Archive for the ‘Biden’ category

Not Quite Getting It…Or the Perils of Village Life

April 25, 2013

I usually think well of Garance Franke-Ruta’s work over at The Atlantic, so what follows isn’t so much a “pox-upon-her-house” screed as it is a cautionary tale.

Vice President Joe Biden came to my patch yesterday,  MIT, to play his familiar role as consoler-in-chief at the memorial service for Sean Collier, the MIT police officer murdered last week.

Édouard_Manet_-_The_Funeral

His speech was vintage Joe, powerful, direct, colored by emotion expressed bluntly, clearly, without (seeming)* artifice.  It was aimed carefully — if you actually listened –  towards at least two audiences: not just the sea of police and students spread out before him, but also the Republican party, and the American people beyond.

That’s what Franke-Ruta missed as she chased a tired meme.  Hers is the artless Joe, who genuinely, if perhaps a little embarassingly, is all raw heat, no reflection — the administration’s “id” as her headline would have it.  The comparison to be drawn is obvious, and Franke-Ruta does so in her first sentence:  Joe’s the man with real-people responses, which  his boss, the President is too cool (read, not quite human) to deliver.  From there, her analysis dives even deeper into conventional wisdom:

Today’s example was Biden unleashing a stream of wholly warranted invective at the Boston Marathon bombers. Speaking at memorial services for slain M.I.T. police officer Sean Collier, he called bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev “two twisted, perverted, cowardly knock-off jihadis.”…

Some asserted he was insensitively diminishing the attack by calling the attackers “knock-off.” But there was no question that in repeatedly calling the suspects “perverted jihadis,” Biden was once again taking on his designated role as senior administration official who gets to sling it.

Fortunately, Franke-Ruta posted a video of part of Biden’s speech, so her readers could check her exegesis.  Listen, and you’ll certainly hear Biden excoriate the Tsarnaevs.  But the guts of his argument are to be found in what Biden said next, about the right — and wrong — ways to respond to the acts of terrorists, hard core or mere knock-offs:

The truth is on every frontier, terrorism as a weapon is losing…and what galls them the most is that America does remain that shining city on a hill. We are a symbol of the hopes and the dreams, the aspirations of people all around the world…our very existence makes the lie of their perverted ideology.

So the only way they can gain ground is to instill fear that causes us to jettison our values, our way of life, for us to change.  The moment we change, the moment we look inward, the moment we get in a crouch and are defensive, that’s the moment they win. What makes me so proud of this great state, and the city of Boston and Cambridge and all those involved and the students on this campus, what makes me so proud to be an American is that we have not yielded to our fears; we have not compromised our values, we have not weakened our constitutional guarantees. We have not closed our borders.

I can surely argue that some of that is more aspirational than hard fact.  Post-9/11 and continuing into this decade, we have yielded some guarantees.  We have allowed our fears to legitimize laws like the Patriot Act, to allow torturers to thrive in our dark rooms, to sink to force feeding prisoners starving themselves to escape the legal purgatory that incarcerates without providing any avenue for either exoneration or certain punishment.

But Biden did limn a present realit as well, in that we still live in a country where a ruling like Hamdan v. Rumsfeld can be both heard and decided against the government.  I live in a town where  police officers tackled a cop-killer in the midst of a gun battle, in the hopes of keeping him alive long enough to face a court.  Here in Boston, Dzokhar Tsarnaev was charged as a common criminal, read his rights (not fast enough for some, but still) and will in fact face civilian charges.  This country are so far from perfect it sometimes feels like we’re can only approachperfection  the long way round — but that’s in the nature of cities on hills.  I’m pretty sure Joe had something like this in mind when he spoke yesterday.

And I have next to no doubt at all that he was scolding that claque of Republican leaders who seem to have lost all courage, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and all the rest.  They’ve been up on their hind legs since Friday,  bellowing the urgency of making sure Tsarnaev face  a jury-rigged military tribunal system, and damned be the American constitutional system and any faith in the power of a jury of Americans to do and be seen to have done justice.

That rebuke is what this speech was about, beyond the pure duty of comfort that Biden handled so well in the first, longer section of his remarks.  He was telling a failed Republican party that America is something other than hollow republic the Bush-Cheney regime sought to build.  He was as well talking to the broader audience through the TV set, making the case (again!) that there is an alternative to a government based on authority granted out of fear.  He was reminding everyone in earshot that the way the Republicans ran the republic — and would do again, if they get the chance — is not just an error; it’s un-American.  This was powerful stuff, and inside the political ring, it was had the power to hurt, a nut-cutting blow.

That is to say:  who cares if Biden used the phrase “knock-off,” or uttered in public the word “perverted?”  Franke-Ruta’s gnawing away on those old bones is a failure of reportorial nose, a misjudgment that obscured the real story right in front of her.

As I said at the top of this post, I don’t think Franke-Ruta’s a bad journalist, not at all. So I take her whiff as an indication of what it costs when you live inside a thought/media/opinion bubble, at the heart or even the outskirts of the Village.  Our Village elders have focused on atmospherics so long (who’d you like to have a beer with, or did he say “terrorist” and such nonsense) that it becomes harder and harder for them –  or their juniors, wallowing in the same mire — to hear, actually to notice, what’s happening right in front of them.

One last thought:  it doesn’t even take malice, nor is it a mark of stupidity, sloth or professional incompetence to fall into this trap.  Group-think happens not because (or not only because) Roger Ailes sends down a memo.  It’s a natural human trait to pay attention to those who do what you do, or hope to.  Reporters read other reporters.  They — we, for I sometimes commit acts of journalism — drink at the same bars. We talk — just like everyone else.   We’ve all, I think, experienced us doing this to ourselves in some context or other.  The failure comes in the inability to acknowledge the risk, and to take conscious action to challenge it.  There’s a lot of that going round these days.

*Biden — and his speech writers, of course — are not amateurs.  He’s a pro, and a much better master of rhetoric than often given credit for (see above).  His speeches are what they seem — expressions of his thought and feeling.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t crafted — which is no bad thing.  As John Kenneth Galbraith is rumored to have said “the treasured note of spontaneity critics find in my work usually enters between the sixth and seventh draft.”)

Image: Édouard Manet, The Funeral, ca. 1860.

Last Thoughts Before Canvassing (2): Unargued Assertion About Science and the Election

November 3, 2008

One last thought about the stakes for science (and society) in this election.  I am going to be spending essentially all my waking hours between now and 8 p.m. tomorrow electioneering, so I’m not going to come up with a long supporting argument for this statement, but beyond all the specifics of policy claims and budget promises, there is a fundamental difference between a McCain/Palin led GOP and the Obama/Biden approach that I and a fusion physicist buddy of mine were just talking about this morning.

For McCain or at least the GOP base, science is instrumental, and divisible.  It is conceivable within the science-world view of much, though not all of the GOP electorate to say that molecular medicine is fine, but evolution is not — so we’ll have the one and not the other, thank you very much.

I have been planning for a long time to write a much more considered essay about why this is false — drawing in part on wonderful parallels from Chinese history that I can draw out of filial respect for my Chinese historian father.

But for now, I’ll simply state the obvious:  evolutionary ideas are not merely the context of modern biology, they are essential to process of reasoning that runs through that field.  The same is true across discipline after discipline; the geology that locates oil is the geology that creates the climatological and evolutionary history of the planet through deep time, and vice versa…and so on.

All of which to say is that a political movement that owes any debt of power to those who want the technology, the goodies, without the intellectual machinery needed to advance the inquiry wants something for nothing.

Science is the cultural value that we all think it is, I believe; it is part of the reward of being human that we get to ask and answer great questions.  But it is also, and historically speaking, first, the means by which we advance human wealth and well being.  One side in this election lacks the commitment to fundamental science that the other retains.

That’s an assertion more than an evidence-defended argument in this post, I know.  I’m assuming a certain amount of shared knowledge of, for example, the Palin wing of the GOP and its blithe disdain for the way science actually works.  John McCain may not agree — but he has harnessed his hopes to the energy and ambition of that wing of the GOP.  So forgive me here if I just assert my conclusions here.  I’ll write a more reasoned argument in their defense the next time this kind of thing flares up.  Whoever wins, America being America, I’m sure there won’t be long to wait.

In the meantime, please forgive the pure, “this is what I thought on my summer vacation” nature of this post, and vote. Vote early, and in case you had any residual doubt about this blog’s stance:  Vote for Obama/Biden.

The Science Vote: An Entirely Unsurprising Endorsement by Your Faithful Blogger

October 29, 2008

The past week or so have seen a number of significant endorsements for Barack Obama coming from moderate Republicans (endangered, yes — perhaps less than a hundred breeding pairs in the wild), and in a few cases, genuinely much further right than those, (see Adelman, Kenneth, self described as not a neo-con, but a con-con.)

Adelman’s endorsement and that of the big dog on the block, Colin Powell, both emphasized the larger question of the qualities of the two men running for President over policy specifics. Adelman even allowed that he disagreed with Obama more than McCain on a point by point basis, but that he nonetheless will vote for Obama “primarily for two reasons, those of temperament and of judgment” — as evidenced by McCain’s erratic lurching during the onset of the financial meltdown and his choice of Sarah Palin respectively.

Those are reasons a national security voter would seize upon, and I agree that they are, or ought to be, sufficient to secure Obama an unprecedented unanimous vote next Tuesday.

But it occurs to me that in my discussions of McCain’s disqualifications for the office he seeks from the point of view of what would be best for American science, I’ve tended to focus on process, on political nuts and bolts, to the partial exclusion of the kind of overarching “quality of his mind” arguments that the Powell and Adelman endorsements emphasized.  See especially this post for what I mean, this, and this besides if you are a glutton for punishment.

So it’s a fact that in all likelihood McCain will gut science spending, and pick winners and loser for reasons outside the judgment of professionals as to the promising areas of pursuit (think of it as executive department earmarks) is amply supported by the evidence.

But the deeper danger for US science research and education that a McCain and Palin adminstration lies with their catastrophic failure to understand what is required to do science in the first place.  They lack the understanding, the breadth of knowledge and experience, the judgment to be stewards of the single national endeavour that matters most to our longterm security and  prosperity.

Why do I say so?  Because that conclusion seems to me by far the most reasonable interpretation of the statements made by Sen. McCain and Governor Palin, both recently and over much longer time frames.

These statements are by now familiar to most folks likely to be reading this blog, so I won’t go into my usual logorrhea here.  But the highlights bear remembering.

John McCain repeatedly, and Sarah Palin very recently confirmed that they do not understand the connection between specific inquiries and broader research programs.  McCain has made a habit of decrying research into bear DNA.  Palin, more catastrophically, recently made insufficiently ridiculed remarks about “fruit fly research in Paris France,” adding “I kid you not.”*

Kidding she wasn’t; celebratory in her ignorance she was.  Not to belabor the point, but if you like the prospects of modern gene-centered research in particular and molecular biology in general, you have to do a ton of research just like the two maligned projects.

Elect Palin and McCain if you want put perhaps the single most fruitful research area in all of current science into the category of things you laugh at because they sound wierd.  This is a case where the two candidates demonstrate that they lack  ability to understand and interpret the connections between particulars and the bigger picture.  I can’t think of a worse attribute in potential Presidents.

Then there is the ability to hold contradictory ideas in one’s head without noticing.  There are too many examples of this to list.  Some of them, I think, merely expedient willed ignorance — think of McCain’s hopelessly impossible budget proposals, with its freeze that isn’t a freeze, a promised end to the AMT, renewed tax cuts for the wealthiest, increases in military spending, stimulus and financial bailout to add to the half-trillion dollar current deficit and a promise to balance the budget in four or eight, or four, or eight years or wherever Douglas Holz-Eakin has left his abacus rightnow.

But others are either truly cynical — lies told to gain political power, again, not a qualification for the office such behavior is intended to secure — or signs of real intellectual blindness.

A simple and obvious case is McCain’s attempt to suggest that he is at once serious about controlling climate disruption and increasing fossil fuel use — see e.g. the gas tax holiday, still promised on his website, and drill, baby drill.  The two categories are incompatible.  You can’t control human impacts on climate unless you create incentives to cut carbon use — that is to say, make the price of fossil fuels go up.  McCain has said he supports a cap-and-trade mechanism to do just that (though one of the posts linked above describes just how hollow a promise that is), but such a mechanism is meaningless in the face of determination to expand the availability and drop the price of fossil fuels.  You can’t do one and have the other.

And promoting such policies, as McCain did just today in Florida, means, just to repeat it, that he is either lying when he promises one outcome or the other, or he simply cannot process the fact that the two policy goals are incompatible.  You choose which explanation you like.  It doesn’t matter.  No such person can be trusted to make sensible decisions about the future of science (or much else for that matter) for the United States.

Again: the point I am trying to make is not that McCain and Palin have articulated bad policies for American science, though they have, but that the way they think, their poor judgment about technical and scientific matters, their lack of capacity to grasp how the actual daily work of science proceeds matter more.  Their willingness to ridicule specific bits of research they don’t understand exacerbates the problem by diminishing the value our culture as whole places on inquiry and discovery.

