Patterico's Pontifications


The Fragile Obama Coalition and the Permanent Campaign

Filed under: General — Karl @ 12:05 pm

[Posted by Karl]

At RCP, David Paul Kuhn — who knows a bit about demographics — notes that in politics, demographics are not destiny:

Last week, in a Center for American Progress report, the influential liberal analyst Ruy Teixera returned to the 2008 vote and exit polls. Teixera focused the first two thirds of the paper on demographics. “A new progressive America is on the rise,” he concluded.

By now, the political class is familiar with the trends Teixera highlighted. The mountain west turned blue. Democrats won the industrial Midwest. Hispanics and youth voted two to one for Democrats. Nearly every black voter backed Barack Obama. Democrats won college graduates for the first time since Ronald Reagan came to Washington.


Teixera’s nearly 50-page report ignored the economic crisis impact on the electoral map. By the Gallup Poll’s tracking, Democrats were winning about 55 percent of the Hispanic vote before the first stock market crash. McCain was winning the college graduate vote. By September’s close, Democrats were winning roughly 65 percent of the Hispanic vote and college graduates.

Obama won nine states Bush took in 2004. But in six of those states, including Florida and Ohio, John McCain was ahead or tied prior to the first stock market crash on September 15. Nearly to the day of the dive, Obama rose in all nine states to soon sustain a national majority for the first time.


Last week, when I asked a top Democratic strategist about the demographic tailwinds at his party’s back, he shrugged. “Americans are incredibly practical people,” the strategist said. “The only ideology they are going to be loyal to is what works.”

In politics, it would be more accurate to say that the apolitical middle will be loyal to what they perceive as working.  The latest Pew poll shows Pres. Obama’s job approval number among Independents dropping from 63% to 57% — and the disapproval number roughly doubling from 14% to 28% — in the course of a month.  While a majority of the adults polled favors government exerting greater control over the economy “right now,” almost half are angry over the bailout of banks and institutions like AIG.  Even after a good week on Wall Street, investors are still looking at more than a dozen years of paper gains gone with the wind.  Six-in-ten adults think Pres. Obama is doing as much as he can to try to fix the economy, though that number may erode as the political class begins to openly question the administration’s competence and his lack of focus on the economy

All of the above explains why Obama — who cultivated the image of Mr. Calm during the campaign — all but brought his own pitchfork and torch to yesterday’s presser.  The Sorosphere may be wallowing in triumphalism, but the White House clearly is not.  So this week, it’s a mix of McCain-esque rhetoric on the fundamental soundness of the economy, mixed with populist anger (also McCain-esque, technically).  It is a continuation of the permanent campaign, when what Obama could use is an actual plan that inspires confidence among the global financial markets and on Main Street here.


The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:47 am

The Politico catches up to Mickey Kaus with the story of left-wing bloggers and journalists, chatting it up in a giant, off-the-record discussion web site:

For the past two years, several hundred left-leaning bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and academics have talked stories and compared notes in an off-the-record online meeting space called JournoList.

Proof of a vast liberal media conspiracy?

Not at all, says Ezra Klein, the 24-year-old American Prospect blogging wunderkind who formed JournoList in February 2007. “Basically,” he says, “it’s just a list where journalists and policy wonks can discuss issues freely.”

But some of the journalists who participate in the online discussion say — off the record, of course — that it has been a great help in their work. On the record, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin acknowledged that a Talk of the Town piece — he won’t say which one — got its start in part via a conversation on JournoList. And JLister Eric Alterman, The Nation writer and CUNY professor, said he’s seen discussions that start on the list seep into the world beyond.

