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September 30, 2008

OBAMA'S TRAINING WHEELS

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Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill
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TUESDAY

OBAMA’S TRAINING WHEELS

As I write this, the Obama express appears headed to the White House, leaving the behind Bush presidency - and any political figure tainted by association - as road kill.

Whatever happens with respect to the bailout of the US credit market over the next few days, it seems highly probable that the credit liquidity crisis will lead to a correction cascade that will depress growth and incomes, while increasing unemployment for at least three consecutive quarters.  In other words, a recession seems far more likely than not. [My additional commentary on the credit meltdown can be found on the “Out-Lawyer’s blog” at http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1/ .]

If Senator Obama is elected, he will be one of the nation’s most eloquent presidents and one of the least experienced.  But circumstances will have sharply curtailed his freedom of action.

Adding roughly a trillion dollars to debt, facing a recession that requires the stimulus of tax cuts and – if possible – more stimulus spending – will leave the new president almost no budget discretion.  It will be nickel and dime liberalism because all the really big money will have already been taken off the table.

On the foreign policy-national security side you can be assured that our enemies will move quickly to exploit perceived weakness.  Senator Obama has already pledged to reinforce our military presence in Afghanistan and he is constrained by military logistics and other practical considerations from simply dropping the effort to stabilize Iraq. 

And Iran surely will seize the moment to press forward to attain deadly nuclear power status.  A weak president Obama might not last out even one term if things get bad enough.  He is not likely to let that happen.  It is a safe bet that Code Pink will be disappointed in him.

TRAINING WHEELS ARE DESIGNED PREVENT THE NEW OPERATOR FROM FALLING TOO FAR OR TOO HARD.  OUR NEXT PRESIDENT WILL BE HEMMED IN ON BOTH SIDES. AND DRIVING OFF A CLIFF WILL TAKE MORE THAN FOUR YEARS.

I hear people in both parties complaining about the quality of the two candidates, and I hear people in the center expressing praise for both.  In fact, it is still too early to count out Senator McCain for this very reason – the middle voters who decide elections like this one are fickle.  Their volatility has been on display in the polls for weeks now.  No one anticipated the credit meltdown crisis.  No one will have anticipated the next.

But one thing should be noted.  The fringe left and its media allies have succeeded all to well in destroying a sitting president, only to now lament his failure to lead when no one else was available.  Speaker Pelosi has fully participated in the leadership vacuum.

We only have one president at a time. We are now paying the price for unbridled partisanship and the politics of presidential destruction. 

Let’s try not to do that again.

JBG

 

 

 

 

 

September 27, 2008

Debate One

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Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill
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SATURDAY

Obi Wan and the young Skywalker Debate

The takeaway observation from last night’s presidential debate: Dick Morris was wrong. 

Morris had opined that John McCain’s intervention in the bailout talks would be exploited in the debates to Senator Obama’s disadvantage because the democratic nominee was tied to the unpopular bailout “Version 1.0”.  But Obama was prepared for the first question and ticked off a short list of differences with the original proposal, while McCain seemed unable or unwilling to do the same.

In Debate One McCain was performing slightly below his norm and Obama well above his.  On foreign policy, Obama’s latter day rhetoric has tended to mutate towards the McCain positions.  McCain prevailed in this part of the debate, but only slightly in my opinion.  The real advantage was probably Obama’s to the extent that his current foreign policy line –more rhetorically muscular – might tend to assuage the concerns of centrists who are paying serious attention to the race for the time.

The debate was not fatal to either side, and much heavy lifting remains. 

At times I couldn’t help but think of this exercise as the seasoned fighter pilot reprimanding a “book smart” student with the “but you’ve never flown in combat, son” lecture. 

Obi

Or – at one point – I couldn’t shake the image of an older Jedi Knight showing irritation at a naïve young Luke Skywalker.  “You still have much to learn before you are a Jedi…”

JBG

September 15, 2008

Obama - Adlai Stevenson?

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Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]

 

Link to the Print Version in html - http://jaygaskill.com/ObamaStevenson.htm
OBAMA AS ADLAI STEVENSON?

