Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pondering Palin

UPDATED: Wednesday, September 03, 2008
I am beginning to think John McCain does read this blog. He sure seems to like my advice. From a DWSUWF post last week:
"Biden will help give Obama credibility and he will be a very effective campaigner for Obama. However, the choice does leave McCain an opportunity to make a play for disgruntled Clinton supporters by selecting a woman for VP. There are plenty of good choices, Whitman, Fiorina, Hutchison, or my favorite - Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It would be a smart move, but I doubt he will take my advice this time."
I've been pondering the Palin selection this weekend, and thought I'd just put down a few thoughts.

First, I never believed McCain would do this. But I am glad he did. Now, we have the potential of a real race. Palin could very well turn out to be a mistake. She could easily wilt under the kleig light glare of a national campaign. She may indeed have been inadequately vetted, which just means the real vetting is going to take place by the American people between now and the election. Which, by the way, is exactly how Obama was vetted during the primary season. McCain may indeed have made a rash decision, and she may prove to be a disaster to his campaign. But with a conventional Republican white bread choice, McCain was going to lose this anyway. Now the Republicans have a chance. Chuck Todd at MSNBC nailed it:

There is a tradition in this country of the "citizen legislator". It is a simple concept that those that govern us should come from among us, and that we should not be governed by an elite class of professional politicians. The idea is as old as the Constitution. James Madison from Federalist No. 57:
"Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding branch of the legislature of the State. Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgment or disappoint the inclination of the people."
This notion is very much part of the American psyche and reflected in many movies, including James Stewart in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", Chris Rock in "Head of State", and the more recent Robin Williams vehicle "Man of the Year". The practical implementation of this idea is barely visible now, as our federal government has devolved to a primarily professional political class of lawyers in Washington. And yet, it is because of this very American appetite for leaders that step out from the middle class mainstream that politicians like Sarah Palin and Barack Obama can still emerge.

Elections are the only vetting process that matters. Obama clearly did not/does not have enough experience to justify becoming President based on his resume alone. However, he put himself in the spotlight of a campaign in front of the American people and convinced them (at least the Democrats) that he is ready to be President. That is the way Democracy works. He overcame his deficient resume with the voters. If selecting our leaders was only about resume, we would not need elections.

Sarah Palin will now go through the same process. Her resume is not appreciably better or worse than Obama’s. But she will now have to pass muster under an intense media glare in a campaign pressure cooker over the next two months. Then voters will decide if she is qualified to be VP with a resume no better that Obama’s. I don’t know how she’ll do. I hope she does well. We’ll see.

This theme was explored by a couple of thought provoking comments I read at Donklephant.

Obama supporter Gerryf at Donklephant:
...Her inexperience doesn’t bother me if she has some substance, which wasn’t terribly in evident, but I don’t care if she has only been governor for 2 years – she has to have something going for her to be elected governor. Obama’s resume wasn’t too impressive and the Republican’s love to point that out (while blindly ignoring the fact he managed a massive national campaign against an entrenched favorite), but Obama is still standing. I think Palin will show us something more than what she has shown so far–the only question is will it be enough?...
Experience counts, but not just in ways a lot of people are measuring it. My reservations about Obama–and I had a lot of them–have been alleviated by his masterful campaign. A virtual unknown, he beat the Clinton Machine. He’s raised money like no one else. He has managed a huge campaign with staffers on the ground in 50 states and accounted for himself well. Even if you are a Republican, you have to admit that is pretty impressive. He’s got the stuff. Put in the same position, could Palin have done the same? I don’t know. I’m willing to see how she acquits herself in the next few months. What I have seen so far hasn’t impressed me, but she wasn’t trying to convince me at her coming-out party. Who knows, she may sit down with Biden and wipe the floor with him in a debate. I am already worried the Democrats are falling into the same trap the GOP did with this–counting days in office without measuring the person. Underestimating an opponent based on first impressions is perilous. A lot of people dismissed Reagan; a lot of people dismissed George W. The Dems need to take this woman seriously."
Good advice, but most Dems are not taking it.

Khaki another Obama supporter, also pointed to the campaign as the "experience" differentiator between Obama and Palin:
"Maybe not by much, but a year and a half as governor of the 48th most populous state and a couple terms as mayor of a town of 9000 is a lot less experience than Obama’s credentials. Even if the only difference is that Obama was pressure tested by the intense primary; Palin was “plucked”. I think the Obama camp’s criticism will stick because he’s mostly worked his way out of the “inexperienced” box. We’ll see."
I agree with the point that Obama's performance in the primaries trumps both his resume and Palin's resume. Palin has the same opportunity to prove herself to the American people, as did Obama. We'll see what she does with it.

