Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Happy New Year message from Peter Schiff: The value of your house is still 20% too high.

When an economic bubble bursts, normalcy cannot return until the pricing excesses wrought by the bubble are wrung out of the market. A recession is often the painful but necessary market mechanism that corrects the pricing distortion and consequent misallocation of capital that occurs in a bubble. When misguided government intervention prevents the mispriced asset class from fully deflating, capital continues to be misallocated and economic malaise lingers on. This is the takeaway message from Peter Schiff's Wall Street Journal editorial this morning:
"By all accounts, the home price boom that began in January 1998, when the previous 1989 peak was finally surpassed, and topped out in June 2006 was extraordinary. The 173% gain in the Case-Shiller 10-City Index (the only monthly data metric that predates the year 2000) in those nine years averaged an eye-popping 19.2% per year. As we know now, those gains had very little to do with market fundamentals, and everything to do with distortionary government policies that mandated loans to marginal borrowers, and set off a national mania for real-estate wealth and a torrent of temporarily easy credit...

From my perspective, homes are still overvalued not just because of these long-term price trends, but from a sober analysis of the current economy. The country is overly indebted, savings-depleted and underemployed. Without government guarantees no private lenders would be active in the mortgage market, and without ridiculously low interest rates from the Federal Reserve any available credit would cost home buyers much more. These are not conditions that inspire confidence for a recovery in prices. In trying to maintain artificial prices, government policies are keeping new buyers from entering the market, exposing taxpayers to untold trillions in liabilities and delaying a real recovery. We should recognize this reality and not pin our hopes on a return to price normalcy that never was that normal to begin with."

Later, Schiff defended his thesis on CNBC:

"... if Schiff is right, homeowners are looking at pain.We know that Schiff is a tad dramatic – some would say alarmist – but his forecasts are not without merit. In late 2006, Schiff predicted the housing bubble and resulting subprime mortgage crisis and in late 2008, he predicted the automotive industry crisis and the crisis in the banking and financial market."
Schiff's holiday forecasts have become a regular feature on this blog. As long as his prognostications prove to be more right than wrong (as we've seen over the last five years) it is a tradition the Dividist will continue to observe. The Dividist does not find it particularly difficult to appreciate the wisdom in this particular common sense analysis. In fact, the Dividist finds it much more difficult to understand how anyone could expect that a problem that was:
  • Triggered by Federal government market-distorting social engineering policies intended to permit people to buy homes they cannot afford...
  • Enabled by Federal Reserve Bank expanding the money supply and keeping interest rates artificially low...
  • Fueled with massive deficit spending...
could be solved by:
  • More federal government market-distorting social engineering policies intended to allow people to to stay in homes they cannot afford...
  • Enabled by even more Federal Reserve Bank expansion of the money supply while artificially keeping interest rates even lower...
  • Fueling it all with even more massive deficit spending.
Definition of insanity anyone?

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Happy Divided New Year!

Actual undercover photo of a divided government ornament hanging on the tree of a family of unrepentant Liberal Democrats. My source has requested anonymity.

It's not much, but for Christmas the Dividist is giving away links to random holiday posts easily identified as such from the blogroll: Right Across the Atlantic, Power and Control, Sweasel, Immderate Monk, Impolitic, Stubborn Facts, Morpheus Sailing, Pajama Pundit, Dead Men Working, Weigel, Strata-Sphere, This Young Economist, Q and O, Stinque, Dr. Sanity, Flyover Notes, Corrente, The Oracular Opinion, Hankster, The Other McCain, Outside the Beltway, Hit & Run, Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis, Volokh Conspiracy, Whatever, Constitution Club, Of Mule Dung and Ash, Marginal Revolution, Megan McCardle, This ain't Hell, Small Dead Animals, League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Rise of the Center, Fausta's Blog, Booker Rising.

Ho, Ho, Ho. Even if not his solstice celebration of choice, the Dividist extends his warmest wishes to all enjoying the spirit of the season. He will now seek to celebrate his favorite family holiday tradition by seizing control of the Festivus pole and airing his grievances for the past year. They are legion. This is going to take a while.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bill Clinton endorses divided government. Sort of.

The December 10 Multi-President Press Conference

While preparing our latest divided government compilation, the Dividist found a prominent divided government reference that previously escaped his notice.

The December 10 White House press conference was notable for a lot reasons, but mostly for the sublime weirdness of watching the embattled current President handing the popular former President off to the White House press corp as if it was a tag team professional wresting match. Depending on partisan proclivity, perception of the multi-president press conference performance ran the gamut including: helpful, awkward, bizarre, a mistake, weird, show-stealing, an abdication, an education, nostalgic, and awesome.

As usual the most perceptive and entertaining coverage of the event was found on the Daily Show and from Taiwan's Next Media Animation studios - The two media outlets now setting the Gold Standard for political journalism:

Who is that crawling under the desk?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Obama Leaves Bill Clinton in White House Briefing Room
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook
Obi-Wan is back.

Lost in the spectacle and general bemused astonishment - this common sense explanation by the former President outlining why divided government works as well as it does:

Q: "Thank you, Mr. President. Beyond this pending tax deal, there are enormous issues of importance that are unfinished, from education to energy, the deficit. And this is still a very divided country. Do you think the American people want a President to compromise with the opposing party? And is that a message that you think Democrats are going to have to accept?"

"Yes, but I also believe that it’s a message Republicans are going to have to accept. Keep in mind that many of the -- the really interesting thing was -- is that a lot of the hardcore conservatives think the Republicans gave too much. Read Charles Krauthammer’s column in the Post today. He’s a brilliant man, and he pointed out that they got the divisive tax cuts, but most of them were targeted to middle-class working people -- that's what the payroll tax cut is -- that the unemployment benefits were extended, which some of them did not want to do, and that the American people, by two to one, support them both.

So there are some conservatives who don't believe in the economic theory I just advanced to you; who believe that the President and Democrats got more out of this than the Republicans did.

So I think that's healthy, too, because everybody has got to give a little.

Yes, I think the one thing that always happens when you have divided government is that people no longer see principled compromise as weakness. This system was set up to promote principled compromise. It is an ethical thing to do. In a democracy where no one is a dictator, we would all be at each other’s throats all the time, and we would be in a state of constant paralysis if once power is divided, there is no compromise."
Well said Mr. [ex-]President. If the electorate truly wants the moderating influence of bi-partisan compromise in our federal government, they can get it it by never giving either party all the keys to the castle. Pretty simple really. But then... is it ever really that simple with Bill Clinton?