 

The democrats were expecting Kennedy vs. Nixon but what they’re getting is beginning to look more and more like Stevenson vs. Eisenhower.  Obama’s recent campaign hasn’t helped matters: Whenever a presidential nominee has to spend time dealing separately with the vice presidential; nominee, he or she is diminished.  When the junior Illinois Senator announced that “today is the first day in the rest of the campaign”, many democratic operatives winced.

 

It must be remembered that Adlai Stevenson, whatever his genteel eloquence and other virtues, seemed almost effete next to the plain spoken retired general, the likeable “Ike”. Dwight Eisenhower was an authentic leader, someone whom President Harry Truman had hoped would be his party’s nominee instead of that politician from Illinois. Unfortunately - from President Truman’s point of view - Ike the war hero became Ike the Republican; and millions of democrats crossed party lines to vote for him. 

 

No, Barack is not Adlai, and John is not Ike; but the thematic resemblances are actually very close, allowing for differences in era and personalities.

 

Of course it is too early to attempt to call this race, especially in the Electoral College, but it is not too early to recall two factors (I first raised these points in my pre convention post of  September 3):

(1)   Increased exposure will help the candidate with fewer unpublicized negatives (The Obama Nation, full of damaging material, has been at or near the top of the New York Times best seller list for 6 weeks) and

(2)   the American people prefer a divided government whenever one party has unquestioned dominance of Senate and House (democrats are poised to expand majorities in both chambers, yet Congress’ approval ratings remain at roughly 70% disapproval and only 20% approval).

 

Both factors favor McCain who is favored by 63% of voters as the one more likely to work across party lines. And McCain also has accomplished two things fairly quickly – he has seized center stage from Senator Obama and has virtually preempted the “change agent” role.

 

Here is the core problem with the Obama nomination, as I see it. He has a complicated and fascinating resume but almost no character references.  His candidacy caught the enthusiastic imagination of core supporters whose politics remain to the left of the general voter, but that enthusiasm is beginning to fade as their candidate moves to the center.  It wasn’t that Obama peaked too early so much as Obama peaked without a powerful follow-on game.

 

Senator McCain seems to have accomplished the opposite: He has a compelling resume with equally compelling character references.  And his candidacy has increased the enthusiasm of his core supporters whose politics remains to the right of the general vote as he moves to the center.

 

We are now measuring the time to election in weeks not months; it is increasingly difficult for a candidate to alter the basic political landscape. McCain polls for the moment at 50% (see the Rasmussen link for Sunday --http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll).

 

But the race is still subject to redefining events.  For example, if the candidates remain within three points of each other at the time of the debates, either one could pull ahead in the last week propelled by a particularly good or bad performance. The outbreak of global hostilities, another natural or terrorist disaster, scary economic news - any or all of the above - will shake things up to the benefit of one of the other candidate. But it is very telling that political analysts on both sides secretly agree that a set of really worrying events will probably favor John McCain. A majority of Americans (and a plurality of democrats) are beginning to think that the country needs “adult supervision”. 

 

And democrats are deeply worried because of another factor that they dare not address in public.  In today’s politically correct environment, Obama’s poll numbers may be overstating his actual strength as a candidate by as much as 5%.  [Visit this link: http://jaygaskill.com/ObamaMcCainFinishLine.htm for more on the “Bradley effect.]

 

This is the most interesting and consequential presidential race in decades.  Stay informed; stay tuned; and make sure that yours is counted.

 

JBG

September 11, 2008

September 11, 20001 - We Do Not Forget

I was in Manhattan that day.  Please do not forget the sacrifice, the bravery, the outpouring of goodness, and never, never forget that evil, ever opportunistic, always waits for weakness among the good.

Jay B. Gaskill

9-11-08

 remember 

Victor Davis Hanson's post 911 reflections are a masterful summary. Go to this link:  

http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson091108.html

September 08, 2008

CONTEST 08 - THE ADULT SUPERVISION FACTOR

THE 2008 RACE FOR 'POTUS'


THE ADULT SUPERVISION FACTOR


COPYRIGHT 2008 by Jay B Gaskill

law@jaygaskill.com


POSTED MONDAY AM


Fifty Seven days to Go.


