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Tilting at Windmills

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November 4, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA THE BOLD?....I'm not really in favor of raising the cap on payroll taxes unless the increase is scheduled to start at least ten years in the future. That caveat aside, Mark Kleiman makes a decent case that it's time to ditch the "Obama is running an excessively cautious campaign" meme. I'm 80% convinced.

Kevin Drum 12:27 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

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Cautious? No. Showing the fighting spirit? That's what is really missing. Show some toughness. Fight back against the right wings smears.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on November 4, 2007 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

That's funny Kevin. I'm not in favor of raising the cap on the payroll taxes unless they make it retroactive to 10 years ago.

So let's take a page out of the medicare perscription bill and put a donut hole in payroll tax. Keep the cap where it is, then start the tax again at $400,000. Include capital gains and whatever the hedge fund managers are calling their income these days.

Posted by: tomeck on November 4, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

After the McClurkin business, I'll never believe him again.

Sheila Kuehl told me years ago, in a comment I thought at the time excessively cynical, that straight folks will, at the end, always throw us under the bus. Well, in so many words. Sadly, she has been proven right over and over.

Posted by: jprichva on November 4, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Sheila Kuehl was wrong if she was talking about the totality of straight folks. If she was talking about straight politicians, she's probably right.

Posted by: shortstop on November 4, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

I'm in favor of raising the cap while lowering the rate to make it revenue neutral, and then only raising the rate when SS is not in surplus. Doing anything else will just encourage pillaging the trust trust fund even more.

Posted by: me2i81 on November 4, 2007 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

jprichva: "After the McClurkin business, I'll never believe [Barack Obama] again."

I won't go quite that far, but I will say that Sen. Obama has lost my respect for him, and the bar regarding his worthiness for public office has now been raised substantially, as far as I'm concerned.

For a guy whose campaign constantly reminds us that he's a new breed of politician, Obama's willful association with that poisonous homophobe sure makes him look like the same ol' same ol' to me.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 4, 2007 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

So jprichva, are you planning to vote for Larry Craig?

Posted by: KathyF on November 4, 2007 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

[OT] A report on the inquest into the brutal, senseless police execution of an innocent man:

Jean Charles de Menezes shooting: Metropolitan police found guilty of endangering the public

Posted by: Poilu on November 4, 2007 at 6:40 AM | PERMALINK

Without a secure, verifiable voting system, what does any of this "horse race" commentary matter? In what will quite conceivably be a pre-determined "contest", it's merely spectacle -- panis et circensis for an utterly delusional democracy.

Don't get me wrong. I've harbored some fondness for this blog. But the topics seem all too frequently focused on minutiae that may ultimately have NO bearing on the "official" (rigged) outcome of the next [S]elections.

As things currently stand, we face the strong likelihood of a mere repeat of the E-lectoral farces we've witnessed since 2000.

So, when Giuliani inexplicably "wins", then what??
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 4, 2007 at 7:13 AM | PERMALINK

Pursuant to my remarks above:

Will the GOP election theft machine do it again in 2008?
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
October 19, 2007

With record low approval ratings for the Bush/Cheney regime and the albatross of an unpopular war hanging from the GOP's neck, do you think that a Democratic presidential candidate will win the White House, get us out of Iraq, and end our long national nightmare?

Think again the mighty election theft machine Karl Rove used to steal the US presidency in 2000 and 2004 may be under attack, but it is still in place for the upcoming 2008 election. ...
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 4, 2007 at 7:21 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you call yourself a "progressive" and you are not in favor of raising the most regressive tax in America? Social Security could be solvent in perpetuity if the so-called "cap" were lifted. Pardon me for saying so, but you need to rethink that position.

I'm also amazed that this weekend you have not devoted a millimeter of blog space to two of the hottest foreign policy issues of the past six months, namely:

Pakistan is now under martial law;

and,

The allegation by al-Jazeera that it was the U.S. Air Force that took out the supposed Syrian nuclear reactor.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 4, 2007 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

I realized what Obama is when he endorsed Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman. That's his mentor, and that's his future. Let's not let it be ours.

Posted by: jussumbody on November 4, 2007 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is no Joe Lieberman. He's not a hawk and, last time I checked, he's not shilling for the Bush Administration. And he DEFINITELY doesn't look (and sound) like Droopy Dog.

Posted by: Keith on November 4, 2007 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you call yourself a "progressive"

Kevin is not a "progressive", he is a "sensible liberal."

