One thing I wonder about is how much do “campaign gaffes” really matter? My guess is that their perceived importance is mostly an illusion. I mean, people point to plenty of examples of campaigns that lost, in large part, “because of” this or that gaffe or damaging random thing dredged out of the record but you never see an example of a campaign that won because it successfully avoided gaffes.
With the announcement of John Peschong as John McCain’s regional campaign manager for California (McCain has a weird notion of splitting his campaign out among a bunch of different regional managers) I can only assume he’s throwing the state:
Peschong has been a campaign adviser since 2007. He has a large amount of experience in California, having served as GOP executive director there in the 1990s and recently as Northwestern political director for the Republican National Committee in 2004. He was also executive director of Dan Quayle’s political action committee.
What kind of record is that? He went from Dan Quayle’s pack to presiding over the destruction of the once-dominant California Republican Party! Or did he do it in the other order? Either way, this seems like failing upward. Or maybe he’s just failing sideways.
Blogger, economist, foodie, and author Tyler Cowen says:
Everyone who reads books on foreign policy should read this book. It is well-argued throughout and gets at fundamentals, rather than just slinging the latest epithets over our latest blunders in Iraq. I don’t in every way agree with the author’s recipe for liberal internationalism but overall this is a smarter book than whichever other tome you are likely to pick up on foreign policy.
I, however, am somewhat indifferent as to whether or not you read the book, the main point is that you should buy it. Reading, though nice, is strictly optional.
In his new book “War and Decision,” former Pentagon official and Iraq war architect Douglas Feith blames many of his former Bush administration colleagues for the war’s failures. He chastizes former Secretary of State Colin Powell for “never express[ing] opposition to the invasion,” arguing that the war could have been avoided entirely if Powell had “persuaded the president” against overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
On Fox News this weekend, Feith again went after Powell, but this time, his criticism came with a slight twist. In the span of less than one minute, Feith attacked Powell for not strongly opposing the war — as he does in his book — but he then immediately criticized him for not “wholeheartedly support[ing] it” agreeing with host Paul Gigot that Powell’s “lack of support undermined” the war effort.
FEITH: Secretary Powell, I think, would have done the country a much greater service if he — since he didn’t quite agree with the president’s policy, as he’s made clear — if he had actually debated it and put forward an alternative strategy. But he didn’t do that, nor after the president made his decision, did he wholeheartedly support it. [...]
GIGOT: Is that what you’re saying? And that lack of support undermined the effort?
FEITH: I think that’s true.
So according to Feith — once called “the stupidest f****** guy on the planet” — the war could have been avoided if only Powell had done more to stop it. But at the same time, “victory” was at hand if only Powell had been “wholeheartedly” supporting it. Perhaps scapegoating can get confusing at times when you’re consistently blaming others for your failures.
Today, Spencer Ackerman has been taking a closer look at Feith’s book, and asks, “Can Doug Feith please stop playing himself?”
Transcript: Read more
According to the Washington Times, “President Bush is poised to change course and announce as early as this week that he wants Congress to pass a bill to combat global warming, and will lay out principles for what that should include.” However, “it is not clear exactly what Mr. Bush will propose.” Although this announcement comes as we head into the Earth Day weekend, Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino claimed it’s just a coincidence.
Stephen Dinan writes that Bush and conservatives are now focusing on the possibility that “runaway” global warming legislation will cause a “disaster” and a “nightmare.” Asked about the Washington Times story, Dana Perino warned today of a “regulatory train wreck with many different laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.” Perino all but admitted this leaked announcement is a “trial balloon” to try out new right-wing talking points — when she was asked when the Bush plan would be released:
It could be never.
In fact, it is not government action that is the potential runaway train wreck, as Bush administration officials have made clear:
- Howard Frumkin, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern.”
- Dale Hall, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “We need to do something about climate change starting yesterday.”
- Stephen L. Johnson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Severe heat waves are projected to intensify in magnitude and duration over the portions of the U.S. where these events already occur, with likely increases in mortality and morbidity, especially among the elderly, young and frail.”
- Michael J. Savonis, Federal Highway Administration: “Warming temperatures are likely to increase the costs of transportation construction, maintenance, and operations. More frequent extreme precipitation events may disrupt transportation networks with flooding and visibility problems. Relative sea level rise will make much of the existing infrastructure more prone to frequent or permanent inundation.”
Their polluter-funded message of denial having finally been beaten back, the right wing is now attempting to subvert action by any means possible, including pulling the classic polluter claim that solutions are more dangerous than the problem.
But that will only be true if our response to climate change is designed by the polluters themselves.
UPDATE: A Siegel at Energy Smart debunks the Perino press conference.
The decarbonization data makes clear that if you want to beat 450 ppm and avoid catastrophic climate impacts, a significant price for carbon (plus aggressive technology deployment) is much more important than technology breakthroughs.
That is a central point of this post. That is what I learned in the mid-1990s when I helped to run the billion-dollar office at DOE in charge of federal clean energy technology breakthroughs and deployment — and had the chance to work with the top scientists and technology modelers at the national labs to figure out how we can cut emissions most quickly and cost-effectively.
The pursuit of the Holy Grail of multiple technology breakthroughs is in fact a side show — and for many, like Bush/Luntz/Gingrich/Lomborg, that pursuit is meant as a complete rhetorical distraction to the public so we can continue to avoid action, as I have repeatedly blogged (see here or here, for instance). It was specifically designed by conservative strategist Frank Luntz as a core delaying strategy (see here).
