|Man Without Qualities|
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Ah, The Bounce! II(0) comments
Don Luskin e-mails to point out that the Bush re-election futures at Tradesports.com, which I regard as the best poll, show a negative bounce for Kerry-Edwards following the Convention. Bush has gained three points there since the Democratic Convention.
Pejman Yousefzadeh is also on the case:
I'll make no bones about the fact that I am paying close attention to the tracking of the Presidential race on the Iowa Electronics Market. Right now, their graph shows that even in the immediate wake of the Democratic National Convention, the Bush-Cheney team is priced higher than the Kerry-Edwards duo. As of now, the current market quote for Bush-Cheney is 0.521, while Kerry-Edwards's market quote is 0.477.
There's more - and it's all well worth reading. Pejman ends with the observation And we haven't even had our convention yet. Many thanks to Mike Daley for drawing my attention to Pejman's post - and to Pejman.
I think there are some very good reasons what the Democratic Convention should have provided little, no or even negative bounce for Kerry-Edwards, and I don't think the same factors will apply to the Republican Convention.
First, there was the bizarre timing of the Democratic convention: Late July, when only political junkies want to hear about politics. The late-July-August political black hole will be over by the time the Republican Convention begins - so a lot more people will be paying attention and will want to pay attention. [On the other hand, there is this curious decision by Bush-Cheney to work hard in August. One wonders if this has more to do with Bush-Cheney having a lot of money still to spend before the Republican Convention - at which point Mr. Bush says he plans to accept federal money and will not be allowed to spend any pre-Convention money he retains.]
Second, the message conveyed by the Democratic Convention was no different than the message the mainstream media has been issuing for many weeks. That is, there was little or no new positive (that is, positive for Kerry-Edwards' prospects) information produced at the Democratic Convention, where by "new information" I don't just mean information that a well-informed expert would have considered "new." I mean the Democratic Convention didn't produce material information that an average person paying no more attention to politics than he/she normally does during the summer would have considered "new." The well-discussed zombification ("Stepfordifying?") of the Democratic delegates and other forms of "message control" exercised at that Convention may have contributed to the paucity of new information. In fact, the most important piece of "new" information generated by the Democratic Convention may have been that this candidate has no new ideas or approaches whatsoever and essentially swore during his acceptance speech he never will. That bit of "new information" may account for some of a negative bounce if there were one.
In contrast, the Republican Convention will present the Republican Party's view of President Bush's record and of all things Republican. That's a viewpoint with which a consumer of mainstream media is not exactly saturated - and for an average person paying no more attention to politics than he/she normally does during September of an election year will quite likely find that point of view to include lots of "new information." And there is plenty of opportunity for Mr. Bush to propose some genuinely new proposals not yet known to even a well-informed expert.
So I expect that there will be a considerable bounce for Bush-Cheney following the Republican Convention - despite the historical fact that challengers and Democrats generally receive more of a bounce than incumbents and Republicans.
Coming out of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Sen. John Kerry now holds a seven-point lead over President George W. Bush (49 percent to 42 percent) in a three-way race with independent Ralph Nader (3 percent), according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll The poll was taken over two nights, both before and after Kerry's acceptance speech. Respondents who were queried after Kerry's Thursday night speech gave the Democrat a ten-point lead over Bush. Three weeks ago, Kerry’s lead was three points. Kerry’s four-point “bounce” is the smallest in the history of the NEWSWEEK poll.
And what does that make a 2% bounce in a two-candidate race?
And does it seem likely that including Nader in the mix doubles the Kerry-Edwards bounce? And how about this: Doing some calculations, it works out to be a [Newsweek] poll mixture of about 37% Democrats, 29% Republicans, and 34% Independents. If scientists were to do to their animals what pollsters like Newsweek determined to detect a bounce for Kerry-Edwards seem to be doing to their poll methodologies, PETA would try to burn down the laboratory.
It's also worth noting that the Newsweek poll sample is drawn from registered voters - not likely voters. Sampling registered voters tends to favor Democratic candidates most of the time.
The Rasmussen Reports Presidential Tracking Poll today shows Senator John Kerry with 47% of the vote and President George W. Bush with 46% - a full 1% lead for Senator Kerry! This rolling 3-day tracking poll (not my favorite) should now include samples from Thursday, when Senator Kerry gave his acceptance speech and yesterday. Sadly, we don't know how much (if any) of Thursday's sample was taken after or during that speech. But we do know that the New York Times thinks the Senator did a fine job of rousing the faithful!
Yesterday's Rasmussen Reports Presidential Tracking Poll showed Senator John Kerry with 48% of the vote and President George W. Bush with 45%, the exact same numbers this Poll recorded on July 28 - in each case a 3% lead by the Senator for those days. So the Friday sample must have been bad for the Senator and/or the dropped-off Tuesday numbers must have been especially good.
In other words, Senator Kerry may be heading for a negative "bounce" from his convention and/or his speech. Previously, George McGovern was the only Presidential nominee ever to get no "bounce" from his convention. By some counts in 1972 George McGovern went into his convention down by 16 points and left it down by 19 - a 3% negative bounce. Others, such as the New York Times, say that McGovern got only a zero bounce. The same Times article notes: The Gallup Organization recently finished a study of convention bounces over the last four decades and come to the conclusion that there is indeed such a thing and that it is, on average, 6.1 percentage points. Gallup measures the bounce as the difference in the candidate's standing between the final preconvention poll and the first postconvention one.
But Senator Kerry's 3-day tracking poll lead fell by 2%, which means his one-day number on Friday may have fallen by 3% or more! In other words, Senator Kerry may now be in a historic position to boldly go where no candidate has been before - beyond the McGovern event horizon and all the way to the new world of negative bounce beyond 3%! And, as especially astounding feat, he may have accomplished most of this negativity on the very day of his acceptance speech. A fine job of rousing the faithful, indeed! BRAVO! SENATOR! BIS!
It's still too early to know definitively, and the Rasmussen Reports Presidential Tracking Poll is, after all, just one poll. So nobody should get their hopes up too much.
