October 2012, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The Buck Stops With Hillary?!  If you are like me, you woke up to this surprising news.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday tried to douse a political firestorm over the deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, saying she's responsible for the security of American diplomatic outposts.

"I take responsibility," Clinton said during a visit to Peru.  "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts.  The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals.  They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision."
I expected Obama and Clinton to hide behind an investigation until after 6 November — but I had forgotten her habit of cleaning up after an irresponsible man.  (DrewM makes a shrewd point that now Obama owes her, though I would add that Obama has never struck me as a man who is often overcome by feelings of gratitude.)

To say the least, this leaves some questions unanswered.

Here are a few that have been puzzling me:
  • Why was Ambassador Stevens visiting Benghazi?
  • Why did he have that late night meeting with the Turkish ambassador?
  • Why did mid-level State Department bureaucrats reject requests for extra security?  Were they simply executing an Obama policy, and trying to make the consulate look harmless?
  • Did Clinton or Obama know about those requests?  If not, who stopped that information from getting to them?
  • Why did a foreign company, with no great record, get the contract to provide security to the consulate?
  • Who gave UN ambassador Susan Rice her talking points before she went on all those talk shows?
  • Why was she sent, rather than someone from the State Department or an intelligence agency?
  • Has Obama given up on his theory that the attack was caused by that video?
  • Finally, what did Obama know and when did he know it?  What briefings on the attack has he received from our intelligence people?
It's a bit unfair to give all these questions without any answers, so I will give you my tentative answer to the next-to-the-last question:  I believe that Obama has not completely given up on his video-caused-the-attack theory.

And I really wish I hadn't come to that tentative conclusion.
- 9:38 AM, 16 October 2012
The New York Times looks hard for evidence to support Obama's story — and comes up with some.  But the reporter, David Kirkpatrick, does not examine the possibility that the video might have been a convenient pretext for an attack the terrorists had planned to make, anyway.  And I think it fair to say that Kirkpatrick is more interested in the political consequences than in what actually happened.
- 12:44 PM, 16 October 2012   [link]

Will Tom Smith Upset Senator Casey In Pennsylvania?   Maybe.

Smith has been gaining.
Once considered a safe bet for reelection, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., now has a marginal edge over GOP nominee Tom Smith, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

Three weeks out from Election Day, Casey leads Smith, 48 percent to 45 percent, with 7 percent undecided.  Casey's advantage is within the poll's margin of error.

Thanks to an aggressive television ad campaign, Smith has chipped away at Casey's lead over the past several months.  In the previous poll, conducted late last month, Casey led Smith, 49 percent to 43 percent.  In late July, Casey had an 18-point lead: 55 percent to 37 percent.
And Smith has shown that he is willing to spend his own money on the race.
Tom Smith, the former coal-company owner from Armstrong County in western Pennsylvania, has invested another $10 million of his own money into his campaign to unseat first-term U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr.

Smith spent just shy of $5 million of his own money to win a five-way Republican primary election on April 24.  He put another $1.5 million of his own cash into the race after the primary.
And he has had some success at raising money from others, too.

As far as I know, Smith has yet to take a lead in any independent poll, but the trend does look good for him.  Most likely, Republicans will need a few such "surprise" victories to win back control of the Senate.

(A Democratic pollster, Public Policy Polling, is currently showing Casey with a solid lead.

For those not familiar with Pennsylvania politics:   Bob Casey, Jr. inherited his name, and much support, from his father, a more impressive man.

Here's Tom Smith's campaign site.

Credit where due:  Michael Warren of the Weekly Standard noticed this possible upset, two weeks ago.)
- 8:26 AM, 16 October 2012   [link]

Where Has President Obama Been Campaigning?   At universities.
Including today’s [11 October] scheduled appearance at the University of Miami, each of Obama’s last five campaign rallies has been staged before students, bringing him to the campuses of Ohio State University, Cleveland State University, George Mason University, and the University of Wisconsin.