Per Rasmussen:


“Forty-one percent (41%) of voters say that they are certain they will cast their ballot for McCain and will not change their mind before November. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say the same about Obama. Overall, McCain is now viewed favorably by 60% of the nation’s voters while Obama earns positive reviews from 55%.”


LINK: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll


My comment:


I am increasingly persuaded that Americans harbor a secret preference for a divided government. Both Reagan and Clinton did their best work when forced by circumstances to reach across party lines. [See my article at http://jaygaskill.com/ObamaMcCainFinishLine.htm for more on this point and the election end game.]


Obama is being hurt right now by a perfect storm of converging perceptions: The democrats are poised to achieve virtual domination of both chambers of the legislative branch. The Congress is already seen as occupying the political space to the left of the mainstream and is rampantly unpopular with voters. Many – including centrist democrats - are asking: Who will hold them in check? McCain is perceived by most voters as better able to work across party lines than Obama.


Here is the new bumper sticker: Congress Needs Adult Supervision.


Think about it. Does it even need need a name to make the point about which candidate the slogan favors?


Stay tuned.


JBG



September 07, 2008

Rasmussen - A Tie

Look at Sunday's Presidential Tracking poll by Scott Rasmussen (LINK: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll ].

Post bounce, according to Rasmussen, its an absolute tie; even with leaners included, the race is 48-48.  More interesting still, Sarah Palin is - for the moment - more popular than either Obama or McCain.

 

JBG

September 05, 2008

Brooks, Rasmussen &Two Insurgencies- a Post Convention Analysis

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The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
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Link to Print Version: http://jaygaskill.com/InsurgentRepublicansPostRacialDemocrats.htm

 

The insurgency is dead in Iraq but it is alive in the Republican Party.  The name of the insurgent-in-chief is Sarah Palin.

 

Alaska governor Palin’s masterful speech was viewed by 40 million – that was more than Obama’s audience.  She is (according to the Rasmussen poll) now viewed favorably by 58% of voters.  [Dick Morris has reported a lower number, but I'm going with Rasmussen's one hour old report here.] We don’t yet have the television ratings for McCain’s more tepid speech last night, but --

“The Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows the beginning of John McCain’s convention bounce and the race is essentially back where it was before Barack Obama’s bounce. Obama now attracts 46% of the vote while McCain earns 45%. When "leaners" are included, it’s Obama 48%, McCain 46%”

Go to --http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll

 

In David Brooks’ latest column in the New York Times, “A Glimpse of the New”, Sarah Palin is identified as the leading edge of an insurgency within the Republican Party.

“There wasn’t even any tired, old Reagan nostalgia. Instead, her language resonated more of supermarket aisle than the megachurch pulpit. More than the men on the tickets, she embodies the spirit of the moment: impatient, fed up, tough-minded, but ironical. Even in attack, she projected the cheerfulness of someone confident about the future. In those 40 minutes, the forces of reform Republicanism took control, at least for a time. Republicans started talking about Palin, Bobby Jindal and a brighter future for their party.”

And McCain, the old rebel, is not far behind:

“He did note that he has fought to change the Republican Party during its period of decay. And he diagnosed that decay Thursday night (to the tepid applause of the faithful). And this passion for change, combined with his proven and evident integrity, led to the crescendo of raw energy that marked this convention’s conclusion. His policies are still not quite there yet, but McCain has the heart of an insurgent.”

Link to the Brooks’ piece:  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/05/opinion/05brooks.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

 

Just as Obama is the face and voice of post-racial politics, McCain-Palin are the vanguard of a post-country club GOP.

 

Stay tuned – this promises to be a very interesting ride…

 

JBG

 

 

September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin's Speech & the Finish Line Factor

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The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

 

As I write this, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has just finished speaking to the Republican convention.

For a good account of the affair, go to this CNN/Time account: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1838553,00.html?cnn=yes

and watch this BBC video clip:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7597218.stm 

I believe that anyone who watched this speech, as I just did - with an open mind, will come away with at least four impressions: (1) Sarah Palin articulately and authentically personifies a populist version of republicanism, the very antithesis of the “country club elitist” stereotype; (2) If her populist “values & common sense” conservatism ever takes root in the GOP, something like the Reagan revolution will surely follow; (3) Senator McCain has made an astute choice in a running mate; (4) Governor Palin will someday be a formidable candidate for POTUS.

