Wednesday, January 30, 2008

James Wolcot Is Shrill

It's Jacob Weisberg and Doris Kearns Goodwin wot done it:

James Wolcott's Blog: At Some Point You're Too Old to Clap for Tinker Bell: Wolcott's Blog: "Jacob Weisberg is a nitwit"--that's some pretty salty language coming from TBogg, but a man can only take so much Stovetop Stuffing of faux naivete before he gets fed up. I watched a large chunk of the Charlie Rose post-SOTU all-star cud-chew last night during which Weisberg expressed mild surprise that Bush hadn't sounded "more conciliatory" in his final address. I was surprised that Weisberg was surprised, expressing my surprise by muttering aloud just soft enough so the cats wouldn't hear, "Diphead, what did you expect? That he would make nice now having gotten his way through arrogance and imperious piety ever since 9/11? He makes cracking down on earmarks a show of manhood, and you think he's going to introduce softer colors into his palette and fluffier textures as he struts out the door into History's sunlit parlor? Have you no psychological acumen whatsoever, man?" Well, it was late and I had had a lot of soda. And I confess that even Weisberg wasn't nearly as annoying as fellow panelist Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has become a major irritant with her girlish enthusiasm and goody bag of presidential anecdotes that she dispenses to humanize everybody on the same glorious continuum, as if the crimes and calamities of Vietnam and Iraq were crucibles of character-building for our chief executives, the crowded backdrops to personal tragedy and greatness. (So many faraway nobodies have to die so that History can come alive.) She won't let up about having visited the North Vietnam prison where John McCain was held, captivated by a heroic narrative that seems to make her giddy at the prospect of his becoming president and fulfilling a destiny that'll make a helluva book someday. Mind you, I'm rooting for McCain on the Republican side, if only to enjoy the spumes of rabid froth his nomination would produce from Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and the hostiles at NRO's Corner. Fun is where you find it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Duncan Black Is Shrill!

The Eschaton writes:

Eschaton: Delegate Strategy: It's amazing the degree to which the actual mechanics of winning the primary contests are ignored in favor of how various outcomes impact press narratives that the press is somehow powerless to control...

Matthew Yglesias is shrill too:

Matthew Yglesias A Small Point (Media): This morning, Mitt Romney had more delegates than John McCain. Following today's primaries, Romney's lead has grown even larger because Nevada has more delegates than South Carolina and Romney won a larger proportion of the vote in NV than McCain got in South Carolina. Naturally, the press is declaring this a big win for McCain. I just saw Howard Fineman explain that "there is no longer any strong candidate in the race" to oppose McCain. Nobody but the guy who's leading, that is.

I feel Hugh Hewitt's pain.

And Duncan Black points out that our journalists cannot even cover a horse race:

Eschaton: So Super: For all the obsession of with the horserace, it's been surprisingly focused on the Horse Race Right Now Based On Prevailing Press Narratives, instead of actually talking about stuff which might actually be a bit more interesting. Obviously Super Tuesday matters for candidates who are trying to collect delegates, otherwise known as candidates not named Giuliani. I assume the various campaigns have strategies for which states they intend to focus on, try to win, etc., but I've heard basically nothing about it.

And Matthew Yglesias watches Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post demonstrate the will to stupidity:

Matthew Yglesias: Heads Romney Wins, Tails Romney Also Wins (Politics): Romney's already leading in delegates, and since he's going to pick up even more in Nevada that will further strengthen his position. The fact that The Washington Post can make reference to Romney having a "delegate strategy" strikes me as telling. At the end of the day, you need delegates to win. A strategy to win delegates seems like a smart strategy...

Aren't all strategies--all strategies that might win, that is--delegate strategies?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blind Sputtering Fury

Hilzoy is appalled by Norman Podhoretz, advisor to the Giuliani campaign and an advocate of the war:

Obsidian Wings: In Which I Am Reduced To Blind Sputtering Fury, by Hilzoy: Via TAPPED, an absolutely astonishing quote from Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic:

"Just before the “Mission Accomplished” phase of the war, I spoke about Kurdistan to an audience that included Norman Podhoretz, the vicariously martial neoconservative who is now a Middle East adviser to Rudolph Giuliani. After the event, Podhoretz seemed authentically bewildered. “What’s a Kurd, anyway?” he asked me."*

I am trying to come up with an analogy that will do justice to this. The best I can think of is: imagine that some country conquered the USA in 1870, that that country's plans for us depended on the USA remaining one unified country, and that it emerged that a major advocate of the invasion did not know, while he was urging the country to go to war, what a "Confederate" was. It's exactly that appalling.