But it's still so exciting to know one could be present at the making of history! I can hardly wait.
UPDATE: The Newsweek Poll is detecting a 2% positive convention "bounce" for Kerry-Edwards - which is even smaller than Zogby's 3% "bounce."
Friday, July 30, 2004
Lawrence Kaplan's New Republic take on Kerry and his Convention address is anything but admiring. But Kaplan notes one aspect of the speech that shows that despite all the foreign affairs trimmings at the Convention and the media fixation on the issue, and despite all the Vietnam imagery, Senator Kerry fully appreciates where this election will be won or lost:
Indeed, [John Kerry] spent far more time discussing domestic policy than he spent discussing foreign and defense policy.
Exactly so. Got that? John Kerry understands. That's why John Edwards is the running mate. That's why so many other things, too.
It's still the economy, stupid!
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius scribes an amazingly clueless column today, including this passage:
But as President Bush and John Kerry race to endorse the commission's agenda for change, you'd think the proposals had been handed down from heaven itself, rather than offered up for public discussion. .... [T]here's something dispiriting about the knee-jerk endorsement of the commission's proposals. The ink was barely dry on the 567-page report when Kerry gave it his blanket endorsement. Hoping to bind himself even more tightly to the commission's image of national unity, Kerry then proposed extending its life by 18 months.But President Bush isn't racing to endorse the Commission's recommendation across the board. He has indicated that he is seriously considering them and that he will likely act early to effect some of them.
Senator Kerry, on the other hand, has taken a more "nuanced" - that is, "deliberately misleading" - approach. As noted in a prior post, right after the Commission Report was issued "he" posted a letter on his website listing and superficially "supporting" every one of the Commission's recommendations. On its face the across-the-board "support" is absurd, and the Senator quite clearly signaled in the same letter that he had no intention of supporting every one of the Commission's recommendations in the form they had been written when he included the disclaimer:
Your Commission has provided an excellent roadmap to make our nation as safe as we can be and now we must work out the details in a bipartisan manner that lets us accomplish our goal of defeating the terrorists and protecting our nation.Any such "bipartisan consensus" must necessarily exclude much of what the Commission has recommended - and Senator Levin has already signaled his opposition to some of its "marquee" items. Further, the same day "he" posted "his" letter, Senator Kerry told the New York Times that he had only skimmed parts of the Report overnight and that "I regret that many of these have not been put in place over the course of the last few years. They would have made America a great deal safer." The not-so-subtle consequence of this comment is that the Senator thinks that the recommendations other than the "many of these [that] ... would have made America a great deal safer" would not have made America a great deal safer. Is the Senator supposed to be read as supporting even those recommendations that he has indicated he does not think would have made America a great deal safer? Of course not! His posted letter specifically states that he is committed only to actions in "manner that lets us accomplish our goal of defeating the terrorists and protecting our nation." So he is not binding himself to any recommendation that he does not think would have made America a great deal safer because any such recommendation quite clearly does not accomplish our goal of defeating the terrorists and protecting our nation. Any such recommendation would clearly fail the balancing test of preserving individual freedom against our goal of defeating the terrorists and protecting our nation = and the Senator should not be construed otherwise.
Further, while Senator Kerry may have been hoping to bind himself even more tightly to the commission's image of national unity [when he] ... proposed extending its life by 18 months, the actual effect of any such extension would almost certainly be to slow down any enactment of the Commission's recommendations while progressively eroding the Commission's "independence" that gives it credibility in the first place. The continuing activity of the Commission is a clear invitation for Congress to punt tough questions back to the Commission for further consideration and review - thereby delaying any action on what the Commission has done so far. The result would also be integration of the Commission into the ongoing political process of Washington, thereby eroding its independence. But that "independence" would already have become a farce given the fact that the members of the Commission are already being discussed and proposed for high positions in the government as a result of their service on the Commission. Could there be a more clearly defined conflict of interest and abrogation of "independence" than the spectacle of the political Parties and Commission members vying for each others' favors as legislation is formulated?
Who knows? Maybe I could think of a more clearly defined conflict of interest if I sat down and thought about the matter for a month or so.
The rest of the column is just as ill-thought-out.
The Convention Addresses III: The Great Kerry
In my opinion John Kerry's acceptance speech was not effective in the sense Bill Clinton might respect that term: it was not particularly honed to include what was needed to get John Kerry elected. I don't intend to survey his address in detail (See Jay Caruso's take, which includes a nice dismemberment of the corresponding New York Times cheerleading editorial, and Taranto does an excellent job and so does Tom Maguire, and Kerryhaters has a terrific round-up of reactions.) but I would like to discuss its structure and approach a bit.
It wasn't technically a bad speech and the delivery wasn't seriously deficient. What it lacked was Mr. Clinton's ability to convince or suggest on one individual issue after another that this man, this speaker, has a new insight that might allow him to make some actual progress on this issue - exactly because this man rejects the standard formulas. Mr. Clinton's most notable promise - to end welfare as we know it - was a paradigm for the effectiveness of his speeches. He promised to "end" welfare - strikingly a formula for some of the right. But then comes the kicker, the Clintonian flourish that suggests that he will salvage whatever is good and necessary about welfare. (Of course, when he gave this address Mr. Clinton had no intention of doing any such thing - as the welfare reforms bills he actually presented to the Congress demonstrate. But when Congress came up with its own bill that pretty well accomplished what Mr. Clinton had articulated with his famous slogan Mr. Clinton was told by his then-arch-consultant Dick Morris that he must sign or lose in 1996 - and Mr. Clinton thereupon made the Congressional bill his own.) Mr. Clinton's most effective speeches were generally long assemblies of such local persuasions. That speech structure had two big advantages: (1) he avoided articulating a general approach to or theory of governance or his office, which allowed him more easily to manage inconsistent interest groups ("ideology") and (2) it persuaded the listener only as to Bill Clinton personally, which consolidated power in his hands and allowed him to avoid a lot of the baggage of Congressional Democrats and Democratic Party ideology while basking in Democratic Party history. It is no surprise that the effects of his Presidency on the Democratic Party - especially its Congressional wing - were disastrous. But it is surprising that some Democrats are muttering that they admire Mr. Clinton because he "taught the Democrats how to win again." That's risible coming from a Party whose historical till of legitimacy and long-standing Congressional dominance Mr. Clinton dissipated to get and keep himself in office. The structure of his speeches also largely explains why they were generally so long and generally had to be very long.