Only one campaign rally by the president in October was held off-campus, an appearance at Sloan’s Lake Park in Denver Oct. 4.  Otherwise, all of Obama’s traditional campaigning has been at schools.
Now that is surprising, since candidates almost always like to campaign at a variety of locations.  In fact, I can't recall a national candidate who hasn't followed that pattern, farmers one day, factory workers another, suburban housewives another, veterans another, and so on.

I have to admit that I don't understand the tactical thinking behind this series of university events.
- 7:34 AM, 16 October 2012   [link]

Mary Anastasia O'Grady Has A Bitter Summary of Obama's failures in our hemisphere.
Mitt Romney says that he will forge a better foreign policy than the one President Obama has had.  Maybe so.  For the United States' neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, it couldn't get much worse.

On Mr. Obama's watch, America's friends have been stiff-armed while those who would do the U.S. harm have been given a pass—and sometimes even encouraged.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a "Good Neighbor" policy toward our Latin American neighbors, a policy that, on the whole, benefited them and us.   Obama has not been a good neighbor to our friends, and has not won over our enemies, who treat him, more and more, with contempt.

And an American president who can't get along with Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, simply isn't trying.
- 4:02 PM, 15 October 2012   [link]

Which States Are "Battleground" States?  The answer depends on which news organization you ask, and when.
A Smart Politics analysis of the horse race coverage of a dozen major media outlets finds that eight have changed their battleground state maps from a month ago - removing 11 states collectively and adding six more back in - with only three states appearing on all 12 maps: Colorado, Florida, and Virginia.
For details, take a look at Professor Ostermeier's table.

(None of them mention Oregon, which I still think is a possible battleground state.)
- 3:18 PM, 15 October 2012   [link]

Two More Even-Alexander-Couldn't-Conquer-Afghanistan Mistakes:  One from author Jay McInerney.
[Obama's] escalation of the war in Afghanistan has been a failure – every foreign power to invade Afghanistan has been humiliated in the end.
Which doesn't surprise me.

And one from Camille Paglia.
After 9/11, I was for bombing the hell out of the mountains of Afghanistan until Osama Bin Laden was caught or blown to smithereens.  I certainly never believed that land troops should be used in Afghanistan.  Good lord, look at the evidence of history — how ridiculous!  Not only the defeat of the Soviet Union there — it goes all the way back to Alexander the Great!
Which does surprise me, a little.

Though perhaps it shouldn't since her field is art, not military history.

(If you haven't seen, or have forgotten, why those claims are wrong, you can find my explanation here.

And there is more criticism of Paglia here.)
- 2:49 PM, 15 October 2012   [link]

Leftists Jay McInerney And Piers Morgan On Our Presidential Choices:  The author makes a reluctant endorsement.
Obama may have lost some of his mystique, and disappointed many of us, but he hasn't yet irrevocably betrayed us, or his ideals, and he will probably get another chance to fulfil some of the great expectations of 2008.
McInerney isn't completely positive in that endorsement, is he?

The journalist thinks Romney is a fine fellow and a flip-flopping politician — and comes close to endorsing Romney at the end.
In person, he’s charming, polite, friendly and solicitous.  He’s also a great father and grandfather, according to his devoted sons, and a great husband, according to Ann, the woman who was his teenage sweetheart and who he’s helped nurse with deep compassion through her ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis.

He’s also one of the least principled politicians I’ve ever encountered.  There’s barely a big issue that Romney hasn’t switched his position on for apparent political expediency, earning him the nickname ‘Mr Flip Flop’.
. . .
One senior Republican figure, a man widely tipped to run for President at a later date, told me during the party’s convention in August: ‘Mitt’s not the kind of guy you’d go for a beer with, mainly because he doesn’t drink beer.  But he’s the kind of guy who gets stuff done.’
. . .
There was great excitement around the world when America elected its first black President in 2008.  The possible election of America’s first Mormon President will bring with it far lower expectations.  But that may not be such a bad thing, for him, for America, or for the world.  Especially if he actually gets stuff done.
The difference in tone is striking, as is McInerney's failure to compare Obama and Romney.

