Obama 47, McCain 41

That’s the latest from the AP-Ipsos Poll, conducted over five days from 7/31-8/4. Obama’s bouncing back a little as well on the Gallup tracker, now at Obama +4.

Relax.

And keep doing more of this. And this.

UPDATE: The AP poll may have oversampled Democrats. As always, however, Alan Abramowitz is around to give some more reality to things. Bottom line: the poll numbers are and have been very stable over several weeks, with Obama holding a small but steady 3-to-4 point lead over Senator Buffalo Chip.

Obama Fantasy Speech #3: The Barons of Wal-Mart

What’s good for the many is good for the few.

The bosses at Wal-Mart are afraid that if I’m elected Wal-Mart employees are going to have a real chance to organize, without fear of the illegal intimidation tactics Wal-Mart has used to keep unions out.

And they’re right.

And they’re afraid that Wal-Mart won’t be able to continue to dump its costs on the rest of us by leaving its employees with little or no health coverage.

And they’re right.

And they’re afraid that they, personally, are going to have to start paying their fair share of the costs of defending and governing this country, rather than having their taxes keep going down while their underpaid employees’ taxes keep going up.

And they’re right.

But what the Wal-Mart bosses don’t understand is that we are one nation, and that what’s good for the many is also good for the few.

During the 1930s the industrial barons thought that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was their greatest enemy. They thought that Social Security and the Wagner Labor Act were going to lead the country down the road to socialism. They spread every nasty rumor they could about FDR; they even said he was really Jewish &#8212 “Franlin Delano Rosenfeld” &#8212 instead of Dutch. (I guess it didn’t occur to them to claim he was a Muslim.)

But at the end of the day, those rich men found themselves richer than ever in a country more powerful and united than ever. They weren’t able to grab such a huge piece of the pie for themselves, but the pie was so much larger that their smaller piece of it was still more than they’d ever had before, under Presidents like Calvin Coolige and Herbert Hoover, who remained beloved by the rich even as they wrecked the economy and led the country into the Depression.

So once again, I say to the Barons of Wal-Mart: be not afraid. The medicine of having to treat your employees decently may be bitter, but drink it down and your company will be healthier in the long run. My policies will benefit not just a part of the country, but the entire United States of America. Everyone. Even you.

*****

WSJ story on Wal-Mart’s terror of Obama.

Obama’s record: what Ambinder missed

Marc Ambinder, who has my respect for what I take to be his good-faith effort to maintain his objectivity in the race for President, and who has hit John McCain some pretty good licks recently, repeats what seems to me an egregious error he made way back in May: Ambinder quotes an attack on Obama premised on the claim that Obama has no record, and treats that as a legitimate claim.

In this case, Ambinder simply asks his readership to name Obama’s accomplishments, against the background of a story reported (or invented) by that blue-ribbon fool Richard Cohen in which an unnamed Democrat, asked to mention one of Obama’s accomplishments, lists his speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention, the implication being that Obama didn’t do anything noteworthy before and hasn’t done anything noteworthy since.

That strongly implies that Ambinder, who after all is attentive to public affairs, can’t himself name any of Obama’s accomplishments. Maybe that’s true, but if so all it means is that Ambinder hasn’t bothered to do some basic Googling.

A short list of Obama’s deeds, counting only his time in elected office, would include, in Illinois:

* Children’s health care.

* The earned income tax credit.

* Ethics reform.

* Videotaping of police interrogations (an anti-torture measure, since imitated elsewhere, which required Obama to win the support of law enforcement groups who started out hostile to it).

In Washington:

* More ethics reform.

* Work on “loose nukes” with Richard Lugar.

Of course no legislator ever does anything alone, but that’s not a bad record; year-for-year, it’s much stronger than McCain’s, even counting the parts of McCain’s legacy he has already trashed, such as campaign finance reform and opposition to torture.

Details on Illinois are in this Charles Peters article; details on DC are in two long posts by Hilzoy, one on Obama’s legislative record and one on Obama’s style of bipartisanship. Really, this stuff isn’t hard to find, though those of Ambinder’s readers he chooses to quote don’t seem to have found any of it. To ask “What’s Obama’s record?” without looking it up, like asking “What are Obama’s specific proposals?” without checking his website, is journalistic malpractice, because asking those questions that way reinforces the impression carefully created by Obama’s opponents that he doesn’t have a record or detailed positions. And that is simply false, just like the claim that he didn’t want to visit wounded soldiers if he couldn’t bring cameras.