Moreover, think of all the other things Podhoretz must not have known if he didn't know what a Kurd was. He must not have known what the major fault lines in Iraqi society are. He must not have known much about the Anfal campaign: maybe he knew that Saddam had gassed people, but he could not have known why. He could not possibly have been following the first Gulf War very closely, since it's hard to imagine how he could have done so without hearing about our protection of the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Likewise, he could not have known why the northern no-fly zone was necessary. …

Actually, it's not even worth enumerating all the particular things someone must not have known if he didn't know what a Kurd was. There are certain things you just pick up if you follow an issue, or a country, at all. If you follow Iraq at all, you cannot possibly not know what a Kurd is. So forget my earlier analogy about hypothetical invasions of America in 1870: what Podhoretz said is like one of the accountants who certified Enron's books asking: "what's a balance sheet?", or someone who trumpeted the safety of the Titanic asking: "what's a hull?"

Norman Podhoretz advocated invasion, and he did so not just as a random citizen in some dingy bar somewhere, but as someone who had considerable influence over policy-makers in Washington. … And apparently, he did so at a time when he had not bothered to find out who the Kurds were.

No one with any intellectual integrity would sign off on Enron's books without figuring out what a balance sheet was, or advise people that the Titanic was safe if he didn't know which of those thingies on a ship was the hull. Likewise, no one with any intellectual integrity would advise a President to go to war when he knew so little about the country he proposed that we invade that he had to ask "What is a Kurd, anyway?" Moreover, no one with anything resembling a conscience would urge that we send our soldiers off to fight and die, or that we unleash on one country, let alone "five or six or seven," the death and immiseration that war always brings, unless he had satisfied himself that invading that country was in fact necessary, and that that war would be worth the price that others would pay. Norman Podhoretz was willing to urge the sacrifice of other people's lives without, apparently, bothering to learn the most basic facts about what he was talking about. You do the math.

Now he's advising Rudy Giuliani's campaign, and telling President Bush to bomb Iran. I wish I had some confidence that he has bothered to figure out who the Shi'a are, but I don't see any reason whatsoever why I should.

*Footnote: I am, of course, relying on Goldberg's account of his exchange with Podhoretz. Goldberg has generally struck me as reliable. Podhoretz, not so much. … Not a person on whose sanity and intellectual integrity I'd want to put a lot of weight. Just one more difference between me and George W. Bush, apparently.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Duncan Black Is Shrill!

It's Jim Cramer's fault:

Eschaton: Buy Buy Countrywide: Jim Cramer told you to buy at $44. Countrywide will cease to exist... at $7.16.

Virginia Postrel's Allergic Reaction to Ron Paul

Virginia Postrel is shrill:

Dynamist Blog: Libertarians Fall Off Turnip Truck: Thanks to The New Republic, libertarians who weren't paying attention in the 1990s, don't read Texas Monthly, and didn't do their candidate research have now discovered that Ron Paul said--or, more likely, allowed to be said in his name (probably by Lew Rockwell)--nasty things in his newsletters. Much reaction can be found at Hit & Run, as well as Andrew Sullivan's blog and The Volokh Conspiracy. The disclosures are not news to me, nor is the Paul campaign's dismissive reaction a surprise. When you give your political heart to a guy who spends so much time worrying about international bankers, you're not going to get a tolerant cosmopolitan.