Posted by: klyde on November 4, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

I am appalled by Kevin's take that raising the cap on SS tax be delayed, but let him make a case for it. As for Obama, what you surely must realize is that he is now the "cool" candidate for opening the "It's Saturday Night!" I suppose that doesn't count as a "cautious" media move, albeit not really scary or daring either. Now Hillary doesn't stand a chance.

Posted by: Neil B. on November 4, 2007 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

You think that post is persuasive? Maybe the part where Mark thinks Obama has Clinton backpedaling on her Iran vote? I guess if he thought it was an important vote, he should have stuck around to vote on it. Besides, remember that a month ago Clinton co-sponsored Webb's amendment to prohibit funding military actions in Iran without Congressional authorization.

I too have wanted to like Obama, but he keeps offering little to differentiate himself.

Posted by: tx bubba on November 4, 2007 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

So why is everyone in favor of raising the payroll cap? The Republicans have already made it clear that they do not believe the trust fund exists and that they plan to default on those bonds. Adding more to the trust fund won't change that. So increasing payroll taxes won't do anything to save Social Security. Unless we start paying back the trust fund, the payroll tax is nothing more than a highly regressive income tax.

Posted by: Walker on November 4, 2007 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

I guess if he thought it was an important vote, he should have stuck around to vote on it. Besides, remember that a month ago Clinton co-sponsored Webb's amendment to prohibit funding military actions in Iran without Congressional authorization.

Tx Bubba:

On your first comment above, two things: remember he has no control over the scheduling of votes (Reid does) and the Congressional Record pretty much outlines what happen (vote was announced and held in 30 minutes). He missed the vote (due to scheduling), he didn't skip it.

As for HRC co-sponsoring Webb's Amendment--she did so five days after she took flak for voting yes on KLA. The amendment was introduced in March 2007 and has been languishing (and will continue to languish) in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (chaired by Joe Biden).

Posted by: Keith on November 4, 2007 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

But Walker, raising the cap at least keeps it from being so regressive. If we don't trust the "trust fund", then raise the cap, lower the rate, and make SST paygo.

Posted by: Neil B. on November 4, 2007 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

According to CNN, all senators were notified the night before that the vote would be held that day and Obama didn't try to make it.

I'll believe CNN over a lying politician most times.

Posted by: RalphB on November 4, 2007 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

I read this assessment of Hillary this morning and it seems pretty accurate:

"Instead, she [Hillary] has come to believe, probably correctly, that if we knew what she really wants to do as president, we would never vote for her. So on Social Security (where she plans to raise taxes), Iran (where she will take military action if need be), Iraq (where she will keep the troops), the Alternative Minimum Tax (which she will only repeal if it can be used to hide massive tax increases) and drivers licenses (which she will give to illegals as soon as she can), Hillary resists telling the truth. And, under the scrutiny of opponents like Edwards and Dodd, and the questioning of Tim Russert, it is becoming obvious even to Democrats."

Posted by: brian on November 4, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Pakistan is now under martial law;

and,

The allegation by al-Jazeera that it was the U.S. Air Force that took out the supposed Syrian nuclear reactor.

CD: Have seen them both myself -- I review a minimum of 3 different news providers daily -- and am also somewhat surpised by the resounding silence.

Sometimes I think Kevin may occupy a radically different universe. But assuredly, a "cutting edge" news source he's not, of late.

Would love to see this site return to a more hardcore approach to reporting on the state of the world, as I vaguely remember it doing some time ago. The more generalized "Beltway babble" and "horse race" coverage leave me pretty cold.

Posted by: Poilu on November 4, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I read this assessment of Hillary this morning and it seems pretty accurate. ...

Brian: Not that I disagree with those premises (in theory), but where exactly did you read that?

The source and author for such commentaries definitely have a bearing on their overall credibility.

Posted by: Poilu on November 4, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's problem is he has every thinking persons' vote. Unfortunately he needs a majority.

Some of you will miss the point. So translation:

Obama is a 21st century Adlai Stevensen.

Posted by: molly bloom on November 4, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Keith,

Obama, like Lieberman, is in love with his myth the sound of his own voice (whether or not he sounds like Droopy Dog). He's already "thrown the gays under the bus", as someone else has pointed out. The Blacks and the rest of the Democratic base will eventually follow (with the exception of the Israel lobby, which probably isn't part of that base anymore). That's the difference between an old sell-out and a young one - you can't betray your ideals until *after* you've made a big egotistical show of embracing them.