In 2012, the Republicans are likely to maintain their majority in the House of Representatives, and will be in a strong position to retake the Senate majority. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the divided government vote in 2012 will be a vote to reelect Barack Obama. You don't suppose that Obi-wan is already preparing the ground for Obama's 2012 campaign do you???

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Carnival of Divided Government
Quîndecim et Quadrâgintâ (XLV)
Special Heavenly Signs and Portents Edition

Welcome to the 45th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - The Special "Heavenly Signs and Portents" Edition.

Today the skies are filled with mysterious signs, portents and omens. At exactly 12:17 AM PST this morning, The Dividist witnessed a total eclipse of the moon. Or, he would have if he was awake and the skies were clear in San Francisco. Neither of which happened to be true.

Then, at precisely 3:38 PM PST, 12-21-2010, the earth leaned a maximum 23 degrees off of its orbital plane, and then started leaning back. At that precise moment this post emerged over the blogospheric horizon and we in the northern hemisphere begin to observe the return of the light.

It is the winter solstice, the darkest and shortest day of the year. Yet in that darkness there is hope, as the calendar is pregnant with the promise of spring and the shining light of a new divided government just over the horizon.

Carnival of Divided Government
As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this the Carnival of Divided Government Quîndecim et Quadrâgintâ (XLV), as in all of the CODGOV editions, 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 The Dividist reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. Among the on-topic posts, essays and articles we choose our top ten favorites for commentary and consideration. We hope you enjoy these selections, and we hope you are looking forward to a noisy, fractious, and bickering divided federal government, just the way the founders intended.

Ken Fisher, a Forbes columnist and blog favorite (and one of the few market soothsayers that the Dividist will actually pay attention to) writes about the meaning of our shiny new divided government in his latest column "Gridlock is good for stocks:"
"We haven't had a negative stock market return in either the 6 or 12 months following a midterm election since World War II. It's typically a time when the volume of political noise gets ratcheted down from the blaring levels of the midterm election year. Look forward to the gridlock of the coming year, because little gets accomplished. If you hate politicians as much as I do you'll find this quiet marvelous. Markets do!"
While the Dividist agrees that gridlock is good, and hopes Ken is right about the market outlook in 2011, he wonders about the paroxysm of legislative productivity we are witnessing in these moments of lame duck One Party Democratic rule. In particular the much heralded bipartisan tax cut legislation.

An editorial aptly presents the central dilemma of this particular legislation in "The American Way:"
"The tax bill approved by Congress and signed Friday by President Barack Obama is emblematic — and symptomatic — of politics in America. It is the product of a divided government, a reflection of a politically divided nation. No one is satisfied with the bill or happy about the outcome, even those Democrats and Republicans who voted for it. We're not the first to note that this bipartisan agreement to increase the deficit was reached following national elections in which candidates and voters called for fiscal restraint and responsibility. But the irony is inescapable... The agreement, while politically pragmatic, is emblematic of the nation and its inability to agree on the ultimate compromise: reducing unnecessary spending and increasing revenue through taxation in order to reduce the federal budget deficit and manage the public debt at sustainable levels of the gross domestic product... For all the rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, Americans and their representatives appear to want their tax cuts and their spending, too."

Yeah... I'm not sure how an election result showing the public's concern about spending and deficits wound up stimulating a bill that increased both. But to pick a nit in an otherwise fine Ocala editorial. The tax cut extension was a not a product of divided government. It was a product of a lame duck One Party Democratic government in a bipartisan legislative panic about the divided government to come a few weeks hence. What happens to the bloated omnibus spending bill that failed last week in the hands of the soon to be Republican controlled House will be a more accurate reflection of the product of divided government.

Jonathan Singer quotes the New York Times while blogging at Polising and asserts that conventional wisdom on Divided Government gets it all wrong in "So Much for Divided Government Leading to Lower Deficits:"
"The New York Times writes this morning that the $858 billion tax cut deal brokered by President Obama and Congressional Republicans is "the first concrete product of a new era of divided government and acid compromise."

The interesting part of this statement is that it runs completely against the grain of common wisdom, forged during the 1980s and 1990s, that the best way to ensure fiscal responsibility is to have divided government. It turns out, at least in this instance, that divided government (or here, the impending prospect of it) is freeing up both parties to spend more at will, to blow up the deficit, as it were. "
Yeah... No. Actually the New York Times got it completely wrong. What the NYT and Jonathan completely overlook is that we remain under a unified government today with the Democrats in control of the White House and with huge majorities in both legislative houses of Congress. We will not have divided government until the the new Republican majority in the House is seated in January.

The lame duck tax compromise legislation that Obama signed was passed under unified Democratic Party control. That is the way political scientists track legislation, by who is in power when the legislation is passed and signed. If fact, the 111th united Congress just made it "fall of a log" easy for the 112th divided congress to prove conventional wisdom correct by showing dramatic deficit reduction and spending restraint in comparison to the wildly irresponsible 111th.

Andrew Oh-Willeke, blogging at Wash Park Prophet is reading the signs and is not optimistic about what he is seeing in "The Lame Duck Session Legislative Frenzy:"
"As we head into a period of divided government, the Republicans have a mostly fiscal agenda that is mathematically impossible and a visceral opposition to anything proposed by the President or any Democrat regardless of its policy merits, while the Democrats simply don't have much of a plan, period despite being in a state of remarkable ideological consensus within the legislative party, due to the defeat of many Congressional Blue Dog Democrats, including both of the Blue Dogs from Colorado. It is hard to see much on the legislative horizon but gridlock, and we will be lucky if there is enough consensus to even pass the appropriations bills necessary to keep the government running in 2011 and 2012."
Andrew seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding about how and why bipartisan compromise is reached on capital hill. Meaningful compromise is impossible when one party controls all the levers of power as we have seen for the last two years. Why should a party in control of the executive branch and with large majorities in both legislative branches ever compromise in a meaningful way? It defies common sense. We can only get true bipartisan cooperation when there is no choice and both parties have a seat at the divided government table. Andrew may not like the result of bipartisan compromise - heck, I generally don't like the results of bipartisan compromise - but we' are likely to see plenty of it over the next two years.

