Concerning mendacity

Yes, there are more black men under 35 behind bars than there are enrolled full-time in four-year colleges. Richard Cohen needs to retract his charge of “mendacity.” I’m not holding my breath.

Richard Cohen is at it again. So is Michael Dobbs.

Here’s my letter to Cohen (somewhat edited). I copied Dobbs and Deborah Howell, and got a quick response from Dobbs, who denied copying and asked me to supply some additional numbers (reflected below). I did so promptly; he hasn’t responded again. I’ll report on any further follow-up

Dear Richard Cohen:

When you call someone a liar, you ought to make sure you have your facts straight. Your reliance on Michael Dobbs as a source of truth turns out to have been a mistake. (It turns out that Dobbs didn’t even bother to do his own work; his item is mostly borrowed from a right-wing website.) [UPDATE: Dobbs denies having copied. Duly noted.]

Just to give some background: I teach public policy at UCLA, concentrating on crime control and drug policy. In the Reagan Administration, I ran the policy shop for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. So — unlike Dobbs — I actually know what I’m talking about.

There were 534,000 black men in prison at year-end 2006. (P. 6.)

There were another 296,000 blacks in jail (as opposed to prison)

Since about 85% of jail inmates are male

that means roughly 240,000 black males in jail.

Another 36,000 black males were held in “secure” (i.e., locked) juvenile facilities:

That gives a total of 810,000 black males behind bars at any one time.

By contrast, according to the Census Bureau there are 370,000 black men enrolled full-time in four-year colleges, plus another 40,000 in graduate school.

As always, the number you get depends on the definition you use. Iain Murray, from whom Dobbs copied, arbitrarily decided that only those under the age of 24 counted as “young.” He also counted part-time and community-college students as “enrolled in college.” So it’s not fair to accuse Murray of “mendacity”: he merely chose the numbers he wanted to make the point he wanted to make.

If you restrict both the inmate population and the college population to the under-35s, the comparable figures are 400,000 behind bars and 380,000 in college.

So Obama’s claim is perfectly defensible, and your reference to his “mendacity” had no basis. You owe your readers a public retraction and, and Sen. Obama an apology.

Yours,

Mark Kleiman

Second update Now Daniel Schorr of NPR has picked up the same false claim of falsehood.

Schorr also retails the old chestnut about Joe Biden’s “cribbing” Niel Kinnock’s claim about being the first in his family to go to college. In fact, Biden was in the habit of citing Kinnock (by name) to make his point about equal educational opportunity. The claim made no sense if made in Biden’s own name, since he wasn’t in fact the first in his family to go to college. In the exhaustion of non-stop campaigning, on one occasion he recited his usual line but left out the quotation marks.

Schorr also gets on HRC for claiming that Bush has cut the NIH budget. In fact, NIH funding has been just about flat in nominal terms since 2003 which means a substantial cut in inflation-adjusted terms, especially if we use rates of medical inflation as the right measure.

I have great regard for Schorr, and little for Biden or HRC. But I continue to be awed by the willingness of reporters to accuse politicians of lying on the basis of facts and numbers the reporters only half understand.

Jiu-jitsu

Obama turns the “rolling the dice” argument around the other way:
“The real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result. And that’s a risk we can’t take. Not this year. Not when the stakes are this high.”

Obama turns the “rolling the dice” argument back on its maker:

The real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result. And that’s a risk we can’t take. Not this year. Not when the stakes are this high.

And then he squashes the “inexperience” argument, again in jiu-jitsu style:

In this election, it is time to turn the page. In seven days, it is time to stand for change.

This has been our message since the beginning of this campaign. It was our message when we were down, and our message when we were up. And it must be catching on, because in these last few weeks, everyone is talking about change.

But you can’t at once argue that you’re the master of a broken system in Washington and offer yourself as the person to change it. You can’t fall in line behind the conventional thinking on issues as profound as war and offer yourself as the leader who is best prepared to chart a new and better course for America.

The truth is, you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Mine is rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. I believe deeply in those words. But they are not mine. They were Bill Clinton’s in 1992, when Washington insiders questioned his readiness to lead.

Not only is Obama’s skill as a rhetorical counter-puncher a joy to watch in action, it’s also a substantial shelter from the sh*tstorm that’s certain to hit any Democratic nominee. I don’t think that’s as big a threat this year as it has been in the past &#8212 voters disgusted by Republicans won’t be very receptive to tittle-tattle about Democrats &#8212 but it’s going to happen, and it would be nice to have a nominee who knows how to deal with it.

