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    Clinton Voters for Palin

    If Obama was counting on Hillary to interfere with McCain’s attempt to grab her supporters, I’m sure he was disappointed by her first statement about Palin:

    “We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin’s historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain,” Clinton, the first woman to win a presidential primary, said in the statement. “While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.”

    Subtext: those of you who supported my campaign because I was a woman should support Palin now.

    What a ruthless politician.

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    Campaign Silence

    The McCain campaign did a great job controlling the release of the Senator’s VP pick. Some people had worried that the news would leak on Thursday; on Fox News last night, at least one commentator accused the campaign of doing just that when rumors about Pawlenty were still in the air.

    But it’s Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. My cautious first reaction is that this is a good pick. Palin is young, appealing-looking, and apparently very popular in Alaska. Clearly the McCain campaign is trying to chase women voters disappointed by Clinton’s exclusion from the Obama ticket. Tina-Fey-look-alike-Palin is probably as good a choice as any for that tactic.

    Palin has been in office for just a short time – since 2006. To some extent, the McCain campaign is probably daring Obama to say that she is not experienced enough. Her short career leaves me a little unclear as to her broader policy platform. But her rise to the governorship, how she clawed her way past superiors she accused of corruption, makes for an interesting enough story. As long as she proves to be a fiscal conservative, I’ll be satisfied.

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    … right now say that McCain has chosen Pawlenty as his running mate.  His Intrade stock is currently around 80% right now, and Romney is down at 15%.

    I’m a little disappointed.  Maybe I just don’t know Pawlenty well now (right now it seems like no one knows him).  But it seems like he is a pretty low-key, undynamic politician.  Romney brings some baggage, and it’s unfortunate that McCain laid into him a few times at the convention, but I don’t know anyone who has had a more enthusiastic following among Republicans.

    McCain’s campaign has suffered from its slow pace and lack of vigor.  Romney might have brought some excitement back to the campaign.  I’m not sure Pawlenty, whoever he is, can.

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    McCain to Announce VP Friday

    Thats the word.  Romney’s Intrade stock took a ~20% hit today but he is still on top.  The biggest gain has been for Texas Sen. Kay Hutchison.  Though McCain is not expected to announce until Friday, I’m sure the news will leak, at least on Intrade, sometime Thursday!

    UPDATE: Romney’s back up at 70%, Hutchison back down in the single digits.  I guess her bounce was just a reaction to the story above, and not to any larger leak.  Watch the numbers tonight!

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    Everyone Else Is Doing It…

    … so I thought I should post the Obama-Ayers ad that’s been going around.


    The ad is apparently the pet project of the guy who funded the Swift Boat commercials last election.  I think its a pretty potent hit piece.  Its certainly classier than the Swift Boat ads in that it doesn’t malign the service of a decorated war veteran.  My reservation is that the Ayers story has been floating around for months now, and it never sunk its claws in the way the Rev. Wright story did.  Is the relationship too tangential to bother people?

    Or maybe they just don’t know about it.  That’s the premise of the ad, anyway.  Let’s hope it isn’t overreaching.

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    Joe Biden’s Iraq Plan

    The word going around is that Joe Biden’s selection as VP beefs up Obama’s foreign policy credentials.  Biden has many years of experience in the Senate and is a long-time member and chair of the Foreign Relations committee.  Part of Biden’s foreign policy stature comes from his much publicized proposal for ending the war in Iraq, passed as a Senate resolution in late 2007 (less than a year ago) as the Biden-Brownback resolution.

    As described by Wikipedia, the key tenets of the plan were as follows:

    1. Giving Iraq’s major groups a measure of autonomy in their own regions. A central government would be left in charge of interests such as defending the borders and distributing oil revenues.
    2. Guaranteeing Sunnis — who have no oil rights — a proportionate share of oil revenue and reintegrating those who have not fought against Coalition forces.
    3. Increase, not end, reconstruction assistance but insist that Arab Gulf states fund it and tie it to the creation of a jobs program and to the protection of minority rights.
    4. Initiate a diplomatic offensive to enlist the support of the major powers and neighboring countries for a political settlement in Iraq and create an Oversight Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.
    5. Begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces in 2007 and withdraw most of them by 2008, leaving a small follow-on force for security and policing actions.

    To the extent that Biden’s foreign policy credentials rest on this proposal, we should ask, was his plan any good?  I would argue that it was not.

    It isn’t all bad.  Point 2, oil rights, are a pretty broadly supported policy.  Guaranteeing shared benefits of oil profits could be an ameliorating measure that would prevent minorities from feeling like they were being cheated or cut out.  In general, I would expect shared oil rights to help knit the country together and stabilize its politics.

    Other parts are fluff or nonsense.  How exactly did Biden intend to force Iraq’s neighbors to pay for its reconstruction (point 3)?  Having someone else pay for your stuff is a great idea, but of course someone else had that idea too.  And as for the “diplomatic offensive” (point 4), I say go for it, whatever.  Let’s just not make that the linchpin of our plan to halt civil war in Iraq.