I observed another interesting political dynamic happening as a result of this surprise pick. In most political discussions I noted over the weekend, whether watching news shows, reading articles, blogs, or even GerryF and Khaki's comments, Palin's experience is always compared to Obama's. It strikes me that politically, Obama loses this argument even if you conclude he has more experience.

Consider - Obama supporters cannot attack Palin’s experience without calling attention to Obama’s. Any such discussion always invokes a comparison between Obama’s experience (POTUS candidate) and Palin’s experience (VP candidate). There is just no way to come away from that discussion without concluding that, on the basis of resume, there is not that much difference in experience. Even if one concludes that Obama has slightly more experience than Palin, he loses the argument. Because - guess who is not even in the argument? The Republican candidate for President of the United States. In any argument that boils down to who has more executive experience between Obama and Palin, McCain benefits.

I don’t think McCain anticipated that this is how the pick would play out, but if he did - he’s a friggin’ political genius.

Special Note: I thought "Pondering Palin" was a clever title. So did a few other bloggers. Most before me. Decided to use it anyway, and link other blogs that use the same title. You'll find them in the body of the post.

UPDATE: 03-Sep-08
To that last point about Obama supporters pointing to Palin's experience and failing to appreciate that it actually puts the spotlight on Obama's resume - or lack thereof. The same thing applies to Obama himself.

Byron York at The Corner:
In an interview of Barack Obama last night, CNN's Anderson Cooper mentioned Sarah Palin's experience as a small-town mayor and as governor of Alaska. Obama, hewing to his campaign's talking points, ignored the governor part:
COOPER: "And, Senator Obama, my final question — your — some of your Republican critics have said you don't have the experience to handle a situation like this. They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience, as mayor of a small town and as governor of a big state of Alaska. What's your response?"

OBAMA: "Well, you know, my understanding is, is that Governor Palin's town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month.

So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years. And, certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina of how we handle emergency management, the fact that many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place as we speak, I think, indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect."
Just for the record, Alaska's FY2008 operating budget is $11.2 billion, and the state employs approximately 15,000 people. Those certainly aren't huge numbers in federal terms, but they're a good bit bigger than the Obama campaign.
And Palin was running Alaska over the same approximate time frame that Obama was running for President. Hat Tip - McQ at QandO.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SCOOP: Obama's acceptance speech revealed.

The "Team Clinton" convention speech barn burners on each of the two previous nights have raised the bar a few notches for Obama's acceptance speech tonight. But the bar was already so high, the change may not be meaningful. With Obama's extraordinary skill as an orator, expectations were already in the stratosphere. The odd decision to deliver the speech in the grandiose setting of a arena, on a stage befitting a Caesar or a rock star amplifies the expectation.

Perhaps the staging is not so odd. It has been frequently noted in the media and blogosphere that Obama has modeled elements of his campaign on the 1960 John F. Kennedy campaign. JFK accepted his 1960 nomination in the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. So, why not Mile High Stadium for Obama? With Ted and Caroline passing him the "Camelot" torch, Barack obviously relishes and encourages the comparison to JFK. Of course, as Political Realm pointed out, some think Obama more closely resembles another Democratic President. The Obama campaign is so concerned about this comparison, that they will not give this ex-president a speaking role at the convention. They gave Democratic Vice President and failed presidential candidate Al Gore a prime speaking role. They give failed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry a prime-time speaking role. But ex-president Jimmy Carter? One of only two living Democratic Ex-Presidents? Nobel Peace Prize winner? Bupkus.

But I digress. The anticipation of and expectations for this speech could not be higher. Yet I know Barack Obama will not disappoint. I know this for a fact. I know he will not disappoint, because I have read the speech and it is truly great.

Being a responsible blogger, I cannot reveal my sources, but I have obtained a partial transcript of the Barack Obama acceptance speech to be delivered at Invesco Field on Thursday. Actually, I only have an excerpt. Well, actually, I have two excerpts. Apparently, two versions of Obama's acceptance speech were crafted, and my source did not know which version he will deliver on Thursday.

