Re: Also, I hope it's not about zombies.

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You're going to look like such an idiot when he gets arrested.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:38 PM
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Or when he murders you.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:42 PM
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The thing is, they do appear to be filming a horror film next door right now. Or a very well-lit crime involving many people.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:46 PM
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THE PERFECT COVER


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:46 PM
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Anybody who hasn't seen American Movie should see American Movie.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:50 PM
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5: THE PERFECT COVERN


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:53 PM
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(Also, as an aside, my 5-year-old daughter got up on stage and danced with Michael Franti tonight.)


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:54 PM
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I don't know who that is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:57 PM
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He's in Wikipedia so he's probably not engaged in an elaborate deception to disguise murder.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 8:59 PM
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Quick, Stanley! Check if your neighbor has a Wikipedia article!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 9:38 PM
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6: cover rhymes with over?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:01 PM
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"coven" rhymes with "oven".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:05 PM
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5 to 12.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:11 PM
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"coven" rhymes with "oven".

Also "lovin'."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:12 PM
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The Last Movie is pretty good, too; benefits from being shown on the big screen.

I got my hair cut this week by a young woman who said she had only just seen Rosemary's Baby for the first time, but without sound. Turns out it had come one the TV in the hair-cutting place and they'd watched it but couldn't turn up the sound. So I couldn't really discuss the film with her in much depth, since she really didn't know much about what had happened other than Mia Farrow's hair kept getting more and more awesome.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:15 PM
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Coven/lovin' is a bit of a slant rhyme for me.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:15 PM
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Suspiria. People should see that one while drinking negronis. Speaking of covens.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:16 PM
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Coven/lovin' is a bit of a slant rhyme for me.

This surprises me. How so?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:16 PM
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If you raise the ends of your lips into a smile on "lovin'", you get a slightly different sound.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:26 PM
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19: Sounds like IPA [ɨ] rather than [ə]; it makes sense that some people would have that realization for unstressed /ɪ/.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:35 PM
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Upon reflection, I think that's actually the way I would pronounce the "i" in "loving," but not the one in "lovin'." Interesting.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:37 PM
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"lovin'" is closer to "tin"; "coven" closer to "Venn".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:40 PM
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IPA [ɨ] on this chart doesn't sound like anything I say in either word.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:41 PM
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This is a situation where IPA is not really a very satisfactory system (really this is true of vowels in general, since the vowel space is continuous but IPA divides it up into discrete units). I think the vowel in question is actually this one, for which IPA doesn't have an official symbol and Wikipediea doesn't seem to have a sound file.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 10:44 PM
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What about coven and love in? Like in the sixties?

I can only watch a horror movie about every two years and only then if it's more or less bloodless. Otherwise I'd get scared.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-20-12 11:04 PM
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I had a dream last night that someone was showing a non-horror movie about autumn, but it was filmed with some horror movie elements and I had to make them turn it off because it was too scary for me and then they made fun of me. Actually now that I am thinking harder about the dream, I think that person was my mom. Oh dear.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 3:08 AM
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I can stand the occasional monster movie, but horror movies always seem to be shouting "Take that and that and that, girls who wouldn't talk to the director/writer/producer in high school!"


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:05 AM
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Aside aside, 7 is great.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:07 AM
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McCoven.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:17 AM
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||

NMM to George McGovern, you dirty hippies.

Sad news, actually. RIP.

|>


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:18 AM
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29. Speaking of which, NMM George McGovern.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:18 AM
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Also, George McGovern is right out.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:27 AM
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This just in...


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:44 AM
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woo, hook 'em seminoles and blue devils.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:58 AM
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Back to Michael Franti. "Oh My God" has a lyric that I've long thought the greatest line of bragadoccio in pop music that I've ever heard. The whole song is great but it's about 2:20 in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9K9GVD9qVs


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:04 AM
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30:There were a few times when voting was a pleasure.

I watched that acceptance speech at 2:48 AM. It was a fucking good convention, a peoples convention. Lost 48 states, but kept the House and gained two seats in the Senate.

God almighty, 1980 was a heartbreaker.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:23 AM
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I heard an interview with McGovern this morning. He managed to say that the U.S. would have been a better place if he had been elected without sounding egotistical at all. Completely emphasized the program.

NM Vacuuming.

RIP


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:20 AM
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Update: notwithstanding the evil designs of the ostensible filmmakers next door, I was not in fact murdered last night.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:50 AM
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I watched that acceptance speech at 2:48 AM.

Yep, a total fuck-up by the Dems to let a bunch of crap push the acceptance speech back that far. Not that they weren't doomed that year, anyway.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:53 AM
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39: Oh sure, that's what zombies always say so you'll open the door or anyway let them continue to comment on your blog.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:58 AM
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38, I mean. Zombies can be pretty apolitical.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:59 AM
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41: Really? I'd think if they're after brains, they'd steer clear of the GOP altogether.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:01 AM
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Murder and now sockpuppeting.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:03 AM
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Who did the zombies kill?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:06 AM
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nobody explains anything to poor old text.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:41 AM
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GMcG was the keynote speaker at the Montana Bar meeting a while back. Maybe 2002, during the Iraq run up. He told his very moving 'bombing the farm in Austria' story, after which you could hear a pin drop.

I'm sure his 1984 SNL oval office speech abolishing money will be all over the net today.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:51 AM
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My guess is the first thing people think to do won't be to hunt down McGovern skits, no matter how funny Joe Piscapo was in those days.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:59 AM
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30-33

As happens surprisingly often Sailer was on this a couple of days before it reached unfogged.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 9:03 AM
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48: Nothing says we can't masturbate to gravely ill people.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:03 AM
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48: yeah, but Sailer was really just gloating.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:31 AM
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Conor Friedersdorf's piece (also released a couple of days ago) is good.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:33 AM
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49: The nursing staff, maybe.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:34 AM
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52: Who's going to stop them?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:37 AM
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35: Agreed. Whoever saw fit to overlay a bunch of cliched Masonophobic/anti-Catholic/anti-"Illuminati" conspiracy theory imagery over Franti's lovely song, however, needs to be kicked repeatedly in the 'nads.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:53 AM
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54 Oh my stars, sorry about that. In my defense I hadn't really noticed as I was just looking for one with decent sound quality.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:04 PM
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Michael Franti is great. Apo is an awesome father.

Meanwhile, I really don't know what to make of young Conor Friedersdorf. Maybe a 'liberaltarian' in the making.

Meanwhile meanwhile, I've become confused about the difference between the deficit and the federal debt. Damn; I'm sure I used to know this.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:04 PM
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54 I keep reading "Masonophobic" as "Mansonphobic" and thinking "That's actually a pretty healthy attitude to have."


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:10 PM
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Meanwhile, I really don't know what to make of young Conor Friedersdorf.

Asshole pushing leftists' buttons?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:19 PM
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56:The fiscal deficit is simply the annualized difference between federal revenues and expenditures. When negative it is called a surplus.

The Federal debt...hmm...perhaps either the total of outstanding Treasury Bills or b) recognized claims on future revenues. The latter might include commitments to social programs etc so I doubt it would be that broad.

I am also not sure about outstanding bills, like last month's white house electric bill. Probably insignificant


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:23 PM
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58: I don't know. It doesn't seem that straightforward.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:23 PM
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I just can't figure out what is interesting about him. Oh, he thinks McGovern was right about Vietnam? HOW GENEROUS.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:30 PM
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59: The question arose because of these graphs. I admit that I just looked at the graphs without reading the text (stupid, I know).

Figure 1 is the deficit; Figure 2 is the debt as percentage of GDP. (Doesn't the GOP keep talking about $16 trillion in debt, or is it deficit? What is that figure?)

I'm off for a while but will answer my own confusions later. I'm just being dumb, I'm sure.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:30 PM
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61: Just that he writes well, I think. That's about all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:32 PM
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51

Conor Friedersdorf's piece (also released a couple of days ago) is good

The link is strange as the body of the piece does not justify the headline claiming that McGovern has been vindicated since his antiwar views seem as unpopular as ever.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:35 PM
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The deficit is the annual shortfall between current revenues and expenditures. The debt is the cumulative shortfall; i.e., all expenditures that have not yet been paid for, regardless of when they were incurred.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:38 PM
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65: Right, got it, thanks. (I was slowly getting it, despite molasses brain.) The $16 trillion that the GOP keeps babbling about must clearly be the debt; though they invariably use the term "deficit", the debt is far more relevant, one would think ...