The bottom line:  a President McCain or, should the plausible succession occur, a President Palin, do not possess the qualities required to nurture the future of American science. Their ascendancy would rob the enterprise of both the hard cash and the oxygen of cultural approbation it needs to survive.

On the other hand, if you care about the ability of the United States to retain its narrowing pre-eminence in scientific and technical research, you would do far, far better to vote for Senator Barack Obama and his Vice Presidential partner, Senator Joseph Biden.

*I don’t mean to say that Governor Palin wasn’t ridiculed for her fruit fly idiocy.  It’s just that she wasn’t derided enough.

Image:  Joseph Wright, “An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump,” 1768.  Source:  The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202.

No Comment Needed: Sarah Palin/National Security Dept.

October 17, 2008

So, the Bush Administration actually does the conventional, correct thing this week and calls up the major candidates for national office to brief them on the ongoing Status-of Forces negotiations with Iraq.

Good thinking.  As White House spokesman Dana Perino said, “One of them is going to win the election, and they will be taking over and having to deal with these issues,”

So Senator McCain got a call.  Senator Obama got a call.  Senator Biden get a call.

That should cover it….

Wait!

Who’s missing here?

Link on over to Think Progress for the ensuing hilarity.

Image:  Postcard, 1910.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

I Hope So Too: McCain Debate Expectations/The Data Matter edition

October 15, 2008

Heard on NPR today:

McCain, speaking at a fundraiser in NYC last night:

“I hope I do half as well as Governor Palin against poor old Joe Biden.”

First up:  “Old” Joe Biden.  That would be Senator Biden, born Nov. 20 1942, or more than six years after the birth of one John McCain III, born August 29, 1936.

That is to say, if Biden is old, I guess that makes the top of the GOP ticket positively medieval.

But McCain’s attempt to diminish his much more accomplished Senate colleague is the side show here.  What got my attention was the bar he set for himself, to do a fraction as well as his running mate had in her debate.

He might want to rethink that a bit.  Last time I checked, this was the outcome of that bout:

CNN Snap poll:  Biden wins — 51%.  Palin wins:  36%.

(See also this more long-term take on the way the debate played, buried in the weeds of yesterday’s surprising CBS/NYT poll –h/t John Cole.)

This is ancient history, of course — but y’all recall that Biden won on every card.

So, strangely, I find myself in complete agreement with Senator McCain, just this once.  I hope he does half as well as Sarah Palin too.

McCain, Palin, Incitement to Riot, and the Occasional Necessity of Violating Godwin’s Law

October 10, 2008

The grotesque sight of major party candidates standing mute and in apparent agreement as their supportors call for the murder of their opponent is not supposed to be part of the American political process.

It is now.

It’s obvious what’s going on, and it’s obvious why.  John McCain and Sarah Palin have already lost this election on the arguments:  for just one of many examples, by an overwhelming margin economists (chasing the rest of us) favor Obama/Biden over  McCain/Palin on an economy in crisis.

But if the actual business of the election is over — we’ve pretty much sorted out which candidate is better for the job at the moment — what is there left for the losing side to do?

Desperate measures of course, which gets me to the Godwin side of the post.  (I.e. if  you don’t like going where Godwin’s law takes you, stop reading now.)

Here’s the background:  Two notable political triumphs were won in the early 1930s as responses to the economic crisis marked by the stock market crash of October, 1929.

One was that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose temperament was praised  by Oliver Wendell Holmes as well suited to calm the frenzy of the moment.  There is, as the conservative humorist Christopher Buckley notes in his endorsement of Barack Obama, one candidate now who is living that role.

And then there was the rise of a German politician with a mesmerizing speaking style and perhaps the most exquisitely honed sense of shared resentment any public figure has ever had.

On the Republican ticket, it is Sarah Palin who has taken the lead as the exponent of a strategy more like this figure’s, one that seeks to focus broad feelings of betrayal and anger onto a single stock figure of treachery and deceit that she labels with the name of her opponent.

In this, she plays on the same chords struck by that other young, little-known politician making his first foray onto the national stage in 1923.  Here’s an account of one of those early rallies:

The writer Carl Zuckmayer attended several of his speeches that year, once getting so close to the platform that he could “see the spittle spraying from under his mustache.”  To Zuckmayer, he was “a howling dervish,” but he wrote that for those who believed, the speaker dominated “not by arguments but by the fanaticism of his manner, the roaring and the screeching..and especially by the hypnotic power of his repetitions delivered in a certain infectious rhythm.”  It was a style, Zuckmayer wrote, that “had a frightening, primitive force.”