“Kumbaya”? Not so much

Obama appeals over the heads of the Republican leadership to Republican voters. That’s a much greater threat to their power than ranting about how evil they are. Why would you call a candidate who knows how to hit his opponents where it hurts “naive”?

The critique of Obama’s theme that it’s possible to transcend partisan and ideological bitterness &#8212 what Kevin Drum, among others, has called his “Kumbaya shtick” &#8212 is that it takes two sides to make a dialogue, and the leadership of the plutocrat/lobbyist/imperialist/Christofascist coalition that is the modern Republican party isn’t interested in compromise &#8212 cf. the S-CHIP debacle &#8212 and needs to be destroyed, not temporized with.

I never thought Obama was naive about Jerry Falwell or Grover Norquist or HIAA or PhARMA, any more than I think he’s naive about Ahmadinejad or Castro. It seems to me that he’s directing his “Kumbaya” message over the heads of the Republican leadership to (some of) the voters who have, often to their own disadvantage, supported GOP candidates out of their fear and hatred of the libruls who make fun of their religion and who want to regulate their thermostats, take away their guns, and teach their children twelve different ways to have sex.

But of course I’m as capable as anyone else of projecting my beliefs and plans onto the politicians I’m currently supporting. So I was pleased to see Obama, in his “closing argument” speech, lay out a “theory of change” on exactly that principle:

I’ve spoken to veterans who talk with pride about what they’ve accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq, but who nevertheless think of those they’ve left behind and question the wisdom of our mission in Iraq; the mothers weeping in my arms over the memories of their sons; the disabled or homeless vets who wonder why their service has been forgotten.

And I’ve spoken to Americans in every corner of the state, patriots all, who wonder why we have allowed our standing in the world to decline so badly, so quickly. They know this has not made us safer. They know that we must never negotiate out of fear, but that we must never fear to negotiate with our enemies as well as our friends. They are ashamed of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and warrantless wiretaps and ambiguity on torture. They love their country and want its cherished values and ideals restored.

It is precisely because you’ve experienced these frustrations, and seen the cost of inaction in your own lives, that you understand why we can’t afford to settle for the same old politics. You know that we can’t afford to allow the insurance lobbyists to kill health care reform one more time, and the oil lobbyists to keep us addicted to fossil fuels because no one stood up and took their power away when they had the chance.

[big snip]

There’s no shortage of anger and bluster and bitter partisanship out there. We don’t need more heat. We need more light. I’ve learned in my life that you can stand firm in your principles while still reaching out to those who might not always agree with you. And although the Republican operatives in Washington might not be interested in hearing what we have to say, I think Republican and independent voters outside of Washington are. That’s the once-in-a-generation opportunity we have in this election.

For the first time in a long time, we have the chance to build a new majority of not just Democrats, but Independents and Republicans who’ve lost faith in their Washington leaders but want to believe again – who desperately want something new.

We can change the electoral math that’s been all about division and make it about addition – about building a coalition for change and progress that stretches through Blue States and Red States. That’s how I won some of the reddest, most Republican counties in Illinois. That’s why the polls show that I do best against the Republicans running for President – because we’re attracting more support from Independents and Republicans than any other candidate. That’s how we’ll win in November and that’s how we’ll change this country over the next four years.

You want to be really, really, nasty to the goon squad that now runs the Republican party? Don’t rail at them; it runs off them like water off a duck’s back. If you want to hit them where it hurts, you have to take away their voters. I don’t know how much of that Obama would be able to do, but I’m confident that he could do more of it than either of his rivals for the nomination.

Update Mark Schmitt’s (pre-speech) take is the pretty much same as mine: like me, he sees in Obama a Machiavelli dressed up as Mother Teresa.

Kerrey, again

“Secular madrassa”? Give me a break!

I was willing to give Bob Kerrey the benefit of the doubt about his “Barack Hussein Obama” comment. But if his “secular madrassa” comment wasn’t a deliberate smear, then Kerrey must really and truly be as dimwitted as his detractors insist. There are some people so nasty that they can’t see a belt without wanting to hit below it. And there are others so verbally clumsy that they never open their mouths except for the purpose of inserting a foot. I’m not sure which one Kerrey is, but I’m sure glad he didn’t get to be President.

“A liar needs a good memory”

Mark Penn says Billy Shaheen voluntarily resigned from the Clinton campaign. Billy Shaheen says that Billy Shaheen voluntarily resigned from the Clinton campaign. Hillary Rodham Clinton says that Billy Shaheen was fired from the Clinton campaign.

Or, in this case, a whole collection of liars. Mark Penn insisted that Billy Shaheen had stepped down voluntarily as co-chair of Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign after Shaheen suggested that Barack Obama might have been a drug dealer. (That was just before Penn himself used the word “cocaine” with respect to Obama, just in case the smear hadn’t gotten out all the way.) And the statement released in Shaheen’s name said the same thing.

OK, that was pretty obviously a routine campaign falsehood. Presumably the “resignation” was part of the deal with Shaheen. In return for his stepping down “voluntarily,” the campaign agreed not to fire him, thus sparing his wife, the likely Democratic Senate candidate in New Hampshire, embarrassment. I didn’t complain about it at the time; there’s nothing really wrong with trying to help an ally maintain some shreds of his dignity.

Only someone forgot to tell the candidate.

“We asked him to step down,” Clinton said during a media blitz that saw her go on six morning news shows. “Every time somebody in my campaign says something that we don’t believe is right, appropriate, we take care of it… We move quickly. And we will keep doing it.”

Of course, the campaign didn’t “move quickly” in the first place; it wasn’t until the next day that Shaheen’s “resignation” was announced. But putting that aside, what’s happening here?

The less disgraceful explanation would be that HRC actually ordered Shaheen dumped, or was told my someone in the campaign that the decision to dump him had been made, that he agreed to be dumped quietly in return for making it look voluntary or some campaign honcho decided that the alternative would be too costly in New Hampshire, and that they never go their stories straight. Penn told the agreed lie, and Hillary told the simple truth without knowing that she was contradicting both Shaheen and Penn. But how plausible is it that the candidate was never told about the arrangement and never saw a reference to in in a newspaper or on TV?

The more disgraceful explanation would be that the Senator simply decided to double-cross Shaheen, or. to put the matter more kindly, simply decided to tell the interviewer the thing that sounded best at that particular moment. No one in Iowa cares about the Shaheen-for-Senate campaign, and firing someone for making a dingbat comment suggests leadership and action-on-principle as simply accepting a resignation does not.

Either way, it’s pretty bad. One of the worst things about the Bush Administration is that it has made us tin-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists of us all; no matter how absurd the conspiracy theory &#8212 the White House staff deliberately burning a CIA officer engaged in preventing the acquisition of WMD by Iran, of all the ridiculous notions! &#8212 it has turned out to be true. By the same token, the HRC campaign seems to be doing its best to spread Clinton Derangement Syndrome. I’ll never forgive Hillary for making me into a Hillary-hater.

Obama’s toughness

Too naive to take on the Republicans? I don’t think so.

Paul Krugman thinks Barack Obama is “naive” (Gee, where have we heard that word before? Is Krugman still writing his own stuff, or is he just mailing in talking points from Mark Penn?) for thinking that the drug companies and health insurers will play a role in shaping a new national health policy. I would have thought that anyone who thought otherwise was showing a dangerous distance from consensus reality.

But Krugman’s real point seems to be that Obama isn’t nasty enough to be President: that his agenda of inclusiveness (including even &#8212 horrors! &#8212 drug companies in the national community) means giving up on serious change. That strikes me as a remarkably un-subtle view for someone of Krugman’s sophistication, and can only attribute the error to the fact that Krugman is as committed to his candidate as I am to mine.

To my eye, Obama is super-slick, and part of his slickness is not looking slick: looking, indeed, as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. It’s the Reagan trick. To interpret that technique as weakness is a foolish mistake.

If you’re going to provoke a fight and want the onlookers on your side, you have to make sure that the other side looks like the aggressor. In undoing the damage of the past eight years, Obama is going to need a fairly free hand to wield the powers of the executive. He can’t get that by looking like a power-hungry, revenge-driven would-be tyrant.

By emphasizing unity over conflict, for example, Obama might be able to get a Truth and Reconciliation Commission: or, to put that in English, he might be able to acquire the power, through his nominees on such a commission, to purge the Executive Branch of Bushoids. Can you imagine Hillary getting away with that?

