To bolster what Ryan Avent is saying here, I don’t care how much of a free trader you are, it’d be bizarre to make trade policy the decisive factor in your presidential preference this year. It’s clear enough that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain is going to somehow repeal NAFTA or undo the WTO. Meanwhile, it’s also clear enough that neither Obama nor McCain is going to get the new congress to agree to any major new trade agreements. Beyond that, the collapse of the Doha Round makes it seem like even a president very eager to sign new trade agreements would have difficulty coming up with any new ones to sign.
Trade is an interesting subject, but it just not a policy area likely to shift a great deal over the next few years no matter who wins. The most important trade-related thing we could do at this point has to do with agriculture, but structural issues in American politics that have nothing to do with the identity of the President make it very unlikely that anything will change. If you really care about moving the ball forward, trade-wise, what’s needed is some smart ideas about practical approaches to farm policy reform.
In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Robert Kagan, a leading member of John McCain’s war cabinet, dismissed wrongdoing by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq war as “conspiracy theories”:
SPIEGEL: Isn’t it true that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld took advantage of the outrage over the 9/11 terrorist attacks to strike Iraq? Is it even possible anymore to deny that the war was based on manipulation, exaggeration and flat-out lies? [...]
KAGAN: In retrospect, we have to admit that Washington could have waited a while longer. That’s a different question. But I think it’s about time we moved beyond this silly conversation and these absurd conspiracy theories.
Matt Duss at the Wonk Room writes, “We can ‘move beyond this silly conversation’ when people like Robert Kagan cease pretending that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Feith, et al were arguing in good faith about the need to invade Iraq, and stop dismissing the overwhelming evidence of their dishonesty as ‘conspiracy theories.’”
I got confused by the devilish Pacific Time and didn’t realize that the season’s first NBA game was already on! Suffice it to say, I ought to commit to some predictions. I say LA over Boston in the Finals. LA over Utah in the Western Conference Finals. Boston over Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. Other East playoff teams — Cleveland, Philadelphia, Orlando, Miami, Toronto, Chicago. Other West playoff teams — Houston, Portland, San Antonio, Phoenix, Clippers.
Michael Rubin snipes at Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi from the Corner:
Since Rashid Khalidi has, by his close friendship to Senator Obama, returned to prominence, it may be worth revisiting the quality of Khalidi’s scholarship and how he subordinates scholarly integrity to polemic.[...]
Khalidi’s influence upon Obama might subordinate basic human rights to the virulent form of Arab nationalism that led to the Anfal.
First, Khalidi hasn’t “returned to prominence,” he is prominent by virtue of being one of the leading Middle East scholars in the United States.
Third, Rubin’s lazy and baseless slander of Khalidi — suggesting that Khalidi somehow espouses an ideology sympathetic to Saddam Hussein’s 1986-89 genocide against the Kurds — is really contemptible, degenerate stuff. (Those kinds of unsubstantiated insinuations might have flown in Feith’s shop, pal, but not out here in the world.) In reality, Khalidi is a big supporter of human rights. The real problem, at least as Rubin and assorted Corner nuts are concerned, is that Khalidi is also a supporter of human rights for Palestinians.
I understand Rubin’s hostility toward Khalidi, though. Rashid Khalidi is a highly regarded academic whose work is taken seriously, whereas Michael Rubin is a second-tier neocon hack known for having served as one of Doug Feith’s oompa-loompas. That’s got to sting a little.
After Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen as Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) running mate, the McCain campaign and its conservative supporters began arguing that Alaska’s proximity to Russia meant that Palin had foreign policy experience. But the claim soon became a punchline, being brutally mocked by Saturday Night Live. In mid-September, top McCain adviser Mark Salter defended the argument, saying that “they have, like, fishing disputes“:
I asked Salter if he had a sense of Governor Palin’s grasp of national security issues. He brought up the Russia talking point, amplifying it thusly: “They border Russia. People mock that. But they have, like, fishing disputes.”
Today in an interview with CNBC, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) blasted unions:
But this is — we’ve been talking about it for a long time — this is a threat to the fundamental of labor-management relations. It’s fundamental to democracy, the right to have a secret ballot.
The way that Senator Obama envisions — and the unions, and this is their big push, they’ve gotten commitments from Senator Obama and Senator Biden — union organizer goes to your house and says, Hey, Joe, can I sign you up for the union?
That is — we all know what that opens the door to. It’s dangerous for America, it’s dangerous to small business. And I think it’s a threat to one of the fundamentals of democracy.
Despite McCain’s claim, the EFCA preserves workers’ rights to secret balloting. However, it also gives workers the option to form a union through a “card-check” system, in which a union would be recognized if a majority of workers signed a petition testifying to their desire to organize.