I was only able to secure these excerpts by promising to not reveal this material before the speech. But how can I sit on a scoop like this? Screw it. Here they are:

Wait - one caveat - these are apparently excerpts from draft versions, as there are some optional word choices indicated in the text. It is likely that his final speech will actually be a variation of one (or both) these two excerpts.


"[This] ...will not be a year of politics as usual. It can be a year of inspiration and hope, and it will be a year of concern, of quiet and sober reassessment of our nation’s character and purpose. It has already been a year when voters have confounded the experts. And I guarantee you that it will be the year when we give the government of this country back to the people of this country.

There is a new mood in America. We have been shaken by a tragic war abroad and by scandals and broken promises at home. Our people are searching for new voices and new ideas and new leaders.

Although government has its limits and cannot solve all our problems, we Americans reject the view that we must be reconciled to failures and mediocrity, or to an inferior quality of life. For I believe that we can come through this time of trouble stronger than ever. Like troops who have been in combat, we have been tempered in the fire; we have been disciplined, and we have been educated.

Guided by lasting and simple moral values, we have emerged idealists without illusions, realists who still know the old dreams of justice and liberty, of country and of community...

My vision of this nation and its future has been deepened and matured during the nineteen months that I have campaigned among you for President. I have never had more faith in America than I do today. We have an America that, in Bob Dylan’s phrase, is busy being born, not busy dying.

We can have an America that has reconciled its economic needs with its desire for an environment that we can pass on with pride to the next generation. We can have an America that provides excellence in education to my child and your child and every child. We can have an America that encourages and takes pride in our ethnic diversity, our religious diversity, our cultural diversity—knowing that out of this pluralistic heritage has come the strength and the vitality and the creativity that has made us great and will keep us great. We can have an American government that does not oppress or spy on its own people but respects our dignity and our privacy and our right to be let alone. We can have an America where freedom, on the one hand, and equality, on the other hand, are mutually supportive and not in conflict, and where the dreams of our nation’s first leaders are fully realized in our own day and age. And we can have an America which harnesses the idealism of the student, the compassion of a nurse or the social worker, the determination of a farmer, the wisdom of a teacher, the practicality of the business leader, the experience of the senior citizen, and the hope of a laborer to build a better life for us all. And we can have it, and we’re going to have it!

As I’ve said many times before, we can have an American President who does not govern with negativism and fear of the future, but with vigor and vision and aggressive leadership—a President who’s not isolated from the people, but who feels your pain and shares your dreams and takes his strength and his wisdom and his courage from you.

I see an America on the move again, united, a diverse and vital and tolerant nation, entering our third century with pride and confidence, an America that lives up to the majesty of our Constitution and the simple decency of our people. This is the America we want. This is the America that we will have. We will go forward from this convention with some differences of opinion perhaps, but nevertheless united in a calm determination to make our country large and driving and generous in spirit once again, ready to embark on great national deeds. And once again, as brothers and sisters, our hearts will swell with pride to call ourselves Americans. "

"Let me say first that I accept the nomination of the Democratic Party. I accept it without reservation and with only one obligation, the obligation to devote every effort of my mind and spirit to lead our Party back to victory and our Nation to greatness...

I am fully aware of the fact that the Democratic Party, by nominating someone of my [background or race], has taken on what many regard as a new and hazardous risk... The Democratic Party has once again placed its confidence in the American people, and in their ability to render a free and fair judgment and in my ability to render a free and fair judgment.

To uphold the Constitution and my oath of office, to reject any kind of pressure or obligation that might directly or indirectly interfere with my conduct of the Presidency in the national interest... I hope that no American -- I hope that no American, considering the really critical issues facing this country, will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me because of my [background or race]. It is not relevant.

Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm do not need to tell us of their plight. The unemployed miners and textile workers know that the decision is before them in November. The old people without medical care, the families without a decent home, the parents of children without a decent school: They all know that it's time for a change.

We are not here to curse the darkness; we are here to light a candle. As Winston Churchill said on taking office... "If we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future". Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do. Abroad, the balance of power is shifting..."

My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age-- to the stout in spirit, regardless of Party, to all who respond to the scriptural call: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be [thou] dismayed." For courage , not complacency, is our need today; leadership, not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously.

A tired nation, said David Lloyd George, is a Tory nation. And the United States today cannot afford to be either tired or Tory. There may be those who wish to hear more -- more promises to this group or that, more harsh rhetoric about [our enemies] as a substitute for policy, more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and the subsidies are always high. But my promises are in the platform that you have adopted. Our ends will not be won by rhetoric, and we can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves....

