McCain won, hands down, particularly when the conversation shiffted to war and national security. McCain was comfortable, fluent, principled and direct. Obama was weak and defensive.
There are many words to describe McCain's composure last night, but comfortable surely isn't one of them. And maybe I'm just stuck on the contrast with John Kerry, but Obama didn't seem weak and defensive to me; he stood his ground and hit back. I didn't always agree with what he had to say—when it came to NATO expansion, he sounded as crazy as his opponent—but he sure seemed to believe it himself.
They say the real winner of a debate is the man who exceeds expectations, so in that spirit I'll give the prize to Jim Lehrer. I haven't been a fan of his in the past, but I appreciated his dogged efforts to get a straight answer out of the candidates about whether they're backing the bailout. And it was good to see him encouraging the duo to engage each other. After the Blitzer/Matthews disasters, Lehrer acquited himself well; he was the only man on stage that I liked more after the debate than before it.
As a political move, this is stupid. Not only does it cast the campaign as a bunch of speech-squelching bullies, but it makes the ad itself into a story and thus guarantees that more people will see it. (A trivial example: I wouldn't have stuck it in a blog post if it weren't for the controversy.) But of course there's much more on display here than poor political judgment. Together with similar efforts elsewhere, the incident says something about how a President Obama might approach media regulation. In an article in the November Reason -- watch for it on newsstands! -- I point out that while Obama says he won't restore the Fairness Doctrine, he isn't opposed to other, more subtle ways the authorities can influence what is or isn't said on radio and TV. For those of us who are repelled by John McCain's lousy record on First Amendment issues, it's important to remember that his opponent might not prove to be any better.
Charlie Rich: Life's Little Ups and Downs Michelle Shocked: God is a Real Estate Developer James Carr: Row, Row Your Boat Wilson Pickett: Sugar, Sugar Wayne Carson: Soul Deep Jerry Lee Lewis: Revolutionary Man Lyn Collins: Baby Don't Do It Blind Boys of Alabama: Run On for a Long Time Mavis Staples: Eyes on the Prize Duffy: Syrup & Honey Marianne: The Woman in Me Arlo Guthrie: I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler The Kinks: Did Ya Randy Newman: Last Night I Had a Dream Willie Nelson: Just Checked In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) Guy Clark: L.A. Freeway Loretta Lynn: One's On the Way Dave Alvin: East Virginia Blues Emmylou Harris: Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight Mickey Newbury: Mobile Blue Johnny Cash: Heart of Gold The Pogues: The Broad Majestic Shannon Richard Thompson: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning The Del McCoury Band: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning Uncle Tupelo: John Hardy Tennessee Ernie Ford: Sixteen Tons John Stey: Fifteen Animals Penelope Houston: Wild Mountain Thyme The Specials featuring Rico: A Message to You Rudy The Clash: Rudie Can't Fail Blondie: The Tide Is High Paul Young: Love of the Common People The Klezmatics: Come When I Call You Bob Dylan: We Better Talk This Over The Band: Blind Willie McTell Louis Armstrong: St. James Infirmary Duke Ellington/Herb Jeffries: Jump for Joy Firesign Theater: Sodom and Jubilee The Beatles: Back in the USSR Fairport Convention: The Deserter Karen Dalton: Something On Your Mind Bobbie Gentry: Penduli Pendulum Jim Ford: Big Mouth USA Steve Goodman: Somebody Else's Troubles Alejandro Escovedo: Evening Gown Steve Earle/The Supersuckers: NYC The Clash: London Calling Merle Haggard: Bareback
Brief comments about the bailouts were sprinkled throughout, especially in reference to the Shocked, Guthrie, Kinks, and Beatles songs.
The Bush administration asked Congress for unchecked power to buy $700 billion in bad mortgage investments from U.S. financial companies in what would be an unprecedented government intrusion into the markets.
The plan, designed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, is aimed at averting a credit freeze that would bring the financial system and economic growth to a standstill. The bill would bar courts from reviewing actions taken under its authority....