Right now, there isn’t a true balance in “labor-management relations”; management has all the power. Workers can only use a card-check system if their employers approve it. CAPAF’s David Madland writes on other problems with the current process:
Employers legally can force workers to attend anti-union meetings, including “one-on-one conversations” with supervisors, which happens in over 90 percent of organizing campaigns, according to a Cornell University study. And according to research by University of Oregon professor Gordon Lafer, workers often are pressured by employers to reveal their private preferences for the union. This takes the “secret” out of the “secret ballot” — the most common conservative mischaracterization of current union organizing rules.
Workers who unite in unions have fairer pay and benefits—and when working families have more in their paychecks to spend, it stimulates economic growth. … Workers need a simple, easy way to join unions without management interference. The Employee Free Choice Act provides for workers to have a union when a majority sign up — majority rule, that is the American Way.
McCain’s indignation that organizers may go to people’s homes to persuade them to vote a certain way also seems odd. Perhaps he will be pulling his door-to-door canvassing operation as well?
Steve Benen says that John McCain is once again breaking out his “Tiny” ad which complains about Barack Obama’s accurate observation that the scale of the threat posed by Iran is much smaller than the threat posed by the Soviet Union. An excellent opportunity to once again break out one of my favorite maps:
Consider that had the US been able to wipe out 99 percent of the Soviet nuclear arsenal in 1982, I think we would have considered that a devastating blow to Soviet military capabilities. And yet, the post-wipeout USSR would have had more conventional land forces, more air power, more sea power, a larger population, a larger land area, a larger economy, and even many more nuclear weapons (which is to say many more than zero) than Iran has today. So, yes, the Iranian threat is tiny compared to the Soviet threat.
In today’s White House press briefing, Dana Perino said the White House would “decline to comment” on the recent conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and whether he should resign:
Q: Sen. McCain today said Sen. Stevens should resign. Does the President believe Sen. Stevens should resign?
PERINO: Well given that Sen. Stevens has said that he’s going to fight his conviction and that he’s going to appeal, and that is his right to do, since it’s going to be a matter of ongoing litigation, we’ll decline to comment for now.
After Stevens was indicted, Bush attended an event in Alaska alongside Stevens. “The United States military has had no better support and stronger friend than Sen. Ted Stevens. Thank you for coming, Senator,” Bush said in August.
After the Lewin Group released its analysis of Sen. John McCain’s health care plan, the McCain campaign and even some in the media, have used the report to argue that McCain’s plan would cover about 20 million uninsured Americans and save millions:
- Jay Khosla, McCain policy adviser: But our internal estimate all along had been that we would cover anywhere between 25 million to 30 million uninsured. Lewin said it’s about 21 million. [Kaiser Foundation Webchat, 10/16/2008]
- Maria Bartiromo, host of Wall Street Journal Reports: According to a recent study by the independent Lewin Group, both candidates plans would reduce the total number of uninsured by the year 2010. Obama’s plan mandates coverage for children under 19. In the 55 to 64 age range, Senator McCain would reduce the number of uninsured by 25 percent, compared with the 52 percent under Obama’s plan. [CNBC, 10/19/2008]
- McCain campaign: “A recent Lewin Group study estimated savings of more than $1,400 per American family – almost three times the savings as under the Obama plan.” [JohnMcCain.com]
- Robert Carroll, Tax Foundation: “The Lewin Group, a respected private health-care research outfit, recently estimated that the McCain credit would increase the number of insured by as much as 21 million.” [WSJ, 10/27/2008]
But as the Wonk Room argued earlier this month, Lewin’s conclusion that McCain’s health care plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 21.1 million and cost $2.05 trillion dollars is the black-sheep of the candidates’ health care comparisons. In fact, their conclusion paints a more favorable picture of McCain’s proposal precisely because it ignores the consequences of opening the health insurance market to unfettered market competition, overstates the purchasing power of McCain’s health credit and the quality of individual health insurance plans.
Remember, McCain has a record that is as strongly anti-solar and anti-renewable as that of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the global-warming denier from the U.S. oil-patch (see here). McCain voted with Inhofe and against clean energy a staggering 42 out of 44 times in the past two decades.
Why does McCain vote against solar and other renewables even though he comes from a state that could supply the country’s electricity needs by itself with solar energy? Because, as he asserted last year, he believes that solar is among the “clean technologies [that] don’t work.” Similarly, Palin said in August:
That’s right. She’s appearing at a solar energy company even though she thinks alternative energy would take more than 10 years to develop.
If conservatives like McCain had succeeded in the mid-1990s and shut down all clean energy R&D at the Department of Energy (DOE) where I worked, the kind of second-generation thin film solar technology that Xunlight has commercialized would never have happened, because it was the DOE that helped usher that technology into the market.
As for Palin’s specific remarks, no doubt she will repeat and expand upon the multiple lies and distortions she made in her acceptance speech: