Even as Rachel Maddow prepares to take the helm of her own show at MSNBC, Barack Obama is slipping in the polls even as McCain isn't rising in them. That doesn't sit so well with Spencer Ackerman and me, so we parse the polls, the racists and what Obama's campaign needs to start doing (hint: it involves testicles and a Howitzer!) to win. Plus, we take on Scotty McClellan's assertion that investigating the many doings of the Bush Administration would be divisive for the country Bush already divided and started wiretapping.
MEGAN: Oh, God, I seriously considered propping my eyelids open with toothpicks this morning. Why are Wednesdays worse than even Thursdays and Fridays in that regard? SPENCER: You know what will wake you up? The brand-new Gaslight Anthem record The '59 Sound. I've been listening to this all morning — it came out yesterday. Bruce fronting 1979-era Clash. Benny, you made a great fucking record! I remember when their drummer put on shows at the Manville Elks Lodge in central Jersey that I'd take the bus from fucking Brooklyn for. Holy shit is this record good. Christ that was TWELVE YEARS AGO. MEGAN: You'll have to play it for me sometime, but I don't think even punk is going to pop my eyes open this morning if the news that our boy Toby is praising Obama didn't. It's hard to type with your eyes closed, I'm just putting it out there. SPENCER: See this is the kind of shit that I can't put up with. Fine, Toby Keith, you're a Democrat. So are lots of assholes. Call me when you're a hardcore hang-them-from-telephone-poles liberal. all me when you write the theme tune to RACHEL MADDOW'S NEW MSNBC SHOW. This is a racially-backhanded compliment currrtesssy u'da redwhitenbloo:
"So I thought it was beautiful the other day when Obama went to Afghanistan and got educated about Afghanistan and Iraq..."
Educated, eh, Toby? MEGAN: You know I'm excited about Rachel Maddow. Even the WaPo's Howie Kurtz sounds enthused and he never sounds enthused. SPENCER: Let's pause to reflect here. This shit doesn't happen. Phil Donahue got fired from MSNBC for opposing the Iraq war. In the intervening years, this country has become a ceaseless nightmare and progressivism has had something of a rebirth with a new style. The idea that that rebirth might actually be represented behind a cable newsanchor's desk is mindblowing. Liberals on the TV!Rachel Maddow is the TV version of the GASLIGHT ANTHEM. MEGAN: I mean, the real question for us — and for MSNBC and Rachel Maddow — is whether this new progressivism is as much of a fad as the old patriotism was, and whether it ends after the election, or if we get attacked again or whatever. That's my big concern. Flags are still relatively cheap, and you can pull off the tags that let people know they're Made in China. SPENCER: This isn't going away. Do you think Atrios is going to switch his style up if all of a sudden there's another attack? I've been to Netroots Nation. I see what we've built over these years. What happens if we're attacked is that there'll be in an infrastructure in place to point out that the attacks are bin Laden's fault, but with a special assist from George Bush. Having Rachel on TV will amplify it all. But you have a good point — she's going to be scrutinized by the MSNBC bigs in a way that Joe Scarborough will never be. MEGAN: Although he should be, because sometimes he's really dumb. SPENCER: But Joe Scarborough is Foreigner and Rachel Maddow is Black Flag. Rise above. Oh fuck i just accidentally called that guy Sozi we met in Philadelphia on primary night. Kids, always lock your BlackBerrys. MEGAN: Wait, the guy with the beard? Do you guys still talk? I remember him being pretty cool, but by the end of that I pretty much thought everyone was pretty cool. SPENCER: Anyway, before we get caught up in this whole promise-of-the-progressive-moment shit, let's point out that the latest LAT poll shows McCain's summer of disreputable attacks on Obama have really done some damage. (and no, the tall guy, Farah's friend.)
Overall, Obama holds a narrow edge over the Arizona senator, 45% to 43%, which falls within the poll's margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. In June, Obama was ahead by 12 points. Other polls at that time showed him with a narrower lead.