As congressional aides and officials scrutinized the proposal, the Treasury late today clarified the types of assets it would purchase. Paulson would have authority to buy home loans, mortgage-backed securities, commercial mortgage-related assets and, after consultation with the Federal Reserve chairman, "other assets, as deemed necessary to effectively stabilize financial markets," the Treasury said in a statement....
The plan would raise the ceiling on the national debt and spend as much as the combined annual budgets of the Departments of Defense, Education and Health and Human Services.
Let me quote that last part again:
the combined annual budgets of the Departments of Defense, Education and Health and Human Services
From the occupation of New Orleans after Katrina to the financial socialism-for-the-rich we're seeing right now, the Bush Republicans' instincts in a crisis have always been to seize more power. And then -- just wait! -- to demonstrate how enormously unsuited they are to wield it.
And the Democrats, those alleged alternatives? Maybe it's their innate affection for economic intervention, maybe it's just the same spinelessness they've brought to issues ranging from FISA to Iraq, but they don't seem to be objecting to the Paulson plan. ("The consequences of inaction could be catastrophic," says Harry Reid, according to the Bloomberg report I quoted above. The consequences of really stupid actions must not be up for discussion.*) McCain's position on these issues keeps evolving; I expect that at some point next week he'll call for parading short sellers through the streets in dunce caps.
Haven't we heard all these years that national health care was an extremely risky and dangerous undertaking because of what happens when the Federal Government gets too involved in an industry? What happened in the last month dwarfs all of that by many magnitudes.
The Treasury Secretary is dictating to these companies how they should be run and who should run them. The Federal Government now controls what were -- up until last month -- vast private assets. These are extreme -- truly radical -- changes to how our society functions. Does anyone have any disagreement with any of it or is anyone alarmed by what the consequences are -- not the economic consequences but the consequences of so radically changing how things function so fundamentally and so quickly?
Other countries are debating it. The headline in the largest Brazilian newspaper this week was: "Capitalist Socialism??" and articles all week have questioned -- with alarm -- whether what the U.S. Government did has just radically and permanently altered the world economic system and ushered in some perverse form of "socialism" where industries are nationalized and massive debt imposed on workers in order to protect the wealthiest. If Latin America is shocked at the degree of nationalization and government-mandated transfer of wealth, that is a pretty compelling reflection of how extreme -- unprecedented -- it all is.
TITICUT FOLLIES #2: If my playlist for last week's radio show intrigued you, you're in luck: Hugh Stimson posted a recording of the program (plus the end of the jazz show right before it) on his site. Meanwhile, here's what I played today:
Aretha Franklin: Son of a Preacher Man Clarence Carter: Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street) Bob Dylan: A Satisfied Mind Ben Harper/Blind Boys of Alabama: A Satisfied Mind Tony Joe White: They Caught the Devil and Put Him in Jail in Eudora, Arkansas Larry Jon Wilson: Ohoopee River Bottomland Waylon Jennings: Love of the Common People Blondie: Here's Looking At You Alberta Hunter: Miss Otis Regrets Louis Armstrong: King of the Zulus Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire: Minor Stab Blue Ridge Playboys: Gimme My Dime Back Merle Haggard: Lonesome Day Johnny Cash: I've Been Everywhere Rick Moranis: I Ain't Goin' Nowhere The Everly Brothers: T for Texas Kinky Friedman: We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You The Temptations: Psychedelic Shack Love and Rockets: Ball of Confusion Gladys Knight and the Pips: Midnight Train to Georgia Tony Joe White: Rainy Night in Georgia Tanya Tucker: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia The Robins: Riot in Cell Block #9 Joe Tex: Papa Was Too Bobby Womack: Across 110th Street Marlena Shaw: Woman of the Ghetto Connie Smith: If It Ain't Love (Let's Leave It Alone) Wilco: That's Not the Issue Josh Graves: Little Maggie Hazel Dickens: Coal Tattoo Texas Rubies: Blue Diamond Mine Steeleye Span: Blackleg Miner The Kinks: Gallon of Gas (acoustic version) Solomon Burke: I Got the Blues Johnny Cash: Spiritual Dolly Parton: Early Morning Breeze Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane Two Nice Girls: Sweet Jane (With Affection) The Velvet Underground: Stephanie Says Beausoleil: It's a Sin to Tell a Lie Fats Waller: It's a Sin to Tell a Lie Benny Goodman: Sing, Sing, Sing Kool & the Gang: Jungle Jazz Madness: Night Boat to Cairo
The water was rising at the Summerset Apartments in Galveston at 5:30 a.m., according to residents, who said they had been through a long night with little sleep, like many who stayed in the area to meet Hurricane Ike.