But John Kerry's speech relied on exactly the arching rhetoric and cleverness that Bill Clinton so assiduously avoided, often descending to mere verbal cleverness of the type Mr. Clinton finds radioactive. Just by way of example: And it's time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families. He didn't provide context for this slogan at all, and certainly no suggestion that he has an insight that might avoid the ideological dead ends. Worse, for swing voters outside that Boston hall, this slogan perilously risks raising the gay-marriage issue that Mr. Kerry is struggling to finesse - and Bill Clinton has publicly told him he must finesse. So does "clever" erode "effective." One could go through the whole speech in this way - it's full of these clunkers - but, as I said, I'm not up for such a survey.
It's not surprising that the Kerry speech was full of hi-sounding slogans and without the Clintonian suggestions of local solutions, since Senator Kerry is reported to have resorted to some of John Kennedy's old speechwriters. (Contrary to the kausfiles take, the speech at it core was an effort at a John Kennedy impersonation - albeit with a stand-up delivery act so bad as to be almost unrecognizable. But then Mickey has been perhaps stripping a few gears since making his way-premature and ill considered decision to vote for Senator Kerry in November.)
The most striking aspect of the address also appears correlated to its old-school approach: absurd, broad, expensive promises. Perhaps most strikingly, the Senator "promises" that health care equal to what the "wealthy" now have will become a "right?" This is ridiculous. What happens when a price tag is placed on that promise and the consequences of such an effort to existing health care programs is described? The Senator also says he will end American "dependence" on foreign energy but tighten protection of the environment. This promise is also absurd - and its absurdity can be pointed out in the most uncomfortable fashion by simply noting that no actual method of accomplishing it has been presented. He even uses a variation on the old pseudo-argument that a "nation that has put a man on the moon should be able to ..." (another Kennedy allusion?) And what is one to make of the Senator's final images:
I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong Delta with Americans... We were literally all in the same boat. We looked out, one for the other. And we still do. That is the kind of America that I will lead as president, an America where we are all in the same boat. Never has there been a moment more urgent for Americans to step up and define ourselves. I will work my heart out. But my fellow citizens, the outcome is in your hands more than mine. It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there, the sun is rising. Our best days are still to come.
These images seem to have no content whatsoever, they don't even connect to each other. But they do bear a similarity to the last passage of The Great Gatsby:
“[H]is dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” And of Gatsby and of all of us he predicts: “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out father… so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past.”
America as Jay Gatsby? Considering who Jay Gatsby was and what became of him, what is one to make of a candidate so stuck in his college-English class and brief military past that he contines to be mesmerized by an image of his own swift boat beating against that current? [UPDATE: Apparently, Maureen Dowd thinks Gilligan's Island is a better fit than Gatsby.]
I again agree with Steve Antler: last night, the canary died. With it's airy rhetoric and repeated confirmation of liberal formulas and namecalling, and its complete absence of suggested new solutions, the speech lacked any of the "comfort and closure" which a typical Bill Clinton speech dribbles into one's ears in insubstantial, cumulative and ultimately highly effective drops - a little like water torture in certain respects.
There is one possibility that may vindicate Senator Kerry's approach: If this election is totally about the incumbent to an extent even surpassing that of the 1992 election, and the electorate is fed up with that incumbent even more thanit was fed up with his father, then it might make sense for Senator Kerry to have delivered a speech that will essentially leave no trace. Last night's non-speech might be "effective" in its own, weird way.
I'm going to stop there. I do not think Senator Kerry's speech was effective, but I am not the target audience for Senator Kerry's speech. The proof of its effectiveness will be in the tracking polls. Today's Rasmussen Tracking Poll shows Senator Kerry with a tiny "lead" over Mr. Bush of 48-45%, exactly the same as yesterday. Is this "bounce?" - or "momentum?"
That Poll is not my favorite, but it is available. Today's Poll reflects interviews conducted Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. So today's poll numbers do not reflect Senator Kerry's actual delivery of his speech, which some people consider to be overwhelming more important than its content. I do not agree - although delivery counts, too. In any event, the general content of the speech was Democratic and Kerry-Edwards boilerplate and included nothing new (again, contrary to the Clinton approach) and much of the specific content of that speech has been circulating in the media for some of the period covered by the Poll. So the Poll does reflect a good deal of the speech's content and the first three days of the Boston Convention. The next few days will tell more.
Mr. Clinton received more than 15% of "bounce" from his convention. It will take a lot of "50-50-polarized-nation" fancy dancing to explain away a "bounce" of, say, 4 - 5% for Kerry-Edwards.
UPDATE: Today's Zogby Poll says it incorporates samples taken through Thursday - but willfully omits any indication of whether the Thursday sample was taken after Senator Kerry spoke. It has been increasingly apparent that the Zogby Poll is manipulated for effect - at points during the Democratic primaries the results were simply embarrassing. That pattern continues, with today's Zogby results showing a nearly-insignificant Kerry-Edwards "bounce" to a 5% lead from a previous 2% lead in the Zogby Poll of early July - for a grand total "bounce" effect of 3% so far, well within the polls stated margin of error. In other words, Zogby is showing no bounce as of today - although we don't know how early in the day Thursday's sample was taken, so that could rise by tomorrow. Nevertheless, the Zogby analysis of its own "post-convention poll" is all doomy gloomy for Bush:
The most recent Zogby poll shows deeper trouble for President George W. Bush beyond just the horserace. Mr. Bush has fallen in key areas while Senator John Kerry has shored up numerous constituencies in his base. The Bush team’s attempted outreach to base Democratic and swing constituency has shown to be a failure thus far, limiting his potential growth in the electorate.
