IN GOOD COMPANY

McCain’s new strategist draws on Barack Obama’s supposed smear of Bill Clinton as a racist to attack Barack Obama’s supposed smear of John McCain (The Original Maverick!) as a racist (seeing as it’s not as though the McCain campaign actually created an ad warning that Barack Obama would put a scary picture of himself on the dollar bill or anything):

“Say whatever you want about Bill Clinton,” Schmidt said, “but it’s deeply unfair to suggest his criticism of Obama was race-based. President Clinton was a force for unity in this country on this subject. Every American should be proud of his record as both a governor and president. But we knew it was coming in our direction because they did it against a President of the United State of their own party.”

This reminds me of one of the fun angles of a McCain-Romney ticket: The chance to make John McCain eat his words about Mitt Romney being a feckless French surrender monkey for using the word “timetable” once regarding Iraq.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that attacks candidate lodge against each other in the primaries don’t (with “voodoo economics” as maybe an exception, maybe not) come back to sting them if they end up on a ticket together in the general because voters recognize that that was then and the attacks were just opportunistic. But that’s why resurrecting old attack lines could have more sting when targeted against the attacker than the attacked. In other words, voters probably won’t think less of Mitt Romney when reminded that John McCain attacked him for harboring plans that “would have led to a victory by Al Qaeda.” But that reminder might affect how seriously they take McCain’s equally spurious attack on Barack Obama, at least if John McCain turns around and decides to puitch the man he once opportunistically attacked that way to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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OUT GROUP

A couple paragraphs into Patrick Healy’s New York Times analysis on the New York Supreme Court’s decision rejecting equal marriage rights for gay couples is this peculiar turn of phrase:

Yesterday’s court ruling against gay marriage was more than a legal rebuke, then — it came as a shocking insult to gay support groups.

Gay support groups? It’s old news that the Times is loathe to describe the camps in language like “pro-gay” or “anti-gay” for fear of bringing down another round of rebuke from those in the latter camp, many of whom were last seen promoting the idea that the paper is willfully trying to help Al-Qaeda assassinate Donald Rumsfeld. But it’s really disappointing to see the paper slip into language in describing political groups engaged in collective action to transform policies hostile to gay people which makes it sound like we’re talking about individuals struggling with how to make it through a plight or pathology.

MURDER IN LONDON

Thursday, my Mom and I watched the news of the attacks in London just before each heading off for out-of-state trips, by airplane and train respectively. Four days later, the Times reports on the limited progress of the intelligence investigation, and the Guardian offers an account of the limited progress of the recovery effort:

They could only begin to guess the full horror of the work going on in the tunnels directly underneath them as teams endeavoured to retrieve the bodies or the remains of those who still lie among the mangled wreckage of the Piccadilly line tube train. Rescue workers battled with temperatures which were rising above 60C (140F) in their attempt to retrieve all those who had fallen victim to Thursday’s bombs within 48 hours. As well as the heat, rats, dust and the risk of contamination from asbestos have all hampered the operation. Besides this, there was initial concern that the tunnel might collapse. Refrigeration units stood near the scene to store the bodies – and body parts – before they were taken to a temporary mortuary at the barracks of the Honourable Artillery Company in the City. Scotland Yard’s senior identification manager, Detective Superintendent Jim Dickie, said the extreme heat was a “significant factor” in the recovery operation between King’s Cross and Russell Square tube stations. The affected carriage is about 100ft below the surface. The space is so small that only a limited number of rescuers can work inside the tunnel at any time and teams have to return to the surface periodically, so harrowing are the conditions, which one rescue worker described as “hell on earth”. Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter, of British Transport police, warned that it would be some time before the “methodical and meticulous” but “extremely difficult” recovery operation was finished.

In the wake of the murders in London, the burning question, as Ivo Daalder reminds us, is not how we best exact retribution but how we reach the point which our current leadership has done so much to further distance – the defeat of Al Qaeda:

What the bombing did is to remind anyone who needed to be reminded that the job of destroying Al Qaeda remains undone. The Iraq War is a major reason why we have not succeeded — it has been a giant distraction (in terms of manpower, intelligence, energy, money, and high-level attention) from this essential task…When the right advocates “retaliation” it has in mind not Al Qaeda, but a state (Iran and Syria, mostly)…Even after London, they still don’t get the threat we face — which is why they call for retaliation whereas we call for getting back to the main business of destroying Al Qaeda.

But as Nathan observes, a full commitment to peace and security demands a longer-term perspective:

The best way to fight terrorism is to drain the pool of public support. Supporting the victims of the Tsunami in Indonesia was one of the best ways possible to improve the image of the US in that country. A serious commitment to aid in Africa, aside from being the right thing to do, is the best use of money to fight terrorism as well. If we took the money wasted in Iraq, we could build global support and allies around the world through a crusade to end poverty, even as we’d have additional money to secure our vulnerable facilities against the crazies left over. London shows our current strategy has failed. Let’s try a new one build on global justice abroad and intelligent security at home.