(McInerney might get some perspective if he spent some time with coal miners whose jobs are threatened by Obama's policies, as well as the Manhattan art crowd.

I've always thought of him as a man I wouldn't like to know personally, and an author whose stories I would go out of my way not to read.  This Wikipedia article should explain why I have those feelings.)
- 7:40 AM, 15 October 2012   [link]

Debra Saunders Cleans Up After Dianne Feinstein And Nancy Pelosi:   And will probably have to do it again.

In September, Saunders caught the California senator distorting what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said about defeating Obama.
Certain quotes take on a mythical quality. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell entered that pantheon when he said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
How does Feinstein remember that?  She gets the timing and place wrong, and she leaves out the essential context, that McConnell was asked what his top political priority was, in October 2010.

This month, in another meeting with the Examiner editorial board, Nancy Pelosi also got that quote wrong, and misrepresented her own most famous quote:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came to the Chronicle for an editorial board meeting Wednesday.  I used the opportunity to ask Pelosi about her most famous and quoted statement from 2010. On March 9, 2010, Pelosi said of the Affordable Care Act, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”
As you can see in the rest of the column, Pelosi tried hard to spin what she had said, unsuccessfully.

Saunders concludes by saying that Pelosi "seems to hate relating accurate versions of events".  On that, I would disagree, slightly.  I think that Pelosi would be happy to relate accurate versions — if those versions helped her, politically.  And happy to give us inaccurate versions, if those help her more.

(When Obama supporters call in to the Michael Medved talk show, they often cite the distorted version of the McConnell quote, so it has been effective politically.)
- 6:04 AM, 15 October 2012   [link]

Vice President Biden Was Wrong say the Catholic Bishops

You can't be much more blunt than the bishops were in that statement.

Who is right?  The bishops, as far as I can tell.  Biden was spouting the administration line — but that line appears to be false, and the bishops would have every reason to know that, and no reason to contradict the administration, if it weren't false.

The Obama administration insistence on picking this fight with the Catholic Church by requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives and sterilizations shows, in my opinion, a triumph of ideology over practical politics.  It would have been relatively easy to allow exceptions for Catholic institutions (and other organizations with similar religious objections), and the practical consequences of allowing those exceptions are small, almost trivial, since the costs of contraceptives are so low.
-2:44 PM, 14 October 2012   [link]

NBC's Chuck Todd Thinks That Joe Biden Has "Gravitas"   At least he did, just before the vice-presidential debate.

No word on whether Todd still thinks that Biden has "gravitas", after that bizarre debate performance.

Probably, though he might concede that Biden did not demonstrate "gravitas" last Thursday.

(Todd may find it easier to see "gravitas" in Democrats than Republicans.  He worked for Democrat Tom Harkin's presidential campaign, and his wife runs a company that "provides direct mail and consulting services for Democratic candidates and progressive causes".

You don't have to be a cynic to notice that those candidates and causes could benefit, from time to time, from favorable coverage from NBC.

Those who dislike credentialism will be pleased to learn that, though Todd never graduated from college, he is now an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins.)
- 10:12 AM, 13 October 2012   [link]

Today Is Also The 12th Anniversary Of The Bombing Of The USS Cole:  Michelle Malkin remembers the dead, and makes a bitter political point.
Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the brutal suicide attack on the guided Navy missile destroyer as it refueled at the Yemeni port of Aden in the fall of 2000.  Then-President Bill Clinton vowed to track down the Muslim terrorist attackers: “We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable.”  But a dozen disgraceful years later, Slick Willy’s toothless promise has become a bitter punch line.
Bitter, indeed.  Deservedly so, in my opinion.
- 4:44 PM, 12 October 2012   [link]

Today Is The 50th Anniversary Of The Columbus Day Storm:   Naturally, Cliff Mass has a detailed post describing it.

It was the most powerful and destructive storm to strike the Northwest since the arrival of European settlers.