Not only is this analysis completely at odds with the trends detected in the recent ABC/Washington Post Poll, but at times the degree to which Mr. Zogby must be tortuting his sample borders on the halucinatory, as with this dreamer:
Not only has Kerry now come to a tie with Bush in favorability in the South (55% for both), the Kerry-Edwards ticket has pulled ahead, 48% to 46% in the South.
How could any sensible person think that the Kerry-Edwards ticket has pulled ahead in the South? A new Election Research poll released last night shows Mr. Bush tracking higher in 14 of 18 states while Mr. Kerry had an improved position in only four states (Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon) - all of them way outside the South.
In any event, the most significant aspect of the Zogby Poll is its showing (as of today) a 3% "bounce" despite the evident sample-torturing. As the old saying goes: Drop even a dead cat from high enough up and it will bounce a bit.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
I wasn't watching CNN at the Great Balloon Moment, but this e-mailed account is hilarious:
TOO funny! Here I am reading the judge's sentencing of Richard Reid after listening to as much of Kerry as I can stand, when I hear a voice start hollering "Go Balloons! Go Balloons! Increasingly frantic, till finally, "What the fuck are you guys doing?? We need more balloons!!"(pardon his French) A fitting end to the extreme makeover, eh?? Would write more, but I can't stop laughing!
Here's the audio link [from DRUDGE.] The whole thing is just one more indication that the entire Stepford (Oops! I mean "Boston!") convention has been beyond parody from beginning to end. No doubt tomorrow we'll be hearing from the Kerry campaign that the whole balloon shortage was a Republican dirty trick, perhaps along the lines of another Fox News interview with Mary Beth Cahill:
HUME: i must ask you about this balloon shortage that suddenly emerged and fell in your laps last night - or rather didn't fall into your laps last - or at least not enough of them. there he was, the senator, left at the podium with what most people would consider a peculiarly insubstantial amount of balloon support, which i guess the hall operators were supposed to provide to him. how did that come about?
John Kerry's prepared remarks are reported to paint a portrait of a nation suffering economically after four years of Republican rule:
"Wages are falling, health care costs are rising and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs and they're still not getting ahead."
Perhaps this New York Times report explain why Senator Kerry seems to feel the pain of those who lost income during the Bush term:
While the recession that hit the economy in 2001 in the wake of the market plunge was considered relatively mild, the new information shows that its effect on Americans' incomes, particularly those at the upper end of the spectrum, was much more severe. ... The unprecedented back-to-back declines in reported incomes was caused primarily by the combination of the big fall in the stock market and the erosion of jobs and wages in well-paying industries in the early years of the decade. ... "Risks used to be confined largely to executives and business owners with large incomes,'' said Edward N. Wolff, an economist at New York University who studies wealth and income. "But now for many people with more modest incomes their earnings are more volatile,'' Mr. Wolff added ... ... Falling incomes, rather than tax cuts, appear to count for the greatest share of the decline in income taxes paid. That is because the higher one stood on the income ladder the greater the impact was likely to be from the stock market crunch. At the same time many of those whose incomes fell the most - those reporting $200,000 to $10 million in income - paid at the highest rates, which meant that the drain on revenues was even greater when their incomes shrank. More than 352,000 taxpayers, one of every eight who had worked their way above $200,000 of income in 2000, fell below that figure in 2002. At the very top the ranks thinned by more than half. The number of taxpayers reporting adjusted gross income of $10 million or more fell to 5,280 from 11,215. The combined income of this rich and thin slice of Americans plummeted 63 percent ...
My goodness! The "Bush Recession" disproportionately hurt the rich! The increase in the federal deficit was mostly caused by rich people making less money! How can that be? Why didn't Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman warn us? And what about that risk-reward kicker? Is the Times admitting that people who make good but not great money do it increasingly by taking more risks?! What happened to the no-risk, hi-income, silver-spoon crowd?
No wonder John Kerry feels this pain so intensely. With a wife worth something like One Billion Dollars and a social circle to match, we're not talking here about pain he feels in the abstract. We're talking about the kind of pain he and she hear about every day at their country club and at the best restaurants!
MORE: Good things from Steve Antler.
Maybe after the Big Speech tonight we'll see more "bounciness." Why does the whole concept of "bounce" seem so odd when it's John Kerry?
In the mean time, the glacier continues to advance bit by bit by bit. Of course, one can never take the economy for granted - so Mr. Bush hasn't won this one yet. But an advancing economy should have particularly potent effect in states such as Ohio - again assuming the economy there advances.
Remembering The Shoe Bomber
A friend e-mails:
From a story linked by DRUDGE:
There was no "dirty trick" behind the photographs of Sen. John Kerry wearing the blue anti-contamination suit while touring the shuttle Discovery on Monday. .... Furthermore, NASA spokesman Bill Johnson said the Kerry campaign asked that the pictures be taken of the senator's unusually up-close tour of the Discovery and that processing be expedited so reporters could have them.All of which is a bit different from the way Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill told it to FOXNEWS (again from DRUDGE):
HUME: i must ask you about this photograph that suddenly turned up and fell in our laps last night nobody thought it was come. nobody had reported on the event which led to-t but there he was, the senator, on all fours in this very peculiar outfit, which i guess nasa had given him. how did that come about?
The Kerry campaign seems to be repeating a mistake committed by Al Gore in the last Presidential campaign: They've learned from Bill Clinton to lie big, casually and as often as needed, but they fail to incorporate his gift for telling lies that are difficult to check out.
MORE: From Spaceref.com:
NASA sources reveal that NASA KSC gave the Kerry campaign people about 30 CDs, which were to be distributed to local media by the Kerry people. The photos in question were on these CDs. Local reporters were seen with with these CDs later in the afternoon.
As such, assuming that the reporters got the CDs from the Kerry campaign, the Kerry people distributed the photographs themselves! There was no "leak".
More on the ongoing Kerry campaign bunnysuit clown show:
O'BRIEN: You know, here's the interesting -- I've been talking to my pals at NASA about this: This stuff was not leaked. It turns out that the Kerry campaign asked for all these images and then distributed them to the media.So, they didn't realize -- yes, I know you're slack-jawed...Also note Al Franken stalking Boortz.
