Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Debate

Some background: Tonight's moderator wrote the book behind the enjoyable 2000 film of the same name. Let's pray that reality doesn't imitate fiction tonight.

Romney's to-do list:

  1. Leave The Room: Romney wins the more that the discussion focusses on the economy. So he has to keep linking the foreign policy parts to his economic messaging.
  2. Detail: By providing detail he looks in control, up to the task, and more compentent than his rival, whose incumbency and character bequethe an incentive to hide detail behing rhetoric.
  3. Deconstruct: The following planks must come out of Obama's foreign policy story:
    1. Putin is defanged: Romney must press Obama to explain what the concessions are that Putin wants, which require post-election flexibility. Also, why the president is doing an end run around his bosses (the voters.)
    2. Bin Laden is Dead: While congratulating Obama for the assasination, Romney will downplay its strategic effect. This morning's Washington Examiner editorial finally said the obvious, "one kill doth not a policy make."
    3. Democracy Corpse: Sequeing, the vacuity of the Cairo Speech should be contrasted with the dithering inconsistent reaction to the Arab Spring.
    4. The Iraqi Withdrawal: There's a generally available tactical opportunity to lampoon Obama's vaunted break with Bush. But Romney would do to call him on appropriating Bush's status-of-forces agreement, while failing to get one of his own. (Here the governer, following 2. above, will illustrate the cost of this failure.)
  4. Be Firm: There's some requirement for poise, which his drama coaches would have walked him through.

General considerations of tedium prevent blow-by-blow preemption of the The Barry list. This debate is within my margin of error. Romney has every chance of fluffing it. Tune in, friends!

Oops, I'm late!

00h15: Syria
Syria ends in a draw. Romney looked informed and coherent. Obama stood his ground.

00h27: Egypt
"I felt the same as the President did." Sounds like a draw. The question vanishes as quickly as it arose.

00h30: America's role in the world.
Obama leaves the room. This converts a soft philosophical question into a target for Romney's talking-points.

00h41: Military Funding
Romney throws out some detal, but it misses the question.
Obama punches with a bayonet.

00h47: Israel, Iran and red lines
An Obama defensive win. Theater and content.

01h05: Afghanistan
On this, and other questions, Obama does a better job of looking personally connected.

00h10: Pakistan
Tee hee. The moderator says Obama bin Laden. Lol.
Romney allows Obama to lie his way to the end of the segment.

01h15: China
(but with enough interruption, to prevent anyone from actually dozing off.)

closing time. Barry first.

I was wrong. Tonight was Bob Shiffer (pardon the spelling)and it's the guy from the first debate who wrote The Last Debate. Romney repudiates McCain by finding the right way around the table. And not sticking out his tongue.

Obama won. It'll help stablise the race for him, bit it stays drawn.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Rematch

As is well known, Barry has to win this one in order to salvage the election. More than before, a draw is a Romney win.

To Do:
Pretty much the same as before. MR must ramp Bengazi. Look alive and connect personally. He must communicate detail. BO must be on the offense, and not offensive.

Predictions: 1. Candy Girl: The moderator will be more of a pushover than is popularly anticipated.
2. 41 Redux: Mitt won't be as wooden as imagined.
3. 42 Redux: Barry won't be as "connected" as anticipated.
4. Verdict: A narrow (whence overwhelming) Mitt win.

The seconds tick... Candy Crawls in...

(*swoon*) The room is pretty. BO looks tense. MR scores an early victory by looking taller at the handshake.

Q1: Youth and jobs.
Barry sets a himself a Detroit trap. Will Mitt use it? Yes he will! But then "what governor Romney says just isn't true!"

The heat is on. BO doubles down on Detroit and offshre tax breaks. MO swings back hard. Q1 winner: MR

Q2: Should the govt lower gas prices.
A stammering BO swings at MR "he doesn't have the clean energy part." Second self-trap set. It's gonna be easy for MR to win if this trend continues. All he has to do is refute and counterattack. That makes BO look mean and weak.

The birds again! (small this time.)

MR looks tired and BO looks more cheerful than last time.

Boom! BO hits MR on coal.

Q2 winner: Draw

Q3: Tax deductions - which are safe under MR's cuts?
MR reveals hitherto unseen detail on his/her tax cut plan.
In split-screen, BO strikes the perfect medium between his round1 performance and Biden's.

Boom! BO hits MR on tax. The adage that you can't attack in the town hall is under serious threat.

MR dodges artlessly. Q3 winner: BO

Q4: How to crack the glass ceiling.
MR is gonna say "90% of the layoffs affected women."
(he says it - effectively.)
(I still hate the CNN live-poll curves.)