John Hohman and James Harris at Politico file a report explaining how Obama can upgrade his presidency under the impending divided government in "President Obama 2.0 - Becoming CEO of America:"
"Republicans rode a huge wave of conservative anger and energy to power in the 2010 elections. Obama’s challenge is to make sure that wave is a spent force by 2012 — in part by letting conservatives think they have achieved some of what they want... In Obama’s case, he would be taking symbolic steps in order to preserve his substantive agenda. “You stiff-arm your own party in both houses and cooperate with the other party. The American system calls for that,” said Yale political scientist David Mayhew, who wrote a landmark book on how divided government can be legislatively productive. “There’s a politically induced opening to try to get things done even if it requires inventive coalitions...

“President Obama has a similar opportunity: to be the one who explains, who articulates what that common ground really is, securing the place where I think most Americans, especially the independents, want him to be while preserving and protecting as much as he wants to around his core agenda,” said Don Baer, a top adviser to Clinton during that period.

The Obama crowd may not like being pointed to the Clinton example. “They’re almost psychotic about not being Clinton,” said one person close to Obama and his staff. Many Obama aides believe the 42nd president practiced a small-minded, defensive brand of politics, though some acknowledge that their own recent setbacks have given them a new appreciation of Clinton’s survival skills."
You really cannot go wrong from either getting advise from David Mayhew or using Bill Clinton as a model for working with divided government. But if the Obama administration really does not like the Clinton example - there are other presidents to choose from...

Brian Friel at quotes the new Republican senator from Illinois to give us some insight into our future divided government and find additional hints from the leaders schedules as "Calendar shows divided Congress:"
"Although gridlock is largely seen as the most frequent outcome for legislation in 2011, lawmakers in both parties say agreement could be reached on issues, including trade deals, modest energy proposals and simplifying the tax code. 'Divided government in the end does better work,' said Sen. Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill., who worked in the State Department during the administration of President George Bush. “In every Bush meeting, the first question was, ‘Which Democrats can we get for what we want to do?’ That was very healthy.”
What if Obama does not want to use GWB as a model any more than he wants to emulate Bill Clinton. How about Dwight Eisenhower?

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post invokes some lessons from recently a discovered draft of Ike's farewell speech in "Eisenhower's farewell speech has wise words on split government and militarism":
"Ike also was concerned about split government. Released last week by the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, the newly discovered papers include a draft dated Dec. 21, 1960, that says though he as a Republican faced Democratic control of both the House and Senate for six of his eight years in the White House, "We did not fall out into bitter, unreconcilable factions which in other nations have paralyzed the democratic process." Instead, he goes on, "Despite our differences, we worked together, and the business of the nation went forward, and the fact that it did so is in large measure a credit to the wisdom, forbearance, and sense of duty displayed by the Congress." Given today's enormous governmental issues, President Obama, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress and particularly legislators coming to Washington next year should reflect on Eisenhower's concern about government paralysis...

In the final speech, delivered from the Oval Office, that section became even blander. Eisenhower said that he and Congress became "mutually interdependent during these past eight years," and "in this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the nation should go forward."
The Dividist likes Ike.

HAL 10000 blogging at Right-Thinking for the Left Coast is a member in good standing of the Coalition of the Divided, and is politically (as well as geographically) aligned with the Dividist's thinking as clearly demonstrated in "The Crown Prince of MSNBC:"
"In the end, I hope that Obama is smarter than his base. Deficit reduction is critical ... we can’t wait for a Republican President to do it (even assuming a Republican President would, which is dubious at best). By breaking from his base and earning the wrath of crazy liberals like Olbermann, he’s improving his standing among conservatives and independents. If he and the Republicans can get the economy going and reduce the debt by 2012, he’s almost certain to be re-elected. (This being a prospect I can handle so long as Congress remains Republican. I love divided government."
Me too, Hal. And close the pod bay door please. There is a partisan breeze in here.

The Dividist is always on the lookout for new scholarship on divided government. Peter Calcagno author and blogger at Market Process has co-authored a paper examining the conditions leading to voters embracing divided government in state governments entitled "Divided We Vote:"
"Divided government is known to correlate with limited government, but less is understood about the empirical conditions that lead to divided government. This paper estimates the determinants of continuous and categorical measures of divided government in an empirical macro political economy model using 30 years of data from the American states. Voters support more divided government after increased government spending per dollar of tax revenues, but more unified government after worsening incomes and unemployment rates. Only conditional support is found for the strategic-moderating theory (Alesina and Rosenthal 1996) that focuses purely on midterm cycles and split-ticket voting absent economic conditions."
Interesting work because it focuses on why people vote for divided government, as opposed to the usual scholarship that focuses on the policy consequences. The Dividist will be adding this work to the sidebar.

Clive Crook of the Financial Times makes his second consecutive CODGOV appearance as he continues to wring his hands over our impending divided government while simultaneously outlining the solution to the very problems that has him so worried in "Obama must force the parties to co-operate":
"In January, a new Republican majority takes charge in the US House of Representatives. The balance of political power is about to shift decisively – yet the result is not pre-ordained. Can a bitterly divided government get things done, or must the country prepare for two years of quarrelsome stagnation?...

Indeed, behind the posturing, a deal linking Start ratification, the extension of unemployment benefits and the temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for all could be in the offing. It will not happen by itself: Mr Obama will have to press. But if a bargain could be struck, it would be a good beginning – especially if it encouraged the president to explore what a more forceful triangulation strategy might achieve from now on. And I am not just talking about re-election in 2012."
Given what has actually transpired since Mr. Crook wrote this column, perhaps he would find our divided government considerably less worrisome if he would just read his own columns.

Charlie, blogging at I Street Mess, invokes some dour prognostications in The Economist, then swims against the conventional wisdom tide, striking a note of optimism in "Divided Government 2.0:"
"It is easy to predict that the blame game of the past four years will continue. Indeed, such arguments may carry more weight now that each party can point to the other's majority as the problem. But this will not stand long, on Capitol Hill or with the American public. It will not be politically profitable for either side to completely scuttle the 112th Congress.

Naysayers would do well to remember that the six years of divided government under President Clinton were some of America's most successful in recent memory, and forced bipartisanship certainly played a role in this. Here's Hoping (that's "1.0") that this new round of divided government can deliver on its potential - and maybe strike the first blow against Social Security. ”

Exactly. The surprise is not that we are seeing real bipartisanship in the looming shadow of divided government, nor that we will see meaningful bipartisanship over the next two years of divided government. The surprise is that anyone would have expected any kind of meaningful bipartisanship to take place while the Democrats held all the cards over the last two years of One Party Rule. Duh.