This is pathetic on John Kerry's part - and on the part of his whole organization. Just pathetic. Is anyone in the mainstream media going to ask the nominee about this, say around the time he gives his BIG SPEECH tonight?
Link from Henry Hanks.
The Democratic faithful now wait in Boston for the big balloon drop and a skit by some John Kennedy impersonator - but in Sacramento Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing to drop something rather more substantial on the California legislature. His apparent strategic vision in these matters is a revelation.
By the end of the week California will have a $105.3-billion budget, with the Assembly already accepting the negotiated deal, which incorporates some of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spending proposals. But the budget constitutes very little real progress:
The proposed budget has so much borrowing and so few long-term spending cuts that the state will be facing yet another fiscal crunch next year. Economists say it would take an upswing in the economy of dot-com boom proportions to avoid it.So this year's budget punts the big problems into the future, and next year's budget is the first part of that future. What happens then? If California faces another of its typical budget impasses next year, an impasse avoided by this year's negotiated budget, both the Legislature and the Governor can expect their poll ratings and popularity with voters to fall dramatically. That happens with every budget impasse, and the fall can be very painful: After the last such impasse and fall, Grey Davis was ejected from office in the recall election that brought Mr. Schwarzenegger to Sacramento.
One might ask what the last impasse and that recall have to do with next year's budget. And that's where Mr. Schwarzenegger's thinking gets really interesting. The poll and popularity falls following a California budget impasse are not permanent. They do take a while to dissipate, but that dissipation happens before the next election scheduled after the face-off. The Legislature counts on the timing of that dissipation in handling the impasse.
What if there were no substantial time? What if a special election were scheduled just a few weeks after the budget was supposed to have been enacted? What would happen then? Well, the legislators would face an angry electorate. A very large portion of them would share the fate of Mr. Davis.
A special election of the Legislature can't be scheduled that way. But Mr. Swarzenegger may call a special election next year asking voters to, among other things, convert the Legislature to part-time status, strip legislators of their power to draw their own districts and restrict campaign contributions, his spokesman said Tuesday.
If such an election were scheduled to be held soon after next year's budget is supposed to be enacted, the dynamics of the annual Governor/Legislature impasse would change dramatically - and not entirely predictably. The Governor would not face any form of re-election threat. The legislators would become very nervous about creating or maintaining the impasse as they watched their polls plunge. In the past the Legislature has received approval ratings below 20% during such periods. During such a period the Legislature would obviously not welcome a special election asking voters to convert the Legislature to part-time status, strip legislators of their power to draw their own districts and restrict campaign contributions. There would probably be lots of unintended and unexpected side-effects, of course, from such a dramatic proposal. For one thing, the electorate might come to see the Governor's move as an undesirable power grab and rebel against him. But one thing is sure: the stakes would be a lot higher than they are in a typical year, and the Governor could win very big.
Of course, it is not easy to schedule a special election in California. One must first acquire sufficient voter signatures: hundreds of thousands of them. In practice that means one must hire and pay professional signature-gathering companies. The Grey Davis recall signature effort, for example, did not take off until it was financed by Darrell Issa, an Orange County millionaire Republican Congressman. Such people are not easy to find.
And that brings us to another of Mr. Schwarzenegger's features that the Legislature must find truly terrifying: his wealth. Mr. Schwarzenegger could easily write a single check to finance the signature-gathering effort for his proposed Constitutional amendment. Indeed, he used exactly this tactic to force the Legislature to enact a reform of California's workers' compensation law that was almost identical to one that he had already formulated as a ballot initiative:
"Why have we waited this long to do these reforms?" asked Assemblyman Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont. "It's no accident, let's be honest. We are here today because of one thing: because over 1 million people answered Gov. Schwarzenegger's call for signed petitions to reform workers' compensation."
Could this Governor spin the dross of the legislators' unbounded craving for office into the gold of a budget that really fixed California's finances by personally financing the signatures for his constitutional amendment "reforming" the Legislature? An old joke comes to mind: Do I believe in infant baptism? Why, I've seen it done!
The score so far: This year's budget is OK, but not great. But it looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to be back.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
The Convention Addresses II(0) comments
Bill Clinton's address to the Convention was a mess - probably an intentional mess. The address will do the Kerry-Edwards campaign effort little if any good. In expressing this view, I agree with the Viking and respectfully dissent from the views of almost every other commenter, including Dick Morris and Jim Taranto.
Before Mr. Clinton spoke there was fear among the Kerry-Edwards campaign and the mainstream liberal media that he would "overshadow" the nominee - and that his speech would mostly advance his own interests. And exactly was feared would happen did happen - just not quite in the way some had thought it might happen. Yes, Mr. Clinton's address requires one to admire his ability to achieve his effects without his audience and critics catching on as to how he does it. Of course, that too further advances his interests.
The best way to evaluate the former President's address is to compare it to the many addresses he has made over the years on his own behalf. Ideally for the Kerry camp, Mr. Clinton's address would have resembled the many addresses he has given to advance his own interests but directed entirely at advancing Senator Kerry's bid for the White House. Bill Clinton's speech was not that.
Mr. Clinton famously confided in Tony Blair that Mr. Clinton expected to be remembered as a man who mostly won elections - to Mr. Blair's reported horror. Bill Clinton's speeches generally included things that were necessary to get him elected and, once in office, to maintain his personal support even at the cost of depriving him of any significant mandate - and for no other aims. By the time he first ran for President Mr. Clinton knew that memorable phrases and clear meaning were not what got a Democrat struggling to patch together an incoherent coalition elected to, or maintained in, the Presidency. Instead, Mr. Clinton's speeches were characterized by vague and ambiguous phrasings, meaning very different things to very different groups. Not for him was there to be any "ask not what your country can do for you" silliness. And during his eight full years in highest office he did not trouble himself with the likes of "touched the face of God" or "tear down this wall." The closest Mr. Clinton came to a memorable speech was perhaps his expressed desires to make abortion "safe, legal and rare" and to "end welfare as we know it" - the latter a catchy phrase that he came to regret when a Republican Congress used it to impose real welfare reform.