New York Times Death Spiral Watch

Ezra Klein has, as usual, some very smart things to say:

EzraKlein Archive | The American Prospect: Read James Fallows on the breathtaking banality of William Kristol's writing. Sadly, this was entirely predictable. Kristol, whatever his talents, is not known for writing, well, anything. He occasionally pens an editor's note in the beginning of The Weekly Standard. He occasionally writes a hilariously wrong op-ed in The Washington Post. He sent most of this year underperforming in a regular column at Time, from which he was eventually dropped. This is what I was getting at in my post asking which conservative you would have elevated to the op-ed page. You guys suggested a variety of smart picks: Ramesh Ponnuru, Ross Douthat, Rich Brookhiser, Tyler Cowen, Bruce Bartlett, Radley Balko, and a handful more. I'd add to that list Nick Gillespie, James Manzi, Brink Lindsey, John Miller, Daniel Drezner, Damon Linker, Christopher Preble, etc, etc.

What's offensive, to me, isn't even the spectacle of the The New York Times exhibiting such insecurity that they need to hire a flagrantly wrong, technically untalented, and ideologically ugly writer for their op-ed page -- it's being so unimaginative, so contemptuous of the best-world worth of conservatism, as to pick Kristol. I would like to read more smart, interesting, conservatives. If the Times is going to insist on packing that spot with a conservative, rather than an actual leftist (which, let's be clear, they don't have), I would like a thought-provoking conservative. But Kristol was merely the nearest right-winger at hand with enough conservative fame to act as an instant shield in conversations about the Times' ideological leanings. They picked him for cover, rather than for their reader's edification, and in doing, they served us very poorly.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hilzoy on the Party of Moral Values and Limited Government

Hilzoy is shrill:

Obsidian Wings: "One Of Us": I just couldn't let this delightful comment by Kathryn Lopez at NRO pass unremarked. She's talking about John McCain:

I’m second to none in praising him on his surge leadership. But on a whole host of issues — including water boarding, tax cuts, and the freedom of speech — he’s not one of us."

Like von, I favor Obama among the Democrats, and McCain among the Republicans. And one of the reasons for that is that, leaving aside the odious Ron Paul, while all the Republican candidates seem to be in favor of prolonging the war in Iraq indefinitely, McCain is the only one who is not "one of us" on waterboarding. He hasn't come out against torture nearly as much as I would like, nor has he been a champion of civil liberties, but at least he seems to recognize that there's a problem there, which is more than I can say for the rest of them.

The Kool Kidz in the Republican Party might think that support for torture is a prerequisite for entry into their little club. That just shows how far the supposed party of moral values and limited government has fallen.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Spencer Ackerman Is Shrill!

It's the Bushies, again:

toohotfortnr: Instead of moving that, nope, you need to re-up: Awesome new co-worker Colin Soloway and I were talking about this at the office yesterday. This Baghdad neighborhood that the U.S. has been bombing? That's Arab Jabour, a place cited by General Petraeus and the White House as a surge success story. Luckily, Jamie Gumbrecht and Nancy Youssef of McClatchy are on top of it:

The targets were near the town of Arab Jabour, a Sunni Muslim-dominated district on Baghdad's outskirts that American officials recently held up as a security success and an example of how local Sunni tribesmen known as "concerned local citizens" had turned against al Qaida in Iraq.

But Thursday's air attack indicated that the area still has a considerable Sunni militant presence. The statement said that more than 40 targets in three large areas were hit during two passes by two supersonic B-1 bombers and four F-16 fighter jets. A U.S. military official in the area said the targets were al Qaida in Iraq weapons caches and bomb-making materials.

The blitz dropped 38 bombs in its first 10 minutes, the statement said.

Forty thousand pounds of bombs. It's counterinsurgency-rific! And goddamn it, why can't Gumbrecht and Youssef acknowledge that the surge succeeded????//

John Scalzi Is Shrill!

Your standard neolibertarian Heinlein-worshipping science-fiction author says:

Your Big Fat Election Brain Dump, 1/11/08: In a matchup, I’ll take any of the top Democratic contenders over any of the top Republican contenders, because aside from the fact that there are no Republican candidates who I have any interest in voting for (I find McCain the most congenial to me philosophically and the only one who, should he win, won’t have me looking somewhat wistfully at the New Zealand immigration site to see if I have enough points to qualify), there’s also the simple fact that no Republican administration is going to be as motivated as a Democratic one to stop doing all the fucktarded things the Bush Administration has done over the course of the last seven years. Sorry, guys, the dude has trashed your brand.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that if the Democrats nominated a circus bear I’d vote for it over any GOP candidate, although I probably would vote for a circus bear over, say, Huckabee, because the bear would almost certainly know more about foreign affairs. But Clinton or Obama (or even Edwards, although I suspect he’s already toast and just hanging about to be kingmaker)? Really, not a problem.