John Avlon, CNN contributor and founder of the embryonic No Labels wannabe "movement", is hoping that forced bipartisanship has another trick up it's sleeve with "A great START for Christmas:"
"This lame duck Congress has shown it can fly, passing a broad-based tax cut compromise by a wide margin despite opposition from the far right and far left. In an even more historically significant move, eight Republican senators joined Democrats to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving opening in the military, known as "don't ask, don't tell." It is a reminder that the divided government that we'll see next year does not need to mean gridlock. It's also a reminder of the strength of the political center."
Certainly agree, but it's not like gridlock is necessarily a bad thing. It is certainly far preferable to bad legislation steamrolled through a united government like Obamacare and Porkulus. The Dividist is taking a close look at No Labels, and will have more to say about it in future posts. The first thing the Dividist wants to determine is that the organization is not simply a Unity08 redux. That said - the Dividist agrees that START passing this session is a good thing, and it looks like that is exactly what will happen. Happy Solstice!

Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context means - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition, we again present Madeleine Begun Kane presents "Premature Concession Syndrome -- A Remedial Limerick" posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness who, like many Progressives, is struggling to understand the concept of bipartisanship and compromise. As someone once said. Elections have consequences. Oh well - Happy Solstice Madeleine! And a very Merry Divided Government new year!

With that, we'll conclude this edition.

UPDATE - 12/25/10:
Added a missing post or two, still fixing typos and restoring the ever-popular...


It has been some time since I'v properly acknowledged some of the other hard-working carnival ringmasters out there - time to bring back the popular Carnivalingus feature:

Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government Sêdecim et Quadrâgintâ (XLVI) - Special National Dividist® Day of Celebration Edition - to commemorate the restoration of divided government as the 112thCongress is seated on or about January 3, 2010. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Visitor 100,000

Yesterday, at 9:28:23 PM the eyes of the 100,000th visitor to Divided We Stand United We Fall fell upon this humble blog. Or, at least, so said sitemeter. The Dividist has absolutely no doubt that this was not our actual 100,000th visitor, as the Dividist has no confidence whatsoever in sitemeter's count. The fact that the visitor count in the sitemeter bug in the lower left corner does not match the sitemeter count on the detailed sitemeter list contributes to this lack of confidence. Yeah. I know. Whatever. Let's roll with it.

The Dividist has periodically taken note of these benchmarks, if for no other reason to remind himself of just how truly pathetic the DWSUWF traffic levels are when considered in the pantheon of political blogging giants. We last noted a visitor benchmark with our 50,000th visitor on May 2, 2008. Before that visitor 25,000 and visitor 10,000 caught our attention.

This exercise in blogospheric navel gazing also serves as an excuse to periodically explore the advances in google technology and commensurate erosion of privacy in the blogosphere. So, what do we know about visitor 100,000?

Visitor 100,000 lives or works in Carville, Louisiana, uses Cox Communications as his ISP, has an older PC running the Windows NT OS, and browses the web with I.E. 7. He either does not keep his computer up to date with current browser technology or is using a company PC locked down on this configuration. I say the visitor is a "he" as he found the blog by way of an image search for Maria Bartiromo. The image on the right is the very one that pulled him to the post "Markets, Economy, Gridlock, and Maria Bartiromo." This, in and of itself, is yet another confirmation of the wisdom of "Rule 5" of R.S. McCain's five rules on "How to get a million hits on your blog in less than a year." :
Rule 5) Christina Hendricks
Or Anne Hathaway or Natalie Portman or Sarah Palin bikini pics. Rule 5 actually combines four separate principles of blogospheric success:
  • A. Everybody loves a pretty girl -- It's not just guys who enjoy staring at pictures of hotties. If you've ever picked up Cosmo or Glamour, you realize that chicks enjoy looking at pretty girls, too. (NTTAWWT.) Maybe it's the vicious catty she-thinks-she's-all-that factor, or the schadenfreude of watching a human trainwreck like Britney Spears, but no one can argue that celebrity babes generate traffic. Over at Conservative Grapevine, the most popular links are always the bikini pictures. And try as I might to make "logical arguments" for tax cuts, wouldn't you rather watch Michelle Lee Muccio make those arguments? [...]
Despite the occasional Rule 5 post, the Dividist is clearly not being a sufficiently conscientious student of Mr. McCain's insightful guidance. At the current pace this blog will finally pass the one million visitor threshold sometime in the year 2050. The Dividist will be 97 years old. Yeah. I know.

Back to our visitor.

Sitemeter identifies the latitude and longitude coordinates for visitor 100,000 as 30.2184, -91.0925. I have no idea how they arrive at those coordinates, but dropping it into Google Maps, we find ourselves near 5520 Monroe Lane in Carville:

One of the new features in Google Maps added since our last visitor benchmark, is Street View. By dragging the orange stick figure onto the map we get a ground level view of the location. The closest structure to this latitude and longitude is pictured at the top of the post. Yeah. I know.

This is where any additional information to be gleaned about our visitor requires a leap of intuitive guesswork.

The Dividist assumes that visitor 100,000 does not live there. More likely, the lat/long designation from sitemeter is imprecise, and the visitor could be placed anywhere inside (or even outside) this picture. The Dividist thinks that industrial site to the right of the mark is a likely location.

It turns out this is a facility of Bear Industries, Inc. - a supplier of "aggregates for industrial, residential, and commercial use including limestone, gravel, sand, and river silt." So let's pull these threads together. Our visitor was surfing for pictures of Maria Bartiromo at 11:28 PM local time on an old computer using a corporate Windows OS and an obsolete browser. I'm thinking - a bored night watchman at the Bear Industries Carville facility who was working the graveyard shift on the night of December 7th, 2010.

Thank you for your visit sir. If you find this and contact me I will gladly send you a fine Dividist Button to commemorate your short but significant stay.

The Dividist thinks he will wait for visitor 250,000 before he does this again.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Request from Taiwan - Liao Xiaobo and the Charter 08 Manifesto

We do requests. We've posted and enjoyed some of the Taiwan Next Media Animation efforts in the past, and that got us on their e-mail list. Usually just a notification of the their latest and greatest effort, today's email was a little different:
I am writing to you from Next Media Animation, the media company known for producing animated videos about Tiger Woods, Steven Slater from Jet Blue, and, recently, the TSA body scanners and our "feud" with Conan O'Brien. Although we enjoy doing fun and quirky animations, today we have produced a serious news animation that is near and dear to our hearts. Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, however, instead of traveling to Oslo to receive the award, Mr. Liu will be spending the day in jail. He is serving 11 years on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for his part in the writing of Charter ’08, a document that called for greater freedom of expression, human rights and free elections in China.