The piece notes that Mickey Kaus has written about the list before, and indeed he has, calling it the “Klein Klub.” Back in 2007 (nearly two years before this piece! all hail the speed of blogs!), Mickey wrote this post questioning the lack of transparency here:

If the Klein Klub succeeds, isn’t there a threat that it will a) compromise independence, in part because participants will always worry if they are using something that should be kept private and will feel they owe the other members; b) will encourage groupthink, as everyone works out the tacit party line before presenting it to their sheeple-like readers; c) encourage propgandism (see (b)); and d) become the place where the real conversation happens, a conversation the non-elite public isn’t privy to. … P.P.S.: Who’s in the Klein Klub? Have they published a list of names? The sheeple demand to know at least that! … P.P.P.S.: Chait, I know you’re in it. Who else? …

The one value that Politico could have given would have been to provide a list of names. We demand names! The piece gives us: Krugman, Jeff Toobin, Eric Alterman, and New Republic editor John Judis as among the journalists (word used guardedly) who belong to the Klub. It’s no real surprise that these guys consort with other left-wingers . . . is it?

I don’t want to suggest that any off-the-record discussions — even regular ones — between journalists and bloggers are suspect. Every month I am lucky enough to be a part of a gathering of writers at the Yamashiro restaurant. Mickey attends. The discussions are off the record.

But — and I think this is key — it’s a mixture of left-wingers, right-wingers, centrists, and any other category you can think of. In 2007 Jill Stewart (also an attendee) wrote a piece about it which I quoted in this post. Jill said:

The late conservative journalist Cathy Seipp was a regular, but her friend, liberal French blogger and detective-in-training Emmanuelle Richard, is also at home in the group. [Host Scott] Kaufer detests political litmus tests and loves to see strange bedfellows getting along.

So, you might see Mickey or Ann Coulter; but you also might see Arianna Huffington or people from the L.A. Times.

Ultimately, a bunch of left-wingers indoctrinating one another is hardly any surprise — and I saw no names among those appearing in the Politico piece who pretend to be objective journalists. (Toobin doesn’t, does he?) As long as no purportedly objective journalist is a member of this apparently reliably left-wing group, I don’t see a huge problem, beyond the legitimate issues raised by Mickey in his 2007 post.

But then, how can I know that without the names?!?!

Happy Birthday to My Dad

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:50 am

As I have done every March 17 since I started this blog, I am wishing my Dad a Happy Birthday.

He would have been 84 today. I have thought about him a lot lately. You never stop.

Out comes the shamrock bow tie.

And Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!

L.A. Times Expert Speaks Out: I Disagree With the Thesis of That Article That Quoted Me

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 12:20 am

You’re gonna love this post. It shows how the L.A. Times takes an expert who disagrees with their agenda — and quotes him in a way that makes him sound like he agrees with it.

With the help of Ken at Popehat, I recently took apart a biased Los Angeles Times article on the PATRIOT act as applied to unruly airline passengers. The article argued that the law too often targets relatively innocent passengers. Together, Ken and I used court documents to show how the article misrepresented the facts of actual cases to make the defendants sound more innocent than they actually were. Ken also applied his experience as a former federal prosecutor to explain what a tiny change the PATRIOT Act had made in existing law.

In support of its thesis that the law is overbroad and has been misused, the paper quoted a law professor named Nathan Sales:

Indeed, the law has given airlines new flexibility to clamp down on unruly behavior. But the intent of the Patriot Act provisions was to put terrorists in violation of the law before they could execute an actual takeover, said Nathan Sales, a law professor at George Mason University who helped write the Patriot Act when he served in the Justice Department.

But Sales acknowledged that in the fervor to protect the skies, the practical application of the law has strayed.

“A woman spanking her child is not as great a threat to aviation as members of Al Qaeda with box cutters. That much is clear,” he said.

Sales appears again here:

“If you get out of your seat and walk to the front of a plane and talk about bombs, you get what you deserve,” said Sales, the law professor.

On the other hand, Sales adds, “There are other sanctions than throwing the book at a person who has mental health issues.”

These quotes, taken together, make it sound like Sales is mostly opposed to the changes made by the PATRIOT Act. Don’t they?

But now, Sales has written a piece that makes it clear that he is not opposed to these changes after all:

Should rowdy airline passengers be prosecuted under the USA PATRIOT Act?