 

Print Version Link: http://jaygaskill.com/ObamaMcCainFinishLine.htm
OBAMA VS. MCCAIN – THE FINISH LINE FACTOR

 

The polling industry is never quite spot on.  Why is this?

 

The Built in Error Factor

 

Part of the error factor is statistical.  After all, no opinion sample is quite large enough, quite representative enough and no set of answers is quite honest enough.  

 

The industry standard fudge factor is a 3% margin of error – either way – which is why the presidential race has been in a statistical tie in recent weeks, even when Obama seemed slightly ahead for most of the period.

 

The “Bradley Effect”

 

This term refers to a phenomenon well known by both candidates’ internal pollsters.  Tom Bradley was a democrat’s dream candidate for California governor: He had been an LADP police Lieutenant who became a lawyer and served five terms as the LA mayor.  He was a moderate.  He was a handsome guy, in a “good cop” central casting sense.  And he was black.  He was nominated and ran for the California governorship twice -- 1982 and 1986. He ahead in the polls in 1982 against republican George Deukmejian and expected to win. But Bradley lost, in spite of the polls. He ran and lost again to Governor Deukmejian in 1986. 

 

Pollsters are convinced that Bradley’s measured popularity was exaggerated because many of the white voters shaded their answers so as not to appear racist, hence the “Bradley Effect.” 

 

Will the Bradley Effect apply to Senator Obama, the “post racial” candidate?  Frankly, no one knows.  My own opinion is that the Bradley Effect is still real, but that it has been weakened by declining racism and Obama’s “Tiger Woods” persona -- after all, we’re no longer in the 80’s.

 

But I still estimate the 2008 Bradley Effect about 2%, This is not because we are still a rabidly racist country, but because there is a second factor operating. Note that the country as a whole is considerably center/right of the post FDR leftists who now run the democratic party. Because the liberal-left dominates the culture, many voters feel that it is not “cool” to admit to “being uncomfortable” with Barack Obama’s left wing associations and positions, lest one be shunned as a racist.  We Americans still don’t level with the pollsters.

 

The Finish Line Effect

 

Even exit polls aren’t perfect.  Those who talk to pollsters after just having voted are more likely to be partisans.  The non partisans are less inclined to talk. Recall President Bush’s win against John Kerry where network pollsters were misled during the voting to expect a democratic win.

 

The overriding problem is that a significant block of voters can and do make their final decision, especially in a close race, at the last possible minute.  This is particularly true when a voter is leaning to a candidate nominated by his or her same party, but harbors misgivings. 

 

Polls show that roughly the same number of voters in each party are firmly behind their nominee.  This means that a significant number of voters in each party are up for grabs.  Right now it appears that about 40% of the voters are essentially committed to Obama and 40% to McCain, plus or minus 2%. Yes, this is a crude estimate, but it means that the election will be decided by about  20% of the voters, roughly half of whom will make up their minds in the last few days, many even on the last hours, and some only in the privacy of the polling booth at the last minute.

 

The “Turn” Factors

Knowing that the Finish Line Effect is real, can we identify the factors that will tend to “turn” the undecided voters toward the end? The problem is captured in two questions:

 

[1] What is each candidate’s “personal revelation” trend?

 

Put another way: Which candidate benefits (or loses) more by the drip, drip, drip of personal revelations about his or her character, biography, accomplishments and positions? This boils down to the impact of hidden negatives and hidden positives in which a pattern of revelation begins to favor one candidate over the other along a timeline leading to the pre-election weekend. 

 

The operatives of both campaigns tend to secretly agree that the “revelation” trend will favor McCain, whose dramatic personal history is a character parable and whose long tenure mitigates against last minute negative revelations.  

 

But Obama’s remarkably candid autobiography presents an interesting dilemma, because it was so well written, and because he is so well liked on a personal level. Will he benefit from a “likeability Teflon” factor that protected someone like Ronald Reagan from scandal? I think that the Illinois senator is probably insulated from traditional scandal, but not from the impact of those actions, positions and associations that position him well to the left of  the mainstream. Ideologically, Obama’s  history is a “target rich” environment.   