It’s already clear that McCain is working from the Rove playbook: tell lots of lies about your opponent, gambling that some of them will stick and that the press won’t have the gumption to call “bullsh*t.” I bet it won’t work this year; with Ambinder, Joe Klein, and Andrea Mitchell all off the reservation this early, it looks to me as if McCain is going to lose his gamble on the supinity of the press. Still, it’s sad to see a good reporter contribute to a bad line of argument.

Standing tall

Obama stays vague on chlorinated chickens.

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times, scrabbling for an On The Other Hand graf on Obama’s triumphal European tour (my italics):

Obama was vague on crucial issues of trade, defense and foreign policy that currently divide Washington from Europe and are likely to continue to do so even if Obama becomes president. The issues include Russia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, as well as new refueling tankers and chlorinated chickens, the focus of an 11-year European ban on U.S. poultry imports.

So American electors have to choose between two candidates: one doesn’t know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but it doesn’t matter because he plans to pick fights with both. The other doesn’t stand tall in defence of chlorinated chickens.

Nailbiting stuff.

Obamaphobia in action

With sufficiently distorted lenses, it’s possible to blame McCain’s latest disgusting lie about Obama on … Obama.

An Obamaphobic reader blames McCain’s false charge that Obama didn’t want to visit wounded soldiers unless the cameras were present on …. Obama, of course.

If his campaign had been honest about why he wasn’t going from the outset, it wouldn’t have become an issue.

Entirely true. If the campaign had decided to get the Defense Department in the middle of a political squabble, McCain wouldn’t have had a chance to tell his disgusting lie. Instead, the campaign invented a diplomatic excuse that didn’t help Obama but did avoid damage to the Defense Department, and McCain jumped on it, not bothering to find out that (1) No cameras have been present at Obama’s previous visits to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed; or (2) The press was not invited along for the visit in Germany before it was cancelled by DoD.

Note how close the original Obama campaign excuse (“didn’t want the visit perceived as a campaign event”) was to the truth (“DoD decided to call it a campaign event &#8212 after it was too late to change the arrangements &#8212 and canceled it”) with the difference entirely to the advantage of DoD and the disadvantage of the campaign.

Note also that my reader isn’t a winger, but a frustrated Hillaryite who may yet wind up voting sensibly. That should give you a sense of the depth of the rage still left over from the primary campaign.

Update My correspondent denies being a Hillaryite; she suppotred Clinton, she says, only as a way of preventing Obama’s nomination.

Mutterschaft und Apfelkuchen

Obama’s Berlin speech without concrete proposals

“Motherhood and apple pie” was my reaction to Obama’s fine Berlin speech. He said the right things, in the right way, wowed the young Berliners, and gave Americans like Quincy here back some of their self-esteem. That will do fine for now.

Like most people in the world, Europeans will be hugely relieved when Obama takes office. An actual intelligent adult in the White House! And half-African as well! But there really wasn’t much beef. There didn’t have to be. Obama is under no pressure at all from the fumbling and ignorant McCain to articulate his broad foreign policy vision, and every reason not to give hostages to fortune. So no five-point plans on climate change, Islamic fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation, trade, Africa, or any other issue he mentioned. I’m sure Obama’s policy staff is beavering away on these (I trust they’ve not lost Samantha Powers’ e-mail address), but we are unlikely to learn more before the election.

Does the world actually need five-point plans from Obama?

Continue reading “Mutterschaft und Apfelkuchen”

We are the world — Patriotism and Globalism

Obama’s peroration squares the circle, combining patriotism and globalism, justifying American leadership on the basis of America’s status as the inclusive, global, nation, as well as its universal ideals

“But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived — at great cost and great sacrifice — to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom — indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us — what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores — is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.”

For anyone who questions Barack Obama’s patriotism, or wants to see how to combine patriotism with globalism, read the peroration of his Berlin speech, quoted above.

America’s claim to leadership is not based on perfection, but on working towards universal aspirations, and on our status as the world’s first globally inclusive population.