AND it was probably the most powerful non-tropical cyclone to strike the lower-48 states during the past century.
. . .
The winds during the storm were amazing (see graphic of peak gusts, courtesy Wolf Read).   Over 145 mph at Cape Blanco, 138 mph at Newport, over 130 mph at Mt. Hebo, 160 mph at the Naselle radar site in SW Washington, 116 in Portland, and 100 mph in Renton (so those people who put down Renton keep this in mind!).

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 4:16 PM, 12 October 2012   [link]

Will They Follow This With A Similar Change for "trans-species" people?
People who live as the opposite sex in Ontario can now change their gender on their birth certificates without first undergoing sex-change surgery.

New rules that have recently come into effect allow transgender people born in the province to apply to have the document amended by submitting a letter from a practising physician or a psychologist.
Suppose, for example, a man (or woman) is living as a unicorn.  Should Ontario allow him (or her) to change their birth certificate to match?  I don't see why not, given this precedent.  And those who believe they are aliens from another planet would have an even better case for a matching birth certificate.

(By way of several Canadian bloggers.)
- 3:39 PM, 12 October 2012   [link]

Did Women Like Biden's Debate Behavior?  Mostly no, according to the dial groups:
I was struck by the difference between the generational and gender appeal of the two candidates.  The dial groups showed that Ryan did better with women than with men—in vivid contrast with the usual partisan patterns
Or according to most of the women I read regularly on the net.

Ann Althouse:
Let's assume he had a strategy and was deliberately annoying, distracting, bullying, and rude.  Why would he adopt such a strategy?  Has he no self-respect?   Maybe he's okay with his longstanding "Old Joe" reputation.  He's a clown.  A gaffe machine.  So what?  Everyone already thinks that.  Flip it!  Weaponize clownery.  If it was a plan, it was a plan to provoke Ryan.
Joe’s demeanor was nothing short of appalling.  When one thinks of what a few gusty sighs did to Al Gore’s presidential aspirations, Biden’s debate performance should earn him deportation.  He was by turns loud, obnoxious, condescending, and disrespectful.  He smirked, giggled, sighed, and huffed his disbelief at everything Paul Ryan said.   He also talked over at least half of Ryan’s answers.  Thanks to Joe’s behavior, this was not a serious debate about substantive issues for the benefit of concerned citizens.  This was a crude charade by a demagogue throwing red meat to his followers.
Mollie Hemingway:
I generally don't get into "gender" discussions.  They usually don't interest me. But at some point in the live chat, I just pulled gender rank and let the men know that Biden's demeanor was not going over well with the ladies.

The truth is that we've all been there -- and that goes for women and men -- where you're having a conversation with someone awful.  Maybe he's drunk.  Maybe he's just a jerk or suffering from low self-esteem.  But whatever the back story, the result is that he's condescending, thinks he knows far more than he does and interrupts you when you're making a point.  It's not enjoyable.
I didn’t watch much of the fray tonight (my usual debate-phobia).  But from what I did see, I found Biden’s behavior not just disrespectful and undignified, but bizarre. He did everything but pound a shoe on a table.  I’m trying to think of any major American politician—president, vice president, speaker, Democrat or Republican—who’s ever exhibited anything akin to Biden’s inappropriate affect, his derisive laughter when the opponent is speaking, or just his all-around strangeness.
(I have to like someone who shares my "debate-phobia", though I dislike the debates more than I fear them.  Huey Long, who was certainly a major American politician, behaved that badly, and there are others, but I will admit that I can't think of any recent examples.)

Betsy Newmark:
And Biden's demeanor was such a turnoff that I don't see his bringing in many of that group over to his side.  I suspect that Biden's behavior would be especially unappealing to undecided women.
Peggy Noonan:
In terms of content—the seriousness and strength of one's positions and the ability to argue for them—the debate was probably a draw, with both candidates having strong moments.  But in terms of style, Mr. Biden was so childishly manipulative that it will be surprising if independents and undecideds liked what they saw.