We at Next Media Animation maintain a strong democratic voice in Taiwan and Hong Kong in defiance of such oppression in our region of the world, and would appreciate your help in making Liu Xiaobo's story of courage more well known. On behalf of all of us here at NMA and Mr. Liu, I would appreciate it if you could post this video to your site."
Why not. For anyone interested in a translation of the incendiary Charter '08 Manifesto that landed Mr. Liu in jail for eleven years, the complete document is published at Foreign Policy Magzine.

An excerpt:

"At this historical juncture that will decide the future destiny of China, it is necessary to reflect on the modernization process of the past hundred and some years and reaffirm the following concepts:

Freedom: Freedom is at the core of universal values. The rights of speech, publication, belief, assembly, association, movement, to strike, and to march and demonstrate are all the concrete expressions of freedom. Where freedom does not flourish, there is no modern civilization to speak of.

Human Rights: Human rights are not bestowed by a state; they are inherent rights enjoyed by every person. Guaranteeing human rights is both the most important objective of a government and the foundation of the legitimacy of its public authority; it is also the intrinsic requirement of the policy of “putting people first.” China’s successive political disasters have all been closely related to the disregard for human rights by the ruling establishment. People are the mainstay of a nation; a nation serves its people; government exists for the people.

Equality: The integrity, dignity, and freedom of every individual, regardless of social status, occupation, gender, economic circumstances, ethnicity, skin color, religion, or political belief, are equal. The principles of equality before the law for each and every person and equality in social, economic, cultural, and political rights of all citizens must be implemented.

Republicanism: Republicanism is “joint governing by all, peaceful coexistence,” that is, the separation of powers for checks and balances and the balance of interests; that is, a community comprising many diverse interests, different social groups, and a plurality of cultures and faiths, seeking to peacefully handle public affairs on the basis of equal participation, fair competition, and joint discussion.

Democracy: The most fundamental meaning is that sovereignty resides in the people and the government elected by the people. Democracy has the following basic characteristics:(1) The legitimacy of political power comes from the people; the source of political power is the people. (2) Political control is exercised through choices made by the people. (3) Citizens enjoy the genuine right to vote; officials in key positions at all levels of government must be the product of elections at regular intervals. (4) Respect the decisions of the majority while protecting the basic human rights of the minority. In a word, democracy is the modern public instrument for creating a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Constitutionalism: Constitutionalism is the principle of guaranteeing basic freedoms and rights of citizens as defined by the constitution through legal provisions and the rule of law, restricting and defining the boundaries of government power and conduct, and providing appropriate institutional capability to carry this out. In China, the era of imperial power is long gone, never to return; in the world at large, the authoritarian system is on the wane; citizens ought to become the true masters of their states. The fundamental way out for China lies only in dispelling the subservient notion of reliance on “enlightened rulers” and “upright officials,” promoting public consciousness of rights as fundamental and participation as a duty, and putting into practice freedom, engaging in democracy, and respecting the law.

Thus, in the spirit of responsible and constructive citizens, we put forth the following specific positions regarding various aspects of state administration, citizens’ rights and interests, and social development:

1. Constitutional Amendment: Based on the aforementioned values and concepts, amend the Constitution, deleting clauses in the current Constitution that are not in conformity with the principle that sovereignty resides in the people, so that the Constitution can truly become a document that guarantees human rights and allows for the exercise of public power, and become the enforceable supreme law that no individual, group, or party can violate, establishing the foundation of the legal authority for democratizing China.

2. Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances: Construct a modern government that separates powers and maintains checks and balances among them, that guarantees the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive powers. Establish the principle of statutory administration and responsible government to prevent excessive expansion of executive power; government should be responsible to taxpayers; establish the system of separation of powers and checks and balances between the central and local governments; the central power must be clearly defined and mandated by the Constitution, and the localities must exercise full autonomy.

3. Legislative Democracy: Legislative bodies at all levels should be created through direct elections; maintain the principle of fairness and justice in making law; and implement legislative democracy.

4. Judicial Independence: The judiciary should transcend partisanship, be free from any interference, exercise judicial independence, and guarantee judicial fairness; it should establish a constitutional court and a system to investigate violations of the Constitution, and uphold the authority of the Constitution. Abolish as soon as possible the Party’s Committees of Political and Legislative Affairs at all levels that seriously endanger the country’s rule of law. Prevent private use of public instruments. [MORE]"

We can't do much to help Mr. Liu, but we can at least help distribute the words that are the reason he is incarcerated today. This also serves as a good reminder of the true nature of the autocratic leadership in the People's Republic of China.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Game Change - Book Review and Blog Backwash

When I received an e-mail invitation from Trish Collins to write a review of Game Change for TLC Virtual Book Tours, I eagerly accepted (once I determined that Trish was not some advanced form of automated spam). I was intrigued by the concept of a book tour in the "cloud" and appreciate the opportunity to participate. Moreover it was a good excuse to read a book that I knew about, was interested in, but missed with its initial hard cover publication earlier this year.

The best way to review a book is to read it without any preconceived notions. To simply pick up a book, open the cover, dive in and form an opinion without first being influenced by what others think. That was impossible with Game Change.Extensively excerpted before publication, it was widely reviewed in mainstream media, praised and reviled across the blogosphere.

The authors claim to offer a unique inside view of the 2008 presidential campaign. This was a topic of intense interest and the focus of my blogging efforts here and at Donklephant. As such, I entered the world of Game Change lugging a trunkload of preconceived notions.

Carrying that load of baggage, I am not going to approach this review by walking directly through the front door masquerading as an objective reviewer. Instead I'll just beg The Reader's indulgence as I circle around back, sneak in through a side entrance and drag all this excess baggage with me.

Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, promises an "insider" perspective informed by two years of hindsight and developed from extensive interviews of anonymous sources close to the 2008 campaigns. By contrast, my perspective of the election was that of an outsider with an agenda trying to understand the meaning, motivations, and in a small way even shape the outcome of the 2008 presidential election from this obscure corner of the blogosphere. Here I noted and commented on many of the strategies, spin, and narratives promoted by the very campaign insiders who were the sources and characters featured in this book. Comparing and contrasting their perspective with mine as documented on this blog is what I found most compelling about Game Change.