Well, if I were going to vote for one of the Democratic candidates, which would I vote for? Honestly, I have no clue.... I’m happy to have the two of them debate each other and give everyone a good look at their positions and such. Emotionally, Obama appeals to me... to be blunt about it, having a President Obama would make it feel like the American people were doing a Ctrl+Alt+Delete on the previous eight years, and there’s a lot of appeal to that. But Clinton’s selling point — she’s already got the presidential apparatus ready to go — is not insignificant either.... People who loathe the Clintons, singly and severally, like to... cling to the shibboleth that her negatives are so high... and thus: President McCain (in a best-case scenario). I think these people are kind of high. Hello, McFly: This is a Clinton we’re talking about. You can’t kill them, they just keep coming.... Ask yourself, Clinton loathers: if in some alternate universe 2000 had been between Dubya and Clinton (either Clinton, they come as a package deal), do you think the Clintonistas would have tolerated the Florida vote count shenanigans? Does anyone really believe that Bush would have walked out of that the winner? One of the things I’ve always said about the 2000 election is that ultimately Bush won it because the Republicans were willing to snorkle through pig shit to get it, while the Democrats, and specifically Al Gore and his people, didn’t want to get their precious widdle hands mussed. When it came down to it, Gore didn’t want it enough. “Not wanting it enough” is not going to be a problem for Clinton.

For all the people who seem to believe that Clintons are universally loathed simply for being Clintons, it’s worth remembering that for the entirety of Bill Clinton’s second term (you know, the one he was impeached in), his approval rating never dropped below 54% (according to Gallup); as a contrast, the last time Bush saw an approval rating higher than that was the first couple of weeks of his second term.... [W]hen it comes right down to wallowing in the pig shit and going after your opponent with a splintery baseball bat, no one does it better than the Clintons, and the GOP is out of practice dealing with an opponent who not only hits back but is out to break your fucking skull....

That said, I think it’s entirely possible we’ll end up with Obama as the Democratic candidate, in which case the GOP had better hope smearing still works, because that’s all they’re going to have on the dude....

  • Also, the GOP field? Monkeys. Or more accurately: Jesus Monkey, 9/11 Monkey, flip-flop Monkey with perfect hair, Monkey who wins teh Internets and fails everything else, and John McCain, who is not a monkey, but who is two years shy of how old Ronald Reagan was at the end of his second term, which is worrying. I want John McCain to tell us right now who his VP choice is going to be, because I have a sneaking suspicion that knowledge is going to be relevant... and if he picks a monkey of the same quality as the rest of the GOP field, it’s back to perusing the New Zealand immigration Web site again.

But aside from McCain, seriously, y’all, what the hell? Is this field really the best you can do? Don’t get me wrong, Huckabee’s Chuck Norris ad gave me a giggle, and I think it’s nice that Ron Paul gives the “I read Atlas Shrugged every year and it gets better every time” crowd something to do through the chilly winter nights. But this is no way to run a railroad. I sincerely do hope McCain takes the nomination, because although I disagree with him substantively on a number of policy points, at least saying “President McCain” doesn’t make me want to vomit in my mouth a little, the way “President Romney” or “President Guliani” does (saying “President Huckabee” doesn’t make me want to vomit, but does make me want to sigh heavily and shake my head sadly). I can live with a President McCain. But I’m sorry for you Republicans you don’t have a better set of candidates to choose from.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Self-Shrillness from John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei

Robert Waldmann informs us that the fecklessness, incompetence, laziness, ignorance, and corruption of Washington political reporters like John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei has driven John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei into raving shrill unholy madness.

It is a spectacle. It is not often that you see people publicly confess that they are frauds hoping to be taken for fools:

Why reporters get it wrong - John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei - New Hampshire sealed it. The winner was Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the loser — not just of Tuesday's primary but of the 2008 campaign cycle so far — was us. "Us" is the community of reporters, pundits and prognosticators who so confidently — and so rashly — stake our reputations on the illusion that we understand politics and have special insight that allows us to predict the behavior of voters.