But Bill Clinton's own speeches were effective. Especially after the big health care disaster and initial budget success of the first year, a typical Clintonian State of the Union effort consisted of a string of minor proposals, a recitation of minor accomplishments, some anecdotes and some fairly well crafted partisan name calling. It worked. Conservatives hated and condescended. Liberals knew he was handing them a very dubious bill of goods. "Good" speechwriters complained that his addresses were flaccid. From the standpoint of classical or standard rhetoric, they were flaccid - much more flaccid than was his Convention address, which is relatively focused and full of pseudo-rhetorical, ultimately ineffective phrases: Strength and wisdom are not conflicting values and Republicans believe in an America run by the right people, their people, in a world in which we act unilaterally when we can, and cooperate when we have to and Sure these countries are competing with us for good jobs, but how can we enforce our trade laws against our bankers? This kind of thing sounds good to a partisan delegate - but it's nearly worthless for getting more votes.
Although, and in large part because, they were not clear or moving, Bill Clinton's speeches were effective. And they were long. A good indication of how much Mr. Clinton's convention address differed from his most effective efforts is the length of his convention address: about 25 minutes. That was much too short. Some people require a lot of time, and Mr. Clinton is one of them. Quality writers, such as Peggy Noonan, believe that a speech about everything is a speech about nothing. You have to decide. But Bill Clinton's most effective speeches were generally not "about" something - they were usually about "everything" - and were often criticized for being about almost "nothing." He refused to decide, he "downsized" the Presidency and he talked and talked for very long periods about his "nothings." And, in the end, he convinced a lot of people that he should be and remain President while presenting little in the way of his own substantive agenda. Bill Clinton's speech should have convinced a lot of people that John Kerry should be President while presenting little in the way of a substantive agenda. It didn't. In his own speeches Mr. Clinton's cadences and local intonations had a cumulative effect, like the almost unconscious, cumulative linguistic "rhythms" spread over much time that Proust points out render some writers - and some composers, such as Wagner - ultimately persuasive. Those who take Strunk & White as their bible will never understand. But, then, E.B. White didn't write À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu or Parsival- he wrote nice little books about a spider, a mouse and a swan. Mr. Clinton's Convention address was nice, too.
Mr. Clinton's Convention speech was "clever." And it is true that his cleverest rhetorical device was to cast himself, repeatedly, as an ungrateful beneficiary of President Bush's tax cuts. The problem with this clever device is that it doesn't transfer from speaker to listener. Yes, a newly-minted multimillionaire such as Mr. Clinton can "at first" feel like he wants to thank President Bush for his tax cut, until he realizes that "all of you" had to pay for it. But for the ordinary taxpayer who received a tax refund check was perfectly happy to keep it - without qualm. In fact, for most people receiving the tax refund check was the second best thing about the cuts - second best after spending that same refund. This "clever" device meant Mr. Clinton repeatedly drew attention to the best aspects of the cuts - instead of an endless, dripping series of anecdotes and observations about the putative negative consequences of those cuts. Something like those endless, dripping series of anecdotes and observations in the speeches he used to run for and occupied the office of the Presidency. Even his repeatedly casting himself as a tax cut beneficiary cast as a beneficary a person the audience liked.. Mentioning Mr. Scaife or some other ultra-wealthy beneficiary instead would have been much less "clever" but far more emotionally effective. And this was by no means the only point in his address at which Mr. Clinton subtly substituted entertaining "cleverness" for broader "effectiveness."
Mr. Clinton's own speeches were never "clever" "Clever" is what may be needed to get one elected in France. But while "clever" can work in the United States, it is a dangerous approach. In the United States even the expression "too clever by half" is, well, too clever by half for almost any broad political speech. And, worse for a man who sincerely struggled with his questioner over the meaning of "is," a "clever" speech almost demands clarity. And, sure enough, his Convention speech achieved a clarity that his typical speeches completely lacked. That clarity - along with its brevity - is a good indication that something went seriously wrong with this speech, which has been broadly and casually characterized as "demagogic" even by some of its admirers. A speech easily labeled "demagogic" is unlikely to be effective, and is much more likely to be thought effective by second-rate politicians than by ordinary voters.
Another clear and, for Senator Kerry, uncomfortable, aspect of Mr. Clinton's speech was his particular and somewhat peculiar form of praise for Kerry's Vietnam service:
During the Vietnam War, many young men--including the current president, the vice president and me--could have gone to Vietnam but didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it too. Instead he said, send me.Mr. Clinton's reference to the Senator's "privileged background" is gratuitious and negative with respect to John Kerry. Are we supposed to be grateful for Mr. Kerry not using a "priviledge" we do not possess? The reference also constitutes subtle self-stroking since Mr. Clinton did not come from a "priviledged background" but avoided service anyway. And, of course, John Kerry didn't say "send me." Senator Kerry had no choice but to go into the military (or seek conscious objector status, flee the country or the like) since his draft board had just turned down his request for an extension of his deferment to allow him to study in Paris. Further, as most college age men believed at that time, enlisting in the Navy was a "safe" alternative to being drafted into the Army. When Senator Kerry volunteered for Swift Boat duty, it was blockade duty, not heavy combat. He got into combat because only because the rules of engagement were changed by Admiral Zumwalt when he began operation Sealords. Once Kerry was in combat, he gamed the system to get out of it as quickly as possible. But he did serve with a courage in very difficult conditions. Those conditions may not have been quite as difficult as he has since led the public to believe - but I view that as quibbling. Bill Clinton did not emphasize John Kerry's courage in combat - Mr. Clinton chose to emphasize exactly the most problematic and potentially embarrassing aspects of the Senator's presentation of his service record. But Senator Kerry can hardly complain about Mr. Clinton's approach, since the nominee's own vanity has often led him to stress exactly the same problematic aspects of his record. Mr. Clinton has always been skilled at using his opponents vanities against them - just ask Newt Gingrich. And, once again, by pointing out that Mr. Bush has a service record better than his own, Mr. Clinton defanged Senator Kerry's own argument. After all, if Mr. Clinton - who was never in the service - is presented at that podium as an ultra-successful President, what is left of the Senator's argument that the President is relatively deficient for want of a service record equal to the Senator's own? In such ways "cleverness" erodes "effectiveness" - but can make for a more entertaining speech.