(This is taken, lightly edited, from my book Einstein in Berlin, which was, in part an attempt to understand how things went so very wrong between 1914 and 1932, the years Einstein lived in the German capital.)

That line on rhythm is right on; just listen to Palin as she hits her spots, and see how skillfully she allows her listeners to finish the thought just as she delivers her punchline.  She’s good, just not Good.

I’m not the first to go here — consider Jon Stewart’s only slightly elliptical reference to Palin’s speeches as the kind of thing heard in the late days of the Weimar Republic.  And I am not saying that Sarah Palin wishes to do as Adolf HItler did — far from it.  I loathe just about everything I can find out about her politics, but she is a small-time American style faux-populist demagogue, not, in my humble opinion, a likely architect of global conflagration and mass murder.  Just to be clear.

But what people forget when viewing Hitler only as the monstrous force he was in power is that he was a masterful manipulator of genuinely democratic processes on his path to the German Chancellorship.  The speeches Zuckmayer witnessed were shockingly effective, coming as they did during the devastating economic crisis of the German hyperinflation, at time when the German middle class was largely wiped out.  Their themes and the framing of crisis as the focus of shared bitterness and resentment now serve as a model for what Palin and to a lesser extent McCain are now trying out.

Thus the reason that the current tack by the McCain and Palin team is leaving so many observers disgusted, frightened and angry:   it is because it does not take much historical memory to see the danger, the inherent dishonesty, and the moral bankruptcy of such an approach.

It was once possible to view this election as one that either side could lose without assaulting what Bruce Springsteen so beautifully described as “the repository of people’s hopes and dreams and desires” that is America.

Now, with the echoes of some of the worst moments in the long, sad twentieth century sounding in our ears, it has become clear that one side has now shown itself as the ticket that should lose.  John McCain, the engineer of his own dishonor, should be ashamed of himself.

Let Springsteen have the last word:

Update: Credit where credit is due.  John McCain today began pushing back against the worst impulses of his crowds.  As reported on Time‘s Swampland blog, McCain on several occasions corrected questioners who sought to demonize Barack Obama.  Key quote:

he … snatched the microphone out the hands of a woman who began her question with, “I’m scared of Barack Obama… he’s an Arab terrorist…”

“No, no ma’am,” he interrupted. “He’s a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”

The post above still stands, however, (a) as an indictment of Sarah Palin, and (b) as a reminder that John McCain has let this cancer eat away at his candidacy to this point.  But if he sustains this effort to remind his supporters of the need to distinguish between hating the (political) sin and loving — or at least respecting — the (from one vantage) political sinner, then he will have reclaimed some part of the honor that his campaign to date has cost him.  The next step is to make sure that Governor Palin gets the message — but this is a welcome first gesture.

Update 2: Of course, if we keep getting reeking nonsense like this from the McCain campaign, then shame doesn’t begin to cover that first full measure of moral degredation with which the Senator from Arizona will have achieved by the end of this election season.

I Have Seen The Light: A Revelation on Reading David Brooks This Morning

October 3, 2008

David Brooks is Sarah Palin.

You can see what I mean in five minutes with today’s Times op-ed page.  On the one hand, this, from Brooks.  On the other, this from Paul Krugman.

I have to admit to a certain weariness of spirit everytime I pick up Brooks’ “work” (sic — ed.) these days.  How often must one say the same thing in a slightly different context:  that Brooks is a glib hack, too lazy to do even the minimal work required to flesh out his preconceptions with even the most fragile of veneers of fact or experience?  I complained here that he wasn’t even trying anymore, and nothing in today’s effort suggests otherwise.

Of course, given the reach of the pulpit he possesses from which to bully the rest of us, he needs to be stomped as often as he rises on his hind legs. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance (as Sarah Palin reminded us last night explaining why she wants to kill Medicare).*

So here goes.  Today, Brooks argues (a) that because Palin spoke in complete sentences, she met the “survival” test; (b) she was just folks, and though such casual style won’t wash in the elevated circles in which Brooks travels, it could do very well out there in flyover country.

By the way:  I’m not kidding about the disdain for his alledged fellow GOP supporters Brooks displays these days.  Here’s the same notion in his words:

To many ears, her accent, her colloquialisms and her constant invocations of the accoutrements of everyday life will seem cloying. But in the casual parts of the country, I suspect, it went down fine.

