The Phony Campaign

2008-08-17 Update

The phony gap between Obama and McCain narrows again! These kids are making it interesting.

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Barack Obama" phony706,000-16,000
"John McCain" phony661,000-7,000
"Bob Barr" phony12,400+500

It's been another big week in phoniness. In (roughly) chronological order:

  • Last Sunday, Greg Mankiw, who had previously said nice things about Obama's economic instincts, found reason to reconsider as he struggled to make sense out of Obama's view of oil companies as uniquely exempt from normal economic rules, and hence deserving of uniquely punitive taxation.

    Maybe Obama is saying that the forces of competition are absent in the oil market and that the deliberate decision by oil companies to keep capacity below competitive levels is the reason for today's high prices. That would be a logically coherent story, but not an empirically plausible one. It is not lack of competition that is keeping oil prices high but, rather, the basic forces of supply and demand. Even if you blame OPEC for noncompetitive behavior, that fact would hardly provide a rationale for taxing domestic oil producers, as Senator Obama is proposing.

    This is one of those cases where you have to hope Obama is being phony, that he doesn't buy his own populist rhetoric.

  • Also last Sunday, Michael Tomasky recalled Obama's stirring speech to the 2004 Democratic convention, the one that put him on the national stage, and asks:

    Whatever happened to that Obama, to that enemy of excessive partisanship and evangelist of national unity?

    Tomasky longs for the return of that theme of post-partisanship. As near as I can tell, he misses the obvious explanation: the theme was phony, jettisoned as soon as it lost its lustre and usefulness. Jennifer Rubin makes that point, good for her:

    The better explanation is that nonpartisanship is a pose and a sword to attack his opponents. It is remarkable that Obama continually leaves liberal pundits scratching their heads. How do his flip-flops mesh with the New Politics? How can he speak to nonpartisanship and run grainy ads of McCain standing next to President Bush? Please. If we’ve learned anything during this campaign it is that Hillary Clinton’s assessment of her former opponent was on the money: it’s just words.

    (Both links via Betsy Newmark, who also comments.)

  • We've mentioned before that the Phony Campaign really, really, misses John Edwards; on Monday, we were reminded that we really miss Hillary Clinton too. Her campaign manager griped to ABC News that if news of Edwards' philandering had only come out before the Iowa caucus, Clinton could have won there, and been in a much more favorable position for the following primaries and caucuses.

    Jonah Goldberg made the devastatingly obvious point:

    Look, the Clintons have their understandable, if not always legitimate, gripes about losing the nomination. But there is just one thing the Clinton camp can't ever, ever, ever complain about. Can you guess what it is? No? Well, here it is: You can't whine about smooth-talking southern politicians who cheat on their wives and then brazenly lie about it.

    Well, you can. But it's pretty phony.

  • On Tuesday, the Jammie-Wearing Fool pointed out a scurrilous accusation against Mrs. Obama:

    Any American woman who meets her would immediately identify her as a fellow traveler.

    What rightwing slimeball would stoop to such McCarthyite … oh, it was Barack Obama who said that? Never mind.

  • Also on Tuesday, Jeremy Lott checked out David Freddoso's new book, The Case Against Barack Obama, and it seems he's right in tune with our theme:

    Mr. Freddoso does not believe the presumptive Democratic nominee is an America-hating Marxist or a foreign agent or the Second Coming. Rather, he argues at length that Mr. Obama is a big phony. The Illinois pol may have "crafted himself an image as one of those rare reformers who succeeds," but "the idea of Barack Obama as a reformer is a great lie" that many now devoutly, and wrongly, believe in.

    Not just a phony. A big one.

  • But let's try to be fair. On Wednesday, Jacob Sullum took a look at a little-noticed McCain half-gainer on his devotion to Federalism, and how it relates to the federal prosecution of Californian medical marijuana providers, engaged in an activity legal under state and local law.

    In April 2007 [McCain] said, "I will let states decide that issue." But he quickly abandoned that position, and this year he said he'd continue the DEA's medical marijuana raids, declaring, "It is a national issue and not a [state] issue." By contrast, McCain's Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, has promised to stop the raids.

    John McCain: Federalist when convenient.

  • On Thursday, Berin Szoka of the Technology Liberation Front checked out McCain's tech policy and found it an "outrageous" example of "doublethink." Click over for the details; he argues convincingly that McCain's ostensibly free-market attitude toward tech is full of weasel words that leave the door wide open to regulation of providers and content.

    … you don’t have to be much of a libertarian to scan down the list of the government programs and regulations [McCain] supports–especially “Internet Access For All Americans”–and realize that he is, at best, a fair-weather free-marketeer. If free-marketeers have learned anything from Kevin Martin’s reign of terror at the FCC, it’s that a “free-market” Republican president can appoint regulators who pay lip-service to free market ideas while selling them out at (almost) every turn–especially when it comes to content Republican voters don’t like.

    As anyone who followed the McCain-Feingold process knows, McCain's pretty happy to jettison constitutional protections when they get in the way of his more important goals.

  • On Friday, Betsy Newmark gazed upon the deal between the Clinton and Obama camps for the upcoming convention. Schedules and procedures have, apparently been rejiggered to provide "catharsis" for Clinton supporters, allowing them to psychologically Move On to enthusiastic post-convention support of Obama. Betsy comments:

    I just can't relate to these voters. I'm not a Democrat, but if that's what I believed in, I'd want to get behind my party's nominee. And if I were still upset over Hillary's loss, would some fore-doomed roll call vote wouldn't suddenly make me feel all better. I would either be willing to vote for the guy I think is the best of the two candidates or I'm not. Seeing the Clintons pretend that they support Obama wouldn't change my mind. We all know that they are secretly hoping that Obama loses so she could run again in 2012. Her supporters are either willing to vote for Obama or not; no phony catharsis moment should make a difference to anyone in how they vote.

    I think there's a real nugget here about how some approach political activism as a kind of cheap psychotherapy. (But maybe a blogger shouldn't throw stones at that particular glass house before he's sure he's not in one himself.)

  • And finally, just last evening, both Obama and McCain were interviewed by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life. Many have commented on this exchange between Warren and Obama:

    Warren: Which existing Supreme Court Justice would you not have nominated? [Audience: laughs, scattered applause.]

    Obama: That's a good one. That's a good one. Um… uh, I would not have nominated, uh, … Clarence Thomas. [Applause.] Uh, I don't think that he, uh, uh, I, I I-I-I. I don't think that he was an exp–, as strong enough jurist or legal thinker, uh, at the time, uh, for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations of a lot of the Constitution. Uh, I would not nominiate Justice Scalia, although I don't think there's any doubt about his intellectual brilliance, uh, because he and I just disagree …

    Oh, it would have been so cool had Obama not braked his tongue before getting out the whole word "experienced." That could have played in hundreds of ads between now and November. (Instapundit was all over this, recognizing what he calls Obama's "Holy crap, I can't say that!" moment.)

    As it is, we'll have to live with the obvious implicit disrespect for Thomas in Obama's singling out of Scalia for "brilliance."

Last Modified 2024-06-03 5:53 PM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 4:45AM on AMC: A Fistful of Dollars (Clint Eastwood)
  • 6:00AM on TNT: In the Line of Fire (Clint Eastwood)
  • 8:30AM on TNT: Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood)

It's an all-Clint Sunday, and you have to get up pretty early for them. But the theory stands unrefuted for the past 26 weeks.

Last Modified 2024-06-03 5:53 PM EDT