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:43 PM
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$16 trillion is the current (or roughly current) "gross debt" (see here). This includes Treasury bills held by the Medicare and Social Security trust funds.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 12:53 PM
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Friedersdorf is genuinely libertarian aka left on issues relating to civil liberties and foreign policy, vaguely liberal on social issues, and standard issue right wing on economic policy. He cares a great deal about civil liberties, with foreign and economic policy being of secondary importance and social issues of no importance at all. I can see how someone like that would decide that a protest vote for Gary Johnson is a good idea. What I don't understand is why lefties would be would find a 'they both suck' argument that depends on the assumption that Obama is too left wing on economic policy to be so attractive.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 1:00 PM
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I often mix up the debt and deficit. Glad to have that cleared up. It could be that Republicans like the word deficit better because it sounds scarier. Many of us have debts, but not too many have deficits (we'd like to think). I dunno if there's any other explanation (maybe I'm just soft-headed) but it does seem as though people use the words interchangeably when they have very different definitions.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 1:18 PM
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68

... What I don't understand is why lefties would be would find a 'they both suck' argument that depends on the assumption that Obama is too left wing on economic policy to be so attractive.

Lots of people (not just on the left) prefer not to sully their purity by supporting a candidate popular enough to actually be elected.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 1:20 PM
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It could also be a rhetorical sleight-of-hand. You get people to think you're talking about the overall debt when you're really just talking about the annual deficit. Then you make a plan to erase "the deficit" without raising taxes or something. That's conceivable when referring to the yearly deficit, but not the debt. Then you get people thinking you can do something you can't, without them ever being to call you on it.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 1:20 PM
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I think this device often employs "balance the budget" in a similar way. You start talking about the debt, then you say you're going to "balance the budget" -- referring only to the deficit, not the debt. The plan would actually probably increase the debt in the long term. So you get people afraid of the bogey man -- the debt -- and then promise them you're going to take care of a different problem altogether. But they still think you're talking about the bogey man!

Of course none of the plans are feasible anyway, but this way you get away with an even bigger lie than otherwise. A cheap parlor trick, but then there are many of those around.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 1:36 PM
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George McGovern April 25 1972

I have not found this glorification of the establishment center to be the mood of the American people. Indeed, most Americans see the establishment center as an empty, decaying void that commands neither their confidence nor their love.

It is the establishment center that led us into the stupidest and cruelest war in all history. That war is a moral and political disaster--a terrible cancer eating away the soul of the nation. Yet those who charted its course brand its opponents as too far out to be electable...

And how many here, Obama supporters, in their hearts despise the candidate who lost 49 states.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 1:52 PM
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73 to 70 in a moment of weakness

There is in the comment sections at LGM some decent analysis of the consequences of 1972:New Left, New Democrat, the role of George Meany.

I never felt prouder to be a Democrat or an American than in 1972.

And in the end that is what it is all about:not power or influence but character and conscience is what gets you up in the morning and lets you sleep through the night.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 1:59 PM
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71-72: there are no plans on the table that would come anywhere near erasing the annual deficit without raising taxes. Even with raising taxes. If you did manage to wipe out the annual deficit, then you could easily let normal growth work down the legacy debt. Even if you cut the deficit significantly but not to zero you could do this.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 3:43 PM
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Not that i think erasing the annual deficit should be a short-term priority.

Since this seems to be the politics thread, here is an article which clearly demonstrates the cost of Obama's foreign policy stance. Short summary: when Obama came to office the American public opposed strikes on Iran 46-41. Now, after four years of bipartisan bullshit about Iran as a threat to U.S. security the public supports military strikes on Iran 58-33. It is true that behind the scenes Obama has done some things to support the military in turning back Netanyahu's pressure for U.S. strikes, but publicly he has totally and completely caved to the neoconservative rhetoric about Iranian nukes as a major threat to the U.S. I don't believe he had to do that. This is the result. A war with Iran would be a humanitarian and strategic disaster of the first order.

(Really belongs in whatever thread we have on tomorrow night's debate, but I may not be able to follow that).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 3:50 PM
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PGD, I'm pretty sure political scientists have proven to their satisfaction that nothing the president says in public can effect public opinion.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:06 PM
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I thought whatever a president said tended to polarize the country/congress on that issue and thus they should lay low if they actually care about an issue.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:33 PM
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That is evidently a well-supported first approximation of the effect of individual speeches. My problem is that people like Scott Lemieux extrapolate that out and conclude that over the long-term multiple speeches won't have a greater effect. The assumption seems to be that aligning your supporters behind a position, supplying them with enthusiasm and arguments, can't possibly be important. They also seem to use this effect only to defend Democrats from charges that they don't use liberal enough rhetoric or defend liberal policy. That their position also implies that Democrats strongly defending liberal policy would have no negative effects on their chances never seems to be mentioned.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:49 PM
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Basically, Karl Rove was right about Democrats. They think public opinion is an unchangeable fact of nature.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:49 PM
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77-78: I can't tell whether you guys are being sarcastic or not. (I do remember seeing a New Yorker article a while ago making similar arguments but found it foolish and unconvincing).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:50 PM
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Ah, Eggplant was being properly sarcastic. 79-80 expresses my views exactly and better than I could.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:51 PM
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I am never foolish and unconvincing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:51 PM
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Ah, Heebie, I would never say that of you. I hold you in higher esteem than the New Yorker.

A related foolishness about the argument that 'Presidential communication doesn't matter' is that presidential speechs are only one part of a vast communication apparatus that a Presidential administration can command if it wants to. And far from the largest part.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 4:58 PM
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76: It's not just Obama who makes speeches. The Iranians have not, no matter what their "real" intentions, said much that sounds like the cooing of doves of peace. I agree, there's a disaster brewing; there are lots of folk tossing ingredients into that pot.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:00 PM
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82: Thanks. I think I stole that Rove comparison from you, actually.
Also, as I am frequently foolish and convincing, better and than xor, I say.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:01 PM
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85: are you sure of that? How much coverage has Supreme Leader Khameini's fatwa against nuclear weapons as a senseless threat to international peace received in the U.S. press? How much coverage do Iranian offers of negotiation and compromise receive? When Iran does saber rattling or issues threats, how often are those belligerent statements put in the context of the U.S. or Israeli threats, warnings, or perhaps even covert actions that they are frequently in response to? etc. How much coverage of the actual back and forth of negotiations with Iran have you seen, vs. the intense coverage that was pushed on these ridiculous charges that Iran was trying to kill the Saudi ambassador?

Even those of us who use the internet are in a heavily propagandized information environment. Decisions by Presidential administrations to change tone have more to do with changing that environment than with presidential speeches.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:31 PM
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There's a pretty good reason Democratic presidents don't want to leave themselves open to attacks as being soft on Iran. Carter's perceived (I don't really buy this myth, but still) softness on Iran is as responsible as anything for the 30 year domestic policy disaster we've had since 1980.

I personally think that the calls for use of the Presidential bully pulpit in general are incredibly stupid, but i agree there is a Presidential role to play in not presenting random foreign state x as the face of evil. With that said, if Obama is reelected we will not go to war with Iran in his second term absent a direct Iranian attack on the United States. I will bet PGD $100 on this right now, if he's willing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:50 PM
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88.2 -- You're going to need to define war. Are we currently at war in Somalia and/or Yemen? have we ever been at war in/with Sudan?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:54 PM
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No, we're not, and I don't think that's what people mean when they speak of a fear of war with Iran.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 5:59 PM
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88.1: You mean the 30 year bipartisan effort to loosen the safety net, lower taxes on the wealthy, offshore middle class jobs, and deregulation? This was all due to Carter's loss?
88.2: Why are such calls incredibly stupid?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:10 PM
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I didn't say it was exclusively responsible. Just partially so.