BO wisely(?) segues to healthcare. MR is gonna link "Obamacare" to an increase in taxes.

Q4 winner: Draw

Q5: Is MR Bush?
BO improvises impressively.

Q5 winner: Draw

Q6: Why vote Bo again?
Q5 winner: MR (the easiest question so far. BO struggled to defend his record. MR's tired stump lines were redeployed effectively. Ironically, the tedium of hearing these lines again invokes the fatigue of the jobless recovery itself.)

Q6: What to do with cardless immigrants?
MR gives BO the Gingrich treatment. We now know (courteousy of an immigration question) that BO is invested in China and Cayman Islands trusts.
BO tried (again) to appeal to the moderator to save him, which'll be replayed on the replays.

Q6 winner: MR

Q7: Who denied Bengazi security?
Bo makes it worse! ("as soon as I heard that the consulate was under attack, I called for more security" so much for proactive leadership.)
BO tries to politicise the question by accusing MR of politicising the question.
(just by the way, he's completely dodged the actual question.)

MR is noticebly - apparently deliberately - soft on the issue. There may be a calculation that the media is running the accusations hard enough.

MR fluffs the attack somewhat. BO then fillibusters out of it. There's too much reliance on Bidenesque theatre.

Q7 winner: Draw (but lossy in the aftermath.)

Q8: What's been done to limit assault weapon proliferation?
Fast and furious raises its head.
This is a boring, inherently drawish question. BO magically converts it to education.

Q8 winner: Draw (see above.)

Q9: How do we insource?
I won't tire you with the detail. Q8 winner: (slight) MR win

Q8: What's been said about you that's wrong?
Barry disavows "you didn't build that" and Mitt embraces the full 100%.

Q9 winner: MR win. Barry's last-minute 47% shot looked like a sucker punch.


A transcript draw (perhaps) but BO looked dodgy and offensive. BO scored with the base, but would have lost the undecideds. They would tilt to MR. Importantly, BO didn't make his liar charge stick (or try to.) This is a Romney win.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Baby Talk

Wherein we (actually just I) live-blog the #2 debate.

Biden's objectives:

  1. Redo#1. He's under pressure to show what would've happened had his boss been less polite last week. Specifically, he must make the "liar-Mitt" charge stick.
  2. Go wonky. He can undo Ryan's geek image by discussing detail at his level. That's the easiest way for Biden to win the debate.
  3. Mellow. He risks looking cantankerous next to Ryan. He did a good job of looking mellow next to Palin. Expect more.
Ryan's goals:
  1. Parry More than with Romney last week, Ryan wins by drawing. A draw affirms the correctness of what his boss said last week.
  2. Job Spring Focus on unemployment, Al Qaeda and healthcare.
  3. Be natural Left to their own devices Ryan beats Biden.
What to expect:
  1. Aggression: Biden's had his work cut out for him. He has to make Romney look like a liar. Ryan has to make Obama look like Jimmy Carter.
  2. Specificity: Each will try to out-wonk the other. For those listening, this will be a battle of competence.
  3. Violins: There'll be weepy stuff for sure.
Prediction: A Ryan win. This is only because Biden has such a large, defeasible task before him. Again, a draw is a win for Romney/Ryan.

A hush (and wives and coughing) fills the room.

They're off.

(An unexpected camera angle shows the anchor wearing a suicide-bomb-like belt)

00h00: Boom! The anchor kicks off with a Ryan gift, asking about Libya. Biden waffles off the script. Ryan rips into Obama.


Biden sees the wisdom in smirking through Ryan's answer.


Boom! Biden lays on the malarky. "Let me go back to Libya," quoth the anchor, after lengthy uhhming and ahhing from the veep.


If anything, Biden is refreshingly folksy. He's being goaded though. Ryan struggles with his words. Poor thing.


The 47% show up. Biden punches hard. Ryan hams up the violins. What happened to "managed bankruptcy?"


Ryan scores the first laugh. He's losing an easy thread though.


Biden hits hard on Medicare. There'll be no Democratic complaints about THIS moderator. The Biden filibuster rolls on and on...


The moderator is in over her head. She welcomes (again) the opportunity to move on.


Our moderator joins the debate. Back-and-forth with Biden on the nittygritty of civilian control of the army. Audaciously Ryan reinserts himself.


"It's a different country." In five words, Biden undoes the humanitarian basis of his boss's Libya strategy. Folksy has morphed (a while ago) into curmudgeony.