Tearing Down Walls: Chauvinism, Exceptionalism, Universalism, Globalism

Barack Obama is surely right that America can only lead to a better world by tearing down walls rather than picking divisive fights; can his combination of globalism and keeping military options on the table win politically?

“The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.”

Barack Obama, speaking as “a citizen of the world” as well as a proud (but not chauvinist) American, has now implicitly framed the choice between himself and McCain as for world leadership that unites diverse peoples, builds global competence and marginalizes extremists, as against endless belligerence that sees Islamic extremism as a permanent threat that is expected to last even longer than Soviet Communism, and thus alienates allies we will need to solve global problems.

Obama is right as a matter of policy that the ideological competition is more crucial over the long term than the military one, and his rhetoric on Afghanistan and Iran leaves little reasonable ground for attacking him as being naive or soft.

But I am sure there are thousands (hundreds?) of Democrats today — remnants of the Scoop Jackson wing of the party, as well as McGovernites who got tired of being beaten politically by Republicans during the Cold War — who are cringing at the speech and its title, “A World That Stands as One,” with its echoes of the last line of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” Accusations that Obama favors world government will surely follow, and be damning.

I am betting they are wrong. I am thinking that globalization, generational change, the experience of the seven years since 9/11, and the hollowness of the Bush administration’s threat mongering (especially now that we are talking to every part of the “axis of evil”), and the lack of forces available for deployment, together with Obama’s confidence, will enable him to prevail.

Obama has to be careful that he doesn’t seem to be promising quick progress toward world peace, and he needs to continue to evidence realism about the problems we face, but in the end isn’t a president who will work with other countries on the assumption that people have common aspirations a more attractive prospect than one who will snarl at the world and insist that we need to “lead” with the end of the spear?

Obama is a realist who inspires hope and common purpose; this is infinitely preferable to a candidate whose main claim on election is a (largely baseless) assertion that he “knows how to win wars.”

If Obama’s rhetoric has any flavor of naivete, it is surely a more tasty flavor than the neocon naivete (of which Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s security adviser, was a significant progenitor) that viewed elections — even achieved at gun point — as a quick solution to the problems of the Arab world.

Bikes, hair dryers, and MI5

Only Mark Kleiman could get to the heart of the FBI’s counter-terrorism challenges with a bike and a hair dryer. He’s quite right: the FBI’s “transformation” ain’t pretty. Just last month, a Senate report found that FBI headquarters did not meet security standards to handle classified information. The new head of intelligence at the FBI is — surprise surprise — an agent. The old head of intelligence was from another agency. FBI regs prohibit analysts from running any of the 56 US field offices. Almost none of the “field intelligence groups,” the critical units that fuse intel with action, are headed by analysts. So long as analysts aren’t good enough for the FBI, the FBI won’t be good enough to protect America.

But MI5? I’m not there yet. Our natural response whenever we have intel failures is to create a new agency.

Before 9/11, there were 12 major federal intelligence agencies. Now there are 16. That’s not even counting the 40+ state and local intelligence fusion centers. The problem used to be that intelligence was all spokes and no hub. Now it’s that there are too many hubs. When the Director of National Intelligence has to create its own coordination office, you know we’re in trouble.

In my view, the FBI’s National Security Branch should be made much more autonomous. This is a shift in mindset as well as reporting relationships and authorities. Agents working counter-terrorism need to be trained and treated as intelligence collectors, not case investigators. Analysts need to be treated as equals.

This will not be enough. In intelligence, there is so much dysfunction, so little time. But it would be a vast improvement.

FBI Birthday Gifts

The FBI turns 100 this month. Here are 5 gifts I’d love to get the Bureau:

1. An electronic case file system that actually works.

2. Phone books that stop labeling analysts “support,” the catch-all category for non-agents that lumps analysts with secretaries, janitors, and mechanics.

3. Filling the 38% of international counter-terrorism supervisor positions that are currently vacant.

4. Filling them with counter-terrorism experts. Short video training sessions don’t count.

5. An honorary picture of Bassem Youssef in every FBI field office and HQ. Youssef, the Bureau’s highest ranking Arab-American agent, gave hair-raising whistleblower testimony before Congress a few weeks ago.