88.2 -- not really interested in rehearsing this, but there's effectively no evidence that Presidential rhetoric moves public opinion (on things people care about anyway) and most calls for use of the bulky pulpit, on all sides, are pure wankerdom. An exception is when presidential rhetoric catches up with public opinion (eg gay marriage). With that said actual political priorities are important, as is longer term movement building.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:17 PM
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there's effectively no evidence that Presidential rhetoric moves public opinion
Sure there is. It doesn't move the net number of votes on an issue but it does change the level of support within different groups, and having enthusiastic supporters with ready arguments at hand is movement building.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:49 PM
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Prunes help with movement building.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:52 PM
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there's effectively no evidence that Presidential rhetoric moves public opinion (on things people care about anyway) and most calls for use of the bulky pulpit, on all sides, are pure wankerdom.

sorry, but this is just nonsense. You might as well give up on any attempt to influence public opinion altogether. The Presidency has an extremely powerful and central institutional role in setting both the media agenda and the bounds of 'serious' opinion. (And as I said above, direct speeches by the President are just one element of this). The claim that you can't influence public opinion with the resources of the Presidency is just another way of saying that you can't influence it period. Similar to claiming that the whole infrastructure of advertising, media relations, and public opinion manipulation is based on an error.

It is very true that public opinion is costly/challenging to influence and its deep structure is difficult to accurately measure. I'm not at all surprised to see evidence that individual presidential speeches don't produce magical overnight opinion shifts, nor that some efforts succeed and others fail. But it's a big mistake to think that difficult=impossible.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:54 PM
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The president has unparalleled ability to set the agenda of public discussion (even without dropping bombs on something). Also, while I don't think the president can limit the bounds of serious opinion, but he sure can expand them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 6:58 PM
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We do need to make an allowance for the fact that most of everything is pure wankerdom.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:02 PM
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Can you provide historical examples of an effective use of the bully pulpit? Oh, that's right, you can't.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:09 PM
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97 to everything.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:14 PM
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98: Gulf of Tonkin?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:15 PM
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Anyhow, this has been pretty effectively researched, including over the long term (ie, 8 year Presidential terms), primarily in Edwards' book. If you want to make a counter-argument, you're going to need to rely on more than bare assertion.

Note that the ability to set a legislative agenda is a real thing that Presidents can do, but is different than the bully pulpit.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:17 PM
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98:Oh hell. Daniel Rodgers Age of Fracture, Chapter One, the whole thing is like this:

Reagan was not the first of the post-1945 presidents to run on an anti-government program. "Government cannot solve our problems," had been Carter's line in the 1970s; "it can't set our goals, it cannot define our vision." Carter's populist rhetoric, however, had strained toward healing. Alienation underlay those formulas as strongly as antagonism underlay Reagan's. We "have seen our Government grow far from us. . . almost become like a foreign country, so strange and distant," Carter lamented in his 1978 State of the Union message. He talked easily of humility, mercy, justice, spirit, trust, wisdom, community, and "common purpose." "It is time for us to join hands in America," he urged in his energy crisis address. Reagan's talk of government and the people, by contrast, pushed toward severance. His goal was to rearrange the verbal system such that government was not the agent, embodiment, or reflection of the people. Rather, government was the people's antagonist, the limiter of their limitlessness. The twin pillars of his domestic policy--tax cutting and corporate and environmental deregulation--flowed directly from those premises.

The impulse to disaggregate and individualize the people took still more prominent symbolic form in the so-called heroes in the balcony segment of his State of the Union messages. Reagan did not inaugurate the practice of calling forward an individual's special deeds in a major state address. He was the first, however, to take the inherently public occasion of a report on the nation from the chief of one branch of government to the heads of another and dissolve it, toward the end, into a montage of individual faces.

What, you don't understand the techniques of advertising, marketing and propaganda or simply don't believe they work?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:19 PM
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The Gulf of Tonkin wasnt an exhortation by a President in a speech, it was a (largely false) claim that the United States armed forces had been directly attacked. I mean, sure, if Obama went on TV and falsely claimed that the Iranians had blown up an aircraft carrier, that would probably move opinion towards confrontation with Iran.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:19 PM
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101: There is a long, very established, literature on the agenda setting effects of presidential communication. It isn't just the legislative agenda that he can set, but the topics of public debate. For example, here's a newer piece. As noted in that article and many others, being able to set the agenda doesn't mean you win, both because people are very fixed about some things and because the other party will usually try to counter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:28 PM
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103: Johnson gave a speech which defined the event in terms of the U.S. responding defensively to communist aggression. Others tried and failed to put forth their own interpretation because they weren't president.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:31 PM
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104 -- Right, I agree with you about agenda setting, as I tried to make clear above, but as the article you linked to specifically explains, agenda setting is not at all the same thing as the ability to move public opinion through exhortation. At most you can increase awareness of low-salience foreign policy issues, but that's not at all the same as moving public opinion through rhetoric to accomplish a specific legislative or political goal.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:35 PM
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105 -- if the new example you can come up with of the bully pulpit is falsifying intelligence about an attack in US forces and reporting that as truth, I'm going to declare victory and go home.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:37 PM
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"new" s/b. "best"


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:37 PM
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I am mystified as to why the Gulf of Tonkin doesn't count as an example of 1) communication with the public, 2) by a Presidential administration, 3) that was successful in achieving its goals. The leadup to Gulf War 1 and Gulf War 2 offer many other examples. There are many domestic policy examples as well (e.g. selling 'free trade' around NAFTA), although there the efforts I think take longer and are more subtle as people have more direct experience with the issues involved.

Political communication is pushing out propaganda all the time. To me the key stat in 76 wasn't the 25 point current margin for military action against Iran, but the note that four years ago the margin was 5 points *against*. What do you think has moved the public so much? An objective assessment of the facts? Peoples' shock and outrage at the bold effort of Iranian intelligence to kill the Saudi ambassador?

One area where we might be able to reach comity -- I think grabbing TV time for a presidential speech to the nation is a pretty crude strategy that may well backfire if you try to use it to reverse entrenched beliefs. It can be indicative of an attempt to rescue a failed communication strategy (OMG we are losing this one let's put the President on TV). One shot speeches can only be an adjunct to effective communication/propaganda campaigns, which use repetition, agenda setting, highlighting favorable (possibly misleading or false) fact claims, the use of surrogates perceived as impartial, pushing useful rhetoric into the public debate (e.g. the 'death tax') and then more repetition. And to be effective you need to find points of traction in what people already believe.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:50 PM
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106: That's still too narrow. You can not only increase awareness of low salience issues, but you can, by introducing things into the public debate, shift how larger issues are considered. And separating it from setting a legislative agenda is absurd because getting laws introduced is a very good way to start to structure a debate that might shift public opinion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:51 PM
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107: I'm not arguing your bully pulpit thing because I don't really understand how anyone could test it to your satisfaction. Apparently, you'd need a president who decided to reach up his ass for a policy that has nothing to do with world events or the pre-existing views of his party and try to enact a law for fuck's sake.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 7:52 PM
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This one looks interesting, but I can't read it from home. Stupid crudely implemented intellectual property barriers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:01 PM
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Apparently, you'd need a president who decided to reach up his ass for a policy that has nothing to do with world events or the pre-existing views of his party and try to enact a law for fuck's sake.
So close to a description of the Iraq War. Ten years before it wasn't the dominant preference of the Republican party.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:03 PM
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Sometimes you have to shoot and then figure thing out later.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:06 PM
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I mean, there's literally a book that looks at each of these supposed examples and tests various efforts of Presidents to move public opinion through speech asking and rhetoric, based on opinion polling before and after, including with Gul War I. And finds little to no such effect (George Edwards, On Deaf Ears). Having a policy of aggressively pursuing Iraq can increase tension with Iraq; incessant speaking about Iraq can increase awareness of the issue, without lending support to a particular policy preference. That's exactly and entirely consistent with the article MH linked above (indeed, it's the point of the article). As far as I can tell all the contrary responses are feet stomping and this-must-be-so

In other words, what Obama says about Iran is not likely to move public opinion towards a war with Iran; a general campaign of provocations with Iran would. It's extraordinarily unlikely that Presidential rhetoric about Iran alone would lead to shifting public opinion on Iran.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:27 PM
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I mean, there's literally a book...