It's hard to say who won the foreign intervention piece. Biden looked firm (which translates into Hawkish) and kept his ground. Advantage veep.


Verdict: With help from the moderator, Biden won this one. It was a risky win, as it may not resonate with voters already disgruntled with the debate's tone.


Biden authors a set of GOP ads "When I talk I say what I mean."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Meet MR BO

C-Span-willing, we kick off 2012 election fever coverage with the inaugural presidential debate. As usual, I disance myself from all spelling, grammatic and factual errors.

BO's objectives:

  1. Make the whole thing go away. The less this debate is spoken of the better for the incumbent.
  2. Look detached. Very few people will follow the soundtrack, BO has to look unrattled, and like he has better things to do.
  3. Look happy. His reelection hinges on likeability, so he has to draw a contrast with MR's deep-set eye sockets.
MR's goals:
  1. Look in control MR wins by drawing this thing. His #1 goal is to look like he's playing at the same level as BO.
  2. Job Spring Focus on unemployment and Al Qaeda.
  3. Defend the obvious Taxes cuts for the rich, Bain, the 47%, Paul Ryan. None of that must be made to stick.
What to expect:
  1. Knockout blows: Likelier for BO than MR to land one. The latter is too unfunny.
  2. Specificity: Each will try to out-wonk the other. For those listening, this will be a battle of competence.
  3. Violins: There'll be weepy stuff for sure.
Prediction: A Romney win. Remember, a draw is a win for him.

They're off.

00h20: BO blasts MR on tax. The expected attack that there aren't enough deductions. MR sounds plaintiff. BO hits back running on Clinton's record.

00h27: SEG II - the deficit. (I'ts irksome to watch the Independents applause line trailing the bottom of the screen.) Also MR has retained his primary debate smile starch.

00h36: That mesmerising line shows a consistent gender gap. MR wins men, BO wins women. But it closes as BO presses the case against tax cuts for Exon and job-exporting companies.

00h40: "I've been in business for 25 years, I don't know what you're talking about." This line will be spoken of. For better or worse. What quoth BO?

00h41: SEG III - entitlements. (apparently BO's not challenging 'that line.') BO ramps up the violins (granny raised me, etc.) If those lines mean anything, the music falls flat. He sets a trap for himself by raising the imperative to lower costs.

*bandwidth flutter*
We miss about a minute as the Internet goes cold

0052: SEG IV - regulation.

The Internet freezes afresh

MR seems to have held his own on regulation.

00h58: SEG V - healthcare
(The curves suggest that women like the sound of BO's voice. Will they vote that way?)

BO appears to have made a trap for himself by trying to damn MR with feint praise. As BO seems to get lost in the weeds in defending the Death Panel, MR dances smirks and squirms like he's smelled blood. For a (long) moment MR's body language is in synch with the curves. This segment has a winner.

01h15: SEG VI - the role of government

MR seems to have scored with the early philosophical exchange.
BO umh and uhs through the riposte, parrying at Paul Ryan.

01h25: SEG Final - Washington gridlock

MR's soaring rhetoric appears to have prevailed. BO struggles to defend his leadership credentials.

Just when I'm waking up - Closing statements

BO lost the toss and goes first. This is hard for him, because the audience must have BO-rhetoric overload, after five years. The challenge for Romney is to stay positive.

Wisely, MR spurns my advice.

This looks like an MR win. It is in fact, not a draw (which would have been an MR win.) It also seems as if MR has more takeaways (for advertorial reuse.)

Looking back to the objectives (see above) MR gets a probable 2.5/3 and BO 0.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eid (non-Hosni) Mubarak!

Ramadan 1432 - the month we felt the world shift axis. Let's relive the history:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Give us this day our DailyBeast

Recipe: Tomasky post-hoc potpouri
Ingredients: time, a large weasel.
1. Wait for a foreign-policy crisis to arise.
2. See what Obama says.
3. Wait.
4. Keep waiting.
5. See how things turn out.
6. If it turned out well (e.g. Libya), credit Obama's speeches.
7. If it turned out craply (e.g. Bahrain) write something about Tea Party terrorists.
8. Stew a little.

