James Ooi: ‘I was actually considering voting for your man, Obama, because he had the guts to take the anti-populist stance of being against the gas tax holiday. Too bad he’s now caved in by supporting the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Anyone who is truly committed to steering the country toward alternative energy must realize the best (maybe the only) way to get us there is through sustained high energy prices (Thomas Friedman made this point in an NYT column a while ago, and I agree).’

☞ I don’t think we have to worry too much about a return of cheap gas. And on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve issue, I’m actually a bit of an agnostic. It wouldn’t kill me to see the government sell some oil futures at $145 a barrel and cover their short at $90. (That’s probably a smarter way to do it than literally pumping out the oil, but it’s harder to explain in a sound-byte.) Leaning against the speculators this way could cut by many tens of billions a year our impoverishment . . . we hemorrhage a little less massively at $90 than at $145 . . . and might even earn the Treasury a profit.

That’s quite different, it seems to me, from McCain’s initiative simply to buy votes by cutting the gasoline tax – at the expense of our already gargantuan deficit. There is simply no legitimate economic rationale for doing that. Indeed, as James and I and Thomas Friedman argue, it would be counterproductive.

Whatever one thinks about the possibility of leaning against the oil speculators as described above, my main point would be to thank James for raising this concern, while hoping that no one specific item like this will actually determine his – or anyone’s – vote in November.

Each candidate is flawed (aren’t we all?), as he tries to find the best set of compromises to steer us through the years ahead. I would argue that McCain’s flaws dwarf Obama’s, and that Obama’s compromises will be significantly more thoughtful, better-advised, and better reasoned than McCain’s. Do you want a president whose first instinct is to turn to Phil Gramm for economic advice, or to Warren Buffett?

I hear from folks angry that Hillary’s name will not be entered into nomination for a vote in Denver – even though it was Hillary who chose to suspend her campaign and throw her weight behind Obama. (‘I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next President and I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort,’ she said.) They are so mad they say they will vote for McCain. I feel their pain, because I think Hillary is sensational (as is Barack) and would have made a terrific president (as will Barack, if we win) – but to me, that’s no reason to give up on all the things Hillary and Barack both stand for by voting for McCain (or staying home).

I hear from folks who say they will vote for McCain if the Democratic Convention starts with a prayer. They treasure the separation of church and state (as do I), and they’ve HAD it with the Democrats because of this. Never mind that the House and Senate begin their sessions every morning, day after day, year after year, with a prayer. Or that Presidential Inaugurations always start with a prayer. Or that, of course, the Republican Convention will also start with a prayer. All that, they’ve found a way to live with. But if we start with a prayer, forget war and peace, tax policy, lobbyist-written corporate regulation, gay rights, women’s rights, the minimum wage, health care, college loans – they’re voting for McCain.

Of course, at the end of the day, I’m hoping they’re really not.

They are totally entitled to their anger and frustration; but at the end of the day I hope they’ll vote our way . . . not least because the Supreme Court Justices Obama appoints are likely to place a higher priority on the separation of church and state than McCain appointees would.

McCain has promised emphatically that he will appoint justices who are ‘clones’ – his word – of the Bush appointees.

If ‘clone’ means what I think it does, perhaps the ‘McSame’ moniker has some validity?

At least on economic policy (make the tax cuts for the rich permanent! cut taxes on corporations!) . . . and on social policy (repeal Roe v. Wade! don’t let gays in the military!) . . . and on the Judiciary (‘I’ve said a thousand times on this campaign trail that I want to find clones of Alito and Roberts’) . . . voting for McCain is voting for something very like a third Bush term. Why would any Hillary supporter want that?


Jonathan Young: ‘Eggplant ptarmigan? Sounds delicious if a bit gamy. But what about (another of your ongoing theses) the transportation cost of the ptarmigan from Iceland?’

☞ You guys just won’t let up. It was Spell Check that did this, I tell ya, fellas – Spell Check! [Blam! Blam! Blam! They shoot him anyway. Music comes up. Roll credits.]


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