There are literally many books. I've read more than one of them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:30 PM
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It seems that with regards to war that the bully pulpit, if it's effective at all, is unidirectional in nature. It's easy to convince people to be belligerent (cough, Goering quote, cough), and nearly impossible to convince them not to.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:31 PM
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Also, ex recto, the ability of the President to effect public opinion is entirely dependent on the ability of the President to say "trust me, I know more about this than you do" and have people believe him.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:33 PM
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What I'm responding to is PGD's claim that Obama's rhetoric alone (rhetoric alone, because he agrees that his actions havent been particularly confrontational) caused the public to be more supportive of war with Iran. That is almost certainly untrue and inconsistent with what basically everyone who has looked empirically at the effect of Presidential rhetoric on public opinion has concluded.


Posted by: Robert Halfor | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:36 PM
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You lost a 'd'. Did you use it to grade his argument?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:42 PM
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Anyway, I don't think Obama has been the primary driver of the shift in public opinion on Iran.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:50 PM
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119: The Iran situation is different than most mentioned here because there is no other party trying to counter. Both parties have opted for belligerence.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 8:51 PM
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That was an especially bad outcome, but there's really no way shooting at a skunk next to your house ends well.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 9:41 PM
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I'm skimming the book Halford mentioned (if I'm going to mock a discipline I may as well read something from it) and so far it's exclusively tactical. A lot of confounds, mixed results, no breakdowns by subgroups or intensity of belief. Obviously, this is a very cursory read, so far, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 9:48 PM
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Right, why should we trust anyone who has studied the issue when we have the uninformed intuitions of internet blowhards to rely upon.

Anyhow, FWIW, there's some evidence that heavy presidential attention to an issue can increase support amongst a president's partisans, but this is immediately offset by decreasing support amongst those who aren't partisans. So, again, the bully pulpit is a basically unsuccessful way in which to actually move public opinion on an issue.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 10:17 PM
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"Immediately" probably shouldn't be in there.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 10:21 PM
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125

Anyhow, FWIW, there's some evidence that heavy presidential attention to an issue can increase support amongst a president's partisans, but this is immediately offset by decreasing support amongst those who aren't partisans. So, again, the bully pulpit is a basically unsuccessful way in which to actually move public opinion on an issue.

It means the President can move public opinion by advocating positions of the opposing party. So Obama could move public opinion against affirmative action or against illegal immigration or for war with Iran.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 10:44 PM
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No, even among your own partisans, it's about increasing intensity of preference, not changing minds. Obama's speaking out against illegal immigration almost certainly wouldn't move opinion among pro-immigration Democrats.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 10:53 PM
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There's little to no evidence, by the way, that George W. Bush's speeches helped move public opinion towards war with Iraq.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:01 PM
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125: If you had an economics argument between a random internet blowhard and Tyler Cohen, say, there's at least a 50% chance you're better off going with the blowhard.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:29 PM
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Isn't Tyler Cowen basically an internet blowhard himself, in addition to (or in conjunction with) being an economics professor?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-21-12 11:32 PM
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Carter's perceived (I don't really buy this myth, but still) softness on Iran is as responsible as anything for the 30 year domestic policy disaster we've had since 1980.

It is particularly bizarre given that Carter actually invaded Iran (albeit on a small scale, but still) and is therefore a wimp, while Reagan just sold them weapons and is therefore a hero.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:24 AM
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Daniel Rodgers, Age of Fracture on public choice theory.

But on the research side of the discipline, the dominant trend was toward the microeconomic analysis of politics. In a field [political science] that had been distinguished by its attention to aggregates--the people, the public good, the dynamics of elites, the power of interests, the needs of the masses--the very aggregates themselves splintered. Power-seeking saturated the new analytical world of politics. It mapped a more pessimistic and harder-edged arena of action and counteraction than the interest-group pluralists had been able to conceive. But in the new models of politics, domination--the subjection of groups to the will of others--all but slipped out of the categories of analysis. As the egoistic, calculating, preference-optimizing, rational-actor models once distinctive to the economics faculties moved into the stock-in-trade of academic political science, the search for power disaggregated into a field of microplayers.

You do know who and what you are serving and assisting with your science that shows the impossibility of effective rhetoric and public reason, don't you Halford? Not that new.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:08 AM
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Just a little more Rodgers

"Too much social theory consisted of "chanting old mantras and invoking nineteenth-century theorists," he [James Coleman] objected. Social theory's holistic analyses "float at the system level without recourse to the actors whose actions generate that system." Rational choice and methodological individualism presented, in contrast, the "one paradigm that offers the promise of bringing greater theoretical unity"
and clarity to the social sciences"

But from a socially and institutionally imbedded phenomenon, power, like every category in Coleman's scheme, slipped down to its actor-centered microfoundations. Power was a trait, a possession, not a social relationship, as Coleman glossed it. It was the value of all the resources an actor controlled on the fields of social exchange. William Riker had set the pattern in 1973, positing power as an index measure of each individual legislator's capacity to exert influence over other legislators. The search for power's social face--in the monopolization of social resources, the giantism of institutions, the pressure of interest groups, the rise of new class antagonists--came down to a measure of individual capacities.

Pretty fucking amazing, really. Is this an example of how liberals are incapable of long-term goals and analysis, and in the use of conservative science to absolve and excuse Obama, destroy the possibility of collective action and common goals?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:20 AM
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129 could be used to argue against 128.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:17 AM
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In a fair fight, 128 would kick 129's ass. 128 is a power of 2. What's 129? It's not even prime.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:49 AM
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It means the President can move public opinion by advocating positions of the opposing party. So Obama could move public opinion against affirmative action or against illegal immigration or for war with Iran.

... or for a health insurance mandate or a cap and trade program for carbon emissions.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:53 AM
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129: Seems like the evidence there can be read in different ways. Here's the way I read it: War in Iraq was a nutty idea that nonetheless commanded a lot of support from people who weren't thinking about the reasons for and consequences of such a war. There was just a lot of generalized hostility to Saddam Hussein in the air.

As war became a more realistic option and people became more focused on it, support naturally decreased - but not by as much as it would have, absent a focused propaganda effort. (And indeed, support was only that high to begin with because of a decade-long propaganda effort.) Then, when push came to shove, Bush redoubled his efforts (think Colin Powell at the UN), and support ticked up.

Now you may object to that interpretation, and insist that the data speaks for itself. So let's allow the data to speak. Here's what it says: The president's efforts at exhortation were counter-productive. Support for war declined because the president was beating the war drums. He would have been better off not making any effort to persuade people.

You will properly object that correlation is not causation, but absent correlation, where is your case? How can you say that this graph tells us anything about the efficacy of presidential rhetoric, absent some insistence that the correlation means something?

Are you really trying to say that Bush was wasting his time tying Saddam to al Qaeda and to WMD (etc.)? That we went to war because the people demanded it? Or what?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:49 AM
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Tyler Cohen

Anti-semite.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:51 AM
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Drum's comment to Sides' post strikes me as correct: general public opinion is hardly worth measuring, if you're wondering what is going to happen., or trying to influence what will happen. The height of Dem willingness to attack Iraq was just after 9/11. Not a function of GWB speechmaking (except to the extent he'd called for ridding the world of all evil in his speech to the joint session) but worse: a product of ignorance and omnidirectional belligerence.

The point with the current president, if I may rephrase it, is that he has not done enough to fire up his partisans, and thus squandered opportunities to use their power to accomplish particular ends. He had the power to bring KSM to NYC for trial, and if he'd bucked up his supporters, and marginalized the people who were pretending to be afraid of putting KSM on trial before a jury of New Yorkers, dividends would have been had. Instead, he walked away from a fight he was very likely to win, and with that weakness brought on other fights.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:53 AM
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I don't think it's useful to fire up partisans for fights he is extremely likely to lose, which separates me from the people mad about not getting single payer etc.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:55 AM
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He had the power to bring KSM to NYC for trial

I would have preferred Angelo Mozilo, but to each his own.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:58 AM
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Four years ago, the policy prescriptions that are embodied in Bowles-Simpson would have been considered rightwing. Now, they are the center-left alternative. This didn't happen by itself, but was the result of leadership - both Democratic and Republican.