Memo to all those casual parts of the country.  Now y’all know what Serious ™ conservatives think of you.

Last, Brooks alleged that Palin had reached debate parity with Biden; that she was a radical alternative to Washington insiders; and that, while no game-changer, her performance was an unexpected, “vibrant and tactically clever” tour de force.

There are of course, problems with this interpretation.  Two big ones.  The first is that the column as a whole is a list of nicely constructed platitudes presented with no clear connection to what actually happened.

In fact, much — really most — of the piece could have and may well have been written before 9 p.m. last night.  Except for the fact of Palin’s black suit, and the fact that she can pronounce the name of the president of Iran, more than half is Brooks waffling on about terrified GOPers hiding behind sofas and the grand significance of casual Fridays to the great scheme of things.

Such airy generalization is the trick that bored college students use to flesh out the last three hundred words of an eight hundred word assignment.  As I’ve said before, if I were surnamed Ochs or Sulzberger, I’d want a refund.

But this same laziness – or worse — caused Brooks to miss the key story he thought he was covering.  The question the post-debate polls asked was simple and obvious:  Did Palin do what was necessary in the debate?  Did the debate persuade the uncertain that Palin was ready for the job she seeks?

Brooks can’t answer that question.  He couldn’t even ask it, because unlike musings on politics as performance, this one could be answered in ways he still does not wish to accept.

And it was:  within the statistical limits of the polls, the answer was no; her numbers on this question were effectively unchanged, at least as a first reaction to the debate.

That fact leads to the conclusion that Brooks is struggling to avoid: The fact that Americans by a notable majority in the context of such a divided electorate see her as unqualified reflects not on her, but on the man with whom those polled disagree:  John McCain.

This blog exists as a defense of empiricism and the use of the analytical methods of science to interpret the raw data of experience.  There are, of course, lots of pundit/hacks who daily commit sins as bad as those of Brooks — willed ignorance, cherrypicking of data, ignoring contrary facts, howling intellectual solecisms and all the duplicitous arsenal of the ideologically blinded right.

But I have to confess that Brooks gets my goat more than most precisely because of his pretention to scientific respectability — his musings on neuroscience, his assertion of soft-science knowledge and authority.  It’s BS — a facade and a fraud.  Today’s offering is the latest of a “what I thought while seated in the smallest room of the  house” tossed off little number.

We deserve better from the New York Times.  Hell — the Right deserves better from somone supposedly representing the view from that side of the debate in the most visible of positions.

And of that David as Sarah reference:  Compare Brooks’ offering today with Krugman’s.  Now, whatever you think of Krugman, he is, like Biden, expert in his area, aware of the ground of experience, deeply knowlegable.  His column today, not about the debate, focuses instead on the financial crisis and its broader economic implications.

It’s not a particularly data-dense column — but it makes reference to facts, it suggests reasonable inferences from those facts; it provides a framework for pursuing some of the top level claims more deeply (and Krugman does, in fact, get you the latest awful numbers for you in his first blog post of today) and so on.

Again — while I’m a Krugman fan, others surely disagree.  But when they do they are forced to engage him on the ground of the data and his argument.

Brooks exerts no such compulsion.  He has his talking points; he is glib and plausible.  Pushed even a little, it becomes painfully obvious that there is no there there.

Isn’t in time the Times had mercy on this out-of-his-depth man and sent him back to the Weekly Standard wading pool in which he can’t hurt himself so easily?

Image:  Artist unknown, “The Swaddled Twins” dated 7 April 1617. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A Bold Prediction

October 2, 2008

That confab they’re having right now in Missouri?

My guess at this point is that it is shaping up to be a much-hyped non-event.  Those that think Palin is a competent, engaging, just-like-them valid candidate for the job of waiting for the guy with his hands on the codes to die will continue to think so.  She does not display the lost waif in the woods look of her Couric interviews, she is composed, and for some that will be enough.

The rest of us, living in Realistan, will see her as a perfectlly artful dodger, (I’m not here to answer your questions, just to say what I’ve memorized)  and get back to the main act:  where we get to decide whether we want the man who would put such a person so close to the nuclear trigger — or the guy who actually seems to think before he speaks and acts.

Sound and fury, in other words, signifying a whole lot of nothing.

Then again — I thought the Patriots would take the Giants by two TDs +.


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