National Democrats keep confusing strength with aggression and command with sarcasm.  Even the latter didn't work for Mr. Biden.  The things he said had the rhythm and smirk of sarcasm without the cutting substance.
And others:

Two of those women, Althouse and Noonan, voted for Obama (and Biden) in 2008
- 2:03 PM, 12 October 2012   [link]

Two Numbers From Last Night's Debate:  According to the Republican National Committee, Biden interrupted Ryan 82 times, or almost once a minute.

And, more surprisingly, Biden mentioned Obama only once.
Biden barely mentioned President Obama at all, as if he were ashamed of him.  The word "Obama" appears 30 times in the debate transcript. Ryan mentioned Obama 25 times (10 times as "Obamacare"), while moderator Martha Raddatz used the word only four times, and Biden only once.
So Biden's pitch could be summarized as follows:  Don't listen to my opponent, and don't think about President Obama.

The last is, to say the least, interesting, and probably can best be explained if we assume that (1) Obama has come to feel disdain for Biden and (2) Biden is serious about running for president in 2016.
- 12:16 PM, 12 October 2012   [link]

Time To Bail Out The United Football League?  Nancy Pelosi and her allies may think so.
Mounting money troubles are plaguing the United Football League, and now players are starting to quit the Sacramento Mountain Lions.

Players are saying they aren’t getting paid as promised, and the wait for a full paycheck has now worn out the patience for some Mountain Lions.
. . .
The Mountain Lions’ owner is Paul Pelosi, husband of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.   Pelosi’s late checks last year led to a lawsuit filed by then-head coach Dennis Green, who claims to be owed a reported $1.5 million.

Pelosi issued the first payroll checks Tuesday, but for only $1,000.  The players are owed $3,500 per game.
More seriously, shouldn't a millionaire like Paul Pelosi pay his workers what he owes them, on time?

By way of Breitbart.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the United Football League.)
- 8:21 AM, 12 October 2012   [link]

Well, That Wasn't Fun:  Unless you are an Obama supporter.  I made the mistake of following the vice-presidential debate last night, partly on TV, but mostly on the radio.  Following it on the radio did have one advantage; I missed most of Biden's inappropriate grins during discussions of subjects like nuclear proliferation.  And one disadvantage:  The incessant Biden interruptions were even more annoying without the visuals to distract you.

The Martha Raddatz interruptions were fewer, but even worse, since she was supposed to be the moderator.

CNN says the debate was a "draw", but that's not quite what the numbers from their instapoll show.
Forty-eight percent of voters who watched the vice presidential debate think that Rep. Paul Ryan won the showdown, according to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted right after Thursday night's faceoff. Forty-four percent say that Vice President Joe Biden was victorious. The Republican running mate's four point advantage among a debate audience that was more Republican than the country as a whole is within the survey's sampling error.
. . .
Half of all debate watchers questioned in the poll said the showdown didn't make them more likely to vote for either of the candidates' bosses, 28% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 21% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect President Barack Obama.
(Emphasis added.)

That bit in bold is the key finding.

(CBS did a weird poll of only undecided voters, which gave the win to Biden.)

Two relatively neutral observers, the National Journal's Michael Hirsch and the Daily Mail's Toby Harnden, thought Biden lost.  (The whole Harnden article is worth reading, since he catches Biden in two big mistakes on national security.)

One final thought:  During the 2008 campaign, some serious journalists told us that Biden would add gravitas to the ticket.  They weren't joking when they said that, though that may be hard to believe for anyone who watched that debate last night.
- 7:48 AM, 12 October 2012   [link]

Congratulations To Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire:  According to the libertarian Cato Institute, she beat some tough competition to join this small group of governors: Pat Quinn of Illinois, Dan Malloy of Connecticut, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii.  All five received "F's" for their fiscal management.

Here's how Gregoire earned her grade:

Chris Gregoire of Washington earned a well-deserved “F” on the last Cato report card.  There has been a never-ending stream of tax-increase proposals coming from this governor since 2005.  In her first year, she raised taxes on cigarettes, gasoline, liquor, and vehicles.  She also re-established an estate tax after a previous version had been struck down by the courts.  In 2009 she signed into law increases in business taxes, sales taxes, cigarette taxes, beer taxes, soda taxes, and candy taxes.  In 2010 she approved a large increase in the cigarette tax, a huge hospital tax, and increases in business taxes and beer taxes.  In 2011 she proposed a half cent increase in the sales tax rate, but that was rejected by the legislature.  In 2012 Gregoire proposed a new tax on crude oil to raise $275 million a year.

