How much will the electoral college matter in 2008?

Josh Patashnik has a great article in The New Republic discussing how all of the media focus on the electoral college lately is way overblown– surely in large part due to the trauma of 2000.  What I especially love about this article is that he uses all sorts of actual Political Science research to make his case.  Basically, the electoral college almost never matters unless the popular vote is extraordinarily close, and there's no reason to expect that to be the case this year:

It's
highly unlikely Obama will win the popular vote while losing the electoral
college–in fact, it's all but impossible unless the popular vote is
exceptionally close, as it was in 2000. But, on the off-chance Obama's trouble
in those states does end up looming large, history gives little reason to
believe that putting Rendell or Strickland on the ticket would do much to help.

At the moment, Electoral College obsession
is once again overtaking the punditocracy, so please forgive me if I'm pointing
out the obvious: The Electoral College very rarely matters, and our current fixation
on it is mostly a product of memories from the Bush-Gore race. Before that year,
only once in American history–1888–had a candidate won a popular-vote
plurality while legitimately losing the presidency in the Electoral College.
(The election of 1876 doesn't
count
, and in 1824 the vote went to
the House of Representatives.) In both 1888 and 2000, moreover, the national
popular vote was extremely close–a margin of 0.8 percent and 0.5
percent, respectively.

Once the national popular-vote margin gets much greater than
that, it quickly becomes prohibitively difficult for a losing candidate to
prevail in the Electoral College.

What I most appreciated about the article was the argument that we cannot say things like “if only 60,000 votes in Ohio had changed” in a vacuum.  To wit:

More importantly, though, votes don't just spontaneously
shift in one key state. A major insight
from the 2004 campaign, on the part of strategists like Bush's Matthew Dowd, is
that votes are determined less by one's physical location than by factors like
demography and lifestyle choices: A Bush voter in Ohio
looks like a Bush voter in California.
As Bill Bishop argues in his recent book, The Big Sort , as Republicans and Democrats diverge from each other in their living
patterns, they increasingly resemble their partisan compatriots across state
borders.As a result, any event or trend capable of producing a swing
of 60,000 votes in Ohio from Bush to Kerry
would almost surely have had some effect outside of Ohio. If the effect had been distributed proportionally
throughout the country, a swing of 60,000 votes in Ohio would correspond to a swing of around 1.5 million votes nationally–enough to erase Bush's 3-million-vote lead
in the popular vote. Or, in 2000, suppose Al Gore's margin of victory in the
national popular vote had been 1.5 percent, rather than 0.5. That amounts to a
net gain for Gore of more than 1 million votes, and about 60,000 in Florida, if distributed
equally throughout the country. Just a fraction of that figure would have given
him the presidency, recount or no recount.

He concludes with a nice summary of some political science that I think puts things in proper perspective:

These questions are part of a larger debate in political
science: Can the outcomes of presidential campaigns shift significantly as a
result of campaign quirks, or are they determined largely by underlying
economic and political fundamentals? For the most part, the latter view has won
out–and it suggests
that the Democratic nominee is headed for a relatively comfortable win.
Of
course, the candidacy of Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton, for that
matter)
makes 2008 the first election that won't have two white male
candidates, and therefore something of a historical anomaly. The race
could end up being
a 2000-style nail-biter–and, in that case, there's a small possibility
that electoral math and running mates will make a difference. But if
things do play
out as they have for decades, a lot of hyperventilating pundits will
have egg on their faces.

So…1) If Obama (or McCain) end us with a good lead in the polls in early November, forget about all the electoral college fuss.  2) Political Science research quite strongly suggests that this is a Democratic year, regardless of what Obama and McCain actually do in the campaign.

Rush Limbaugh really is a big, fat idiot.