That is the choice our nation must make -- a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort, between national greatness and national decline, between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of "normalcy," between dedication or mediocrity. All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we shall do. And we cannot fail that trust. And we cannot fail to try.

It has been a long road from the first snowy day in New Hampshire many months ago to this crowded convention city. Now begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes across the United States. Give me your help and your hand and your voice. Recall with me the words of Isaiah that, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary." As we face the coming great challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that He renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. Then we shall prevail. Thank you."

I cannot tell you which of these will be the basis for the speech Barack Obama will give tonight. Probably it will be a variation of one of these drafts, or possibly it will be a mix of both.

Oh what the hell. Since I have already burned my sources, I might as well reveal them now. To keep it out of the feed, I'll put it in the comments. But before you look - decide which excerpt you think will be closer to Obama's actual address tonight. We can compare notes later.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back and blogging.

I'm back from my seafaring sojourn. I returned last week, was buried by a backlog of stuff in the non-digital world, and have yet to dig out. That, combined with a preference to cling to the experience by posting photos and stories of the voyage to a journal/blog, conspired to keep me from venturing back into the political arena. I think this is what Ryan Sager referred to as the problem with "hot-tub libertarians."

But with the Dem convention underway and the Labor Day starting gun for the electoral stretch run about to fire, it is time to get back into the starting block. Bear with me. It may take a week or so to get up to speed.

First, apologies to Steven Taylor, who took the time to respond with a comment on my last post, and was rewarded by spending two weeks in comment moderation purgatory.

So - What have I missed over the last three weeks? As near as I can tell, just this:
  1. According to both the right and left McCain bested Obama in the Rick Warren Saddleback Forum.
  2. McCain has narrowed the gap and has tied Obama in national polls.
  3. The left was shocked! shocked! to learn that McCain is rich, and does not know how many houses he and his wife own.
  4. Obama selected Joe Biden as his VP delegate.
Of these, only the first and last are meaningful. The polls mean exactly squat until we get past both conventions, and the McCain "How many houses?" nonsense is just that. It won't change a single vote.

The first point is interesting, because it is a different result than I expected in a head to head meeting. Granted - McCain had a "home field advantage" in this forum, but this was really about the candidates meeting, exceeding or falling short of expectations. I have maintained throughout that Obama would chew McCain up and spit him out in the upcoming debates. With that assessment I neglected to factor in the "expectations" game. Obama is such an extraordinary and electrifying orator that expectations for him in a live debate or interview are exceedingly high. And he consistently falls short of those lofty expectations in those venues. McCain is such a god-awful public speaker that expectations for him in a debate or interview are exceeding low. And he consistently surprises and exceeds those low expectations. That is what happened at Saddleback. Is this a dynamic we are likely to see repeated throughout the campaign? Is it a Kerry/Bush redux? Others have reached such a conclusion.

Joe Biden is great pick for VP. I mean, you got a mainstream Irish-American Roman Catholic who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. What's not to like? All kidding aside, I do like Biden. In my January 2007 stack rank, Biden and Obama were my top two Democratic Party choices. Hagel was my first Republican pick and top pick overall. If, as some have speculated, Hagel becomes SECDEF in an Obama administration, three of my top four picks in that post would be part of the Obama administration. If if were not for the Divided vs. Unified Government problem, I would find it to be a pretty compelling ticket.

Biden will help give Obama credibility and he will be a very effective campaigner for Obama. However, the choice does leave McCain an opportunity to make a play for disgruntled Clinton supporters by selecting a woman for VP. There are plenty of good choices, Whitman, Fiorina, Hutchison, or my favorite - Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It would be a smart move, but I doubt he will take my advice this time.

The first night of the Dem convention is in the books. The Ted Kennedy tribute and speech at the convention was memorable and moving - a political warrior's last stand. You don't have to like his politics to admire his gutsy upbeat performance, made poignant by the knowledge that he is staring into the abyss.