After the ceiling caved in on her mother's bedroom in their second floor apartment, Vee Thrasher moved into the bathroom and took in some neighbors from the first floor, which had already flooded.
And then there's this intriguing report from Houston:
The Black Panther Party says it deployed 17 of its members to area gasoline station convenience stores to protect them from theft in the hours before and after Hurricane Ike makes landfall.
Owners asked the group to provide private security for their property, said Major Kenyha Shabazz, chairman of Peoples Party No. 3, the Houston affiliate of the Black Panther Party.
"These are the places that service our communities with food, water and fuel," Shabazz said. "We don't want these places torn up."
During the daylight hours, Panthers were standing guard at boarded-up convenience stores in the East End, North Houston and Third, Fourth and Fifth wards. They planned to spend the night in the stores and be back out front at dawn.
"We hired these Black Panther people to take care of our two stores, one here on Dowling and the other one on Elgin," said Nabi Chowdhury, manager of a Mobil station on Dowling Street.
"We have confidence in them because for a long time we have known them, and their attitude and everything, we like," Chowdhury said.
That isn't the Black Panther Party, of course -- that group disbanded three decades ago. But whoever these new Panthers are, they're apparently more interested in keeping the peace than offing the pigs.
Also revived: the rumor mill. Yesterday afternoon, at a Circle K in southeast Michigan, an employee told me confidently that gas was going to go up to $6 this morning. He was wrong, though it did hit an impressive $4.05. That's higher than fuel costs in Houston right now. (In Galveston, on the other hand, TexasGasPrices.com gives me this message: "No gas prices found. Please choose another area." Note: If you're trying to drive in Galveston today, the lack of gas will be the least of your worries.)
(cross-posted at Hit & Run. for friends and relatives reading this: my parents, grandmother, brother, and sister-in-law are all safely holed up in College Station, waiting til it's possible to return to Galveston and survey the damage. thanks for your concern.)
And speaking of lists: I participated in yet another poll this week at The Cinematheque. This time the topic was the best movies of film's greatest era, the '40s. My top five:
1. Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) 2. Orpheus (Jean Cocteau, 1949) 3. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944) 4. Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947) 5. It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
To see what made my runner-up list, and to read everyone else's responses, you'll have to go to the Cinematheque site.
PALINPALOOZA: I wrote a series of squibs about Sarah Palin over at Hit & Run this week, which I would have cross-posted here if my Internet connection had been more stable. At the very least, I should link to the column I published at Reason yesterday about the pseudo-scandal surrounding her daughter's pregnancy. It describes how, "under the appropriate circumstances, a Christian conservative can be more tolerant of teen sex than a liberal Democrat."
For all of Palin's flaws -- topmost of which is her willingness to share a ticket with John McCain -- she is, both personally and politically, the most interesting candidate for the vice presidency since James Stockdale. (That isn't irony. I'm a big Stockdale fan.) The easy, boring joke about Palin is that she's turning the campaign into a reality TV show. My secret wish is that she'll turn it into an episode of Northern Exposure instead. Ideally the one where the town holds an election and Barry Corbin delivers that great monologue saying they should have stayed home.