On the surface, the question seems to answer itself: PATRIOT, enacted by Congress in the wake of 9/11, was intended to protect against a terrorist attack, not the drunk in seat 16A. Dig a bit deeper, however, and there are good reasons to hold people accountable when they prevent pilots or flight attendants from doing their jobs.

(All bold emphasis in this post is mine.)

I can see the L.A. Times quote now: “PATRIOT, enacted by Congress in the wake of 9/11, was intended to protect against a terrorist attack, not the drunk in seat 16A.”

Well, he said it, didn’t he?

Sales, unedited by the agenda reporters at the L.A. Times, tells us:

Let’s start with a little history. It’s been a federal crime to interfere with airline crews since 1961. The PATRIOT Act made a minor adjustment to that law: It’s illegal now to attempt or conspire to do what the statute already barred actually doing. The basic idea is prevention: We shouldn’t have to wait until a hijacker slits a flight attendant’s throat to impose criminal liability. We should be able to prosecute him for the steps he takes along the way to complete the assault — ignoring an order to return to his seat, pulling a box cutter out of his pocket, and so on.

This, by the way, is precisely the argument that Ken at Popehat made at the time. Turns out the expert quoted by the L.A. Times agrees — it’s just that, somehow, what we now know to be his full opinion on the subject didn’t really get expressed in the article.

What surprised me the most is that Sales, the L.A. Times expert, explicitly links the L.A. Times article as an example of an article with a flawed thesis:

Recently, several newspapers (including the Los Angeles Times) have run stories about passengers who engaged in loud arguments or other rowdy behavior and were charged with violating the PATRIOT Act. The stories suggest that the law needs to be changed so that minor acts of misconduct will not land a passenger in jail.

The PATRIOT Act has attracted such notoriety in some quarters that journalists naturally blame everything they can on it. But the reality is that most of these people could have been prosecuted even if PATRIOT never existed. PATRIOT isn’t putting them behind bars; the 1961 law is.

This again echoes the argument made by Ken at Popehat.

The rest of the piece goes on like that. Prof. Sales strongly defends the law as written, and explains why it makes sense for it to be as broad as it is. He cites passenger safety and flexibility as the main justifications for leaving the law as written. In another quote that the L.A. Times would cherry-pick, he acknowledges that, “as with any broad statute, [the law] can be applied too severely.” But, he argues, the solution is not to rewrite the law, but for prosecutors to exercise prosecutorial discretion. His ultimate conclusion is clear: “It would be ill-advised to enact new legislation restricting the statute to terrorist assaults, as some have suggested.”

Well, that’s clearly what the L.A. Times suggested. And the reporter quoted Prof. Sales in a way that made it sound as if he agreed.

But he doesn’t.

Read his entire piece. And then ask yourself: when Prof. Nathan Sales talked to the reporter for the L.A. Times, did he really fail to make his point clear, as he does in this article?

Or did he make his point just as he did in this article. . . only to see his words left on the cutting room floor?

I know which way I’d bet.


Filed under: Humor — Patterico @ 12:11 am

Via Ace by way of Eric Blair comes a link to a very funny website that collects goofy items from newspapers — ads, headlines, captions, and the like.

Me, I like the one about Mr. Harry Paratestes. But that’s because I’m very silly.

I’m Thinking It May Involve a Little-Known Fact About Eggy-Weggies

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:10 am

Karl Rove (h/t Andy Levy):

Join Karl Rove for #TWITTERIVIA every Tuesday!

Here’s how it works: Karl Rove will Twitter a trivia question at 10:00 PM Eastern on the dot via TweetLater (a scheduled Tweet). The first person to send the correct answer (spelling included) to @karlrove will win a personalized autographed photo. No direct messages (DMs).

Good luck!

Which leads me to two thoughts:

  • I wonder what the trivia question will be?
  • Some day, this will be Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, right?

It may take a few years, but everything changes. One day you’re arguably the most powerful man in the world; the next you are holding TWITTERIVIA contests on Tuesdays.

When you think of the Obama administration, remember: this too shall pass.

Leaving behind only the crushing, crushing debt. That’ll stay.

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