You can never argue with a crazy m-m-mind ...


This is the kind of article for which journalists are always pining: devotion to the issues rather than to irrelevant "distractions" and People magazine-style personality profiles. Unfortunately, it's really no improvement, and in many ways, more misleading.

Leave aside for a moment that the authors seek to inflate confluences that are not really there, like this one: "Even on Iraq, a signature issue for both candidates, McCain and Obama have edged toward each other." That's just nonsense, true only to people who live inside a Beltway bubble where substance is irrelevant. But so too, not quite so obviously, is this:

Both McCain and Obama favor combating global warming with a "cap and trade" system. Under this plan, the government would set limits on emissions. Companies and others who emit gases below those limits would be able to sell credits to those unable to meet the targets.

Excuse me, but the devil is in the details, and the two candidates' cap-and-trade programs are quite different. So too are their energy plans, making mincemeat of this statement.

On the future of nuclear power, the candidates are in the same neighborhood. McCain has laid out a plan to build 45 nuclear power plants. Obama has offered more general support, along with the caveat that a nuclear power expansion be coupled with a resolution on how to safely dispose of waste.

But what is most annoying -- and intellectually indefensible -- about this article and the approach it represents is the fact that it treats the two parties as irrelevant. If John McCain is elected president, just who is he going to find in the Republican Party to appoint to the EPA who will pursue a vigorous approach toward global warming when virtually everyone in the party either denies its existence or its significance? A president is not just a person; it is an administration with literally thousands of political appointees. The Democrats have become a centrist party in recent years while the Republicans have drifted to the extreme margins on almost everything. Those extremists are going to form the basis of President McCain's appointments no matter what he thinks. The fact that McCain may be slightly less irresponsible on global warming or immigration (this week) than the rest of his party is irrelevant since it is the members of his party who will be implementing his policies. I wonder how many profiles of Michael Brown or Alberto Gonzales were written before the 2000 election ...

Howie, meet satire; satire, meet Howie

This just in: Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post said Sunday on his CNN media show Reliable Sources that The New Yorker's new cover is arguably "incendiary."

"I talked to the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, who tells me this is a satire, that they are making fun of all the rumors," Kurtz added.

The panelists agreed it would succeed in its goal of getting attention.

George Zornick writes:

Mark Halperin, currently Time magazine senior political analyst, plays a little Calvinball at The Page, here. He looks at the political week gone past, in which (1) Sen. John McCain declared the Social Security system to be a "disgrace," (2) McCain lied about Obama's tax policy, saying "[i]f you are one of the 23 million small business owners in America who files as an individual rate payer, Senator Obama is going to raise your tax rates," which is not true, (3) McCain praised himself for voting to condemn the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and condemned Obama for not doing so, even though McCain actually missed the vote too, (4) McCain released a list of "over 300 professional economists in support of John McCain's Jobs for America economic plan," but when Politico called these economists, they disagreed (5) McCain's economic policy adviser characterized the current economic troubles thusly: "We have sort of become a nation of whiners." (6) McCain makes even his supporters cringe as he hems, haws, and dances around a question about contraceptives.

Halperin does some internal pundit calculations and then declares: "WINNER OF THE WEEK: REPUBLICANS." He notes that "[d]espite Obama's splashy news that he'll deliver his nomination acceptance speech in a 76,000-seat stadium, his campaign is still proceeding with caution -- leaving Obama open to aggressive GOP attacks." He does not note any of the aforementioned gaffes, lies, and missteps by McCain.

(Note that even conservatives thought McCain had an awful week -- as Steve Benen notes, The Weekly Standard's Dean Barnett summarized events like this: "That sound you've been hearing all day is me hitting my head in Boston with a baseball bat, trying to forget all the silly things the McCain campaign has done this week.")

In a way, it's irrelevant who wins Halperin's completely arbitrary week-long contest, although a clear explanation of the rules of this game would be nice. More troubling is the logic that as long as Obama is "open to aggressive GOP attacks," he's in a losing position. Well, that will always be the case. Especially when certain reporters repeat and amplify said attacks.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Eric Alterman
Hometown: New York, New York

Dear all other major league baseball teams since the year 1900 with the exception of the 2008 New York Mets: Please accept my condolences for your failure, ever, to hold your opponents to three or fewer hits in five consecutive games. And sorry about Bobby Murcer too. He was class act.

P.S. Rough night last night, huh, boys? Sure, a seven-run gap, and the second shutout in a row both for the team and for Mr. Pelfrey but the Rockies got Five Hits. Ouch.

Name: Sam D
Hometown: Englewood, CO

Just read your Moment column after Friday night dinner and greatly value and appreciate your voice of sanity.

Having just returned from an extensive and wide-ranging 3 week trip to Israel with mine and 13 other families, I have an acutely amplified sense of disease about the destructive role that dogmatic and unquestioning support for right wing Israeli government policy is having. I have a reaffirmed and fervent perception that the bellicose and unconditionally pro-Israeli government lobbying by reactionary and militaristic elements of the dominant Jewish lobby (i.e. AIPAC) are actively harming the evolution and long term viability of a robust Israeli state. While endorsing the J-Street initiative, it is, one anticipates destined to be out-shouted, out-hustled and out-funded by the AIPAC machine for a long time to come.

That said, it is reassuring that there are other pragmatists in American Jewry who care deeply about the future of Israel but who are refusing to acquiesce to the bullying and intimidatory tactics of the pro-right-wing reactionaries that dominate organized Jewish American life.

Name: Bob
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

I assume that we now have to add the 12 CEOs from the major airlines to the "Whiners" list of McCain's buddy, Phil Gramm. They have the temerity to ask the flying public to contact their congressional reps to ask them to do something about oil speculators driving up the price of aviation 'go-juice.'

Additionally, I won't refuse to serve if someone nominates me to serve as Secretary of the Interior or Secretary of Transportation in the Bateman/Pierce regime. I rather like our national parks; plus, I donate annually to the Arbor Day Foundation. I also used to work for a now defunct airline, so I got that going for me.

Name: Steven Collins
Hometown: Carrboro, NC

Let's see, Doc -- Phil Gramm says that regular people struggling with hard times are a bunch of "whiners" and that the recession is strictly mental. Doesn't that strike you as vaguely . . . elitist?

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL


I enjoyed Siva's wry observation about Will Rogers as the logo on the tails of Alaska Airlines planes far more than I enjoyed my one and only flight on Alaska Airlines. It was 1992, Seattle to Oakland and the meal tray came with a prayer card that alluded to our reliance on God in our journey. Say what you will about faith-based programs for addressing social needs, but I prefer that the airline I fly on will not be relying on providence to get me to my destination safely.

Name: Gordy
Hometown: Sylvania, OH

Aside from the obvious issues with pandering, my question for Mr. McCain is this:

If you were a captive in the late sixties and early seventies, why would you recite the starting defensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who at the time were just starting to build their dynasty? The Steelers' heyday would not come until after Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese ...

As a sports fan, that is the largest travesty ...

Name: Tim Francis-Wright

What? Two columns mentioning famous Oklahomans and no Bartcop? He's from Tulsa and he's a national treasure.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.