If journalists were candidates, there would be insurmountable pressure for us to leave the race. If the court of public opinion were a real court, the best a defense lawyer could do is plea bargain out of a charge that reporters are frauds in exchange for a signed confession that reporters are fools. New Hampshire was jarring because it offered in highly concentrated form all the dysfunctions and maladies that have periodically afflicted political journalism for years.

Let’s look back at some of the bogus narratives of this election so far. There was the “John McCain is dead” story line from last summer.... Then there was Iowa... we wrote... all about organization. Except they were won on the Republican side by Mike Huckabee, who had only the barest-bones organization.... Or Barack Obama. The reason his candidacy was not taking flight, as the wisdom had it last fall, was that he was preaching a bland message of unity and civility in a year when Democrats were eager for a sharper, more confrontational and more partisan message. Guess not.

These were only appetizers to the main course of humiliation. After a barrage of coverage that all but anointed Obama as the New Hampshire winner... that exercise in groupthink was stopped cold by the actual votes. Whoops.

Looks like we have a trend here. Our own publication, Politico, did its part in promoting several of these flimsy story lines. We used predictive language in stories. We amplified certain trends and muffled the caveat.... When we started Politico, we vowed to be more transparent than news organizations traditionally have been about how we do our work — and how we sometimes err. In that spirit, here are some thoughts about why this profession, supposedly devoted to depicting reality, obsesses about so many story lines that turn out to be fiction.

1. Horse race frenzy: We are addicts. Do not listen to any reporter who says otherwise. It is why reporters leave their homes, spouses and families for long stretches to cram into crummy hotels and smelly buses to cover campaigns. The Web has made us a bit less defensive about this than we were in the past. That’s because we now have metrics — based on what stories get clicked on — that show our readers are obsessed with the horse race, too....

2. The echo chamber: Check out the nicer restaurants in Manchester, N.H., or Des Moines, Iowa, in the political season and you will see the same group of journalists and pols dining together almost every night. We go to events together, make travel plans together and read each other's work compulsively. We go to the same websites — the Drudge Report, Real Clear Politics, Time’s “The Page” — to see what each other is writing, and it’s only human nature to respond to it. That is one chief reason the “Hillary is inevitable” and “Hillary is toast” narratives developed so quickly and spread so rapidly.... There is a defense of sorts here, too. Even Clinton aides themselves started the day believing they were going to get blown out. But just because well-placed people are in the echo chamber does not mean the noise is accurate.

3. Personal bias: This one is complicated. Most reporters, in our experience, really do work hard to separate their personal feelings from their professional judgment.... Reporters are human, and some did seem swept up in the same emotions many voters experienced when they saw a black man win snow-white Iowa by preaching a gospel of change.... McCain also benefits from the personal sentiments of reporters. Many journalists are enamored with McCain because of the access he gives and, above all, the belief that he is free of political artifice.

Hillary Clinton, cautious and scripted, got the reverse treatment. She is carrying the burden of 16 years of contentious relations between the Clintons and the news media. Many journalists rushed with unseemly haste to the narrative about the fall of the Clinton machine....

Things are not all bad. Politico is part of a broad, technology-inspired movement that has led to more open and more exhaustive coverage of this presidential race than ever before. A lot of that coverage is damn good. As far as what’s bad, there is generally one good answer to excesses and hype in political journalism: Respect the voters. That means waiting to find out what they really think.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Stupidest Man Alive Nomination

John Podheretz: >Commentary » Blog Archive » IOWA: A Very Cheerful Rudy Giuliani: On MSNBC, Rudy Giuliani is making a very smiley, happy showing of himself. The result in Iowa could not have been better for Giuliani tactically. Romney has been injured. Huckabee won, but did not apparently win by a huge margin, and there won’t be many other states where evangelicals make up fully three-fifths of the primary electorate. And John McCain did not, it seems, come in third with a surprising showing, but fourth with a very modest showing. If McCain beats Romney in New Hampshire, Romney will have a difficult time going on — but McCain clearly hasn’t yet turned the corner and brought conservative Republicans back in his corner. And Fred Thompson’s third-place showing wasn’t impressive enough to kick his campaign back to life. With no one especially strong on the Republican side through the first few states, the Giuliani strategy of betting it all on Florida on January 29 and the big states on February 5 is looking better than it did a week ago.