If we're going to say, as Halford does, that agenda-setting is where presidential bully-pulpit power is located, I'm okay with that. If all we're saying is that a president can't turn around public opinion through a speech or two, well, that's true, too. What exactly are we disagreeing about here?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:11 AM
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142: Right. A lot of Obama's critics aren't really asking that he shape public opinion, they're asking that he take advantage of existing public opinion and shape outcomes.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:16 AM
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143: That's the Overton Window at work, by the way.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:17 AM
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145: politicalfootball is banned!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:18 AM
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No, even among your own partisans, it's about increasing intensity of preference, not changing minds.
I don't see support for this in the chunks of Edwards that are google books (there are no complete electronic copies that I could find), and while it's usually true, it's directly contradicted by, say, Obama's speech on gay marriage and the opinions of African Americans, or, over a longer time period, the decrease in belief in global warming among conservatives. I'd hate to call you an internet blowhard, but what's your evidence for this statement? While you're at it, maybe you could point me to the parts of Edwards that deal with one party adopting the rhetoric and goals of the other. His treatment of public opinion changes in the absence of countervailing rhetoric doesn't seem to have made it online.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:27 AM
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I don't think it's useful to fire up partisans for fights he is extremely likely to lose
For most of the last three decades, the electoral contributions of pro-lifers would argue to the contrary. I say most because they are no longer losing.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:29 AM
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Four years ago, the policy prescriptions that are embodied in Bowles-Simpson would have been considered rightwing. Now, they are the center-left alternative. This didn't happen by itself, but was the result of leadership - both Democratic and Republican.
I was entertained to learn from Yglesias that Bowles-Simpson was more liberal than I thought, because it's to the left of Obama's plan.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:38 AM
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148 -- I don't know what you're talking about. When was the Hyde Amendment first passed? People were genuinely surprised by the votes in Casey, which has been hanging by a thread for a decade. It's a winnable fight, and, anyway, it's not a matter of a president firing up supporters, but of a party going where a bunch of supporters and potential supporters already are. (That is, it's an important part of the Southern Strategy).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:44 AM
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over a longer time period, the decrease in belief in global warming among conservatives.

I am not sure that's a good example: have Republican presidents made many speeches saying that global warming isn't happening? I don't think so - most of that rubbish comes from senators. (From the Latin "senex", an old man, whence also "senile".)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 6:44 AM
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150: Republicans have used a sense of grievance, defeat, and persecution very effectively to motivate their base. Hell, it's practically all they've got. Why do Democrats think only legislative victories are electorally valuable?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:03 AM
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151: Yeah, that was more of a successful group effort to change the opinions of supporters (in the face of mounting evidence). If Halford wants to argue that the President is just a part of such efforts with only an occasional and hard to measure impact I wouldn't disagree. This doesn't absolve him of responsibility for pushing leftwards, though.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:09 AM
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I'm not going to troll the internet for links here, but I'm pretty sure you'll find the Iran hawking coming from Romney and the Republicans over the past couple years. If you make me go and find the links, I will. So the idea that Obama has somehow shifted public opinion in favor of invading Iran is frankly offensive.

PGD is right that it would be a disaster. It also wouldn't be in anyone's self-interest, aside from the people who own stock in military contractors.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:18 AM
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The claim I'm making (and that's supported, AFAICT, by the evidence) is about the effect of Presidential rhetoric -- the bully pulpit -- on public opinion. Can the President "go to the people" and significsny move public opinion by giving speeches and the like? The answer seems to be no, they can't, and the results are pretty consistent over the lengths of modern presidencies. Reagan, the best President-rhetorician of my lifetime, had worse public opinion polls on almost all of his major issues at the end of his Presidency than at the beginning; Clinton was similarly unsuccessful.

That use of rhetoric needs to be distinguished from two other things that people are talking about here -- long term movement building and specific Presidential action. Obviously you can shape public opinion through long term movement building. It's just that Presidential rhetoric is responsive to that movement building, not generative of it (if you actually look at the numbers, this is true even of gay marriage, a commonly raised counterexample). It's also distinct from action. Bush's speeches on Iraq didn't particularly move public opinion on Iraq, but they may have been helpful in creating the legislative coalition for war, and once war was declared there was a popular spike in enthusiasm. Would Obama insisting on a public trial of KSM and then pulling it off spectacularly have moved public opinion on Guantanamo? Maybe, but that's very different than just the use of rhetoric. What the evidence suggests would not have worked was an attempt to use public speeches to go past Congress to argue for a trial in the US; it's unlikely that would have been a useful way to move public opinion or otherwise accomplish his goals.

Eggplant, the partisan identification stuff isn't in Edwards so much as in follow-on work by Frances Lee. You can read a lot about his stuff at the Monkey Cage blog, if you're too cheap to buy books.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:29 AM
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Presidential rhetoric is not a factor in movement building? Is he uniquely powerless in this regard?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:34 AM
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The claim you're making is that presidents can effect public opinion. I dunno Robert Halford, you really went out on a limb with that one, it's a brave stance, but let's just assume for the sake of argument that you're right and that presidents do have some effect on public opinion.

I suppose it would follow that Barack Obama, as president, did have some effect on the public opinion on whether we should invade another country for no purpose.

It wouldn't follow that Obama was actually responsible for the people who want to invade Iran. My guess is, none of those people are going to vote for Obama.

So I guess what I should write is just "what's your point, if you have one?"


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:34 AM
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While presidents can shape public opinion, I think it's a bit silly to suggest that presidents are solely responsible for shaping public opinion. There are actually some people out there who want to invade Iran! And they have a lot of money to spend to talk about that! When you lay the responsibility for their statements at their opponents' feet, you should really just be punched in the mouth.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:36 AM
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156 -- no, but Presidential rhetoric not particularly powerful or important for movement building, either, and because of partisan identification a stance can be counterproductive (because the issue gets identified with the President, not the merits of the issue ). So it might be fairer to say that the President's role in movement building is uniquely overrated, and that Presidential resources are best spent on things they can achieve (accomplishing actual policy) rather than things they either can't achieve or are unlikely to have much impact on (short term public opinion movements and long term movement building).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:43 AM
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So Presidential rhetoric can be counterproductive, but never productive? This is a well-supported fact? Can you give an example?
What resources are shared between rhetoric and achieving policy? Why are these rivalrous?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:48 AM
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I still don't understand why you separate "accomplish actual policy" from public opinion. The ability to do policy depends on public opinion and to argue that the president should ignore public opinion to focus on policy only works if you have a policy that doesn't require Congressional action.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:48 AM
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Also, I'm still curious about the effects of the leading politicians signing on to (or at least not contesting) the rhetoric of the opposing party. Also covered at the Monkey Cage?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:53 AM
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E: The anti-abortion movement has a string of legislative victories, not losses. I don't think it fits here at all.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:55 AM
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It can be counterproductive in the sense of leading to identification of the policy with the President, not the issue. That's the same reason why, in a bipartisan climate, it's often unlikely to move public opinion (since intensity of preference by your supporters is offset by intensity of opposition from your opponents). Frances Lee uses Bush's idea of a mission to mars as an example; there was no reason why that should have been a partisan issue at all, but it became one. So there's no inconsistency.

The "rivalrousness," beyond the extremely limited time a President has, is that almost by definition, a Presidential attempt to move public opinion will be on something (relatively) politically unpopular (or why are you pushing it?). So, if you try to push public opinion in your direction through rhetoric and fail, as you are likely to do, you are likely to end up more unpopular and with less political capital to do things you might want to accomplish.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:56 AM
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161 -- you can't accomplish policy apart from public opinion, I agree. The question is whether it's a sensible use of Presidential resources to use rhetoric to move public opinion to a place where the President wants it to go.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:58 AM
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161: Sometimes. Health care reform depended on Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, and neither of them gave a fuck about public opinion.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:59 AM
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164 to 161.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 7:59 AM
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Damn it, I mean to 160. I should stop commenting from a phone.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 8:00 AM
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Obviously, the president should use presidential resources to cultivate relationships with people who can fund his presidential library and for nothing else.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 8:01 AM
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166 -- And if they did, they'd care about public opinion in Nebraska and Connecticut. In the one it might have worked, but in the other, really not. It depended on Baucus as well -- and not in a marginal vote sense, but because he was the guy carrying the ball. He didn't think he had support for a public option, much less single payer, and I can't say he was wrong. We're about to find out if his junior colleague's vote for the ACA is enough to get him bumped -- it's a very big part of the campaign against him. And not from the Left.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 8:06 AM
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I think Obama has had a lot to do with the shift of public opinion to favor strikes on Iran. Whether his role is better described more passive aiding and abetting or more actively driving it is a somewhat academic distinction I'm not as concerned with, although I think it's crucial to hold President's accountable for what they don't say as well as what they do. But specifically --

1) He has repeatedly stated that the U.S. has a vital national security interest in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that justifies military action. This is an important thing for a U.S. president to say and will certainly affect public views.