MEGAN: (Well, I'm sure I hugged him, too) SPENCER: But the guts of the poll has the significant stuff:
Obama's favorable rating has sunk to 48% from 59% since the last Times/Bloomberg poll in June. At the same time, his negative rating has risen to 35% from 27%. By comparison, McCain's ratings have hardly budged during the same period: 46% of voters have a positive feeling about him; 38% give him negative ratings.
That negative rating is still low, but the upward trajectory is steep and could get much steeper still, particularly because this shows the track McCain's on is working. It's not working well enough to give people a reason to vote for McCain — stuck at 46 pos/38 neg? — but the GOP convention clearly has a map laid out in front of it to give people that reason. Actually let me qualify that, and not just because it's bad writing. Everyone knows McCain and his bio, and it's not driving to people cross over. But if he starts introducing new arguments, there's enough reason to believe from this poll that he could draw people to him, not just away from Obama. MEGAN: Man, Bob Barr needs to ramp up his efforts. Where are the Dems to start giving him money, the way Republicans gave money to Nader in 2000? But, I thought this part was interesting:
Less than half of the registered voters polled think the first-term Illinois senator has the "right" experience to be president, while 80% believe McCain, a four-term senator, does.
When I went to those DNC protests back in the day, that's all anyone could talk about. This is why people were telling Hillary to lay off the negative attacks at the end, because they figured they would outlast her campaign and they did. SPENCER: Yeah, that's really worrisome. As is this:
The poll also illustrates some racial undercurrents that confront Obama as he strives to become the first African American president. Nine percent of voters say they would feel uncomfortable voting for a black candidate. Most voters say they know people who feel that way. About one in six say the country is not ready to elect a black president.
MEGAN: "Most voters say they know people who feel that way." Dude, when are people going to learn that when you say you "have a friend" who did something bad, everyone knows you're talking about yourself. SPENCER: My understanding is that the way pollsters get around respondents' reluctance to say THEY wouldn't vote for a black candidate is to ask if you know someone who wouldn't. It's very junior-high but apparently it works, from a statistical perspective. But, yeah. MEGAN: One in 6 says "the country" isn't ready for a black President? So we'll elect my grandpa instead? SPENCER: And let me say: over the last several weeks, I've been privvy to a massive amount of netroots fear/anxiety/antipathy to Obama, intensifying since he got the nomination. People think he's fucking this up, and I'm not talking about HRC supports, I'm talking about his people. Liberals are never satisfied, it's true, but the fear is palpable. MEGAN: Well, but, like fucking it up how? Are we talking FISA and the Bayh flirtation? Not attacking McCain enough? SPENCER: By not aiming a Howitzer at McCain's balls, as Roger Sterling would say. They don't want him to say things like "McCain is a patriot" — not give him any quarter at all. Just endless, ceaseless attacks. I'm of two minds. It's not really a policy issue, though the policy stuff doesn't help. They think he should have been talking about how Maliki endorsed his plan as a game-ender on Iraq, which remains McCain's central issue. THAT I agree with 1000 percent. One percentage point for each year McCain wants us in Iraq. MEGAN: I mean, I agree with you that Obama's camp hasn't been great at taking full advantage of even the positive opportunities that have presented themselves, it seems like they need to be able to improvise better — which could be a result of their very top-down, locked-down structure. But I'm of two minds of seeing him as an attack dog. I think it undermines his overarching Hopey message, which is why he's been leaving some of it to the Netroots. And why he should've gotten off his ass and picked a VP by now. SPENCER: Like why is the campaign alienating Wesley Clark? You want a guy with stars on his shoulders who actually has connections to enlisted dudes/junior officers who can aim the Howitzer at McCain MEGAN: But he also needs to work on his ability to draw attention to what the 'roots are saying without endorsing it. McCain and Clinton are much, much better at that. SPENCER: Yeah, I agree with that entirely. MEGAN: Meh. I think Wesley Clark isn't helpful except to you guys that already like Obama that love him, too. SPENCER: Why do you think that? Clark commands a bank of cameras wherever he goes, his credibility on national security is automatic, he can answer McCain in a second by saying, truthfully, you know, I've actually won a war... Even if he's not the asset I think he is, what's the upside to alienating him? MEGAN: Oh, I didn't say tell him to go fuck himself, I just mean, I don't see him being a keynote convention speaker. He's not that eloquent a speaker, which is fine in small settings but with an already overcrowded speaking schedule, I can see why they didn't award him a speaking slot. SPENCER: Anyway, one of my old boss' interlocutors says liberals should calm down:
I think we'll look back on August as when Obama won the election. August was when John McCain had the chance to define Obama and so cement a negative view of him that he could never recover. Now his time is almost up, the conventions are about to begin and we get into the full swing of the campaign. And what did McCain get out of his month? The Gallup tracking poll barely budged; most polls show Obama still with a modest lead, only slightly less than where he started a month or so ago. Obama's negatives are up somewhat — no surprise after the pummeling he took — but hardly up to critical levels.