Somehow I doubt that either Krugman or I really have the chops to judge the toughness of a guy who cut his political teeth on the Southside of Chicago. But Obama looks to me like a skilled counter-puncher. His crack at Hillary in the last debate &#8212which must have been impromptu, since he might have anticipated the question but not her intervention&#8212 suggests to me he knows how to fight back effectively without looking mean.

You have to love the way the Clintonites are screaming that Obama is unfairly getting away with saying bad things about their candidate while the press criticizes her as “negative” and, at the very same time, warning that he’s not tough enough to take on the Republicans. No one seems to notice the contradiction. A very sharp knife doesn’t hurt as much going in, but it does just as much damage.

And if you doubt Obama knows how to use the dog whistle, check this out:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama accused the Bush administration on Tuesday of pursuing a policy of “social Darwinism” that leaves every man and woman struggling.

To you and me, dear reader, “Social Darwinism” suggests Herbert Spencer and letting the poor starve. But to lots of the Republican base, it suggests … Darwinism. They really, really don’t want to vote for a “Darwinist.” See how it works?

No, this is definitely a guy I wouldn’t want confront up a dark alley. He won’t get desperate and start swinging wildly, as the Clinton campaign now seems to be doing, but he knows how to make his punches tell.

Kerrey and “Barack Hussein Obama”

Regardless of why he said it, what Kerrey said is true: Obama’s middle name is a big potential advantage of his Presidency.

I wasn’t there, but I’m inclined to give Bob Kerrey the benefit of the doubt on his comment about “Barack Hussein Obama.” Kerrey is being accused of pulling a Mark Penn, but that’s not the only way to read his remarks.

I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There’s a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.

Some of what Kerrey said was unambiguously favorable to Obama, though he was endorsing Clinton:

The fact that he’s African American is a big deal. I do expect and hope that Hillary is the nominee of the party. But I hope he’s used in some way. If he happens to be the nominee of the party and ends up being president, I think his capacity to influence in a positive way without spending a penny the behavior of a lot of underperforming black youth today is very important, and he’s the only one who can reach them.

[snip]

He’s got a whale of a lot more intellectual talent than I’ve got as well.

It’s entirely possible that Kerrey meant what he said about Obama’s name doing America good in its foreign relations. I’m more inclined to believe that because I also think that what Kerrey said was true: a big advantage to electing Barack Hussein Obama to the Presidency is that there are a billion people in the world with relatives named “Hussein,” and they’d be less inclined to be our enemies if our leader had “Hussein” in his name. I don’t think that would be a good issue for Obama to campaign on, but it’s still the case, whatever Kerrey’s motivation for mentioning it.

Update James Joyner disagrees:

…the idea that religious nuts who are willing to murder thousands of Americans would think “Hey, they elected a guy with a Muslim middle name! They must be okay!” is absurd. Hell, they kill plenty of people named Hussein who actually are Muslims; the only thing they hate more than American infidels is Arab apostates.

Kevin Drum rejoins, explaining the Kerrey/Kleiman claim better than either Kerrey or Kleiman did:

Kerrey wasn’t suggesting that electing Obama would have any direct effect on hardcore al-Qaeda jihadists. But terrorists can’t function unless they have a critical mass of support or, at a minimum, tolerance from a surrounding population. This is Mao’s sea in which the jihadists swim. Without it, terrorists simply don’t have enough freedom of movement to be effective, and their careers are short. It’s why the Red Brigades in Italy and the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany lasted only a few years, while the IRA in Ireland has lasted decades.

What Kerrey was getting at was simple: in the long run, the only way to defeat the hardcore jihadists is to dry up their support in the surrounding Muslim world. And on that score, a president with black skin, a Muslim father, and a middle name of Hussein, might very well be pretty helpful.

For today’s jihadists, the answer is hard power. There’s no other way to stop them. But for tomorrow’s jihadists, the answer is soft power. As long as a substantial fraction of the Islamic world supports or tolerates jihadism, we’ll never stop the production of terrorists or seriously reduce their effectiveness. But if that support dries up, we can win. This is where our foreign policy should be focused, and the fact that it hasn’t been for the past six years — that, in fact, we’ve gone backward on this score — is by far the most calamitous aspect of George Bush’s disastrous war on terror.