2) The intelligence and diplomatic community has continued to publicly emphasize supposed provocations and aggression by Iran rather than Iranian attempts to enter into negotiations.

3) The Administration has set the bar so high for bilateral diplomatic negotiations that until last week there was no agreement for such negotiations.

4) There has been no attempt to take down pressures by talking on non-nuclear issues of possible common strategic interest between the US and Iran, notably improving the situation in Afghanistan and combatting Shi'ite terrorism.

Obama has been better than a Republican would have been and has also resisted behind-the-scenes pressure for actual military strikes. But his Administration has continued the consistent portrayal of Iran as an irrationally aggressive nation that is a vital security threat to the U.S. and has no interest in engaging in diplomatic negotiations to work toward peaceful agreement.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:21 AM
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Truly, without Obama there would be no public enmity in the US towards Iran. Come on. That he's been less dovish than you'd like doesn't mean that on this issue, compared to the mainstream US baseline, he's been relatively dovish.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:29 AM
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172 is right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:36 AM
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The bar for bilateral diplomatic negotiations is high because we don't have an embassy there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:39 AM
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So Bush talking about a mission to Mars made it less likely to happen? It made it more partisan, sure, but it was never going to happen before, nor did they pursue it afterwards. Any better examples of presidential leadership being counterproductive?
As to the rest, an unpopular president pushing an issue could hurt it, and pushing unpopular positions and losing the subsequent debate could hurt a President's popularity, so if you feel that upsides have been shown to be impossible than I can see why you favor the crouching, timid, Democratic style leadership. But nothing in what I've read online or in Edwards is sufficient to prove anything beyond the statement that most of the time presidential advocacy produces results too small to be measured.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:42 AM
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What upsides are you envisioning from Presidential rhetoric, and what evidence do you have that they've ever happened?

The usual decision point for a President is this: (a) I can pass reasonably popular, but not great compromise proposal x or (b) I can use the full power of the bully pulpit to go around advocating for better position y, until the public agrees with me. There's pretty much no evidence that strategy (b) is effective, even over the relatively long term (8 years or so) and even for a relatively popular President who's a good rhetorician.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:49 AM
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Without the president advocating for (a), it won't be passable unless the other party doesn't care. Apparently some guy wrote a whole book about a strawman.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:51 AM
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Eight years is not a particularly long time. Reagan's acolytes are going to be around a lot longer than that.
There's nothing preventing a President from adopting (a) and (b).


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:52 AM
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178.1 -- What evidence do you have that Presidential rhetoric has been useful for longer term movement building? There essentially is none, and also one thing about long term movement building is that you have no idea what will happen. George McGovern was a nice guy, but his speeches were pretty much wasted words.

178.2 - of course there is, since you still have to do work to get the compromise proposal through. Id have thought the ACA would have convinced everyone of that, but apparently people think Obama would have been better off barnstorming around the country extolling the virtues of single payer and dismissing the ACA as a terrible compromise.

You know who made some nice speeches about national health care? Harry Truman.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 9:58 AM
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128

No, even among your own partisans, it's about increasing intensity of preference, not changing minds. Obama's speaking out against illegal immigration almost certainly wouldn't move opinion among pro-immigration Democrats.

This assumes all Democrats are currently strongly for illegal immigration which isn't the case. Many are opposed or indifferent but are going along with the party line. Obama could increase the visibility and influence of this faction by speaking out against illegal immigration. Or he can move policy subtly by his choices of appointees and priorities. To a certain extent he has done this by pushing e-verify.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:01 AM
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I don't really disagree with 128.

I do disagree with the idea that it's likely that Obama could achieve a major public opinion change on immigration issues by giving a lot of pro-immigration reform speeches.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:02 AM
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I mean, disagree with 180.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:03 AM
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140

The point with the current president, if I may rephrase it, is that he has not done enough to fire up his partisans, and thus squandered opportunities to use their power to accomplish particular ends. He had the power to bring KSM to NYC for trial, and if he'd bucked up his supporters, and marginalized the people who were pretending to be afraid of putting KSM on trial before a jury of New Yorkers, dividends would have been had. Instead, he walked away from a fight he was very likely to win, and with that weakness brought on other fights.

I think this is delusional. It was a dumb idea, it was doomed from the start and longer Obama persisted with it the worse the damage to his Presidency would have been.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:06 AM
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You know who made some nice speeches about national health care? Harry Truman.
And all we got was the Hill-Burton Act. Twenty years later, Johnson signed Medicare into law at Truman's library, but I suppose that might've been just a coincidence or a nice gesture on his part. Still, someone listened.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:12 AM
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I'm sure those would've been enacted much earlier if not for being tainted by that one-termer.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:15 AM
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That's really your argument? If we're looking to Harry Truman on health care as an example of successful long term effects of Presidential rhetoric, forgive me if I never take your advice on matters of strategy or betting.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:15 AM
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but apparently people think Obama would have been better off barnstorming around the country extolling the virtues of single payer

Nobody in this thread has made this argument, or one that resembles it. To the extent that it's been mentioned, it's been specifically to disclaim holding this position.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:16 AM
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Christ, Halford, that was your example of the failures and dangers of leadership. I'm the one who claims the effects are hard to measure, and you're mistaking a lack of measurable effect for natural law.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:21 AM
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Wait, so now you're agreeing that presidential rhetoric has no measurable effect, whether in the short or long terms, and you're conceding (as I think you must) that a President taking unpopular positions is at least somewhat harmful both electorally and in terms of political capital, yet you want Presidents to engage in bully-pulpit rhetoric on issues you care about because ....?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:28 AM
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No. It rarely has a measurable effect, and whether that effect is positive or negative is situationally dependent. Presidents can get people excited about issues and get them involved in politics, and, occasionally, they are given situations when they can make significant changes. If they listen to people like you, they will be too risk adverse.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:40 AM
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Can you give an example of these "significant changes" actually happening at any time after 1920? And I mean by the use of Presidential rhetoric, which is what we're talking about.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:44 AM
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And would you care to respond to 185 with something other than derision? Truman called for universal health care, met massive institutional resistance, and settled for incremental reform. Maybe that helped set the stage for later legislation, maybe it didn't (it's hard to measure), but that's precisely the strategy I would've liked to have seen from Obama, and it worked.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:45 AM
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I presume they'd have gotten a conviction 2 years ago, and none of the stuff that made people jittery would have happened. Instead, we're still dicking around with commissions, and what was the takeaway from last week's commission hearings? KSM gets to wear a camo vest from Sears, and sales of this particular product went down when KSM endorsed it.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:46 AM
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Honestly, I don't Mean to be rude, but I don't see why an argument of the kind "Harry Truman's failure to enact national health care while giving nice speeches about it was a good thing for progressives" deserves anything but derision. maybe someone can take up the mantle.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 10:56 AM
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Can you give an example of these "significant changes" actually happening at any time after 1920? And I mean by the use of Presidential rhetoric, which is what we're talking about.
Tell you what. Why don't you come up with another counterexample and I'll see if I can turn that one around too.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:14 AM
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Ooooh, that's awesomely persuasive. I mean, you're the one making the evidence-free and strategically nonsensical claim. So we've got you're incredibly great Harry Truman health care example and that's it.

Did you know that National Health Insurance was probably more universally popular in the United States in 1948 than at any time since? I am guessing you did not.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:18 AM
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Halford, if all you're saying is that it is hard to shape public opinion and efforts to do so sometimes fail and can even backfire in a situation of partisan polarization, then no one would quarrel with you. There is a real valid debate on how voters views are shaped by their own substantive experiences and interpretations vs. how they are shaping by mass media communications. But if you're claiming that Presidents don't have any important role in shaping public opinion than your assertion is just ludicrous. The threshold question you have to answer is why people spend tens of billions of dollars seeking to influence public opinion through the media if the individual with the most free media access in the world can't impact public attitudes at all.

On most issues, the public doesn't know what it thinks and doesn't know what it wants. Framing effects are incredibly important, and the President has a huge number of avenues to create such effects. You keep asking for academic studies to 'prove' this obvious connection, as though the simplistic regression analyses of President speaks -- opinion polls that you are citing prove anything. But in any case, here is a good article on the way Bush's framing of Iraq as a terrorist state post-9/11 impacted support for the Iraq war.