Posted by: jussumbody on November 4, 2007 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Look out everybody. Last time Obama got bold he started a conflagration in Pakistan.

Posted by: Chrissy on November 4, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on November 4, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

"So why is everyone in favor of raising the payroll cap? [...] Unless we start paying back the trust fund, the payroll tax is nothing more than a highly regressive income tax."

No matter what we do with the money the payroll tax is regressive.

One reason that it is regressive is the cap thus removing the cap would make the tax less regressive.

As far as I know nothing changes with this simple logic in 2017.

Posted by: jefff on November 4, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew Sullivan has a persuasive essay on the Obama candidacy in the latest Atlantic.

"At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a momentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce."

The press and most bloggers may be comfortable with the "he doesn't have the experience, he is too cautious, he is like Adlai Stevenson" narrative, but maybe the time has come to reconsider that narrative? I also wonder why something as subjective as "being cautious" is such a bad thing after the last seven years of dangerously reckless abandon?

Posted by: PTate in MN on November 4, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

you rich motherfuckers are a hoot. try livin on less than 10k a yr. and remember that rifles are cheap...

Posted by: sameoldjeff on November 4, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

... it's time to ditch the "Obama is running an excessively cautious campaign" meme. I'm 80% convinced.

—Kevin Drum

For months supporters were begging Obama to draw sharp policy distinctions between himself and HRC. This did not require attacking her, just differentiating himself from her. But his caution on policy issues prevented him from doing so.

It is too late for drawing policy distinctions. He must attack if he is to stand any chance of stopping her. So far, he has not shown any caution in pointing out her fatal flaw: lack of authenticity as evidenced by chronic triangulation.

If he continues to do this on the ground in Iowa, he has a chance of winning.

Posted by: Econobuzz on November 4, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Look out everybody. Last time Obama got bold he started a conflagration in Pakistan.

Stupidest HRC talking point so far.

Posted by: Uh huh on November 4, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Fitzpatrick & Wasserman (via Poilu): "Think again - the mighty election theft machine Karl Rove used to steal the US presidency in 2000 and 2004 may be under attack, but it is still in place for the upcoming 2008 election ..."

The "mighty election theft machine" fell flat on its ass in 2006, thanks in large part to an overwhelming turnout for the Democrats.

An election theft in this country can only take place if the actual election is so close that such a "machine" can massage or manipulate the results at the margins in order to swing it. The key, therefore, is to see that Democrats and allies turn out in sufficiently overwhelming numbers to ensure that this election won't be close.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 4, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Obama didn't endorse Lieberman in the last campaign. He endorsed Ned Lamont. Lieberman was his "mentor" when he reached the Senate, but a new Senator's mentor is assigned and it doesn't mean that they necessarily share an outlook.

Posted by: twc on November 4, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Donald: What if they try harder this time? And remember, although overall sentiment favors "Democrats", the election between Hillary and Rudy (or etc.) could be very close, and also the distortions of the miserable Electoral College make it worse.

Posted by: Neil B. on November 4, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

A reasonable person cannot dimiss the possibility that both the 2000 and 2004 elections were deliberately stolen. Which is precisely the point. Neil is right. Without verifiable voting, how can we call ourselves a democracy?

Posted by: ppk on November 4, 2007 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

"it's time to ditch the "Obama is running an excessively cautious campaign" meme."

Maybe it's time to ditch memes altogether. Maybe simply repeating what other reporters say hasn't worked out well for the republic. So let's ditch memes altogether in favor of old-fashioned-information-gathering-and-putting-the-facts-in-context reporting. Oh wait, that would be journalism...silly me.

Posted by: batavicus on November 4, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B: "What if [the Republicans] try harder this time?"

Is there any reason why we shouldn't also escalate our own efforts correspondingly?

The 2000 and 2004 elections were subject to machination and fraud only because Democrats in both instances ran overly cautious campaigns that disregarded our own strengths and instead danced to the GOP's tune. Otherwise, there is no way in Hell those elections should ever have been the nail-biters they were.

Democrats need to take the gloves off, give in the Republicans a taste of their own medicine in spades, and kick GOP ass until they whine that it hurts, and then proceed to kick it some more, and even harder.

This time -- and I'm directing this to my fellow Dems on the left -- the upcoming Democratic campaign should be all about delivering a richly deserved payback, and a knockout blow that far removes Republicans from the reins of power for the foreseeable future.