 

 

[2] What is the candidate’s “situation match” trend?

 

Stating this another way, how do a candidate’s capabilities and character match up with a perceived “crisis” trend?

 

For example, the more voters know about McCain and Obama, the more the McCain is trusted in a major international crisis. Will we be trending into an international crisis in mid October?  Does the sun rise?

 

For example, the more a voter laments the “sorry state of the country”, the candidate most strongly positioned as an effective critic of the current administration is favored.  Conventional wisdom favors Barack.  Will we be worried about the economy in October? Does the sun set?

 

I suspect that the election may be decided on voters’ trust and confidence in the candidate’s competence.  The question of perceived competence can be decisive, especially when a voter’s “things are bad” assessment mutates into “things are scary.” Depending  on the level of voter anxiety, trust may trump hopeful idealism.

 

The Preference for Divided Government

 

Bill Clinton did his best work when he was forced to deal with a Republican Congress. Reagan was a more popular president when people knew that a Democratic Congress could hold him in check.  In my opinion, Obama would run better if the Republicans controlled the congress and McCain will run stronger (especially at the finish line) because the Democratic Party controls both Senate and House.

 

Bottom Line

 

There is always movement in the last week or so of the campaign.  Sometimes it merely cuts into an large lead, sometimes it reverses the outcome.

 

I am now willing to make three predictions: 

 

(1) Unless and until Obama gets a durable breakout lead (something exceeding 5%) within a couple weeks following the republican convention, this race will be a toss up in early October.
(2) If the candidates are very close (within a couple of points of each other) in the last week of October, Obama will almost certainly lose.
(3) Even if Obama is ahead by only 4 points going into the last few days of the election, Obama will lose unless somehow he is gaining momentum at that point.

 

I make these predictions on the basis that Obama probably has peaked. If that assessment is true, time is his enemy. 

 

Mark your calendars and stay tuned.

 

JBG

September 01, 2008

FIVE LESSONS OF THE IRAQI WAR

 

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The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3

The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com

All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill

Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]

Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

 

Print Version http://jaygaskill.com/FiveLessons.htm

 

THE FIVE IRAQ WAR LESSONS (SO FAR)
The Powell Doctrine Meets The Real world

Since I posted this piece in 2007, General David Petraeus (http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=16 ) has essentially rescued the administration from failure in Iraq, a prospect that, in May of 2007, I described as a “jury is out” situation.  Reasonable observers now find it difficult to deny that Iraq is a different country than the “thugocracy” ruled by Saddam Hussein of recent memory and that it is behaving very much like the sovereign, quasi-democratic country (with all the attendant warts) that was a signal motivating object of the whole exercise in the beginning. It is now crystal clear that this democratic experiment in the Middle East will probably survive unless we abandon it.

 

My assertion that “Saddam lied and his people died” has been amply corroborated by subsequent information, for example his own private statements to an interpreter during his trial.

 

Link: http://www.fbi.gov/page2/jan08/piro012808.html .

 

Think for a minute about the Powell Doctrine – Don’t get into a war unless you have overwhelming force – the resources needed to win decisively plus a margin for error – and always have a clear strategy to get out when the time comes.  

This is a general officer’s utopian dream for all “wars of choice”.  It is brilliant wisdom, but the kind that rarely applies in the real world.  All too often, wars are thrust upon us. 

Imagine coming to FDR after the destruction of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and discussing a strategy for getting out of Japan after an unconditional surrender.  The atomic bomb was a science fiction fantasy; the US was in the grip of a deep economic depression; and the navy had to be rebuilt, virtually from scratch, while Hitler and Tojo moved decisively to conquer the world.
 

A Bush Bungle?
Was the
Iraq effort bungled?  That depends on the answer to three questions:
 [You will need to read the entire piece for this part.]

 

And the Five Lessons?

 1. When you fly something under the radar it always surfaces at an awkward time.
 

For More --- Go to this link: http://jaygaskill.com/FiveLessons.htm

 

JBG


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