Some interesting work on this includes John Zaller, "The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion" (a classic) and his piece on Monica Lewinsky where he complicates the picture somewhat.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:22 AM
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Or, based on a little bit of googling I haven't had time to check thoroughly, support for universal National Health Insurance, such as extending social security to doctors bills, was at around 60% before Truman started campaigning on it. By 1950-51, it had flipped and the popular mood was about 60% in the other direction, and the Democratic party has been unable to establish NHI since. The long-term legacy of that bully pulpit is so, so awesome.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:23 AM
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It's fascinating what a a dedicated AMA and anti-Communist propoganda program can achieve.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:32 AM
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The threshold question you have to answer is why people spend tens of billions of dollars seeking to influence public opinion through the media if the individual with the most free media access in the world can't impact public attitudes at all.

I never said "at all" but if you don't understand the difference between commercial advertising (or even political issue advertising, which btw isn't very effective) and what a President does through speeches and press appearances, you really shouldn't be having this conversation.

The article you link to claims that GWB was able to support the second Iraq war by falsely implying a link between Al Quaeda and Iraq. As the opinion polling I linked to above indicated, support for military confrontation with Iraq was already extremely high after 9/11, likely because the public already had that (false) belief. Moreover, the Bush Administration's actions on that issue were basically like the Gulf of Tonkin -- they promoted a fraudulent inference of fact based on government intelligence. That's so obviously different than using the "bully pulpit" to use argument to persuade the public on a fundamentally unpopular position that I don't even know where to begin. Maybe an analogy would help. I'm a lawyer. If the jury initially hates my client, and I make a really really excellent closing argument that persuades them, I've used rhetoric to turn them around. If, instead, I forge evidence and produce a false document that persuades the jury, I haven't been using rhetoric and argument, I've been making up the facts. I mean, I agree with you that if the Bush Administration had released a fake video of Sadaam and Osama Bin Laden in bed together talking about blowing up the towers and their plan to nuke Cleveland, that would have moved public opinion, but that's not really at all what I'm talking about.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:33 AM
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I like Zaller a lot, by the way, but most of what he says (at least recently) is entirely consistent with rejecting the bully pulpit argument. The most-informed voters, i.e. the ones most likely to listen to the rhetoric in Presidential speeches, are also the most partisan and the ones least likely to change their minds based upon new facts.

Low information voters are more persuadable, but change their mind based largely on the state of the economy, and occasionally on the basis of hard-to-predict media scandals and the like.

In either case, what Zaller is broadly consistent with those empirical studies that have found no measurable effect from the bully pulpit.

More here:

http://frank.mtsu.edu/~seig/paper_j_zaller.html


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:45 AM
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Now our examples have to be truthful?
I'd love to give an example of a Democrat arguing forcefully for liberal policy but recent examples are in short supply, for some reason.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:48 AM
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Can you come up with a significant conservative example of effective use of the bully pulpit? Maybe something from Reagan or the great GWB? I'm guessing no.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:52 AM
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One where they're not lying? No.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:57 AM
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191

Can you give an example of these "significant changes" actually happening at any time after 1920? And I mean by the use of Presidential rhetoric, which is what we're talking about.

Richard Nixon and the opening towards China.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 11:58 AM
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The secret trip to China was an example of bully pulpit rhetoric? What?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:00 PM
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promoted a fraudulent inference of fact based on government intelligence. That's so obviously different than using the "bully pulpit" to use argument to persuade the public on a fundamentally unpopular position that I don't even know where to begin.

It's not obviously different, it's the same damn thing. Encouraging poor inferences of fact is a central advocacy and propaganda technique. One can easily do this without an outright lie -- propagandists select out the facts that help their case and present those. It was in fact true that Saddam was a dictator who had at various times possessed chemical weapons and actively sought nuclear weapons. The Bush campaign was based on promoting that along with some ambivalent satellite photos and a confession from a suspected terrorist (later proved false, but they didn't necessarily know that) and simply not presenting any of the voluminous evidence that Saddam had no connection with 9/11. They never did claim that Saddam was behind 9/11. Similarly, the Gulf of Tonkin was not an outright lie but a misinterpretation of an incident that actually happened -- Northern Vietnamese did fire on a U.S. vessel.

You don't get to redefine huge swathes of communication as not actually communication in order to support your nutty theory that communication doesn't matter.

Re public opinion and Iraq, the leadup to the Iraq war is a good example of why you can't simply equate polling with public opinion. There was both public support for war as a last resort and also support for negotiations and UN inspections. Furthermore, there were several polls that specifically showed that large proportions of the population claimed that their support for the war had been increased specifically by Bush's/Powell's speeches, they had changed their mind on the war due to these speeches, etc.

Also, the paid influence industry is hardly limited to commercial TV advertising, nor is an Administration's communications strategy limited to Presidential speeches (as I said several times above).

As I also said above, there is no quarrel that influencing public opinion is difficult, a long term effort, can backfire if done badly, etc.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:02 PM
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The most-informed voters, i.e. the ones most likely to listen to the rhetoric in Presidential speeches, are also the most partisan and the ones least likely to change their minds based upon new facts.

Zaller says that the most informed voters are likely to reject new information that conflicts with what they knew before, not that they are least likely to change their minds. There's a very important difference. You aren't going to persuade a liberal to become a conservative or vice versa, but you can persuade a liberal that this is an issue that somehow relates to equality or liberty. Also, Zaller's main point was a relatively technical about the internal process through which a poll gets answered.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:04 PM
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I mean, it's remarkable that we're 206 comments in and the only examples that have been cited are Gulf War II, where the opinion polling shows a precipitous decline in support for war once GWB began speechifying for it, gay marriage (where public opinion was basically unchanged before and after Obama's speech), and Nixon's opening to China, which isn't a use of the bully pulpit at all.

I will agree that in general the agenda setting ability of the President is much greater in foreign policy than in domestic affairs. If the President started talking about Honduras a lot, all of a sudden everyone would be talking about Honduras. But exactly to what effect is pretty uncertain.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:04 PM
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Maybe an analogy would help. I'm a lawyer.

No, it really wouldn't. In a court, there is a whole set of rules designed to limit the discussion in ways that might let you separate the rhetorical part from the rest of it. These conditions are in no way related to politics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:06 PM
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conservative example of effective use of the bully pulpit?

It often happens that a president will speak about something the electorate hadn't thought about much. No way to measure the effect, because there was no opinion before the crisis or announcement.

Examples might be the lack of prior opinion about a passel of lies tying Iraq to 9/11, a lack of prior opinion about how well air traffic controllers were being treated, a lack of opinion over whether Oliver North was a patriot.

The cites to books look intersesting, worth reading, I haven't yet. If these cases are covered, I'd be interested to know how.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:09 PM
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Furthermore, there were several polls that specifically showed that large proportions of the population claimed that their support for the war had been increased specifically by Bush's/Powell's speeches, they had changed their mind on the war due to these speeches, etc.

O RLY. Please to look at the polling evidence linked above in 129 (which is an aggregate). Support for war with Iraq was highest immediately after 9/11 and before Bush started arguing about it, not afterwards.

So if your argument is now that the bully pulpit matters, but only when Presidents provide false information about people who attack the United States (which isn't really Presidential rhetoric, but whatever), I guess I'll agree with you. But that's a really lame point.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:09 PM
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209: Now we're back to the national parks attendance again. For example, public opinion really did change after Obama came out for gay marriage.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:12 PM
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203: If we're going to reject Iraq and similar cases because users of the bully pulpit can never lie, then I'd go with the whole suite of civil liberties changes under Bush.

His administration's most stunning success was in the open advocacy of torture as a tool of American policy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:13 PM
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213 -- No, it didn't.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:15 PM
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Note that the polling I linked to comes after that to which you linked, and more clearly demonstrates the lack of effect.