TBogg Reads National Review So We Don't Have to

From TBogg:

TBogg - “…a somewhat popular blogger”: All Jesus deliveries to the back door please... By: TBogg Friday January 4, 2008 12:37 pm Over at The Corner they are indulging in some soul searching (as of this writing, no soul has yet been located) over what it means to their party when when the snake-handling yokels that they have been stringing along for all of these years, finally show up and the front door and want to marry their sister.

And here are the highlights:

The Corner on National Review Online: Re: Now for Something Completely Different   [Rich Lowry]: Something has been bothering me about my friend's comments I posted earlier. The thing about Huck rejecting "Rovian" politics. That might be true in some symbolic sense, but if we take Rovian politics as it is conventionally defined as massively turning out the base and using negative, personal wedges against an opponent, Huckabee did both. He blew out the Romney turn-out model the way Bush did Kerry's in 2004 because evangelicals showed up in an off-the-charts turnout. As for the negative stuff, he never went up on the air, but he (subtly) used the religion card against Romney and frankly used the class card. He did the latter at basically every campaign stop. So if this is the new politics, it's going to come with a subtly nasty undercurrent.

Question   [Kathryn Jean Lopez]: David Brooks writes: "[Huckabee] sensed that conservatives do not believe their own movement is well led. He took on Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush." Even? Is there any movement conservative who ever confused President Bush with a/the leader of the conservative movement? A conservative choice. More conservative than other viables. But movement guy?

Re: Exit Polls   [Ramesh Ponnuru]: Like Mark Hemingway’s correspondent, I think a lot of the commentary about the Republican results in Iowa is beside the point. As he says, what jumps out at you from the exit polls is that Huckabee crushed Romney among evangelicals and Romney crushed Huckabee among everyone else. These numbers powerfully suggest that Romney couldn’t really have done better in Iowa. His strategy was premised on there not being a candidate who could unite evangelicals the way Huckabee did. Being more “genuine,” or doing more to appeal to people making less than $50,000, wouldn’t have helped. Yes, as David Brooks implies in his column today, Romney had more appeal to people higher up the income scale. But religion made a bigger difference; and if evangelical voters in Iowa tend to have lower incomes than other Republicans, then the income divide in the party could be partly illusory. If Huckabee’s rise makes Republicans revamp their agenda to appeal to working-class voters, they will be doing a smart thing for a dumb reason. So could Romney have followed a strategy that relied less on Iowa? It’s hard to see how, if he was going to run as a conservative alternative to McCain and Giuliani. John Ellis is a smart political observer who argues, as many others do, that Romney should have run as a candidate of “new ideas” rather than a “700 Club” Republican. Well, first off, these things aren’t mutually exclusive (or Republicans would be not just in bad but hopeless shape). But second, there was no way that a pro-choice Mitt Romney could have beaten Rudy Giuliani in the primaries. And once he flipped on that issue, all of the attacks on him as plastic, etc., were baked in the cake.

Resurrecting Fred   [Kathryn Jean Lopez]: I still contend people shouldn't get too excitable about last night. But I also imagine — especially with all the excitablility — that I can't be the only one wondering if Fred Thompson might just be handed a window before this is all over? Actually, I know I'm not. I'm getting pro-Fred mail like I haven't seen since people were enthusiastically wanting to draft him back almost a year or less ago. I think conservatives much rather give Thompson the possibility of a second look than McCain.

Rudy Time   [Mark R. Levin]: The biggest beneficiary of the Huckabee win in Iowa is not Huckabee, it's Rudy. The biggest beneficiary of a McCain win in New Hampshire would be Rudy. Romney's strategy was to win Iowa and New Hampshire. He has now lost Iowa. Rudy is waiting to pounce in the next tier of states. That has always been his strategy.

Relax.   [Mark R. Levin]: Huckabee will not be the Republican nominee. 

