Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


The Economist

I started reading The Economist as few years ago so I could find out what the other side had to say. One year I got a free subscription when I donated to KQED and since then, cheapskate that I am I have been holding out for another free subscription. But it never came and, after three years, I guess it’s not gonna. So I just coughed up some actual money for my subscription.

I was Jonesing for some conservative opinion and couldn’t wait for my newspaper to arrive, so I went online. I don’t know if I changed or if they changed – but I find myself agreeing with The Economist a  lot more than I used to. Maybe I need to find me something further to the right?

The election has taken a nasty turn. This is mainly the Republicans’ fault

AS RECENTLY as a few months ago, it seemed possible to hope that this year’s presidential election would be a civilised affair. Barack Obama and John McCain both represent much that is best about their respective parties. Mr Obama is intelligent, inspiring and appears by instinct to be a consensus-seeking pragmatist. John McCain has always stood for limited, principled government, and has distanced himself throughout his career from the religious ideologues that have warped Republicanism. An intelligent debate about issues of the utmost importance—how America should rebuild its standing in the world, how more Americans could share in the proceeds of growth—seemed an attainable proposition.

It doesn’t seem so now. In the past two weeks, while banks have tottered and markets reeled, the contending Democrats and Republicans have squabbled and lied rather than debated. Mr McCain’s team has been nastier, accusing Mr Obama of sexism for calling the Republican vice-presidential candidate a pig, when he clearly did no such thing. Much nastier has been the assertion that Mr Obama once backed a bill that would give kindergarten children comprehensive sex education. Again, this was a distortion: the bill Mr Obama backed provided for age-appropriate sex education, and was intended to protect children from sex offenders.

One of the cool things about The Economist is that they don’t feel the need to play the silly He said, she said games that mainstream American newspapers play. The never pretend that their coverage is objective. The news is always subjective. That’s true of all news outlets but The Economist doesn’t pretend otherwise.

They had a few words to say about Palin too.

Inexperienced and Bush-level incurious. She has no record of interest in foreign policy, let alone expertise. She once told an Alaskan magazine: “I’ve been so focused on state government; I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.” She obtained an American passport only last summer to visit Alaskan troops in Germany and Kuwait. This not only blunts Mr McCain’s most powerful criticism of Mr Obama. It also raises serious questions about the way he makes decisions.

Mr McCain’s appointment also raises more general worries about the Republican Party’s fitness for government. Up until the middle of last week Mr McCain was still considering two other candidates whom he has known for decades: Joe Lieberman, a veteran senator, independent Democrat and Iraq war hawk, and Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania (a swing state with 21 Electoral College votes) and the first secretary of homeland security. Mr McCain reluctantly rejected both men because their pro-choice views are anathema to the Christian right.

The Palin appointment is yet more proof of the way that abortion still distorts American politics. This is as true on the left as on the right. But the Republicans seem to have gone furthest in subordinating considerations of competence and merit to pro-life purity. One of the biggest problems with the Bush administration is that it appointed so many incompetents because they were sound on Roe v Wade. Mrs Palin’s elevation suggests that, far from breaking with Mr Bush, Mr McCain is repeating his mistakes.

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4 responses to The Economist

Matt's Neighbor September 23, 2008

Well, there’s little I disagree with above but I think it does not paint the entire picture. In the first half of this year, McCain suggested a series of town hall debates with Obama that seemed like an excellent guarantee that the candidates would be exposed to the daylight of public dialogue with one another on real issues. Obama said he would debate McCain anywhere, anytime… but it seems that he later calculated that he was far enough ahead that he need not risk it. Absent Obama, McCain criss-crossed the country by himself for months, talking about these same real issues we all had hoped would frame the public discourse. And… it turns out he could not get any significant media coverage. The election was “about Obama.” So much for running an issues based campaign…. insert one Paris Hilton ad, see results, and the rest is history. If he’s repeating the Bush playbook, apparently chapter one has something to do with getting elected (which is a prerequisite to everything else). Clearly McCain did not deliver the clean campaign he promised because he tried it and it didn’t work. Clearly McCain introduced the current low-ball tactics we’re witnessing. In my view, the American public, the media that serve them, and Senator Barack Obama also share some responsibility. It’s hard to blame McCain for not curling up into the fetus position and disappearing. It’s also hard to blame Obama for not wanting to share the spotlight at a time when he had it all to himself. So we get what we get. I wonder where we would be today if Obama had participated in the townhall debates. If McCain wins this thing, we may look back at Obama’s decision as being quite a pivotal one. Certainly we’re worse off.

Jeffrey Fredrick September 24, 2008

Matt, my understanding is that Obama would have been happy to debate McCain but McCain wouldn’t agree to an actual debate, only “town hall meetings”.

I think debates >> town hall meetings > status quo


“John McCain challenged Barack Obama to 10 town hall meetings this summer. Obama came back with a proposal for 5 debates in a variety of formats. Talks between the camps have apparently broken down. This is not really surprising since McCain wants the town hall meetings for three reasons. First, he is a wooden speaker in a formal setting so using the town hall format he would do much better. Second, Obama will have far more money than he so all the free publicity and TV time would be a godsend for him. Third, he is hoping that his much greater experience will show up in the unlikely event someone asks a hard question (“senator, do you know how many cows there are in Wisconsin?”. Obama, of course, realizes why McCain made the challenge and made a counterproposal with fewer meetings and different formats. Ideally Obama would like at least one Lincoln-Douglas style debate where the candidates can directly address each other. He is aware that McCain has a legendary temper and he could try to trigger it (“John, is it true that you recently said you would veto the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill that you wrote together with Sen. Kennedy?”)”

“John McCain had asked for as many as 10 town hall meetings. Obama countered with a proposal for a true debate without a moderator in the style of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Neither one accepted the other’s proposal, so they ended up with the now-traditional format. In the first and third presidential debates, the candidates will be seated at a round table with a moderator asking the questions. In the second debate, the questions with come from the audience and via the Internet.”

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