During today’s Associated Press annual meeting, the moderator asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “Are we in a recession?” McCain finally admitted, “I certainly think so,” but then tried to moderate his comment by adding, that the word “recession” is “really kind of a technical term used by people who are economists and make these kinds of judgment.” Watch it:
This admission is a drastic change for McCain. As Bill Scher at the Campaign for America’s Future notes, on Jan. 10, McCain said, “I don’t believe we’re headed into a recession. I believe the fundamentals of this economy are strong, and I believe they will remain strong.”
I don’t come into the office every day, but perhaps I should, for if I hadn’t come in today I wouldn’t have been turned on to the obscene URLs concept. Basically, some organizations have names that, while totally vanilla and inoffensive, don’t translate well to the space-free domain of the URL. Consider, for example, Pen Island “the best pens on the internet” and available at penisland.net which if you, like me, have the emotional age of a twelve year-old will find hilarious.
See more here.
“If McCain is no longer the bracing iconoclast he was in 2000, who the hell is he?” asks John Heilemann in New York Magazine today. The answer, according to at least one GOP operative, is that McCain has “morphed into Bob Dole.”
According to “an operative who worked for Dole,” one commonality beyond biography and temperament that McCain and Dole share is that like Dole in ’96, McCain currently refuses to talk about the pressing issues facing the country:
Republicans cite deeper, more worrying commonalities between McCain and Dole. “You’d fly around with Dole in 1996 and try to talk message, and all he wanted to know was who was going to be up onstage with him at the next event,” recalls an operative who worked for Dole in his pre-Viagra days. “Same deal now with McCain. He has no message outside of Iraq. What’s John McCain’s health plan? What’s his tax plan? What’s his high-tech plan? No one in a million years can tell you.”
Beyond examining the similarities between McCain and Dole, Heilemann also reveals several interesting tidbits about the contours of McCain’s campaign and his lack of knowledge about the economy:
McCain’s lack of “intellectual interest” in the economy:
Even the most loyal Republicans express concern about McCain’s economics gap. “He’s never been particularly fluent in or showed much intellectual interest toward economic matters,” says Pete Wehner, who ran the Office of Strategic Initiatives in Bush’s White House. “Can he speak fluently or compellingly about them? We’ll soon see. But it would require him to lift his game.”
McCain’s cozy relationship with lobbyists:
Even some Republican stalwarts are appalled at McCain’s coziness with the influence-peddling industry. “Can you imagine a bunch of people working for Halliburton trying to elect Cheney?” says a prominent GOP consultant. “How can that be legal? Even if it is legal, it’s never happened before. And it says a lot about what McCain has become. In 2000, he was the candidate of reform, of anger, of screw the system. Now he’s the candidate of lobbyists, endorsements, and special deals with Beltway banks.”
Karl Rove’s role in McCain’s campaign:
There are even rumors that Rove, the Architect himself, is funneling ideas through the pipeline. “There’s no official/formal relationship with Rove,” McKinnon e-mailed coyly. “Karl is on Fox a lot. We watch a lot of Fox. Karl has become an open-source consultant.” But one of the savviest Karlologists I know suspects that Rove is providing a steady stream of advice through multiple points of contact with the campaign and the national party.
I thought it might be worth saying a bit more about the popularity of this notion of raising an army of foreigners to fight the Iraq War for us. I think this is a problematic concept on its own merits, but beyond that it’s illustrative of the unseriousness of a lot of hawkish commentary these days. We all understand why a draft is politically unfeasible and regarded by the military brass as undesirable anyway. But what about a more serious effort by the big minds behind the endless war policy to get people to sign up?
Michael O’Hanlon is slightly too old for the army, but I bet he’s got some fighting-age research associates and interns over there at Brookings. Barbara and Jenna Bush could sign up, and so could the seemingly unemployed Meghan McCain. Fred Kagan’s eligible to serve at 38 as are various other AEI fellows. But beyond individual people, the institutions of the conservative movement writ large could be encouraging young conservatives to go sign up. They could be selflessly offering to wage the battle of ideas purely with the too old, the disabled, and the openly gay as their comrades in arms, while urging young and healthy rightwingers to go sign up. Not only would that have some direct impact on the manpower situation, but the demonstration effect on the remaining pro-war 30-35 percent of the country could be large. Meanwhile, if it worked it would be a significant rejoinder to criticisms from Democrats and others that the force is being unduly strained.
But it’s not happening and it’s not going to happen. And the significance of that observation isn’t to call the people who aren’t making it happen “chicken.” The point is just that if, chicken or not, you really thought Iraq was the central front in a world-historical struggle against Islamofascism you’d be leading recruiting drives. You’d be signing up yourself if eligible to serve, and you’d be encouraging young people over whom you have some sway or influence to do the same. But though a lot of people say all kinds of things about the enormously high stakes in Iraq, few people’s revealed preferences indicate that they believe it. I don’t think it makes sense to say that everyone who favors some given military operation has an obligation to join the service (among other things, I’m familiar with more than one person who decided to enlist after 9/11 in order to fight al-Qaeda and wound up in Iraq) but in light of the fact that there are very real recruiting problems it seems like something that ought to be taken more seriously. But at a minimum, it seems to me that people ought to bring their war-related rhetoric more in line with their actual war-related behavior.
UPDATE: Important factual error-like thing in the post, Jason Zengerle notes that McCain has a son in the Marines and another in the naval academy. I didn’t know that McCain even had sons. That obviously puts the point about Meghan McCain in a very different context.