On one point I disagree with Kevin: Obama’s skin color is an asset domestically and in dealing with sub-Saharan Africa, but it’s the opposite in dealing with the Arab world, where racism runs astonishingly deep. (A very worshipful biopic about Anwar Sadat was banned in Egypt because Sadat was played by Lou Gossett, Jr.; Sadat, whose mother was Sudanese, spent his political life in denial about his racial heritage.) I’ve always been puzzled about why American friends of Israel haven’t done more to make the facts about Arab racism (including the long, sorry history of Arab slave-trading which left behind it Swahili as a linguistic reminder) clear to the African-American community.

(Im)plausible deniability

HRC apologizes to Obama for a smear against him by her New Hampshire co-chair. Mark Penn then goes on TV and says “cocaine,” just in case anyone had forgotten the substance of the smear.

I’m glad to see that Hillary Clinton has dumped Bill Shaheen as co-chair of her New Hampshire campaign, and apologized to Barack Obama for Shaheen’s references to Obama’s drug use from college days.

Now all she needs to do is fire Mark Penn, who in discussing the issue on TV after HRC’s apology made sure to use the word “cocaine.”

Apologies From the Heart (of Darkness?)

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized personally to Senator Barack Obama on Thursday for a top adviser’s public suggestion that Republicans would go after Mr. Obama for his youthful drug use.

This came a day after Mike Huckabee apologized to Mitt Romney, a Mormon, for remarks that suggested Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers.

But in the aftermath of the apologies, both the Clinton and Huckabee campaigns kept the original slurs alive through a series of interviews, raising questions about the sincerity of their apologies, especially in the heat of a wide-open campaign with the first voting less than three weeks away.

[snip]

On Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Clinton’s top adviser, Mark Penn, appeared on MSNBC with Mr. Obama’s top adviser, David Axelrod, and John Edwards’s top adviser, Joe Trippi. They argued with one another, and it was there that Mr. Penn dropped the word “cocaine,” saying that the Clinton campaign had not raised the issue of “cocaine use.”

That seemed to infuriate the others. “This guy just said ‘cocaine’ again,” Mr. Trippi said.

Anyone who is fooled by HRC’s assertion that there was no central decision to spread slime about Obama must want to be fooled. A fish rots from the head.

Update Wait! It gets worse.

Obama’s ‘surprises’?

Clinton didn’t mention specifics in the taping of an interview on “Iowa Press” this morning, but drew a contrast with unnamed rivals that echoes Bill Shaheen’s now-notorious claim that unexplored elements of Obama’s candidacy will make him an easy Republican target.

“I’ve been tested, I’ve been vetted,” she said. “There are no surprises. There’s not going to be anybody saying, ‘I didn’t think of that, my goodness, what’s that going to mean?'”

This appears to be the emerging core of the electability case against Obama: that elements of his public record and — unspoken — his private past, could scuttle what should be a Democratic sure thing, and that he is untested by real partisan combat.

“Whoever we nominate will be subjected to the full force of the Republican attack machine, and I know that they know I know that and I have no illusions about what this race will entail,” she said.

UPDATE: Asked to elaborate on what she’s suggesting about Obama, Clinton has an answer ready: “I’m only talking about myself.”

I repeat: from the head.

Second update Speaking of going negative … err, “comparative” … Paul Loeb has some comparisons between the conduct of Obama’s “Leadership PaC,” for which HRC has criticized him, and her own conduct. Bottom line: if Hillary hadn’t been such a money hog, spending $40 million to run virtually unopposed and transferring $12 million to her Presidential campaign &#8212 if, that is, she’d acted like Edwards and Obama, who raised money for and gave money to other campaigns nationwide &#8212 Democrats could have picked up a bunch of extra seats in the House and at least one in the Senate.

Defending Hillary

Why shouldn’t a Democrat preview Republican talking points against a rival and try to suppress the youth vote?

I’m sure the perception that the Clinton style involves fighting dirty in the clinches is just a product of Clinton Derangement Syndrome among the mainstream media, and I’m thoroughly ashamed of myself for being taken in by it. After all, if the right wing hated Eleanor Roosevelt and the right wing hates Hillary Clinton, it must follow that Hillary Clinton is Eleanor Roosevelt, and anyone who doubts it suffers from “blind, irrational hatred.”

For example, no reasonable person could consider it in bad taste for one Democratic candidate (acting through a key surrogate in an early-primary state) to preview Republican attack ads about another candidate’s drug use from college days, or inappropriate for a Democrat to suggest George W. Bush’s stonewalling as a model other Democrats ought to emulate. And of course anyone who ever used drugs must have been selling them, right? Especially if he’s black. So why not hint that your opponent was a dope-dealer? At worst, you can make him deny it. If you can keep your fingerprints off the story by pushing it privately to reporters, that’s best, of course, but if that doesn’t work and your opponent is pulling ahead, just go ahead and have someone say it. You can always disavow it later. Throw enough mud, and some of it is bound to stick.