What makes this recipe a fail-safe success is that Obama's foreign policy is a textbook case of Implausible Deniability (ID(TM)). ID(TM) works according to a simple formula:
1. Wait for a crisis to arise.
2. Wait for it to disappear as quickly as it arose.
3. Keep waiting.
4. If the clock runs out, then say/do something ambiguous.
5. Get senior staff to make unambiguous, mutually inconsistent remarks.
6. Wait and see.
7. If the outcome was favourable, interpret your speech/action in 4. to paint you as a causal factor.
8 If the outcome was unfavourable, interpret your speech/action in 4. to paint you as sufficiently removed so as not to be blameworthy.
9. Pick one of the statements in 5. to support the interpretation in 7/8. Since they were mutually inconsistent by design.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

President Kgalema Petrus Motlante

Since a lot of rubbish has been written about this week's municipal election, please allow me to break my silence on the matter (by the way, apologies for not telling the result in advance - I was uncharacteristically clueless.)

The election results can be viewed at the splendidly put-together website of the Independent Electoral Commission. The summary of the all-in Vote:

ANC 63.65%
DA 21.97%
IFP 3.94%
NFP 2.58#
COPE 2.33%
Independents 0.89%

Bottom line: This was a good election for the National Freedom Party, and a crap election for everyone else:

1. The National Freedom Party (NFP).
A party born three months ago to a woman (Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibie) whose name is totally unknown to South Africans, managed to tear in half the baby born to Gatsha Buthelezi in 1975, finishing fourth overall. This at a time when a KZN homeboy is national president. They'll continue to grow in the Eastern province, and will eclipse Inkatha unless Buthelezi is dispensed with.

2. The African National Congress (ANC).
Gone are the heady days of two-thirds majority. They're back to slightly better than 1994 levels. But 64% is a landslide in anyone's vocabulary, and they held onto the Nelson Mandela metropole in spite of everything. Enough for contentment, but nothing to cheer about. Just because you're big doesn't mean you should stop growing. The euphoric celebrations are largely theatre, but partly testament to the fact that at least some factions in the party have given up on ever attracting White and Coloured voters.

3. The Democratic Alliance (DA).
Supposedly the big winners on Wednesday, they've finally managed - after seventeen long years - of surpassing the 20% gained in 1994 by FW de Klerk, the custodian of Bantu Education (and my poor spelling), askaris and the Transvaal faction of the National party. Congratulations, I suppose. What's happened is that the DA has acheived it's dream of locking up the opposition, without denting the bedrock of ANC support. Do the math. The ANC is at slightly better than 1994 levels. The ANC is at its worst level of rudderlessness in democratic history. Its hapless leader is clearly at sea. It faces the greatest, most open resistance to its rule ever. That the DA failed to capitalise on these laboratory conditions is a shocker. The party can crash through the ceiling, but it will do so at the price of it's current identity and cohesion. And not soon.

4. The Congress of the People (Cope).
Mosioua Lekota has finally accomplished his ambition of driving his party into the ground. There was no need for potshots from the opposition - the terror inflicted by the president did it all.

5. The Inkatha Freedom Party (NFP).
For whom this election was like having on-stage tickets to a performance of that well-loved conjuring trick called sawing-the-lady-in-half. Paradoxically, this strengthens Buthelezi's hold on the party, as there's less to fight for, and in the NFP his party rivals have an alternative home with better growth prospects.

6. Helen Zille (Botox Belle).
She'll maintain her hold on the party amid rising tensions. As the belief persists that the party is growing, it will attract greater numbers of the knife-wielding careerist who stab their way to the top of party structures. There'll be pressure to promote black branch leaders to senior positions of real influence within the party, and in the same way that the ANC struggled to control its candidate-list process, the DA's cohesion will give way to resentment from stalwarts, and White voters who feel increasingly alienated from the leadership crop.

7. Mangosutu Buthelezi kaShenge (Gatsha).
Just because you're a party head doesn't mean that you've political influence. Since South Africans have grown to love his droning magniloquence, there'll be plenty of airtime for him yet. RIP.

8. Patricia de Lille (The Mother).
She's reached the height of her political career. Well done. She'll be an inspiring mayoral figure, and a fitting leader for Cape Town. Unfortunately, she lacks a base in her new party, which expects her to be an order-taker. This will create tension, which she'll lose. Don't be surprised when she resigns, although I can't imagine where she'll go to.

9. Gedleyihlekisa Jacob Zuma wamSholozi kaNkandla (JZ).
There is something in the breakdown of the ANC's results to provide ammo to his rivals (see my ANC remarks above.) Also, the conduct of this election, with party leaders forgetting to register candidates, and branch level uprisings against the candidate selection process, and manipulation of the lists, and the open boycott by traditional supporters augur ill for his reelection hopes next year.

10. Fikile Mbalula (Bra Fiks).
He took time off from the Sports Ministry to play senior campaign manager for the ANC, and he came through. His career goes up from here.

11. The Dagga Party (DP).
The audacity of Dope!