On an ocean passage, you get a lot of time to catch up on your reading. I read three books, finally finishing David Mayhew's "Divided we Govern" (No - really - see picture above). Originally published in the mid-nineties with a second edition in 2005 - this book was, to a large degree, the seminal work that debunked the notion that the federal government functions more effectively with single party control. Watching the ubiquitous blue "Change" signs waving at the convention last night, I was reminded of another Mayhew theme in the book. He explores the notion that a primary pre-requisite for the periodic legislative "surges" we have seen throughout our history is a pervasive "public mood" demanding "change". Is the Obama support an indicator of one these periodic "public moods"? Fodder for a future post.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Carnival of Divided Government Quattuor et Vîcênsimus (XXIV) - "Lost At Sea" Edition

Welcome to the 24th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The special "Lost at Sea" Edition. As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this, the Carnival of Divided Government Quattuor et Vîcênsimus (XXIV), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

Lost At Sea

The Admiralty of the DWSUWF blog has temporarily transferred command to the bridge of the Morpheus (pictured above leaving San Francisco Bay). Morpheus is a Schumacher 50 racing/cruising sailboat about to embark from Hawaii to San Francisco. She just finished the Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii and will be making her way back. MW is serving on the delivery crew as ballast for the return trip - as the saying goes - "From each according to their abilities..."

This CODGOV carnival was prepared prior to embarking on the journey back, while we still have access to some big internet tubes. This is our last night on-shore, and I will be publishing shortly before settling into our new home on Morpheus. I may or may not be able to see any comments until we reach SF around the 17th, and my brother HDW may or may not moderate comments that are posted here when I am gone. However, if anyone really wants to berate me over this or other posts real-time, there is a way to e-mail me short text-only messages on the boat, and I have left sufficient clues for a dedicated commenter to figure it out.


The theme for this particular carnival cruise, is the impact that the "Divided Government" meme may or may not have on the 2008 presidential election. We expect increasing visibility and debate on the topic in the months before election day, much as we saw in 2006. With that visibility, comes argument and invective targeting the meme, hurled by those threatened by the logical conclusion demanded by a divided government voting heuristic - To whit: The only way to maintain a divided government state, is to elect John McCain President for one term.

So let us unfurl the main, set sail, and weigh anchor me hearties.

We begin with an MSM account of a John McCain visit to our home port of San Francisco. Carla Marinucci writing in the SF Chronicle notes that "McCain Extends Olive Branch":
"It drives the talk radio crowd nuts when McCain does not wage war on Pelosi and Gore," said Hoover Institution media fellow Bill Whalen. McCain, he said, likely was trying to reach out to moderate and independent voters during his San Francisco visit... At some point, the McCain campaign has to make Congress and the Democratic majority an issue in this campaign ... it's something McCain has to wrestle with," Whalen said. There are three key issues at stake, he said: "The bad performance of the Congress - the reason why the approval rating is 9 to 14 percent. The second is what they want to do when Obama comes into office." The third is the issue of divided government - whether Democrats should indeed control both houses of Congress and the White House, he said."
Exactly so, and the very advice that mw has been offering to the McCain campaign for some time.

Steve Soto, blogging at the Left Coaster, quotes Glen Greenwald and worries that we may be heading into "Familiar Territory":
"Obama should also have been prepared for McCain to launch an appeal for divided government, by touting his alleged ability to work with Democrats in Congress to get things done. McCain has already started this with an editorial board appearance with the San Francisco Chronicle this week, wherein he said nice things about Nancy Pelosi and praised Al Gore's work on climate change. You'll hear more of this (but not in front of the cultists naturally) from McCain in the coming weeks, because if he can establish his bipartisan street cred narrative while his Tier Two effort savages Obama's character and image, he wins over the independents and gets the White House."
Given that Obama has a 95% toe-the-party-line voting record in the Senate, while McCain bucks his party 20-30% of the time, establishing his bipartisan street cred should not be too difficult.

Sometimes on a boat, you find yourself next to a fellow traveler that you would just as soon not have on the boat. Such is the case with a recent Bill Kristol column. I am reluctant to cite Bill Kristol as a validation for the DWSUWF perspective on divided government, as Bill Kristol has been so publicly wrong for so long about so many things and in particular anything to do with Iraq.

Instead I offer Kristol's comments as an early example of another point I have been making for a while. As we get closer to the election, partisans on the right will disingenuously begin to promote the divided government meme as they recognize that there is very little else to move independents, moderates and libertarians to vote for McCain. This is a good thing and I welcome it, as this is truly a case where any publicity is good publicity regardless of source. The case for divided government is a common sense argument that stands on it own merits, and will resonate with voters regardless of who is promoting it or their motivation. Even Bill Kristol.