Live-blogging the debate:

0:01 “A few” things is all you want to change about the PATRIOT ACT? Gonna be a long night…

0:03 Bush doesn’t see how you can lead this country if you change your mind…I think a lot of Americans are coming to realize you can’t lead the country so well if you never change your mind…

0:05 Touting that 75% of Al Qaeda leadership captured figure was probably more effective before Condi admitted we don’t know how many Al Qaeda leaders there are. That must be some amazing math…

0:06 “I wasn’t happy when we found out there wasn’t weapons there.” I understand, electorally, why that would be the case, but on some moral level, shouldn’t that be a relief?

0:09 No, he didn’t say “we must pass a global test before we use force” – he said we must pass one after we use force. Not much to tout from that first debate for you, is there?

0:10 Kerry appealing to what voters see about Iraq on TV is much more effective, somehow, than Bush appealing to what he sees about Iraq on TV…

0:13 Bush saying he’s more optimistic than Kerry about Iraq: Effective rhetoric. Bush saying Kerry’s copying his plan: Not so effective rhetoric.

0:15 “I’ve made some decisions that have caused people not to understand the great values of our country.” What? Whose fault would that be? I mean, is that just because the great values of our country are really hard to understand?

0:17 True, people love America who don’t like America’s decisions. That’s why so many of them are hoping Kerry wins. But doesn’t acknowledging the difference between criticism and America-hating remove one of your justifications for ignoring the criticism?

0:18 Calling Bush on broken promises from 2000: Key. Keep at it. And combining that with the firing dissenters angle is a key move too.

0:19 “The military’s job is to win the war. The President’s job is to win the peace.” Amen. Stick it to him for claiming criticizing the policy demoralizes the troops.

0:21 “…Iraq, where there wasn’t a threat,” is probably a poor turn of phrase after repeating that you agreed there was a threat.

0:22 Nuclear proliferation in Russia – hammer on this one. And commititng to halt any kind of development of any kind of weapon during a Presidential campaign is, to Kerry’s credit, a more courageous move than some Democratic Presidential nominees have made.

0:23 So now being a partner to the world, according to Bush, means renouncing nuclear aspirations. Someone should tell that to, I dunno, maybe President Bush…

0:26 “We need to be lighter and quicker and more facile.” More facile? Well, Bush is doing all he can for that goal…

0:27 OK, Kerry, we get that you’ve got a lot of military support…

0:28 Reagan’s foreign policy? Come on.

0:28 George Bush sure does love Poland. Which is heartwarming, especially now that they’ve said they’re backing out.

0:29 Anne is really excited to be at this debate. And not to have been attacked by terrorists.

0:30 “What was it, 1993 or so?” Way to make the Democratic Party’s job harder.

0:31 Slam him on saying tax cuts for the rich are more important than security for everyone. Clobber him. Please. Yes. Keep going.

0:32 “We’re doing everything we can to defend the homeland.” Really?

0:32 “If Iraq were to fail it would be a haven for terrorists.” As supposed to now, when it’s a, well, a…

0:34 “…the tax cut for the middle class.” First-class chutzpah. Did you just say you’re only concerned about working Americans being targeted by terrorists?

0:36 If Bush is for generic drugs, does that mean he’ll be reforming his AIDS policy?

0:37 “The President just didn’t level with you right here again.” Yes. “…into the pockets of the drug companies, right out of your pockets.” Yes.

0:38 Somehow, one President who managed to erode Medicare isn’t an impressive comparison to one Senator who didn’t completely positively transform the Medicare system.

0:41 Is there really polling out there that says that the only Doctors women are concerned about are OB/GYNs? Cause these two sure make it sound like it.

0:42 Did you just call him Senator Kennedy? Much like confusing Saddam and Osama – is this a screw-up or a subliminal message? Or maybe my reception just isn’t so good.

0:43 If “defensive medicine” means being extra careful to stay within regulations, maybe there are worse things Doctors could do.

0:44 Compassionate conservatives: Neither compassionate nor conservative. Disucss.

0:45 “We have a deficit.” How in touch of you. But wait – it’s all Bill Clinton and Osama 0bin Laden’s fault.

0:46 Bush citing today’s economic report? I come from the school of thought that calls that chutzpah (also the one that says if you want to increase demand by giving people money, it has to be the folks who are low-income enough to change consumption habits based on the extra money).

0:48 Kerry channels Robert Reich’s argument that real patriotism requires sacrifice. Or rather, he dances around it. So close…

0:50 Kerry calls Bush on the broken promise of $5 million jobs. And Enron. Nice.

0:51 Kerry’s long stare at the camera to promise never to raise taxes on folks making $199,000 a year, even if necessary to get healthcare for those making a hell of a lot less, is anything but comforting to me. And, I suspect, to a bunch of the low-income folks I registered this summer to vote.

