Yesterday while Crappy Hour was in progress Barack Obama totally sold out the like MAJOR ISSUE OF HIS WHOLE POLITICAL CAREER and we didn't really talk about it because the campaign's media fellater relations department still hadn't distributed its key talking points, but then they sent out this video and as you can see, there is really no need for Obama to take $80 million from you taxpayers in the interest of running a "clean" campaign if he has made quite enough money already collecting from clean individuals like you and me! (Put another way: why build a welfare state when, like Toqueville pointed out, Americans have such a rich tradition of charity, concern for fellow man etc?) Anyway, so it's Friday, which means that even if we don't think this financing thing is such a huge biggie David Brooks is using it as a chance to dissuade Scarlett Johansson from carrying such a heaving torch for Obama by likening him to a fictional soulless Jew and Peggy Noonan is reminding us again of the meaning of life and everyone else is still fighting about oil and Megan and I try to get to the bottom of how much we can blame the crap economy on the war and get distracted by cute patriotic dogs.
MOE: I guess we have to talk about campaign finance today. But first I'd like to draw the readers' attention to this handy guide to why you can't really blame the war for the crap economy, despite what Stiglitz says, and even Stiglitz says the war has only added like $5 or $10 to the price of oil, but basically the point is that every globalization has its discontents and our objectivist malcontents didn't pay attention to that when they were setting policy so now we have more discontents over here while some folks in India and China are starting to enjoy better lives/deeper carbon footprints. ANYHOW
MEGAN: Prosperity brings global warming hooray! But only the rich can afford to reduce their carbon footprints. And I always find it difficult to believe that people really think that the war brings the bad economy when war generally makes the economy better. It was one of the reasons Hitler and WWII were initially so popular in Germany — taking shit over improved the economy almost immediately. War spending did its part for ending the Great Depression, etc.
MOE: Well yeah but as Stiglitz pointed out in 2003 Iraq was hardly "total war" and the economic benefits were thus hardly going to be evenly spread around. And as this report points out tax cuts, airline bailouts and No Child Left Behind played their early part in deficit spending. Oh man there are really cute dogs on my Fox News right now. Oh how sweet and all their owners have swaddled them in American flags and "freedom"-themed accessories!
MEGAN: Do they have freedom-themed leashes?
MEGAN: Yeah, I mean, while Bush was cutting taxes he was also presiding over the largest expansion in government history. I was at a speech by Andy Card in 2005, I think, and he went through all these verbal gymnastics to deny that the Administration had expanded the government which made the ambassador from an unnamed country next to whom I was seated marvel at his stones. It basically required that he exempt from consideration the Defense Department or DHS, which are (naturally) where all the increases have been, so it was absurdist in its brilliance. Sort of like if you don't want to be quoted, just curse every other word.
MOE: Hey, speaking of the defense budget is Israel trying to save us some money by just bombing Iran for us? Because that's awfully generous, considering all those fears we are about to elect that Muslim Marxist guy to lead the country and who knows what that means for the Jews…
MEGAN: Well, I mean, we are a leetle busy right now, I think we thought we'd be done enough in Iraq (the same way we're, like, totally Mission Accomplished in Afghanistan) that we could've started bombing Iran on our own.
MEGAN: Anyway, so, campaign finance?
MOE: Oh right, that's not my issue. And I must admit, I was occupied with this crazy Botox bandit story…and also vaguely transfixed by some story they're running on Fox now about some woman who lit up on an airplane, and in her mugshot she just looks kind of drunk or high so it kind of makes sense that she would do that, especially with fares so high these days you'd think you could do whatever you damn well please — ha! On my Virgin flight they wouldn't even let me use the blanket during takeoff, which was insane — and anyway, oh yes, Obama. We should talk about this. I guess it's disappointing but not surprising? I dunno
MEGAN: Well, but they all opted out of public financing for the primary and there were rumors McCain was going to for the general. Plus, I mean, it restricts him to $85 million which is maybe one of the reasons that, you know, Democrats don't go to states they "can't" win and ditto with Republicans and so everyone fights for Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida and concedes the others to one another.
MOE: I will say that even if it is blatantly hypocritical it also appeals to that side that worries about his ability to play dirty/be pragmatic/blahblah. Which seemed to be a big concern of Clintonites.
MEGAN: Oh, sure. I mean, I think the real issue is that 99% of Americans probably don't know anything about the public financing system so they whole OH MY GOD WHAT HAS HE DONE thing is probably right over their heads.
MEGAN: Which is why it's smart, release the video, let the talking heads pontificate for 24 hours just before the weekend, then release a new ad and start airing it in red states and let them think about that.
MEGAN: But, also, I think he makes an interesting point. Public financing comes from the $3 check-off on your tax return, so it's like small donations from small people funneled through the government. He's got 1.5 million donors, half of which are small-amount donors. He's practically creating his own public financing system, it's just one in which there are no limits on what he can spend after the convention.
MEGAN: Which is an interesting thing, actually. The party that has the Presidency gets the last convention, which means that the party without it gets a week or more where they are hamstrung by the public financing limits and hte incumbent party is not. In 2004, it was a full two weeks because the Dems went before the Olympics, then the Olympics and then the Republicans went and Bush became subject to the spending limits.
MOE: Hey check this out we're using one percent less gas than last year! And this is unrelated but here's a pleasant photo of a highway in Beijing, where starting July 20 they will also be using less gas, for obvious reasons. Okay, now I'm headed to Peggy and Brooks. Krauthammer and Krugman both wrote today about McCain's offshore drilling blah blah, one of them is for it and one of them is against it I'll let you guess who!
MEGAN: Gosh, so hard! Also, by the way, the DC metro system had 2 top-10 ridership days this week alone, and they're blaming it on gas prices.
MOE: David Brooks likens Obama to Mr. Rogers playing Ari on Entourage. (Would that be good for the Jews?) Anyway, he proceeds to do exactly the thing I was talking about where Obama actually gets praised for "selling out" in a move that should disappoint his starry-eyed media fans but actually makes them cream their pants because they are ashamed of their idealism and also, masochists:
This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator. He's the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he's too intelligent. He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.
MEGAN: I think it's funny that Clinton supporters either think he's the worst of the Chicago political machine or a naive waif and never anything in between.
MOE: Although uh Noonan isn't feeling the sentimentality shame so much today:
In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really. The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better.
MEGAN: Yeah, she was on Scarborough this morning and they all got maudlin about Tim Russert.
That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, "The thing about Joe was he was rich."
MEGAN: Also, her site is down.
MEGAN: Off-topic, our friend Calderone has the story of the wacky Hardball ad about Michelle's supposed make over and an even funnier fake one for Cindy McCain.
MEGAN: I also think the whole thing is funny, like Michelle needs a fashion makeover? The figures aren't dancing ladies in the Obama ad as much as fake runway models
MOE: I hate sentences like that. How many eulogies have any sort of basis in the reality of someone's life? I went to a very rich guy's funeral once. All the eulogies were like "great guy worked hard loved the outdoors cared about his family" and meanwhile half the family is sitting there seething over what a cold unemotional terror he'd been. But yeah, I dunno. Anyway I failed to mention that the Bush Administration's spying on Americans thing may, like the shitty economy and the shady no-bid multibillion dollar overbudget defense contracts and chaos/anarchy/fear in Iraq, get to outlive the Administration.
MEGAN: I also love that the Dems rolled over on retroactive immunity for telecoms as part of it, giving just enough judicial oversight to make it look like there will be some if we aren't paying attention, but little enough that it will make any difference to the telecoms.