Almost all of those are regressive taxes, hitting the poor harder than the well off.   On the other hand, government workers have done very well under Gregoire.

Finally, here's a scary thought:  Former congressman Jay Inslee, who is running to replace Gregoire, would be even worse on fiscal issues, in my opinion.  Inslee is promising to do the same things that Gregoire did, and more — while avoiding her, for some reason, on the campaign trail.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 10:04 AM, 11 October 2012   [link]

Is The Romance Between Obama And The National Press Fading?  That's what Noemie Emery thinks.
It was in Denver one week ago that the long-running romance between Barack Obama and the national press -- aka the "Slobbering Love Affair," as Bernard Goldberg put it -- hit the wall.  The motel bill, unpaid these many long months and ages, at long last came due.

It had been the real thing, not a commonplace fling with your generic Democrat, but the love of a lifetime, the genuine article, the sum of all dreams: He was not just a Democrat, he was also a liberal.  He was not just a liberal, he also biracial, also multinational; also hip, cool, and clever.  He was themselves as they wanted to be.  Like them, he was gifted at writing and talking (and, as it turned out, not much beyond that), like them, he stood up for Metro America; like them, he viewed the people outside it with a not-very-measured disdain.
Fading, but not ending, I would say.

Two thoughts:  First, the romance has always been one sided; the national press (or "mainstream" media, as I prefer to call them) has been in love with Obama, but Obama has not been in love with them.  Which is what you would expect from a narcissist.

Second, Emery is again making a point she has made before, a point that explains where Obama succeeds, and where he fails; he is good at "writing and talking" but "not much beyond that".

(There's an example of that love, and the fading, in this column by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat.)
- 9:08 AM, 11 October 2012   [link]

The First Walter Duranty Prizes:  Much deserved, in each case.

(The Wikipedia article on Duranty includes this chilling reminder:
Many reporters of Duranty's time slanted their coverage in favour for the Soviet Union, either because the capitalist world was sinking under the weight of the Great Depression, out of a true belief in Communism or out of fear of being expelled from Moscow, which would result in the loss of livelihood. Also, many editors found it hard to believe a state would deliberately starve millions of its own people.
Duranty may have been the worst, but he wasn't alone.

I had not known that Duranty was a follower of Aleister Crowley, or much about Crowley, for that matter.)
- 8:36 AM, 11 October 2012   [link]

Calabria's Unfinished Highway:  On Monday, the New York Times published a sobering article on the waste and fraud that have kept this crucial highway from ever being finished, despite Italy receiving billions from Europe.
Italy's A3 highway, begun in the 1960s and still not finished, starts outside Naples in the ancient hill town of Salerno and ends, rather unceremoniously, 300 miles farther south as a local street in downtown Reggio Calabria.
. . .
Since the road first opened, three generations of subcontractors -- appointed by three generations of politicians -- have made their livings from it.  Since 2000, prosecutors have arrested hundreds of people involved with the highway, mostly on charges of corruption and extortion.

As with tackling the debt crisis in Southern Europe, fixing the highway means going up against a political patronage culture deeply resistant to change.  Calabria's problems are even darker.  The region is dominated by the 'Ndrangheta (pronounced en-DRANG-get-ah) organized crime group, which the authorities say is the most powerful in Italy.
There are, I think, two lessons for us in this story:  Almost everywhere politicians love roads and other "infrastructure" projects; almost everywhere those projects can be sources of corruption, unless those politicians are competent, honest, and vigilant.  And there are some areas where the corruption is so bad that it would be better to begin, not by building roads, but by jailing parasites.

(Calabria is the "toe" of Italy.