0:54 Has Bush read the jobs report he’s citing?

0:55 Funny thing is, actually he did, by statistical fluke, get named the most liberal Senator because he missed so many votes.

0:56 Bush is actually citing the “Clear Skies Act” as if it helped, you know, clear skies. And now the “Healthy Forests Bill”! He should be slammed for this in, say, 30 seconds.

0:58 Instead, Kerry’s touting how many Republican/Clintonian things he voted for. Oy. Now he’s slamming him though. Somewhat.

0:59 “The halls of Europe”? Wonder what those look like.

1:01 “How can the US be competitive in manufacturing and maintain our standard of living?” “A reviewed, muscular, transnational labor movement.” Sorry – just fantasizing.

1:04 If anyone doubted that Bush’s plan is for the US to compete with third world dictatorships for deregulation and exploitation of labor, well, why did you ever doubt that?

1:05 I’d say “That’s news to me” is one of those expressions Bush should be careful about using, joke or not – it’s a little close to home.

1:06 I really, really wish that we had a Democratic candidate who could do more to comfort the man who’s worried about his rights being watered down than the incumbent is doing right now.

1:09 Well, this is a somewhat better answer on the PATRIOT ACT than we got from Kerry at the beginning. And good call on not letting terrorists re-write the constitution. But when you mention Dick Durbin, my main thought is, “Shouldn’t he (or, say, Barack Obama) be running for President?”

1:11 “Parapeligic” shouldn’t be such a hard word for Kerry to say. But framing the research as a sign of respect for life is a good, George-Lakoff-approved move.

1:13 “Science is important, but so is ethics.” Since when is that the choice?

1:16 If by “allowing personal opinion to enter into constitutional process,” you mean allowing the constitution to enter into the constitutional process, then yes?

1:17 Dred Scott? Newdow is our generation’s Dred Scott? Screw you. And sorry to break it to you, Mr. President, but the mid-nineteenth century constitution wasn’t exactly ideal when it comes to equal rights for African-Americans. Nice to hear Bush doesn’t actually think property rights always have to trump human liberty though.

1:20 Good that Kerry’s tying abortion to class and to international family planning. Don’t particularly need him or his wife counseling me out of abortion.

1:21 If by “reduce the number of abortions in America,” you mean reduce access to safe and legal abortion, then yeah.

1:23 When Kerry explains the problem with Bush’s argument, and Bush responds by saying it’s actually simple and not responding to the criticism, I wouldn’t say straight-shooter is the term that comes to mind.

1:24 Is Bush’s biggest mistake an appointment he made?

1:25 So now, contra Cheney, there may have been little military mistakes made – they’re just not that important.

1:26 And it was apparently a mistake to appoint people principled enough to call him out on his mistakes.

1:27 Ah, the $87 billion. How we’ve missed hearing about it.

1:28 “He wants you kids to pay for it. I wanted us to pay for it.” True that.

1:29 Please don’t screw this up, John.

1:31 Well, no memorable sound bytes in that one for us or for them. And “respected at home and stronger in the world” still makes me groan. But optimism is recommendable.

1:33 Nothing so memorable from Bush’s closing either. Fitting, maybe, for a debate which had fewer “moments” than the two before or, likely, than the last one next week. My immediate reaction is that Bush failed to halt Kerry’s momentum going in. Bush was certainly much, much better than the last time – meaning he wasn’t a train wreck. But Kerry did more to respond to his opponent’s arguments, and to the audience’s questions, than Bush, and did so more effectively. Still, he missed a good share of opportunities – or dropped them half-way. And my last question before signing off would have to be: Right now, walking off the stage, is this the first time in the campaign that Bush is walking into a crowd he couldn’t vet first?

A few thoughts on the McCain and Giuliani speeches last night:

How exactly has John McCain determined that Al Qaeda was weakened by the War in Iraq? Does he know something the rest of us don’t? Because there’s plenty to indicate that Al Qaeda’s been strengthened by the diversion of resources to Iraq and the gestures towards religious crusade. If McCain can prove the contrary, that would seem to be the kind of information we’d be hearing about at the Convention. I mean, it’s not as if the Bush Administration has been shy about leaking classified information for electoral gain.

It’s always been impressive how Republicans manage to contend on the one hand that they represent decent, faithful, virgin America and defend it against the coarse and the obscene, and on the other hand that they represent common, hard-working, tough America against the lilly-livered elite (Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? has an engaging the discussion of the need for the myth of the liberal elite as an explanatory tool for conservatives to exempt the smut they condemn from the explanations of laissez-faire capitalism they enshrine). But it takes truly stunning rhetorical gymnastics to elide both charges in a few sentences, as Giuliani does in celebrating Bush both for being comfortable with the vulgar language of the common man construction workers and for eschewing the vulgarity of the Democrats.

So Giuliani is opposed to undemocratically elected governments which use external enemies to try to distract their citizens instead of improving healthcare. Who knew?