    Which brings us to the first adventurous part of Biden-Brownback: the plan to partition Iraq into autonomous zones (point 1).  I am at first tempted to group this in with the fluff; the idea that we could have imposed such a drastic and wildly unpopular measure on Iraq’s democratically elected government as late as September of 2007, is breathtakingly audacious.  It would have been daring enough to have tried to force this on Iraq in May of 2006 (when Biden first proposed it), by which time the Iraqi Constitution had already been written, and the Iraqi National Assembly selected in general elections.

    But since we are evaluating the plan on its merits, it is worth at least mentioning how potentially disastrous this measure could have been.  In the short run, plans to divide the country would have intensified ethnic cleansing, as militants struggled to make sure they were on the right sign of demographic fault lines.  Where shared oil revenues would help knit the country together, partions would have cemented ethnic loyalties, the main source of the nascent civil war.  And in the long run it would have risked creating the sort of fractious, quasi-genocidal conflicts that have plagued the Balkans for the last few decades.  But this time there would be no NATO to intervene.

    Because the key point of the plan was troop withdrawals (point 5).  At the height of a violent ethnic conflict that had paralyzed the Iraqi government, Biden proposed to remove the troops that propped that government in place.  This was the most significant, and the most egregious, part of Biden’s proposal.  Biden sold his plan as a “third way” between withdrawal and “staying the course”.  It was not a third way; it was withdrawal, candy-coated.

    Biden meant his proposal to be, I think, a dry-eyed and uncompromising last ditch effort in Iraq.  But his plan was flawed by simultaneous recklessness and timidity.  From where we stand now, it seems that the policies followed by our government (the surge, building up the Iraqi military, local alliances with Sunnis) were successful.  Biden’s wildly different proposal would likely have had disastrously worse results.

    UPDATE: For another take on the “partition” part of Joe Biden’s plan, see Dave Kopel’s related article, defending Biden from some of the charges against him.

    Kopel says that the 2007 Biden-Brownback resolution advocated a weaker version of autonomy than Biden’s original 2006 proposal, and was not a proposal for all-out partition.  This seems to be an argument about degree.  To the extent that his plan advocated meaningful autonomy, it would have facilitated instability.  But if Biden was proposing only very weak and non-meaningful partition, it is unclear what positive benefit autonomy could have delivered.

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    Back to Intrade…

    For those of us who were secretly rooting for Romney back in the primaries (me), conventional wisdom has some good news.  According to the Intrade Prediction Markets, Romney is the betting favorite to be selected for McCain’s VP!

    For reference, here is how Biden’s Intrade stock did in the last month.


    Looking through the last-week performances of the other Democratic contenders, it seems like the markets did a pretty good job: Biden was the favorite at around 40% probability. Is conventional wisdom just that good?  Or are these markets strongly affected by rumors and insider trading leaking from the campaigns?

    For a related question, why has Romney’s stock skyrocketed from around 30% to 60% in the last two days?  Has their been some audible murmurs from the McCain staffers?  Or did the Biden announcement just get a bunch of people curious and generate a new round of Intrade betting?  I know that that’s what drove me to Intrade.

    How should we feel about a Romney selection?  I have mixed feelings about it.  I think he’d be a very competent VP, but I’m not sure how palatable he is to the American electorate. But then, I’m not sure any Republican but John McCain is palatable to anyone right now. Romney will hold down the Mormon vote for Republicans at least.

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    Updated Blog Style

    I spent most of Sunday working on my blog, implementing a new layout.  I’m quite pleased with the results.

    I adapted the theme from the delight model listed in WordPress’s theme directory.  It’s a nice looking theme and has a lot more white space than my previous layout.  In my Comp Sci courses last year I had noticed that I much prefered white/green text on a black background – something about that scheme seems easier on the eyes when you are scanning through lines of code.

    But I guess that doesn’t really carry over to text that you are reading straight through for content.  The new layout does look quite clean.  I may mess around with some of the details, but I don’t think I’ll be shopping around for a totally new layout again.

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    3 AM Phonecall

    Over at NRO’s Corner, I noticed a meme going around to the effect that the 3 AM timing of the Obama VP announcement was intended as a slight to Hillary – one of her campaign videos had suggested that he would not be ready for the emergency 3 AM call to the White House.

    I think that there are a few more obvious explanations.  The pick had already been publicly confirmed by at least 2 AM ET, perhaps because it had leaked.  The Obama campaign may just not have wanted to be beaten to the story by all the cable news networks that were blaring the story.  It would have been pretty lame if everyone signed up for the text had found out from their television first, so maybe the Obama team just moved up the announcement to chase the leak.

    It’s also possible that the Obama team actually wanted to minimize press coverage of the announcement.  By waiting till the early AM, the campaign ensured that the announcement would miss the Saturday paper deadlines and have already become five hour old news on cable by the time people had woken up.  But why would the campaign want this, especially when they were willing to increase publicity themselves via a text message?  Or maybe that was the point: by personally publicizing the VP announcement in a media lull, the campaign had more control over coverage of the announcement.  Their tactics increased their ability to break the news in a more favorable forum.

    Last, someone may just have thought that it would be cool for all the Obamaniacs (are there still any?) to wake up for the super-important, super-personal message from their living Messiah-on-Earth.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.  From where I’m sitting, the choice of Biden seems safe, but not particularly exciting.  This announcement has not changed the election.  We’ll see if McCain’s does.