Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Scores

“[In picking a vice president,] the primary responsibility is to select one who will immediately take your place if necessary”

--John McCain, November 28, 2007

OK, that was yesterday’s wisdom. As I have written, Obama goofed, and it was up to McCain—blessed with the opportunity to go second—to capitalize on Obama’s error of bypassing a female in the year Clinton produced 50% of the electoral excitement. I’m so impressed McCain did what he had to do: pick a woman. Palin is better than Hutchinson (a Washington insider) or Firoina (discharged CEO). Good going, John!

Here are three reasons, from many, McCain did right:


"Barack Obama should have begged Hillary Rodham Clinton to be on his Democratic ticket. John McCain may well be about to bring that chilling fact home to Barack Obama."

--Tennessee Guerilla Women (a blog)

Obama proved too weak to take the Clintons on board; his weakness contrasts with Kennedy’s strength in 1960, when JFK added near enemy Lyndon Johnson to his ticket in order to win (Reagan did the same with Bush 41 in 1980).


“McCain has to be bold and daring and take the election away from the Democrats. . . Pawlenty is safe in a year when McCain needs to be bold.”

--Jay Cost


[Palin] gives fence-sitting whites who feel they ‘ought’ to vote for Obama because of the historic nature of his candidacy an excuse to find history on the other side”

--Noah Millman

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The “New Class”

Conservative commentator Michael Medved articulates a strong contradiction coming out of the Denver Democratic convention that I had felt, not yet verbalized. Democrats are full of stories of how they (Biden, Hillary, Michelle and brother, Barack, Virginia’s John Warner) rose from modest beginnings in the great American self-reliance, hard work, family values tradition. But then all say we need government to help everyone else. As Medved puts it, “these smug and preening politicians suggested that we’re brilliant and strong and special enough to make it to the top without government help, but most of the mere mortals who are watching us on TV will get nowhere at all unless we somehow use taxpayer money to assist them.”

Medved adds,

The contradictions emanating from the Democratic convention—praising individual stories of opportunity and upward mobility, while decrying the general disappearance of opportunity and mobility-- actually mirror the most puzzling anomaly of recent public opinion polling. By overwhelming majorities, Americans describe the state of the country as dire and desperate, while similarly lopsided majorities rate their own status as successful, satisfying and optimistic.

Medved attributes the contradiction to “media alarmists and complaints from politicians” that have convinced Americans “the nation at large teeters on the verge of collapse and destruction.”

I think these Democrats are sincere. Blessed with extraordinary talent that explains their success, they truly believe it’s government that will elevate the rest of us, who compared to them, indeed do “teeter on the verge of collapse and destruction.” These Democarts are the “vanguard of the proletariat,” Milovan Djilas’ “New Class." And as outdated as the Soviet Union.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Advice for Obama

You have to laugh. Dan Gerstein, who describes himself as a Democratic strategist, begins his Wall Street Journal opinion piece “Obama Should Just Be Himself” by rejecting the off-broadway play’s pitch, “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.” Gerstein suggests Obama doesn’t have to change at all to win.

Gerstein then tells Obama to advocate education reform, saying, “No challenge is more consequential for our country than closing the achievement gap in our urban schools and raising the competitiveness of our workforce. And no special interest has done more to stand in the way of change in our public schools than the teachers unions that dominate Democratic politics.” Gerstein wants Obama to “embrace [the] aggressively pro-innovation set of principles" of Gerstein's client, Democrats for Education Reform.

As we saw earlier, Obama has yet to favor education reforms that union members see as sticks, not carrots. “You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

To Rule in a Democracy, One First Listens

America has a ruling class. Its parts control both parties. The larger part of the ruling class is Democrat, has been since the late 1960s, and became increasingly so with the presidency of George Bush, who represents the party hardy, rich kids the hardworking wealthy majority learned to detest in college (all I really need to know I learned at freshman orientation). For America’s meritocracy, the enemy is the lazy and overpaid—mostly Republican.

Republicans, a minority of their class, in the 1960s linked up with “the Silent Majority”, Middle Americans who felt left out of the Democratic Party that intellectuals took over in 1968. Intellectuals were limousine liberals who escaped Vietnam and pushed racial equality in working class neighborhoods and schools. Middle America still believes in God, and associated much of what’s wrong in America—feminism, sexual freedom, crime, legal abortion, bussing, affirmative action—with the rise of secularism. And Middle America, which disproportionately died in Vietnam, believed America stands for principles worth dying for overseas.