Further, when one considers all the abuse that Bill and Hillary Clinton have been subjected to at the GOP's hands for the past 15 years, if Mrs. Clinton is our nominee, I'm figuring that such a payback will indeed be a supreme bitch, both literally and figuratively. And the rest of us, rather than complaining about her supposed progressive shortcomimgs, should instead be licking our chops in anticipation of such a prospect.

The GOP's Il Duce-wannabe will be toast, just like his historical idol and mentor from early 20th century Italy. I can't wait.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 4, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

I understand just where Kevin is coming from. The little bit of end-of-year pay that I don't have to pay SS on helps the budget. And in ten years I will be retired (or working an easier lower paid job)!

But in reality, SS isn't in any real danger of running out of funds. There may or may not be a shortfall twenty-five years from now, but that depends upon how the economy performs. A reasonable level of growth, and there will be no problem. There is no urgent need to do anything about SS. I think that message is slowly seaping out.

About Obama, he lost my support/respect with the Pakistan flap a few months back. He seems less and less up to the job (though still incomparably better than the current crew in the WH), as time goes by.

Posted by: bigTom on November 4, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

Poilu,

Sorry I did not respond sooner.

I'm not sure that the author of such a mostly subjective assessment/opinon of Hillary's campaign should have much impact on the "credibility" of the assessment, although I can see that the assessment also includes some factual conclusions. I purposely left out the author because I did not want people to be influenced one way or the other by him.

It is Dick Morris, who is very anti-Hillary and probably has few fans here, but he also is a guy who is very knowledgeable about Hillary, the Clinton approach to campaigns, and political campaigns in general.

Posted by: brian on November 4, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Keith,

I'm aware of those arguments, but the first especially doesn't hold water. For one, if you're going to criticize a candidate for the Iraq vote, then you better make sure you're there for similar votes. And if he really thinks the amendment was a "blank check" for war, then quite frankly, he looks all the worse for not showing up to vote when Biden, Dodd, and Clinton were all told the same thing as Obama, are running for president, and still managed to vote.

He's missed nearly 3 times the senate votes that Hillary has. Part of it is that I think it's calculated to avoid getting criticized for a vote, like his avoiding the MoveOn vote. I don't think this makes him worse than Clinton or the other candidates, but he's not so different either.

I've read his bio and have wanted to like the man, but I need more substance from him.

As for the insinuation that she only sponsored the bill after catching flak, that's a bit of post hoc ergo propter hoc. I disagree with Hillary's vote on the Kyl-Lieberman bill, but she had a reason for doing so that wasn't just so that she could fan a war with Iran but to provide some means of dealing with Iraq.

In Jan 2006, she made it very clear that, while she considered Iran a threat to the region, the first and most important route to curbing Iran was via sanctions. Her co-sponsoring the Webb Amendment is a logical extension of those comments uttered more than a year earlier.

While any of the Democratic candidates are far better than Bush and his kindred spirit Guiliani, none of them are perfect. I still haven't made up my mind, though by the time I vote in the primary, it won't matter.

Posted by: Tx Bubba on November 5, 2007 at 3:30 AM | PERMALINK

The "mighty election theft machine" fell flat on its ass in 2006, thanks in large part to an overwhelming turnout for the Democrats.

Nonsense, Donald! Why do you think the strongly anticipated "rout" of the Republikans in Congress turned out to be so astonishingly meager and -- in the case of the Senate -- strictly nominal?

What was witnessed in 2006 was no landlide shift, as expected and deserved. And it certainly was not a "clean" election, but rather an exceptionally close set of races actually resulting from e-vote and tabulation tinkering. The "fix", in that case, simply underestimated the required margin to fudge a close Republican "victory". It also produced numerous, highly conspicuous recounts.

Remember the "bizarre" Sarasota results, among others -- the THOUSANDS of missing votes that led to marginal Republican victories? In the Sarasota case, the Democratic candidate was usurped of tens of thousands of votes, yet declared the "loser" based on an "official" margin of just a couple hundred.

An election theft in this country can only take place if the actual election is so close that such a "machine" can massage or manipulate the results at the margins in order to swing it. ...

We're talking, to a very large extent here, about privately-owned, proprietary software that both casts and counts the votes WITHOUT any reliable oversight by independent agents. In the current state of Black Box voting, one can't even be assured that his vote is accurately recorded, and numerous citizens have related SEEING their vote "flip"!

Typically, the goal of a "fix" is to MAKE the results look plausibly "close", the better to avoid intense scrutiny and the assertion of highly conspicuous anomalies.