Alright, you probably knew that already. Anyway, a friend of mine, Scott Fitzpatrick, is an archeologist here at NC State (I do like to refer to him as NC State's own Indiana Jones).  He recently hit the media big time– though, not the CBS Early Show :-)– with a recent paper that suggests El Nino influenced Magellan's historic circumnavigation.  From Science Daily (and picked up by all sorts of national publications):

A new paper by North Carolina State University archaeologist Dr. Scott
Fitzpatrick shows that Ferdinand Magellan's historic circumnavigation
of the globe was likely influenced in large part by unusual weather
conditions — including what we now know as El Niño — which eased his
passage across the Pacific Ocean, but ultimately led him over a
thousand miles from his intended destination.

Apparently this came across Rush Limbaugh's desk and provided further evidence for Rush's global warming denialism.  The man's ignorance truly is breathtaking.  Listen here.

How is this person writing for the Post?

So, last week I wrote a post criticizing a Marie Cocco column in the Post that made a reasonable argument that Hillary's campaign reveals that sexism and misogyny are more widespread and acceptable than racism, but made the argument with embarrassingly thin evidence.  This week she's back with a column that embarrasses last week's.  The lede:

A woman? Yes. But not that woman.

It is the platitude of the moment, an automatic rejoinder to any
suggestion that Hillary Clinton has struggled so desperately — and so
far unsuccessfully — to grasp the Democratic presidential nomination
in some measure because she is female.

It isn't the woman part, the rationale goes. It's the Clinton
part: that “polarizing” persona and “unlikable” demeanor. The
unappetizing thought of President “Billary.” The more inspirational
quest by Barack Obama to become the country's first black president.

Yet the question remains: If not now, when? If not Hillary, who?

This argument is so facially ridiculous it is hardly worth debunking.  Somehow, me and my fellow Obama supporters (heck, a bunch of academics, some of the most feminist people I know), are actually just closet sexists.  Cocco's onto me– I may teach a Gender & Politics class, but no way could I want a woman president.  Furthermore, the idea that if not Hillary we can forget about a woman president for the next 20-30 years is self-evidently ridiculous.  Who would have predicted 10 years ago that Hillary Clinton would have come oh-so-close to achieving the presidency.  The growing consensus in all the campaign post-mortems I've read this week is that if she had run a campaign as smart as Obama's, she almost certainly would have been the Democratic nominee (in a great year to be the Democratic nominee).  There's more inanity in the column, but I'm not going to waste my time writing about it further.  For now, I'll just lament that the Washington Post's very valuable op-ed space is being wasted on such poor opinion pieces.

Of gender, education, and spin

There's been a lot of talk in recent years about a growing gap in
elementary and secondary education to the detriment of boys.  The basic
idea being that our educational system is not as geared to the success
of boys, so that they are falling behind girls.  This week, the
American Association of University Women (AAUW), released a report arguing that the “crisis” in boys education is a myth
Based on the evidence presented in the report, it is definitely fair to
argue that there is not a “crisis” for boys.  Boys lag girls in literacy, but the size of the gap is not increasing, and both boys and girls are improving.  The take-away point is that, education is not a zero-sum game, i.e., girls gains are not coming at the expense of boys.  So, just because girls may be gaining faster than boys, is not a problem.  On the other hand, how would people react if we said, whites' scores are going up faster than Blacks, but that's not a problem.  Still, definitely fair to say its not a crisis. 

What really bugged me about this was the spin of the report (and the Post article).  As the article says, “The most important conclusion of “Where the Girls Are: The Facts About
Gender Equity in Education” is that academic success is more closely
associated with family income than with gender, its authors said.”  No s***.  Please!  Anybody who know anything about social science knows that socio-economic status tends to dwarf all other variables in explaining practically anything.  Again, it's like saying, well, sure there may be racism, but blacks have low incomes, so we're not going to worry about racism because income status explains more.  So, I don't doubt the empirical findings of this study, but it strikes me as intellectually dishonest to try and place the emphasis on socio-economic factors and ignore real gender differences as a result.

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