One could go on and on. It is interesting (at least to me) that the redoubtable and perceptive Peggy Noonan did not include Bill Clinton's Convention address in the ones she reviewed so perceptively for the Journal. And I agree with Dick Morris that the former President committed a "masterpiece" here - but not a masterpiece that Senator Kerry should covet. Bill Clinton does not want John Kerry to become President because Hillary Clinton doesn't want that. But neither Clinton would have been served by a speech that didn't seem to push all the right buttons - to line up all those right, ripe issues Mr. Morris notes in his article. But raise them in bloodless fashion - each one drained quietly like a butterfly drawn dry by a naturally skilled spider.
Yes, indeed, a "masterpiece."
Allan J. Lichtman's Keys Model still predict that the locks in the White House doors will open again for George W. Bush.
So does the Fair model. Ray Fair hasn't updated his calculations since April of this year - the model various factors indicate that the incumbent has continued to entrench himself in the probabilities demed significant by that model.
The White House is now predicting a budget deficit of about $420 Billion, about $100 Billion less than had previousy been predicted by the White House. The new estimate is a record in numerical dollar terms but - at about 3.5% of GDP - quite a bit lower than the circa-6% deficits of the mid-1980's.
Since it's an election year, the size of the deficit is naturally the topic of political discussion. That's especially true in respect of conditions prevalant during the second Clinton administration, when the government ran a "surplus."
But it is common knowledge that the "surplus" run by the federal government in the late Clintonian era depended heavily on tax revenue - largely capital gains tax revenue - realized from the "internet bubble." It is now widely believed that much (but by no means all) of such tax revenue did not correspond to actual wealth creation, since the "internet bubble" is widely viewed as just that - a "bubble." While this effect runs deeply into the federal figures, its most spectacular consequence was undoubtedly reflected in the California state budget, which swung hugely into deficit as a result of increased spending justified on the basis of such ephemeral revenues - increased spending that could not be funded after those revenues evaporated.
So it's an interesting political thought experiment to ask: What would the federal deficit be today if the late Clintonian tech boom were still going on - even given the Bush tax cuts?
I haven't seen these particular calculations and comparisions carried out since the new deficit estimates were announced. But they would be interesting from a political perspective. My guess is that with the added Clintonian revenues, the federal deficit might now be less than $200 Billion - or less than 2% of GDP.
Donna Brazille has more recently professed to have come to "like" John Kerry. But she has famously pointed out that the Kerry campaign has not paid nearly enough attention to minorities and women, and that the Republicans are doing a far better job of grass-roots campaigning. She is correct in her assessment, and the results are increasingly apparent, as in this report from Terry M. Neal right there in Roxbury, the center of Boston's African-American community:
Roxbury has long been the center of black life in Boston, and it's no surprise that all of the people we talked to here today said they planned on voting for Kerry. What was perhaps surprising is that none of them said they had ever seen Kerry campaigning in their neighborhoods or heard of him doing so, and that they had no special affinity for him.
Mr. Neal and Ms. Brazille know what they're talking about. A major reason for the Democratic election disaster in 2002 was low turn out of minority voters. I have only one real reservation about Mr. Neal's observations: I think the problems between the Democrats and minority communities (including African-Americans - but especially Hispanics) run far deeper than anything that could be fixed with some campaigning.
John Kerry is talking again about the September 11 Commission Report, and he has Mickey Kaus "presuming:"
What follows is a typically Kaussian hi-quality analysis of the issue, which the reader is encouraged to consider. The kausfiles analysis includes a note that Senator Levin seems to be seriously opposed to the idea of a cabinet-level czar who consolidates the management of the government's various intelligence shops. In that respect Senator Levin squarely represents the opinions of the the liberal wing of the Democratic Party - who are, of course, not the only opponents of this idea.
In my opinion kausfiles is "presuming" way too much on this topic. A hint of Senator Kerry's probable strategy can be seen in the opening line of the "corrected"-linked article:
Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry called Tuesday for extending the mandate of the bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, saying it should keep working for an additional 18 months to help ensure that its recommendations are implemented.
Does one accelerate implementation of the Commission's recommendations by sending them back to the kitchen? Of course not. That's a way to allow Congress to stall when a tough issue comes up by passing the buck to the Commission for "clarification and further review." Senator Levin's opposition to the Commission's "marquee" proposal guarantees that such issues will come up even if the White House proposes exactly what the Commission proposed. John Kerry is just attempting the hoary "death or delay by committee" skam.
And that likely indicates the real Kerry position overall.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Don Luskin notes that Atrios seems to be "Duncan Black" -- another goddam economics professor - apparently one with much too much time on his hands (Don thanks his reader Larry Mitchell for the link).
The original Duncan Black was a first-rate Scottish economist - and an underappreciated genius. In fact, as noted in a prior post, that Duncan Black was not only an underappreciated genius but was also gifted at discovering and appreciating important work of other underappreciated geniuses - including that of Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson), the author of the Alice books and other fanciful works, who made foundational contributions to the mathematics of voting that are perhaps as profound as those made by anyone, ever. Completed at a time when such matters were of urgent public interest and of paramount importance to the then rapidly evolving British political system – in the throes of a radical expansion of its voting franchise and rethinking the very basis of its democracy – Carroll’s work was, of course, entirely ignored except in the few instances in which it was dismissed with utter contempt of the kind commonly found today on the Atrios website (another remarkable coincidence!). It goes without saying that those involved in political matters in Carroll’s day did not understand the significance of even the most basic mathematical structures applicable to their field. On the other hand, the Alice books did pretty well.
As recounted in a marvelous book, Carroll’s profound work was rediscovered many years later by the original (one might say "real") Duncan Black , who explained and extended them with profundity. The "new" Duncan Black of course spends his time and effort in a different fashion.