Nevertheless, it certainly happened in 2004! The ever-reliable exit polls showed that KERRY actually achieved the 5% margin "officially" attributed to Bush. And in Ohio, at least, the records have since been conspicuously disappeared, DESPITE a court order mandating their indefinite retention.

The key, therefore, is to see that Democrats and allies turn out in sufficiently overwhelming numbers to ensure that this election won't be close.

There we don't disagree, in theory. But such a turnout doesn't actually eradicate the threat of election rigging, only makes its success less assured. And even that may depend on how unexpectedly high the "contrarian" turnout is.

That appears to have been the exact scenario that took place in the marginal Dermocratic win of 2006 -- the victors just narrowly squeeked by in what should have been a landslide! The fix was in, and it DID alter the results. But it wasn't significant enough to achieve its overall goal of maintaining Republican control of the Congress.
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 5, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

... Without verifiable voting, how can we call ourselves a democracy?

ppk: Exactly! The so-called "reforms" of HAVA have introduced a whole new magnitude of corruption into the election process. These Diebold-style e-voting machines are atrociously accessible to hacking, principally by the suppliers themselves, and are KNOWN to have been subjected to mysterious, last-minute "patches" by the vendors.

That's one resaon I was appalled to hear that the Congress was backsliding on the "verified voting" legislation..Ostensibly, it was because various municipal election boards had complained that replacement of the devices would be "TOO HARD" in the time allotted -- well over SIX MONTHS! -- a few months ago.

If US troops can be deployed to a miserably lost cause like Iraq at virtually a "moment's notice", I fail to see what's so damned difficult for these bent politicos about replacing worthless machines in half a year's time!

Of course, they could always just default in the interim to traditionally reliable paper ballots alone, if that's the supposed "excuse". Or is counting "TOO HARD" for them nowadays, too?

Posted by: Poilu on November 5, 2007 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

It is Dick Morris, who is very anti-Hillary and probably has few fans here, but he also is a guy who is very knowledgeable about Hillary, the Clinton approach to campaigns, and political campaigns in general.

Brian: If I recall, Dick Morris was also one of the loudest voices proclaiming that it "must" have been the 2004 Exit Polls -- which clearly revealed a significant Kerry victory -- that were "seriously flawed", and that those incredibly reliable (less than +/- 1% margin of error) historical indicators of election integrity should simply be "scrapped".

That being the case, I at least would certainly take his political commentary with a massive grain of salt. Yes, it does matter who says it, especially if their track record for veracity is quite dubious, as is Morris's, in my mind..

Nevertheless, thanks for the forthright identification.

Posted by: Poilu on November 5, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP's Il Duce-wannabe will be toast, just like his historical idol and mentor from early 20th century Italy. I can't wait.

Donald: I have little doubt that that is what the VOTERS will decree. My concern is whether the "official" vote tallies -- derived largely from unaccountable, GOP-controlled, secret proprietary software will reflect that in any way.

The "fixers" obviously missed their mark in 2006. So they may be far less conservative (sensu lato) in 2008. That, in my mind, is the alarming scenario invoked by Neil B's "What if they try harder ...?" -- the possibility of an even more dramatic software fudge, "just to be sure".

"Therein lies the rub." And one thing is relatively clear: these racketeers haven't gotten any LESS audacious over time.

Posted by: Poilu on November 5, 2007 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Fitzpatrick & Wasserman (via Poilu)

Donald: Actually, it's "Fitrakis & Wasserman".

If you're not familiar with their work -- I assume as much from the mis-spelling, though I may be wrong -- I'd strongly recommend a serious review of the Free Press site's archives. Virtually NO ONE has delved more extensively into Ohio's massively corrupt 2004 election, and their documentation is copious and fairly irrefutable. What's more, they don't "pull their punches" in the least. (If I recall, Conyers' own report relied to a fair extent on the Free Press's Ohio research.)

Posted by: Poilu on November 5, 2007 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Obama was picked by Kerry to give the convention speech. Is it any wonder he reminds us of the cautious intellectually-styled Kerry?

Obama's problem is he keeps making very significant mistakes and we all know he would continue if he were elected.

Obama's supporters would do well to find another candidate to support.

Posted by: MarkH on November 5, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not really in favor of raising the cap on payroll taxes unless the increase is scheduled to start at least ten years in the future.

Is there a rationale besides your own personal retirement plans for this?

Posted by: cmdicely on November 5, 2007 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK
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