Finally, as far as Kristol always being wrong, I think the "stopped watch" analogy (right twice a day) is applicable here, so with sufficient caveats firmly in place - Bill Kristol uses his NYT Op/Ed platform to advise independent voters to "Be Afraid. Please":
"...I read a report of a fund-raising letter from Obama on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, arguing that “We must have a deadlock-proof Democratic majority.” Yikes. But then it occurred to me that one man’s “deadlock-proof” Democratic majority is another’s unchecked Democratic majority. Given the unpopularity of the current Democratic Congress, given Americans’ tendency to prefer divided government, given the voters’ repudiations of the Republicans in 2006 and of the Democrats in 1994 — isn’t the prospect of across-the-board, one-party Democratic governance more likely to move votes to McCain than to Obama? So I cheered up once again. For it will become increasingly obvious, as we approach November, that the Democrats will continue to control Congress for the next couple of years. But if the voters elect Obama as president, they’ll be putting Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in untrammeled control of our future."

It is certainly legitimate to question Kristol's sincerity, as he was much less vocal about the virtues of divided government when our country was equally in need of divided government in 2004 and 2006. No surprise there. Also not surprisingly, the partisans on the left who were invoking divided government as a voting rationale in 2006 are notably silent now. As interesting as Kristol's comments themselves, are the reaction they generated on the left.

JCasey at Non Sequitur points out Kristol's logical fallacies, but then ignores scholarship and most of the documented modern historical record of voter preference for divided government in his post "Argumentum ad dictum".
"Kristol is guilty of two big mistakes. The first is a priorism–while the evidence he mentions relates to the conclusion (even though the claim about the dissatisfaction with the "democratic" congress is misleading), the availability of empirical data makes such recourse to a priori notions unnecessary. One can, in other words, track poll data now–poll data which paints a rather different picture (so he at least ought to argue against that). Second, the repudiation of majorities 12 years a part does not demonstrate much (it's only two instances) about American distrust of one-party rule–besides, in neither of those years were their Presidential elections."
Jcasey is also guilty of selectively choosing or rejecting poll data that fits or undermines his argument. Exactly what he accuses Kristol of doing. So it goes. Elsewhere...

The Truffle thinks that Kristol is a buffoon. Little Garlic posting at The Garlic exemplifies the hubris on the left, and is making plans for an Obama inauguration, saying "Considering Stumblin Bumblin' John McCain's considerable campaign skills, a convey of bulldozers and payloaders won't "move votes to McCain than to Obama". Brian at Incertus thinks Kristol is "giving American voters way too much credit".

Maybe. And maybe American voters have more common sense than any of these bloggers or the left give them credit for. While the electorate may be perfectly willing, even eager, to punish a Republican Party so deserving of punishment, they may still be reluctant to give one party the most concentrated power we have seen in generations. It is just common sense. Most of the worst excesses of the last eight years would not have occurred if voters had denied Republicans single party control.

Jazz Shaw posting at The Moderate Voice agrees, and wonders "Is Congress Obama's Weak Spot?":
"If Team McCain can’t come up with a positive strategy to convince Americans he is the right man for the job - rather than simply sounding the alarm that Obama is the wrong man - perhaps it is time to get away from the whole attack mode and try this new strategy. Our government dove too far to the right under iron-clad GOP control. Will we be better off if we turn around and let them swing equally off to the left?"
Let me think about it, Jazz. the answer is: HELL NO.

While we are on the topic of the kind of corruption to be expected in single party government, I could not be happier about the indictment of Ted Stevens. He is a picture perfect example of the corrosive effect of earmarks in the legislature, and shows just how bad it can get when you have the kind of cozy camaraderie and lack of oversight that always occurs in a single party government.

In this election year, the Stevens indictment has ramifications, offers a lesson, and serves as a warning for the possible single party Democratic government to come. By gutting the earmark reform bill last year, the Democrats have shown no interest in cutting this cancer out of the legislative process and as such - should they prevail with a single party victory in both legislature and the executive branch - this kind of story will continue unabated for the next 2-4 years at least. The only difference is that there will now more Democrats than Republicans lining up to take their turn on the perp walk.