First, a note on the books central stylistic conceit, the omniscient narration that makes the book so readable, while simultaneous raising doubts about its credibility. Harper-Collins promoted the book as “a sweeping, novelistic, and ultimately definitive portrait” of the 2008 race. Sweeping? Certainly. Definitive? History will be the judge. Novelistic? Indeed, and there is the rub.

Is a docudrama a documentary? Can a historical novel be history? Game Change is a novelization of the 2008 campaign. In the first paragraph of the first page of the prologue we are confronted with the central dilemma of this narrative choice.
"Barack Obama jerked bolt upright in bed at three o’clock in the morning. Darkness enveloped his low-rent room at the Des Moines Hampton Inn; the airport across the street was quiet in the hours before dawn. It was very late December 2007, a few days ahead of the Iowa caucuses... Obama always slept soundly, like the dead. But now he found himself wide awake, heart pounding, consumed by a thought at once electric and daunting: I might win this thing... as Obama sat there in the predawn stillness, the implications of the events he saw unfolding hit him as never before. He didn’t feel ecstatic. He didn’t feel relieved. He felt like the dog that caught the bus. What was he supposed to do now?"
Barack Obama is alone in his room in a motel in Des Moines - and yet we are treated to every detail of his actions and the very thoughts and emotions inside his head. So... exactly who did Halperin and Heilemann interview to glean these detailed insights? Certainly this paragraph grabbed my attention and drew me into the story - exactly as intended. It also flipped an internal switch of recognition - not as a journalistic report on the election, but rather as a novel.

This is docudrama, and on that level, this book works exceedingly well. When finished, I appreciated the read as a well crafted dramatization of the 2008 campaign. In a new afterword for this paperback edition, the authors defend their journalistic/creative decision:
"Equally perplexing were the qualms in some quarters concerning our reporting methods. From the outset, we knew that if Game Change achieved any substantial degree of success, we would be held to high standards of journalistic integrity and accuracy - and we conduct ourselves throughout the research and writing of the book determined to exceed them. In grating our sources anonymity and rendering the narrative in a omniscient voice, we were doing nothing novel; we were following in a tradition of countless esteemed non-fiction writers." (P 438)
Perhaps. But I nevertheless found it to be more akin to a novel "based on a true story" than a non-fiction report. Undoubtedly there are truths to be gleaned in these pages, as with any good novel. But when I put the book down, I was not sure whether I should consider it anything more than a page-turning pot boiler.

Rather than considering the value of the narrative on stylistic term, let us take the measure of this book using another scale, one suggested by the authors' themselves. In the Author's Note that precedes the prologue the authors explain their purpose:
"We have tried to address the multitude of vital questions that daily journalism (and hourly blogofying) obsessed over briefly and then passed by, or never grappled with in the first place. How did Obama, a freshman senator with few tangible political accomplishments, convince himself that he should be, and could be, America's first African American president? What role did Bill Clinton actually play in his wife's campaign? Why did McCain pick the unknown and untested governor of Alaska as his running mate? And who is Sarah Palin, really?"
So by that very standard, did this book succeed? As one of the "blogofyers" of the election, I'll approach the question on exactly the author's terms. By directly comparing how the author's omniscient insider historical "political player" perspective on these very questions compared to my contemporaneous outsider "D-list" blogger perspective.

"How did Obama, a freshman senator with few tangible political accomplishments, convince himself that he should be, and could be, America's first African American president?"

GAME CHANGE: "Getting to Yes"
Within Obama’s operation, “the options” became a code phrase, a reference to three live possibilities: launching a presidential run, bolstering his stature in the Senate with an eye toward the VP slot in 2008, or returning to Illinois to run for governor—with a presidential bid so far remaining at the bottom of the option pile. (P 32)

Like Obama, the pollsters in the room had been grappling with the issue all year long. Time and again they would hear in their focus groups expressions of unease about Obama’s greenness and his barren résumé. “He’s too new,” ­people would say. “Why doesn’t he wait fours" "Why doesn't he just take the vice presidency?" "He doesn't know about foreign policy." (P 118)

Powell had his own questions for Obama, but the main one was: Why now? You don't have much of an experience base, Powell pointed out. You're new to the Senate, you have an interesting but limited resume from before that. So again, why now? I think I might have what the country needs today, not four or eight years down the line, Obama responded. I think it might be my time. (P69)

He formally launched his campaign six weeks later, on February 10, 2007, on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois... The speech he delivered laid out all of the themes that would carry through 2007 and beyond... "It's time to turn the page." (P 74)
DIVIDIST: (February 11, 2007)
"Barack used the word "generation" at least 12 times in the 20 minute speech. Apparently he is building his campaign on on a foundation of Baby Boomicide. One has to ask - why the generational focus? I submit, that this is a realistic political calculation by a young, self-assured, very smart, very ambitious politician, who understands that his path to the presidency requires a stepping stone as Vice-President. A key element in the selection of any Vice-Presidential candidate, is to identify what constituency they bring to a ticket. From a purely political perspective, it is interesting to ask - Exactly what constituency does Barack Obama bring to a Democratic ticket... Barack can bring a generational constituency, if he can mobilize a demographic block that historically cannot even be bothered to vote, then Barack would be a formidable addition to any Democratic ticket. This is a campaign to capture that constituency and trade it for a spot on the ticket."
I never believed that Obama considered his run to be a serious effort to win the presidency in 2008. His resume was just too weak. My perspective was exactly the perspective of the focus groups described in the book. I thought this was always a campaign to cross the stepping stone of a vice president role on the way to a presidential run four or eight years hence. But if the peek that the authors of Game Change offer us into the mind of Barack Obama is accurate - he ran only to be president and only to win. The VP role was never the objective. On the question of his motivation, I did not see from the outside what the authors say was in his head. History would indicate they were right.

"What role did Bill Clinton actually play in his wife's campaign?"

GAME CHANGE: "Two for the Price of One"
"Backstage, Bill paced back and forth, taking their old friend Terry Shumacher about the uphill climb they were facing. We could turn this around if we had the traditional eight days between Iowa and New Hampshire. he said. "I'm just not sure we have enough time" The first-person plural was no slip of the tongue. For a year Hillary had been content to keep her husband at arms length, but now she pulled him close. Nobody knew New Hampshire the way Bill Clinton did...