Isn't Anyone Reading Exit Polls?   [Mark Hemingway]: Or so asks a reader: "Huckabee took 14% of the vote and came in fourth in the Iowa caucus among non-evangelicals according to the NBC Republican exit poll [other polls come out about the same].  Huckabee's principle voting block was female born-again Christian Republicans living in non-urban rural areas with a population below 10,000.  I dearly love such people, but demographically in the country at large there aren't that many of them." When Huckabee moves out of caucus Iowa and into primary state America, he's going to get killed.

Huck Rides a Donkey   [Mark Hemingway]: Arkansas political columnist David J. Sanders, who has written about Huckabee for NRO here and here, has a good piece in the WSJ arguing that Huck is more religious left than religious right.

Dog-Eat-Dog   [Stephen Spruiell]: I watched the Iowa Democratic caucuses on C-SPAN last night, and so I must rant about the stupidity of the process: 400 Iowa Democrats wandering around a high-school cafeteria, harassing each other for two hours by repeating the same worn-out lines we've heard a million times before about each candidate...

Now, Kill the Iowa Caucus   [Jonah Goldberg]: We now have  a brief window of opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of the Iowa Caucus. Or so I argue in my column today.

Quick Question   [Jonah Goldberg]: Hey does anyone know if one can smoke cigars indoors in the "Live Free or Die" state?

Reagan, Iowa, 1980   [James S. Robbins]: K, lest we forget, Ronald Reagan's 1980 Iowa loss set up a timeless Ronnie moment. Bush Sr. came out of his 1980 Iowa victory with self-described "Big Mo." Reagan challenged him to a debate, which the Nashua Telegraph agreed to sponsor. But due to election law intricacies, Reagan chose to pay for it himself. When all the candidates turned up for what the Bush team thought was going to be a two-man debate, chaos erupted, and Reagan tried to explain the circumstances. The editor of the Nashua Telegraph ordered the sound man to turn off Reagan's microphone, leading to the timeless moment when Reagan forcefully stated "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!" He then took 51% in New Hampshire in a seven way race.

Huckabee, Candidate of the Elites?   [Mike Potemra]: I was talking tonight to a veteran of the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. This seasoned political operative told me that if you asked the staffers there back when both Huckabee and Romney were governors, the staffers would have strongly preferred Huckabee. The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Huckabee is the populist candidate backed by ignorant yahoos while Romney is the elitist candidate backed by effete, impudent snobs. Now, the Huckabee (and Obama) moment probably won't last, and the heavy-hitter front-runners will probably end up being nominated, but this insight from a D.C. politics-watcher reassures me that Huckabee can appeal even to the all-important "insider" vote . . . . (For what it's worth, the political guy I'm quoting is a McCain backer.)

The Tale of the GOP Caucuses   [Rich Lowry]: Here's one way to look at it: 60% of voters were evangelicals. Huck beat Romney among them 45-19%. 40% weren't evangelicals. Romney beat Huck among them 33-13%.

The Romney Response   [Kathryn Jean Lopez]: A Romney circler emphasizes to me in the virtual spin room: "Huckabee is a pro-life Jimmy Carter – he will be rejected by econ and natl security conservatives.He would be the death knell of the social conservatives as players within the party – hopefully enough will come to their senses." For them it is about that Reagan coalition. The one Rollins says is dead and thus is determined to destroy. But I'm sensing some nervous optimism that this can be remedied for them. We'll have more of a sense on Tuesday.

The McCain Fallout   [Ramesh Ponnuru]: Almost entirely good, I should think. Romney is taken down several pegs. McCain's failure to get third won't matter: The press set him up so he could win but couldn't lose. The Democratic results will be the bigger headline, though, and they might hurt McCain if they draw New Hampshire independents to vote in the Democratic primary rather than the Republican one. It's good news for Giuliani, too, since it increases the likelihood of a split result in the first states and thus gives him the time he needs to get to Florida.

Bill Schneider and Others   [Kathryn Jean Lopez]: are pointing out the high percentage of evangelical voters who have reportedly turned out. Anti-Huck people are freaking. Deep breaths. As Bill Bennett just pointed out on CNN, evangelicals aren't necessarily a voting block, as much as Pastor Huckabee has tried to suggest (and prays?) they are in his identity-politicking. Just ask Mark DeMoss...

Steve Suh is Shrill!!