The 1960s change, which politically led to Republicans controlling the White House, Congress, or both after every election beginning in 1968 except 1976, 1978, and 1992—34 of 40 years—means Republicans are a minority of the ruling class, but the natural ruling party of a center-right, faith-based country.

Democrats want the political power that comes from controlling the White House. As leftwing blogger Glenn Greenwald, in ironically put it (Greenwald thinks he’s a representative of the masses, as in “vanguard of the proletariat”): “Preserving ‘the centralization of government power in the White House’ is the best and most effective means devised thus far for allowing the political elite to run the country without interference from the dirty, stupid masses. . .”

Whether or not Democrats capture the presidency depends on whether or not they can view the country the way average Americans do. In a democracy, winners don’t ignore “the dirty, stupid masses,” they fight on their behalf.

McCain Should Pick Kay Bailey Hutchison for Veep

I said the next vice president should be a woman. Obama goofed. Now it’s set up for McCain to pick a woman vice president. Dick Morris has pointed out that there is only a 2% difference between men and women backing Obama. Historically, says Morris, 10-15% more women than men back the Democrat. Women are upset Obama passed over his historical opportunity to select Clinton, so seem to be withholding their support.

Morris says McCain should capitalize on Obama’s error by selecting Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Martin Sieff at dismisses former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina, my previous choice, saying McCain will suffer by associating with a CEO-type in an election where corporations are unpopular. Sieff also backs Hutchison as the only possible female choice. So do I.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Elitist

“John McCain can’t remember how many houses he owns.”

-- Gov Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

If Obama seems disconnected from Middle America, what’s one to say about John McCain, who with his wife may have twelve houses? Even though Obama and his wife made $4 million over the past two years, the McCains seem to be richer. McCain appears unfocused on the economy issue, and Democrats are saying, “no wonder.”

If the economy is bad, and if world events allow the economy to be the issue that decides the election, McCain loses. Having too many houses helps him lose bigger.

I’m puzzled as to why McCain’s gaffe on his number of houses doesn’t just knock him out of the race right here and now. I’m getting it wrong, I think, because I'm an intellectual, not a working class voter. Working stiffs, as opposed to intellectuals, expect their leaders to be richer, so McCain’s houses aren’t so big an issue. What does matter is whether or not the candidates really understand working class problems, and more important, whether candidates have a way to fix them.

Since 1968, Republicans have understood the average voter worries about a government that takes more than it gives. Democrats are the party of government, and gain power when people believe government will give them more than it will take. 2008 seems such a time. That’s why it’s so important for Republicans to build mistrust in Obama’s true agenda. Obama being different from working class voters, not being one of them, is a worry. He may take from them to help some other group. McCain, for all his houses, seems to be a regular guy. Is Obama?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Washington Post Ombudsman Owns Up to Media Bias

"It doesn't look good," writes Deborah Howell, the Washington Post's ombudsman [picture]:
Democrat Barack Obama has had about a 3 to 1 advantage over Republican John McCain in Post Page 1 stories since Obama became his party's presumptive nominee June 4...In overall political stories from June 4 to Friday, Obama dominated by 142 to 96. Obama has been featured in 35 stories on Page 1; McCain has been featured in 13, with three Page 1 references with photos to stories on inside pages...This dovetails with Obama's dominance in photos, which I pointed out two weeks ago.

"This is not just a Post phenomenon," Howell writes. She reports that the Project for Excellence in Journalism has monitored campaign coverage in large and medium-circulation newspapers, broadcast evening and morning news shows, news Web sites, major cable news networks, and public and other radio. Its latest weekly report shows that for the eighth time in nine weeks, Obama received significantly more coverage than McCain.

Also, the Center for Media and Public Affairs reports that late night jokes on Leno, Letterman, and O’Brian and from Comedy Central’s John Stewart and Stephen Colbert over January-July “favored” McCain over Obama 549 to 382. And that was before McCain said he’s unsure how many homes he owns.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is Obama’s Pain Our Pain?

Obama says, “my story is your story.” We believed Bill Clinton could “feel” our “pain.” But Obama, predicted here to run his general election campaign as a Son of Kansas, really has to sweat to jam his book-length (Dreams of my Father) resumè into a Middle American pigeon hole. Obama is brilliant, successful, talented and hardly an average American. His dreams are to rebalance America toward leadership by the meritocracy that ran the nation out of Washington from 1933 to the mid-1960s. The very elite Middle America mistrusts.