While Hillary was trying to dance delicately through a minefield of racial sensitivities, Bill was working the remote Western and northern part of the sate. At a townhall meeting at Dartmouth College, he uncorked the argument that he and Penn and been longing to make for a year. Horse voiced and finger wagging, he ripped into Obama's claim of antiwar purity and the media's claims of letting those claims go unchallenged.... Give me a break" the former president moaned. "The whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've seen!"...

It was after ten o'clock when the excitement finally washed over the room. The networks had certified Hillary's win. The candidate came and hugged everyone. "I felt it all day," she said. Bill boasted how his "fairly tale attack" had been pivotal to the outcome - it had held down Obama's margins in Hanover. (P 178-189)
DIVIDIST: (January 30, 2008)
A Fairy Tale for Our Time
Long had the House of Clinton practiced the ancient arts, honed their dark craft and schooled in the political weirding way. Long had the Lord King Clinton ruled over the Land of the Dems and held the people entranced under a spell of power and guile.

“Behold your Queen”
King Clinton exclaimed “For I am passing my power to her and she shall rule over you as did I. Accept her and love her as you loved me.” And the Dems were afraid and did bow before them.

The children of the Dems flocked to the hero Obama and said “You must free us from this curse!” and so he went forth to battle the Queen of the Hill. And it came to pass that the great hero broke the spell and set free the serfs of Iowa and Carolina. The peasants pledged fealty to the hero and said “We will be your army, and we will be called the Obamites.”

And the scribes and town criers sang his praises and told of his great deeds and of his victory and prophesied the death of the dark Queen until the day came that she cried out in anguish and defeat. But the King unleashed powerful wizards of special interest and once again cast his spell on the people of the Hampshires and Nevada and Lo! The people saw the Queen was not dead.
While my allegory in early 2008 did not predict the outcome correctly (I still thought he would wind up as Clinton's VP), I think it did a pretty good job of picking up on the sense of the race. While the dramatic staging and particulars to be found in Game Change is entertaining, I can't say that there was anything particularly new about Bill's role in the campaign that I did not see (at least at a general level) and comment on at the time.

GAME CHANGE: "Pulling Away and Falling Apart"
She thought Obama wasn't qualified to be commander in chief. And she thought the Republicans would destroy him in the fall, preying on his inexperience and insubstantiality, prying him open and disemboweling him. That morning her campaign had released a new ad in Texas that went direct to those points. Titled "3AM" it was concoction of Penn's drawn from a script he'd drafted a few day earlier on his laptop in a file called "gamechangers"...

There were sleeping children, the sound of a phone ringing , and a question: When an international crisis hits, who do you want picking up the receiver in the Oval Office? A shot of Hillary, assured and calm, phone to ear, provided the answer; Obama's name was never mentioned. Even so "3AM" was the first ad the Clintonites had run that challenged Obama's fitness for office...

After more than a year of battling Obama she'd concluded he was a cipher. In prepping for their debate a week earlier in Cleveland, she had argued with her staff over whether she should call him a "blank slate". We have to make people understand that he's not real." Obama's vast crowds , his wild-eyed devotees - it was a kind of mass hysteria." (P 230)
DIVIDIST (April 7, 2008):
Embracing Billary
"What is this 3 AM ad really all about? What does the "Clinton is ready on day one" meme really mean? The Clinton campaign code word is "experience". The McCain campaign uses the same word while the Obama campaign prefers "judgment". But neither the words "experience" or "judgment" capture the gestalt of that ad or its meaning.

The ad is being repeated because it is effective. It is effective for the simple reason we know exactly what we are getting with a Clinton administration. Net, net - it is not Hillary Clinton's experience we are talking it about. It is our experience with Team Clinton. We have already experienced eight years of a Clinton administration, and for most Americans, it was a good thing. Even more so in contrast to the subsequent eight disastrous years of the Bush administration. We had more peace, more prosperity, more rationality, better currency, better economy, and a better standing in the world. What's not to like?

After eight years of the mind numbingly incompetent, anti-intellectual, disingenuous, and incoherent Bush administration, it is easy to be nostalgic for a competent, smart, predictable, and articulate Clinton Redux. Even if it is a team effort. Especially if it is a team effort. And if a little bit of ruthless, cutthroat duplicity is part of the package? I am good with that. A far more dangerous delusion, is that there will be no duplicity in an Obama administration.

In contrast to the Clinton's, a prospective Obama administration is a cipher. There is simply not enough experience there to see it as anything but an unbreakable code whose meaning is fundamentally unknowable. Now I like Obama. I like the way he talks, and I like the way he thinks. It is easy to feel very good about an Obama presidency. That does not change the fact that no one can know what an Obama presidency will bring. He might be a great president. He might be a disaster.
By the time that 3AM ad ran, I was in full advocacy mode for Hillary Clinton on this blog. I didn't believe a Republican could win in 20o8, and very uncomfortable with turning over the White House to a President with as little executive experience as Barack Obama. Comparing these descriptions, there is little or nothing in the Game Change "insider" account about Bill Clinton's role in the campaign that I was not seeing reported from the outside at the time. However, the synchronicity of the two accounts, even the similar syntax, does beg an interesting question - Was I simply seeing the same thing as the Team Clinton campaign, or was I so sympathetic to the campaign, that I was simply picking up the messaging of Team Clinton and channeling it on the blog?

"Why did McCain pick the unknown and untested governor of Alaska as his running mate? "

GAME CHANGE: "Sarahcuda"
"The plan was always for McCain to shock the world his vice-presidential pick. For weeks his top advisers had been dreaming and scheming., touching bases and laying groundwork, secretly readying an announcement at once unconventional, unexpected, and unprecedented, which would throw the press and both parties for a loop and redraw the political map. The surprise that McCainworld intended to spring was a running mate named Joe Lieberman.

But then something happened on the way to the Republican convention in St. Paul - and presto chango, there was Palin. McCainworld's core conviction was that McCain's VP choice had to be a game changer. The campaign assumed... the three quarter of the electorate who were telling pollsters the country was on the wrong track and blaming the GOP would punish McCain at the polls. If McCain's running mate selection didn't fundamentally alter the dynamics of the race, it would be lights out.

That Sunday, August 24... Schmidt and Davis then placed a new option on the table: Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin's name had been on the longest of the long lists, but that was it. Davis told McCain that if he wanted to consider the governor of Alaska, he needed to phone here that night and ask her if she'd be willing to be vetted - and arrange to meet with her, pronto. McCain was impassive, but agreeable. "I'll call her." he said... On the evening of Wednesday, August 27, three days after McCain phoned Palin, she arrived at the airport in Flagstaff, Arizona...