Frank James posting at The Swamp, while assessing the political impact of the Stevens indictment, incorrectly states that a "divided government of sorts" will still reign regardless of who wins the White House, in his post "Stevens Woes= 60 votes for Dems? ":
"So it's looking right now as though there will still be divided government of sorts, regardless of who wins the White House, since Republican senators will still be able to slow down or kill legislation it opposes. "
Not to put too fine a point on this, but "divided government" is a specific term that has a specific definition and precise meaning as used by historians, economists, and political scientists who research the consequences of divided vs. single party control of the federal government. The definition of "divided government" is not the ability of an opposition party to "slow down or kill legislation". It is not even a "divided government of sorts". The definition of "divided government" is that a single party does not hold the executive branch and control a majority in both legislative branches of government. Full stop. As such, the only way we could realistically continue to have a divided government state in 2009, is if John McCain wins the presidency.

The reason why it is important to be precise about the use of this definition, is that the scholarship outlining the benefits of divided government (restrained growth of spending, greater oversight, less corruption, fewer wars, longer lasting and better considered major legislative reforms - see Mahew, Nisknanen, Slivinski, is rendered useless if the same definition is not used.

Dyre42 at Dyre Portents has a good insight into the meaning and potential consequences of "Ted Stevens Indicted":
"If hope that if he is found guilty that he punished to the fullest extent of the law. Additionally I hope that he is the last of the corrupt Republicans still in office. I have little doubt that had the GOP not been in the majority he either would have kept his nose clean or been indicted sooner. That brings me to one of my chief concerns about an Obama presidency. I fear that should the Dems control the house, the senate, and the Oval Office that we'll see the same level of corruption and excess. To me this is one of the most important functions that divided government serves. By that I mean as long as one party feels that the other is is breathing down their neck waiting for them to screw up they tend to stick to the straight and narrow."

Dr. Steven Taylor at Poli-blog quotes Larry Hunter wrestling with "venial vs. mortal" sins in the presidential decision wondering if this is the "Portrait of an Obamacan?":
"At a minimum, the risk of continuism is greater with McCain than Obama, and that may be enough for those who share Hunter’s concerns to take the plunge and support Obama (as, for example, Andrew Sullivan did some time back). Indeed, I count myself basically in that camp. The main positive reason I can conjure for voting for McCain is divided government. However, since the current divided government situation has not generated much in terms of addressing these keys issues about executive power, one wonders about that argument as well. At a minimum I find myself for the first time in my life in a position where I could see myself voting Democratic, Republican or Libertarian. And, I suspect that I am not alone. I was having a conversation the other day with a lifelong friend who is also a lifelong conservative. He concurred that he, too, had a similar view on the choices and his own possible voting behavior."
Andrew Sullivan was only too eager to latch on to Taylor's rationale. Sullivan's preference for Obama is well established. But Sullivan has yet to resolve the dilemma of how to support Obama without contradicting his strong and passionate support of Divided Government in 2006.

Methinks both Taylor and Sullivan doth protest too much. While I have wrestled with these issues myself, I cannot help but wonder whether Steven, Larry and Andrew are straining logic and back filling self serving rationalizations for an appealing candidate they simply like and want to support on an emotional level.

The real risk of the "continuism" that Doctor Taylor fears, is the risk of continuing the abuses of single party control of the Federal government, but this time with a 95% toe-the-party-line President, supported by a 100 vote majority in the house and a potential 60-40 filibuster proof Senate super-majority. As Dr. Taylor himself points out, the FISA vote shows that Obama has no particular desire to impose any legislative constraints on his own executive power. In addition, he will have bigger majorities in the legislature than the Republicans ever enjoyed under Bush43. Why would anyone think that the Democrats will suddenly behave as angels with that much power?

His unsupported argument that divided government did not sufficiently curb the executive power grab is spurious. The fact is that the divided government state did begin to reverse that trend. Six years of abusive single party control are not going to be undone by 18 months of divided government. Yet, as a direct consequence of divided government, we have a new Secretary of Defense, a new Attorney General, a marginal improvement in the Patriot Act and FISA vs. the Bush/Cheney versions, a great deal more oversight revealing many of the abuses of the six years of single party control, and a reduction in the rate of spending growth in 2007. These improvements, though marginal, should not be dismissed out of hand.

It is absurd to believe that handing all the levers of power to the Democrats is the answer to the abuses we saw as a result of handing all the levers of power to the Republican.

Bon Voyage
See you in September

And with that we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government Quînque et Vîcênsimus (XXV) - Special "Labor Day" Edition, which we will be working diligently to produce on or about the 1st of September. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.