Goes to show what's in a name.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Few can rival Jimmy Carter's exquisite talent for finding the mal mot, that precisely wrong thing to say and at precisely the worst time. To really possess this talent and make it part of one's self, it is not enough to be able to speak inappropriately. One must be able to identify a topic and viewpoint that does occupy the moment, an opinion that hovers in the air but which other have not addressed - and then to find just the language to express that opinion in a way that makes everybody who shares it absolutely squirm in the greatest possible discomfort. There was indeed a "crisis of confidence" when Mr. Carter noted it during one of the many low points of his presidency, and when he several days later talked of "a national malaise" nobody could doubt that one existed in the part of the nation comprising the environs of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. These irksome ideas and opinions were in "in the air" at the time - part of an unarticulated zeit geist - but it took a man of Jimmy Carter's particular caliber to express these ideas and opinions so perfectly at exactly the time the nation neither wanted or needed to hear them. Nor does Mr. Carter's talent operate only on the grand but impersonal national scale. On a more intimate level, we can be confident that Mr. Carter indeed "lusted in his heart" when he pointlessly confirmed something already presumed about the President and most other men in that 1976 interview with Playboy's Barry Golson and Robert Scheer so evocative of fingernails drawn across a blackboard.
So who but Jimmy Carter would open a Convention set to nominate as its candidate a man married to a woman worth One Billion Dollars with the line:
[W]e need new leaders in Washington whose policies are shaped by working American families instead of the super- rich and their armies of lobbyists in Washington!Ah, Jimmy! Every time one hears him speak it brings back so much, so many memories. Fortunately for Senators Kerry and Edwards, it appears few voters were watching or listening last night to have those memories exhumed.
USA Today publishes a curious little box asking "How liberal is John Kerry?" and purporting to summarize the evidence pro and con (with the assumption that being a "liberal" is a very bad thing). The "pro-liberal" factors all make sense:
Evidence that he's liberal:But things get very strange with the other column - the one labeled "On The Other Hand." Following is a reproduction of that column with notes describing Senator Kerry's relationship to the factor:
On the other hand:It is more than passing strange that Senator Kerry has a severely compromised relationship to every single one of the factor cited by USA Today to support the possibility that he is not thoroughly "liberal?"
A front-page item in today's Wall Street Journal leads with:
As Democrats gather in Boston this week to nominate a presidential candidate, the two big issues of the 2004 campaign -- the war and the economy -- are playing out precisely the opposite way both parties expected just a few months ago.It is certainly correct that some Democrats are talking about foreign affairs and terrorism. There may even be a few Congressional districts where those considerations may make a critical difference in November, such as the one around Storrs, CT that is misleadingly selected as a good example of the national dynamic in the Journal article despite the fact that that district contains the very un-exemplary main campus of the University of Connecticut. The curious timing and make-up of the Democratic convention has created a micro-climate having an atmosphere thick with the swamp vapors of foreign affairs. The coincidental release of the September 11 Commission report on the very eve of the Convention opening guarantees that media coverage and even the polls are paying much more attention to the the terrorism issue than will likely be the case in more than three full months. And convention delegates and media operatives are much more focused on foreign affairs - and much more negative on the war and the incumbent's approach to foreign dealings generally - than the population, the electorate, the Democratic Party generally or even the candidates-to-be. Those skewed views further skew media coverage. Even John Kerry has recently mused publicly about possibly emulating the last time a Democrat captured the "national security" issue: John Kennedy's success in his 1960 run, a success effected only by Kennedy's exploitation of his huge "missile gap" lie. That's quite a feat for Senator Kerry to want to emulate. But House Democrats, especially, who think that foreign policy considerations are likely to put them in office are in for a very rude awakening in the months ahead.
But what are the smart Democrats with some room to choose their own agendas thinking and writing about right now? Well, Senator Hillary Clinton is right over there on the today's Journal's Op-Ed page with a "think piece" about - of all things - the domestic economy. In fact, Senator Clinton is back to considering "outsourcing."
While her choice of topic is revealing, the substance of her approach is hardly worth serious consideration. She pronounces certain sectors of the American economy to be "competitive" - and concludes that they therefore require more government subsidies and assistance and attention than we had thought.
Ah, yes. Is a sector weak? Rush in the government subsidies and assistance and attention! Is a sector more competitive than thought? Better rush in more government subsidies and assistance and attention! The Senator is nothing if not consistent. I particularly like what she calls her co-sponsored legislation to create a 10% tax cut for manufacturers. Think of that: All manufacturers would get a nice government subsidy. And who would pay for that subsidy? The Senator doesn't say - but the economy has only one other big sector: services. Services are supposed to be America's relative strength in the world economy. And the Senator wants to tax them to subsidize manufacturing. Forward, into the past!
And the Senator does not stop there. She pushes on into more advocacy of destructive government economic meddling, and informs us:
We also need a national broadband policy. It is inexcusable that the U.S. ranks 11th globally in broadband penetration per household. I have introduced legislation to enhance access for rural and underserved areas that would accelerate the transformation to a digital economy.
Yes, yes, everybody loves to have access to broadband. It's just that few want to pay what broadband actually costs, so nothing significant is going to come of the Senator's proposals, as the New York Times reports:
Presidential campaign proposals to build a national broadband network may be difficult to sell to the American public, according to a survey conducted jointly by CNET News.com and Harris Interactive.
In this case the public is a lot wiser than Senators Clinton or Kerry. But it won't matter - her tract is only intended to be remembered as indicating her concern for the domestic economy, not to be actually understood by voters in its silly details. Senator Clinton's understanding of - and actual care about - the substantive welfare of the economy are not her strong points. She's an economic loon from that standpoint. Good grief, we're talking about someone who wanted to essentially nationalize about 1/6 of the economy.
But she is shrewed and capable of learning in her area of competence: political calculation. Today, as her Party's convention opens in a crapulous fog of foreign policy blatherings, such calculation has her writing feel-good economic buzz-words on the domestic economy in the Wall Street Journal.
The reader, in my opinion, should remember that.