Culvahouse spoke to McCain by phone. Overall the lawyer was impressed with how Palin handled herself, but he advised McCain that, compared to the alternatives, there were more potential landmines with Palin. "What's your bottom line?" Mc Cain asked. "john, High risk, high reward,." Culvahouse said. " You shouldn't have told me that. I've been a risk taker all my life."...

... although McCain didn't know much about Palin, what he knew, he liked. She reminded him a lot of himself: the outsider's courage, the willingness to piss all over her party . (He loved that she'd taken on that pork-barreler Ted Stevens, whom he despised.) He saw in Palin a way of seizing back and amplifying his own message of change - real change, not the bogus Obama version. "Trust your gut, John." Cindy told him, and McCain knew that she was right. McCain walked up to the deck outside his cabin, where Palin was waiting, and offered here the job."
DIVIDIST: August 26, 2008 & August 31, 2008
Back and Blogging
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.

Pondering Palin
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.

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."
The narrative in Game Change relating the details of exactly how Sarah Palin was plucked from relative obscurity to find herself standing on a grand political stage next to John McCain is fascinating. However, I found little or nothing in the book about the rationale, the potential risk and reward, or even the likelihood of inadequate vetting for the Palin pick that was not already in the public discourse at the time and discussed on this blog. New details and a compelling narrative? Yes. But as far as any previously unknown revelation or insight into the decision or the process that was not apparent at the time? I didn't see it.

"Who is Sarah Palin, really?"

I am not going to quote anything from my blog on this question. First I don't think I've ever tried to answer this particular question, and moreover, I'm not even sure what it means. In 2008, as a sitting governor with a good handle on energy issues, I thought she could help McCain get elected, and with four+ years as VP, grown into a potential presidential role (Actually, I initially thought the same thing about Obama as related above).

Now - after having quit as governor, and capitalizing on the unrelenting media obsession by becoming a media star, I don't think that path remains open to her. Frankly I think she far prefers the new path she has cut for herself. She is playing the hand she was dealt, and playing it well.

That said, I don't know that Game Change answered that question either. They do offer a number of interesting anecdotes and observations - here one from the original publication, and another from the new Afterword:
"Seconds in Command"
The truth was, the McCain people did fail Palin. They had, as they promised, made her one of the most famous people in the world over-night. But they allowed her no time to plant her feet to absorb such a seismic shift. They were unprepared when they picked her, which made her look even more unready than she was. They banked on the force of her magnetism to compensate for their disarray. They amassed polling points and dollars off of her fiery chrisma, and then left her to burn up in the inferno of public opinion" (P 415)

"With the exception of Obama himself, no one underwent a greater life change after the 2008 election than Sarah Palin. In July 2009, she abruptly quit the Alaska governorship, claiming cryptically that "only dead fish go with the flow," thereby trading in endless battles her state's legislature and series of expensive lawsuits for a glamorous career as a well-paid speaker, bestselling author, Fox News commentator, and Republican royalty-maker. Though Palin resisted immersing herself in the serious policy issues about which her lack of knowledge remains her greatest weakness, if she aspires to the presidency, she has kept her had in politics with cleverly timed endorsements and frequent flash communications to her fans through Twitter and Facebook. Even as polls have shown that majorities of Americans doubt her qualifications to serve in the Oval Office, she towers over every other Republican figure as a media magnet and rallier of the conservative base." (P440)
True and True. Well written and cleverly phrased. But if assessed against the objective the authors themselves set out to accomplish - to "address the vital question of... who is Sarah Palin?" - and to do so in a manner that was not addressed by contemporaneous media or bloggers at the time of campaign? A shot and a miss.

Perhaps others are finding something new and revelatory in these pages. I did not.

Look, the book is an enjoyable read, and well worth the investment in time and money for this new paperback edition. I recommend it. But in terms of the standards that the authors set for themselves, the book fails.

Finally, I cannot conclude this review without commenting on one tawdry and unforgivable aspect of the book - the treatment of Elizabeth Edwards.

It is clear that this book was anonymously sourced primarily by the operatives, campaign staff, aides, and professional politicos who managed the major campaigns. While not all emerged unscathed, to the extent that any sympathetic characters are to be found in Game Change - it is these campaign operatives. Whether they deserve that treatment is another matter. To a large extent, the authors reported their stories, through their eyes, and unsurprisingly, they told stories that made themselves look good. In the process, most of the politicians, candidates, their spouses, and competing campaign staff are made to look bad.

An artifact of the authors reliance on these sources is that the book often comes across as catty, petty, cynical and mean spirited. Nowhere more so than with Elizabeth Edwards. I won't excerpt the offending parts here, you can read them in the New York magazine article.

Now I didn't know her, I didn't know anyone who knows her, and I don't know what she was like to work for or with. That said, this is a woman who was working in the pressure cooker of a presidential campaign while dying of cancer and learning that the idealistic political crusader that she thought she was married to was, in fact, an empty suit and a narcissistic, lying, cheating shyster.

The book portrays her as a shrill, borderline insane, screaming banshee. If you cut through the novelistic embellishments and compensate for likely self-serving sources, her reported offenses distill down to being obsessed about her husband's campaign, and occasionally yelling and cursing out the campaign staff. Poor babies.

In the timeframe covered in the book Elizabeth Edwards is confronting the end of her marriage, her dreams and her life during the course of a presidential campaign. She deserved a more sympathetic and fair treatment. To that end, I'll leave her the last word - her last public words - a message she published on facebook as I wrote this review:
" You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces -- my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. There are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know."
Rest In Peace Elizabeth Edwards.

Thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for the book and the opportunity to read and write this review. Check out the tour home page linked here. Sorry about being a little late, I made up for it by running a little ridiculously long.

The Game Change Virtual Tour Calendar and Reviews:

Monday, November 15th: Social Sense

Wednesday, November 17th: Deep Muck Big Rake

Wednesday, December 1st: Marathon Pundit

Thursday, December 2nd: Divided We Stand United We Fall

Monday, December 6th: Ruby Slippers

Monday, December 13th: Whiskey Fire

Wednesday, December 15th: Rude Pundit

Thursday, December 16th: Booker Rising

Friday, December 17th: Chaotic Compendiums

Tuesday, December 21st LitBrit

Tuesday, December 21st Cogitamus

EDITS & UPDATES: - Fixing typos as I find them, and adding links to other reviews as they are completed.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.