Various items

Karl Rove's self-protective amnesia. A personal appeal against Proposition 8. The latest McCarthyite tactic from John McCain and National Review.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published October 30, 2008 9:27AM (EDT)

(updated below)

(1)  In The Wall St. Journal today, Karl Rove -- for obvious reasons -- warns that polls are profoundly unreliable and mocks those who, in the past, have been wrong in relying on them to predict election outcomes.  Rove singles out for derision a group of "academics gathered by the American Political Science Association at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington on Aug. 31, 2000 to make forecasts [and] declared that Al Gore would be the winner" because "their models told them so," and Bob Shrum who, in 2004, was so sure of a win that he called Kerry and addressed him as "President Kerry."

In mocking poll-dependent errors, Rove forgot to mention one of the most notorious episodes, from late October, 2006, which occurred during an interview Rove gave to NPR correspondent Robert Siegel, when Rove vigorously disputed that "public polls and analysis [are] predicting a Republican loss in November":

SIEGEL: We are in the home stretch though and many would consider you on the optimistic end of realism about...

ROVE: Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or anything like that, you're just making a comment, right?

SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you are looking at.

ROVE: No, you are not, no you're not, no you're not, you're not. . . . Like the poll today that showing Corker's ahead in Tennessee or the poll showing Allen is pulling away in the Virginia Senate race. . . .

I'm looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to THE math.

SIEGEL: I don't know if we're entitled to a different math but your...

ROVE: I said THE math.

In that election, the Republicans suffered one of the most crushing losses in the last 60 years.  I wonder why Rove forgot to include that in his column, losing the Senate and (by a large margin) the House.  And note how Rove accused Siegel of being "biased" -- all because Siegel pointed to polls overwhelmingly predicting a Republican loss.  As so many things do, that exchange bolsters Stephen Colbert's observation that "reality has a well-known liberal bias."


(2)  Anthony Romero, the Executive Director of the ACLU, has written a profoundly personal and (for that reason) very potent appeal to those who oppose California's Proposition 8.  The presidential election deprives virtually everything else of oxygen, but the outcome of that referendum will likely determine the marriage rights of same-sex couples in America for decades.  For many people, that's an abstract issue of  justice, but -- as Romero's letter reflects -- it has very direct and concrete impact on the lives of those whose marital rights hang in the balance.


(3)  The most influential newspaper on Capitol Hill -- The Hill -- yesterday published a lengthy article detailing the new campaign coalition, led by Accountability Now, to target bad Senate and House incumbents with credible and well-funded primary challenges, to begin immediately once the election is over.  I wrote about that campaign here, where I interviewed Jane Hamsher and Markos Moulitsas about it. 

The more credible the threat is now, the greater its ability to change behavior before even a single primary challenger is fielded.   The article doesn't really convey how the coalition works (the idea is to use the coalition to remove from office those incumbents who act contrary to the specific focus of particular coalition members, with Accountability Now's focus on civil liberties), but I'll be writing much more in detail about this once the election is over.


 (4) Harper's Scott Horton says everything that needs to be said about the latest despicable (though pitifully inept) effort by the Right to use the lowest McCarthyite tactics to demonize Barack Obama as an American-hating radical -- this time by linking him to Rashid Khalidi, the Chairman of Columbia University's Middle Eastern Studies Department.  Horton, who has known Khalidi for some time, writes that the demonizing attack "doesn’t sound much like the Rashid Khalidi I know" and details why that is.

Horton focuses specifically on the Khalidi fixation of National Review's Andy McCarthy, and Horton concludes, for reasons he amply documents:  "Khalidi is also a Palestinian American.  There is no doubt in my mind that it is solely that last fact that informs McCarthy’s ignorant and malicious rants."  A repulsively ugly McCain/Palin campaign, and the equally noxious right-wing support for it, can only end on a note like that.

Many people have noted the even-worse-than-usual malice and derangement of National Review writers over the past couple of months.  Much of that has been just a mild, desperation-fueled extension of standard form -- the low-level, vapid, cliché-spouting cartoons (Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Jean Lopez); the right-wing talk-radio-level haters (Mark Levin, Mark Steyn, Lisa Schiffren, Victor Davis Hanson); the GOP-loyalist Dead-Ender operatives (Rich Lowry, Ed Whelan), etc.  But Andy McCarthy's unique descent into full-fledged reality-detachment and "sheer madness" has really been something to behold -- not because it's inconsistent with prior behavior (it's isn't), but because he was, not all that long ago, a federal prosecutor, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, with immense power over the lives of many people.  


(5)  For those interested, Reason's Cathy Young has responded at length to the reply I wrote over the weekend regarding her article on "the Left's" alleged "'sympathy" for Putin's Russia.  I have already addressed the points she makes to my satisfaction, so I will merely note that yesterday, the BBC announced it has "discovered evidence that Georgia may have committed war crimes in its attack on its breakaway region of South Ossetia in August," and that "the international investigative organisation Human Rights Watch also points to indiscriminate use of force by the Georgian military, and the possible deliberate targeting of civilians."

Since Young continues to deny that a pro-Georgia orthodoxy has arisen in the U.S., I'd appreciate it if anyone could point to a single statement made by any of the four major-party candidates -- all of whom have vehemently criticized Russia (at times with good cause) -- that has been even vaguely critical of Georgia's behavior.


(6)  Over the weekend, C-SPAN broadcast a book event of mine, held last April, at Olsson's Bookstore in Washington, DC.  That broadcast can be viewed here.  What makes the event interesting is that most of the discussion -- a 15-minute or so presentation I made, followed by a lengthy and lively Q-and-A session with the audience -- focused on what would likely happen in the 2008 election, the tactics on which the GOP would likely rely, and what could be done by the Democratic nominee to render those tactics ineffective. 

Additionally, a speech I gave to the Future of Freedom Foundation's annual convention over the summer -- regarding the 2008 election and civil liberties and constitutional issues, and the general state of civil liberties debates in the U.S. -- can now be viewed in one You Tube clip, here.


(7)  Here's a Daily Kos diarist who posted a widely-read item immediately prior to the 2004 election that turned out to be completely wrong, and came back yesterday to point to the error and the lessons to be learned from it.  Ponder how much better our political discourse would be if our media-star-pundits were ever willing to do anything like that when they turn out to be completely wrong (see item # 1 in this post for what they typically do instead).



(8)  For those of you who are panic-stricken over recent polling trends (you know who you are), note that both Rasmussen and Zogby today show Obama with an increased lead -- back to 5 points and 7 points, respectively.  Note further that the new poll today that has the Mark Halperins all excited -- an NBC/Mason-Dixon poll showing Obama with a small 4-point lead in Pennsylvania (47-43) -- is not only a severe outlier, but is actually an improvement for Obama, since that same poll showed Obama with only a 2-point lead in late September.  Note finally that a new Time/CNN poll today shows Obama with healthy leads in Ohio (51-47), Nevada (52-45), North Carolina (52-46) and Pennsylvania (55-43).

There are many reasons to celebrate the fact that this election will be over so soon that one can taste it.  Not having to look at 50 new polls every day leads the list of reasons.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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