There have been similar problems with the European billions that went into Greece.  Spain built a high speed rail system with their European billions — and will have to subsidize that system forever.)
- 7:26 AM, 11 October 2012   [link]

The State Department Is Now Telling Us The Truth About That Attack On Our Consulate In Benghazi:  And contradicting what President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, when they should have known better.
The AP reports:

"The State Department now says it never believed the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a film protest gone awry, giving congressional Republicans new fodder for criticizing the Obama administration's initial accounts . . . The State Department's extraordinary break with other administration offices came in a department briefing Tuesday, where officials said ‘others’ in the executive branch concluded initially that the protest was based . . . on a film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.  ‘That was never our conclusion,’ a senior official told reporters."

Indeed, there was no protest at all there since it was a coordinated attack by al Qaeda on the eleventh anniversary of the most deadly terror attack against America ever, the attacks of September 11, 2001.
It would be one thing if Clinton and Obama were wrong in their first reactions, and then corrected the story when they got properly briefed a day or two later.  But they were wrong again and again, days after, and even sent out UN Ambassador Susan Rice five days after the attack to spin the same false story.

Some will conclude that Obama and Clinton were lying.  I am sticking with my conclusion that they believed their own story — and remind you, at the risk of being tedious, that incompetence at that level is usually more dangerous to the nation than mendacity.

(Mischievous thought:  I wonder how chilly relationships are now between the Secretary of State and those unnamed State Department officials.)
- 2:42 PM, 10 October 2012   [link]

The Kennewick Man Wasn't From Kennewick:  So says anthropologist Doug Owsley.
While Owsley has said in the past that Kennewick Man is not of Native-American descent, he said here for the first time that he believed the man was not even from this area.

Isotopes in the bones told scientists Kennewick Man was a hunter of marine mammals, such as seals, Owsley said.  "They are not what you would expect for someone from the Columbia Valley," he said.  "You would have to eat salmon 24 hours a day and you would not reach these values.

"This is a man from the coast, not a man from here.  I think he is a coastal man."
As you can see, Kennewick is not on the coast, not even close to the coast.

Owsley was presenting his findings to representatives of the tribes that have claimed the remains.  They didn't accept his argument.

(There's more on the Kennewick Man controversy in this Wikipedia article, though the article doesn't mention one shameful detail: The Army Corps of Engineers buried the site where the remains were found, in order to prevent further investigations.  As I recall, they did that on orders of a Clinton appointee.)
- 10:05 AM, 10 October 2012   [link]

Sean Trende Sees The Same Return To Trend That I Do, Though He Calls it the "Forces of Gravity".
Let’s start at the beginning of February.  Mitt Romney has just lost the South Carolina primary, and a good jobs report has helped push Obama to a six-point lead.  But over time, gravity takes its toll.  At first it is a result of Romney’s opponents dropping out: Santorum at the beginning of April and Gingrich at the beginning of May.  This helps Romney solidify his base.
Trende argues that whenever the gravity make the race closer, the Obama team counters with attacks on Romney.

(He also argues that the Obama election team is trying to keep Obama ahead, in order to benefit from a bandwagon effect.  I'm not so sure I agree with that part of his argument.)

We disagree on the likely result; Trende sees a narrow Obama victory as the most likely outcome; I think it more likely that Romney will win.

Partly we disagree because he sees the Obama campaign as more clever than I do.   I think, for instance, that Obama has made a mistake by not putting forward more positive programs for a second term, especially programs that would show that he had learned something from his time in the White House.  And have been other blunders, though they may not ever be the lead stories on our "mainstream" network news programs

(Here's the brief post, where I mentioned the return to trend.)
- 7:20 AM, 10 October 2012   [link]

Obama Thought He Won The First Debate With Romney?!?   Toby Harnden strikes me as a careful reporter, so I am inclined to believe this story.
When President Barack Obama stepped off the stage in Denver last week the 60 million Americans watching the debate against Mitt Romney already knew it had been a disaster for him.