MEGAN: Oh, I disagree with the idea that we'll see this as when Obama won. It's maybe when Obama didn't lose, but what has he done this month to win? SPENCER: He's been on vacation, McCain's most potent opportunity to cement a narrative, and McCain didn't do all the damage he needed to, is the point. But to a more important question: which of these young Republicans would you bone? You ponder that while I go to the bathroom MEGAN: Man, you and your incredibly small bladder. First off, I don't understand how "young" Republicans include people in their 40s, only I do because it just makes the point that most Republicans are really, really old. Also, not that I've never had sex with a Republican, but there's not one in the group that I'd nail even drunk and having gone two months without sex. SPENCER: It's just a lazy, cheap glossymag cliche. young people in America are SUPPOSSSSSSSED to be Obama supporters, according to something my editor mused about at the story conference, but here's a bunch of non-Obama supporters that we should gawk at like zoo creatures... I'm a fan of Aliciamarie Falcetta, 40, of White Plains: "After 9/11, I was happy that [Bush] stood up and let the terrorists know that he wasn't going to let it happen again." Yeah baby they got that message got that message loud and clear. MEGAN: I mean, that's the thing. It's like, there are plenty of very religious young people who feel very strongly about things like abortion and gay marriage. There are (strangely, to me) plenty of young people who feel very strongly about taxes — though all of them might already work in D.C., I can't say. I think it's insulting to them to think that all young people must be liberals, and insulting to liberals that we're all liberals just because we're too young to know better. SPENCER: It's also retarded that Esquire decided to use Republicans as a surrogate for conservatives, but that would probably undermine the conceit of the piece, for the reasons you point out. MEGAN: Not that that ever stopped a glossy magazine. SPENCER: Because you know what Republicans really want? They want not to be investigated! Scott McClellan to Politico:
[W]hen asked what advice he would give to a President Barack Obama or Democratic Congress on the matter of handling former Bush officials, McClellan speaks now of the perils of probing the past. "If Obama were to win," he said last week, "that would be an issue his administration would have to face early ... because he's pledging to be a uniter, not a divider - without saying those exact words we campaigned on in 2000. He's pledging to change the way Washington works, and if Congress were to pursue that, it would be very divisive."
MEGAN: Oh, sure, this is like the House Republicans bitching and moaning that Pelosi wanted to start a new kind of bipartisanship and work with them but she's so meeeeeean and never lets them get their waaaaaaaay. SPENCER: Yeah sure Obama might not be able to do it. But he could just, say, order declassifications of torture/rendition/GTMO/US attorney firings/WMD as, oh, let's say, a "broad policy review." And then turn the prospect of empaneling grand juries over to Attorney General Patrick Leahy or better yet Attorney General Russ Feingold. Meanwhile the Senate Democrats call investigation after investigation MEGAN: Well, don't piss on Waxman's lawn too soon, he's been doing a fine job keeping malfeasance in the headlines. SPENCER: Make the GOP infrastructure too busy worrying about being INDICTED to block health care reform or ending the war. MEGAN: Probably if less of them were indictable, they wouldn't be quite so worried. SPENCER: The GOP can defend itself on Rachel Maddow's show. Bring on the witch hunts. Reconciliation is nice, but not as nice as retribution.