And of course you can disavow the statement without actually parting company with the person who made it. After all, the candidate has no responsibility at all for the actions of campaign officials, and it wouldn’t be reasonable for a candidate to get rid of a state campaign co-chair (and spouse of a Senate candidate) as if he were merely a county co-ordinator. (You were expecting, maybe, leadership? In your dreams!)

Now if Obama were to start mentioning cattle futures or Marc Rich or Norman Hsu, that would be a different matter entirely, and would prove that the ambition he has been harboring since kindergarten has finally gotten the better of his commitment to a new style of politics. And the fact that he hasn’t been doing any of that, even while HRC has been implying that Obama has a “character problem,” just shows how viciously devious he is: no doubt a product of his education at a madrassa.

And of course it’s perfectly natural for one Democratic candidate to use decade-old questionnaire responses from a state senate race to paint a Democratic rival as “too liberal” because he supported abortion rights, gun control, and single-payer health care and opposes the death penalty. Any suggestion that doing so helps the Republicans is plainly absurd.

It would be equally absurd to think that raising baseless vote-fraud charges as a means of vote suppression is a trick Democrats ought to leave to Republicans. If Iowa college students who come form Illinois want to take advantage of the Iowa state law that clearly allows them to register and caucus at their college addresses, of course any candidate not from Illinois should try to discourage them from voting and try to stir up Iowan xenophobia against them. And of course it’s even better if you can get a friendly columnist to raise the issue for you. (The New York Times reports that David Yepsen had dinner with Hillary Clinton last Friday evening; no doubt it was mere coincidence that he penned this slimy farrago of innuendo and half-truth, picking up on HRC’s “Iowans-only” theme, the following Tuesday.)

After all, aren’t Democrats traditionally the party that wants to have as few people as possible, and especially as few young people as possible, coming to the polls?

All Democrats not victims of CDS should join together and defend our former First Lady against these vicious and desperate attacks. The rest of us should just STFU.

Obama’s trick

It’s called “respect.” A little goes a long way.

Matt Yglesias is puzzled, twice.

He can’t understand why what seems to him like Barack Obama’s transparent trick of using Kumbya rhetoric to mask what are mostly uncompromisingly progressive policy stances bothers other progressives and fools conservatives. Matt, and Jason Zengerle, to whom he links, both point to an astonishingly laudatory Steven Hayes profile of Obama from the Weekly Standard.

Hayes points out that Obama routinely acknowledges conservative concerns in the process of working his way around to liberal positions. For example, on gun control, Obama the Con. Law prof says there’s an individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, but then turns to the question of how that right needs to be limited in the interests of public safety. Hayes calls this “the Obama trick.” Zengerle can’t figure it out: “The amazing thing is that Hayes recognizes this as a trick &#8212 and he still falls for it!”

But that analysis assumes that all Hayes, or other conservatives, care about or ought to care about is the policy conclusion a candidate for President reaches, rather than how he reaches it. But many people want to be listened to as much as they want to be agreed with. Those people will be, if not delighted, at least satisfied, If a candidate will say clearly that he understands their concerns and acknowledges the legitimacy of those concerns, even in reaching an answer they don’t like. What they don’t want is to be on the losing end of the culture war, ruled by people who have contempt for them and for the things they value.

What Obama offers them, simply, is respect, and the only “trick” is his knack for making that respect seem genuine. Maybe I’m being fooled along with everyone else, but I think it probably is genuine: Obama seems to me to have both the philosophical open-mindedness and the Christian charity to encounter difference without feeling animus.

As to Matt’s first puzzle &#8212 why this transparent trick, which disarms opposition without sacrificing principle, should be offensive to some progressives &#8212 the obvious answer is that some people, n both sides of the aisle would rather triumph over their enemies than achieve their policy goals.

Footnote Yes, I’m aware that not all actual Christians are charitable. Nor, for that matter, are all actual philsophers open-minded. Christianity and philosophy are concrete activities and institutions, and as such necessarily imperfect, but they are also ideals: a Christian ought to be charitable (that is, generous of spirit) and a philosopher ought to be open-minded.