He writes:

Cogitamus: Broder's Wisdom For Today: Via Atrios, we see that Iowa is stupid and yucky and has cooties:

When you're reading the returns from the Iowa caucuses, you are viewing them through a double distortion mirror.

The outcome of Iowa's first-in-the-nation voting is skewed by two big factors. The turnout is ridiculously small, barely 20 percent of the eligible voters. And those who choose to caucus are hardly representative of the population as a whole.

But New Hampshire, well, that state is well-behaved and bathes regularly:

The Democratic Party of New Hampshire is a balanced blend of college-trained, high-tech people and educators, with a leavening of retirees and a significant ethnic, urban contingent in Manchester and Nashua, as well.  The Republican Party here is a small-business and professional class, with some blue-collar elements and a spillover of former Massachusetts residents living along the southern border.

New Hampshirites are indeed a fair folk, industrious, honest and plain-spoken.  They live in picturesque hamlets deep in the forest and while away the winter hours listening to the village elders tell stories of their ancestors.

Iowans have been known to go to moving picture shows and, it is rumored, use devious means to turn their grain products into strong beverages.

Besides being yet another installment of Centrism and Civility: The Path to Progress, the real purpose of Broder's column is to give everyone the basis they need to dismiss Iowa's results when Huckabee and Edwards win.  Until this column I, despite my predictions, wasn't really sure if Edwards in particular could pull it off, but Broder seems convinced.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

They Look at Rows of Numbers!!!

Perhaps not absolutley shrill, but relatively so:

Economists View: "Not Remotely the Same as Good at Getting it Right": Why oh why do I read anything at the NRO and, if I do, why do I ever bother with Jerry Bowyer? He says:

Gas Bags, by Jerry Bowyer, NRO: ...Gas-price hikes will never, ever, ever cut into consumer spending. It’s a mathematical impossibility. Here’s why: Gas prices are a component of consumer spending.

You see, when gas prices climb from $2 a gallon to $3 a gallon, one of the components of retail spending goes up. ...

Sure, if people spend more money on gas, they may very well spend less on soft drinks. But that’s a substitution, not a decrease in overall spending. The spending simply shifts from one retail category to another.

So why don’t we ever hear this? Well, with a few notable exceptions, mainstream TV commentators don’t know the facts, which often are buried in the details. You can’t just read a financial press release from a government organization (or worse yet, the blurb about the press release) and understand what the data are saying. A Larry Kudlow, a Steve Forbes, a Dan Yergin, a John Rutledge, an Art Laffer, a Brian Wesbury — these folks actually read the reports, including the tables in the back. They look at rows of numbers; in the case of a consumer-spending report, they note the row that is devoted to gas stations.

Meanwhile, the ... only numbers they master are the phone numbers of their favorite producers. Good at getting on the air is not remotely the same as good at getting it right.

He is arguing that input costs don't matter, but of course that's wrong. It's just not true that "Gas-price hikes will never, ever, ever cut into consumer spending," see the 1970s for one counterexample. Or do a simple thought experiment. If the price of oil went up to, say, $1,000 a barrel tomorrow, would real GDP stay at its current level, or might you expect a decline in GDP, in the short-run at least? And if GDP falls, then consumer spending will fall along with it.

Maybe the problem is that the people he so admires are simply looking at tables of numbers rather than doing actual econometric investigations solidly grounded in economic theory, something that involves more than, say, two lines drawn on a graph (see the completely uninformative graph he has plotted in this article for his latest along these lines - that graph tells us nothing whatsoever, but Bowyer appears to place great stock in the relationship between the two variables over the last 11 months - it's almost comical to see the graph put forward as serious analysis). Seriously, try doing actual econometric analysis instead of looking at "rows of numbers; in the case of a consumer-spending report, ... the row that is devoted to gas stations." Even when you try to get sophisticated and compare two rows at once, that isn't adequate (hey, both are going up!). Doing so leads to false conclusions like tax cuts pay for themselves because you haven't bothered to consider factors like trend growth in tax receipts (to name just one omitted variable in the typical "analysis").

Anyway, Bowyer - who isn't an economist but plays one at the NRO - should realize that "good at getting an article at the NRO is not remotely the same as good at getting it right," something he has shown time and again.