But what nobody knew, until now, was that Obama believed he had actually won.
Harnden appears to have just one source, "a Democrat close to the Obama campaign", but the story doesn't seem implausible, given Obama's tendency to think well of himself.  And his source gave him details that support that claim.

Moreover, about 1 in 4 of those who watched the debate thought that Obama had won.   Most of those were partisan Democrats, like Obama.  So, if he did think he had won, he wasn't alone.
- 5:53 AM, 10 October 2012   [link]

The Associated Press Was Trying To Embarrass Romney with that first photo.

What bothers me even more is that the photo probably embarrasses the little girl, too.

The photo is funny, but without some explanation of her expression, it isn't newsworthy.   And even with an explanation, it might not be.

(Credit where due:  Yesterday's New York Times had a fine picture of Romney walking toward three of the kids at that school, who are obviously happy to see him.)
- 5:33 AM, 10 October 2012   [link]

Obama Is "Too Arrogant To Give His Supporters What They Deserve"  That's Andrew Sullivan's straight line in this post.
Too arrogant to take a core campaign responsibility seriously.  Too arrogant to give his supporters what they deserve.
Since I try, usually, to keep this site civil, I won't give you any of the obvious punch lines — but I can't stop you from thinking them.

James Taranto has more on the Sullivan post here.
- 7:06 AM, 9 October 2012   [link]

Scandal At The Washington State Department Of Revenue?   Here's the story.

A major political player in Washington state got a big favor from the state Department of Revenue, an insider alleges, when the state tax agency botched a $2 million assessment on his private plane.

The clock ran out on the tax bill, which had to be delivered by the end of last year. It wasn’t until after the statute of limitations had expired that the agency decided that the airplane was taxable, according to Dennis Redmon, a 29-year employee of the agency.   Redmon is going public with a whistleblower complaint he has filed with the state auditor’s office, calling it a flagrant example of what has become a routine occurrence at the agency in the last three years.  The tax compliance officer says as much as $35 million in taxes have been excused for taxpayers with pull at a time when the state is reeling from the worst budget trouble since the Great Depression.

A few more details for those not familiar with Washington state politics:   The article says that the beneficiary of that "botch" is a big donor to Democrats and "progressive" causes, and that there are others, similar to this donor, who have gotten similar treatment.  Oh, and the person running the department in the last two years?   Suzan DelBene, currently running for congress in my district.  (Local talk show host John Carlson called her Suzan DelMoney recently, which is unfair, but too funny not to pass on.)

This error (if it was an error) reminds me of a story from my time in Chicago in the late 1960s.  I was volunteering at a tutoring center and got to know some of the other volunteers.  One was a woman with a poor driving record, poor enough so that she was afraid she might lose her license.  One evening I heard her asking another volunteer, an attorney who was familiar with City Hall, if he could help her.   He had a very practical answer for her problem; he could ask one of the clerks to make a "mistake" and put her files into two separate folders.  That way, no one would notice that together her infractions put her close to losing her license.  (I assume that some cash might be exchanged to make this happen, but did not inquire into the details.)

I admired the ingenuity of the scheme, though I disapproved of it (but not enough to say so to my friends).  If anyone happened to put the two files together, it would just look like one of those filing mistakes that can happen in any organization.  And, I was pretty sure that enough people had access to the files so that it would be impossible to pin the "mistake" on the person who had made it.

That kind of scheme was routine in Chicago at the time, but less common here, then and now.  But perhaps we are catching up with the big cities, as so many here want us to do.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

By way of Orbusmax.
- 4:24 PM, 9 October 2012   [link]

The Original Meth Lab Truck Story Was More Fun:  (If you like dumb criminal stories.)

Too bad it wasn't true.
Editors note: A prior version of the story indicated that the words "meth lab" were written on the truck prior to the traffic stop.  This incorrect information was provided to us by a network affiliate news service to which we subscribe.
Those who follow these crime stories will not be surprised that police stopped the car because of a "license plate violation".  Police can usually find a reason to stop someone suspicious, a license plate violation, a tail light out, or even failing to signal a turn in time.
- 10:12 AM, 9 October 2012   [link]