I like the way Edward Luttwak, the noted military historian, talks about the problems facing America today:

the immense wealth of the US—a country of 19,000 local airports and a Mediterranean's worth of private pools—is being eroded by seemingly insurmountable political inhibitions against pragmatic remedies for key problems, from illegal drugs to mass transport, to healthcare. (The latter—including the monstrous Medicare programme that pays for quintuple bypasses for 97 year olds at a total cost that will soon exceed the Pentagon's entire budget—now consumes 16 per cent of the US economy).

Towering above even Luttwak’s difficulties—a public education system run to benefit its employees, not its customers.

Not Liberal, but Sick?

Barack Obama said Monday, "Mr. McCain, the economic disaster is happening right now, maybe you haven't noticed." Where are we economically? If the average voter believes he or she is suffering, that means something. But we are not in recession, unemployment isn’t unusually high at 5.7% (it averaged 5.8% in the 1990s), and the price of oil has fallen to where SUV sales are on the rise again.

It’s not a good time, and the stock market, a predictor of the near-term economic future, has dropped over the past two days to 800 points below “healthy” (Dow 12,000, S&P 1,300, NASDAQ 2,500) on my Fox Index. The picture, though, hardly justifies Obama’s use of the phrase “economic disaster.”

For Obama and Democrats, the real “disaster” will be an economy healthy enough to keep Barack out of the White House. Obama’s elite, liberal base isn’t large enough to elect a president. In general, the American masses and their elite are in two different camps. But liberals have the money, the intellectual firepower, and the media domination including of the entertainment industry needed to, in Lincoln’s words, “fool all of the people some of the time.” And Democrats can lay claim to being able fix an economy (through Keynesian pump-priming) wrecked by Republican mismanagement. So a sour economy is key to Obama’s victory, and so Obama will see bad economic news whether or not it is there.

Friday, August 08, 2008

FOX Index Jumps on Oil Price Drop

The stock market rose significantly today. Oil declined nearly $4 to about $116, a drop of 3%. Since its early July peak, crude oil futures have declined 20%, and are back to levels left in early May. The market is responding positively not only to the drop in oil prices, but also to rising U.S. productivity, which should mean a stronger dollar and a reduced inflation threat. The S&P 500 is within 4 points of its healthy floor of 1300, and the Dow and NASDAQ also rose sharply, cutting the below-floor deficit of the FOX Index from -648 to -336, a reduction of nearly ½.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Monthly Iraq Index Obsolete?

Our latest monthly highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, shows evidence that Iraq's level of violence has subsided to the point where U.S. forces are hardly waging a war. If violence returns, we will resume tracking it. For now, and one hopes forever, a monthly Iraq Index report seems unnecessary.

The summary for July follows:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)
2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 58
2007: 63
2008: 26
July: 5

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965: 128*
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
1970: 413
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.20 (Revised upward, 1/08)
actual: 2.54 (7/08)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,570 (7/08)

Since our previous monthly report, the monthly American KIA total fell from 19 in June to 5, the lowest count for any month of the Iraq war. More have died on single days earlier in the war. Iraqis, not Americans, are taking the lead in what military combat missions are still underway. [Please note: the number of KIA is almost always lower than the media-reported total of American deaths, which covers all causes, including non-hostile. Our Iraq and Vietnam figures are KIA only.] American combat forces will be leaving Iraq; it's a question of how fast, how soon.

In July, oil output rose from 2.51 to 2.54 million barrels a day, the highest monthly total ever. Revenue from oil exports continues to hit all-time highs, with June's total the highest on record (July's total will grow with later sales figures added). As with oil, output for electricity increased, growing from 4,470 megawatts in June to 4,570 megawatts in July, the fourth highest monthly total ever. Electricity output in the 4,500 megawatt range is significant because Iraq needs 8,500 megawatts to meet its demand, and gets up to 4,500 megawatts from privately-owned generators.

FOX Index Declines

Stocks dropped heavily yesterday, amid concerns about oil pipeline disruptions in Turkey, below-expectations quarterly earnings at Wal-Mart and AIG, and an increase in weekly jobless claims. I consider Wall Street to have reached a base level of health when the Dow is at 12,000, the S&P 500 at 1,300, and the NASDAQ at 2,500. Currently, the indexes are -648 below base, falling from yesterday’s -377.