You can see more on SSM and that Washington Post poll here.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:17 PM
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215: That provides no information out the earlier poll on the baseline. They just stuck in one poll and don't say how they selected it. It's meaningless.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:20 PM
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users of the bully pulpit can never lie

Not what I'm saying. The Gulf of Tonkin and Al Quaeda-Iraq examples are different because they are factual premises about classified intelligence held by the US that were false. I'll agree that those kinds of things can move opinion. If Obama revealed secret Iranian plans to blow up New York, my views about attacking Iran would change, even if the plans later turned out to be false. That's pretty different than the usual bully pulpit argument, though I'll grant that in areas of foreign policy specifically the President's position usually gets more respect, particularly in little-known areas.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:21 PM
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Dude you are taking the headiline of that Post story, but if you look at the trendline the Post poll shows no effect whatsoever on opinions on gay marriage from the Obama announcement, which was then confirmed by the poll I linked to in 215.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:23 PM
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219 to 217.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:24 PM
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216: If you really want a permanent change in opinion that shows up in every subsequent poll, you have too high of standards.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:24 PM
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Support for war with Iraq was highest immediately after 9/11 and before Bush started arguing about it, not afterwards.

So that really is your argument? That Bush's exhortations had the effect of turning people against the war?

You're demanding that we view the president as the sole user of the bully pulpit, and insisting that he have no opposition from other forces. That's pure straw. In actual fact, opposition to a war with Iraq became much more focused once that war began to seem more and more like it was actually going to happen.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:26 PM
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219: That's not a trendline. That's a list.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:26 PM
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Right, but the trend information that shows up in the exact poll you cited shows . . . no significant change. Obama announced his position on May 9, 2012. The same poll you linked to showed that 53% supported gay marriage after Obama's interview in May 2012; 52% in March; 51% in July 2011; 53% in March 2011. No evidence whatsoever of a change. And no evidence whatsoever of a change in the other poll I linked. Do you have any other evidence of a change in attitudes towards gay marriage produced by Obama's announcement.

*Note also that these numbers are pretty high! We got to over 50% support without any use of the bully pulpit at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:28 PM
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opposition to a war with Iraq became much more focused once that war began to seem more and more like it was actually going to happen.

This, I agree with, but think about the implications for other uses of the bully pulpit. When else might opposition become more focused?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:29 PM
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Wait, what is the actual argument? I'm behind on this thread.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:29 PM
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||

Oh, the humanity!

Romney campaign ad blimp makes crash landing.

|>


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:32 PM
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226: Halford is irked and trolling.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:33 PM
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224: Quote from the article I linked to:

"The poll also finds that 59 percent of African Americans say they support same-sex marriage, up from an average of 41 percent in polls leading up to Obama's announcement of his new position on the matter. Though statistically significant, it is a tentative result because of the relatively small sample of black voters in the poll."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:34 PM
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This, I agree with, but think about the implications for other uses of the bully pulpit.

So have we established this one? Have we established that the runup to the Iraq War was an effective use of the bully pulpit? Can we move on to whether this example is somehow generalizable?

Or are you going to come back yet again and say that the graph in 129 shows the inefficacy of the bully pulpit.

Anyway, if we're moving on, I'd propose 214 as the next example. Then we can go from there.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:36 PM
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Here's some more evidence on the gay marriage announcement. Which I think is also a useful lesson on how social change actually happens, and how Presidents respond to changes in opinion.

I should add, though, that I do think that it's plausible that Obama's announcement changed the gay marriage calculus amongst blacks, and possibly latinos, though I don't know of evidence for it. I'd say that's a relatively unique set of circumstances, though, and I'd be surprised if there's evidence that the effect of the announcement was significant on public opinion as a whole.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:36 PM
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No, the buildup to the Iraq War II in no way whatsoever shows the effectiveness of the "bully pulpit." The actual opinion surveys demonstrate the opposite (that is, public support for the war went down when Bush started his public relations campaign), even in a fairly extreme case -- whipping up the US public into war based on false intelligence after a time of severe crisis, and even where the majority of Americans supported Bush's position before he began giving speeches. Are you deliberately misunderstanding me?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:38 PM
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To 214, there are two problems. First, do you have before-and-after Bush surveys of American opinions on torturing alleged terrorists? I don't, but I can guess they'd be depressing reading. Second, except for some speeches by Cheney, the torture program wasn't an example of bully-pulpit style advocacy by the Bush Administration.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:40 PM
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232: Most sources reported that support went up among Republicans.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:45 PM
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234 -- Yes, there's some evidence for that -- but that's not the same thing as being able to move public opinion, given the move by members of the other party in the opposite direction. Again, the bully pulpit argument fails.

To 214, I looked at the public opinion surveys on torture and found this, which is interesting and depressing reading. Public support for torture didn't go up after 9/11 and stayed at about 55% opposed through almost all of the Bush Administration. It only started to rise at the end of the Bush Administration, and crossed into positive territory at the start of the Obama Administration. The author's theory is that it wasn't until around the 2008 elections that torture became a partisan symbol, but now it increasingly is, and that has increased public support for torture.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:51 PM
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Are you deliberately misunderstanding me?

I don't think so. I just refused to believe that you were trying to argue that Bush's efforts to persuade people to fight a war in Iraq were counterproductive. You really think he lowered the support for war? Seriously?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:52 PM
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235: If you make an very detailed specification, you can disprove whatever you want. Those are both examples of moving public opinion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:55 PM
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236 --

I don't think that Bush could have persuaded the public to fight a war in Iraq that it wasn't already inclined to support, and I do think that his campaign towards war caused a decline in support amongst Democrats and some independents, leading to less overall support for the war when it began than in late 2011. That's what the data shows, and it shows that very clearly. It may be that his speeches were necessary for other reasons, such as to bring along Congress, so that in that sense they weren't "counterproductive" but Bush didn't persuade a reluctant nation to go to war with Iraq through the power of his words, at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 12:56 PM
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237 -- I'm just looking at what the data show, which is consistent with what people have found who have looked at this more broadly. Here's what Pew found about Obama's endorsement of gay marriage:

While President Obama's endorsement of gay marriage earlier this year drew significant news coverage and public interest, its effect on public opinion has been limited. Two consecutive national surveys conducted since May 9, when Obama made his announcement, show 48% in favor of allowing gay marriage and 44% opposed. This is virtually unchanged from a survey conducted in April, before the president's statement.

But Obama's announcement may have rallied the Democratic base - particularly liberal Democrats - to the issue. Democrats supported gay marriage by a 59% to 31% margin in April - that stands at 65% to 29% today. Most of this shift has come among liberal Democrats, 83% of whom now support gay marriage, up from 73% earlier this year.

So you can build support amongst your partisans, without actually bringing the public around on an issue, just as I said above. Obama's endorsement of gay marriage did not actually shift public opinion more broadly in favor of gay marriage. That work had been done long before him.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:00 PM
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238: That's what the data shows, and it shows that very clearly.

Okay, that really is what you're saying. I've got nothing to add to my previous objections.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:00 PM
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206

The secret trip to China was an example of bully pulpit rhetoric? What?

There were Nixon speeches also.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:01 PM
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And your previous objections are based on . . . nothing? I mean, support for war among Democrats and Independents did trend downwards between late 2001 and when we went to war in 2002. That's just a fact.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:02 PM
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236: I would support that hypothesis. Look at all the dependably liberal people who got all jingoistic in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 -- the Dan Savages and that sort. By the time 2003 rolled around, many of them had woken up to the fact that Bush & Cheney were pushing for war, and were more evil than previously suspected. Also, of course, people just weren't as outraged about the attacks by then, but I think the association of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Axis of Evil with support for the war definitely hurt that support.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:06 PM
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You really think he lowered the support for war? Seriously?

There's a difference between bringing some action about and increasing public support for it.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:11 PM
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It might be more correct to say that he stopped/slowed the already precipitous decline in support from 9/11 through the fall 2002 new product rollout.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:23 PM
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235

To 214, I looked at the public opinion surveys on torture and found this, which is interesting and depressing reading. Public support for torture didn't go up after 9/11 and stayed at about 55% opposed through almost all of the Bush Administration. It only started to rise at the end of the Bush Administration, and crossed into positive territory at the start of the Obama Administration. The author's theory is that it wasn't until around the 2008 elections that torture became a partisan symbol, but now it increasingly is, and that has increased public support for torture.

I think this is backwards, it ceased being a partisan issue when a Democrat was elected and adopted many of Bush's policies.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:30 PM
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This is a difficult example to use (I don't mean that I have a better one offhand), because you have to calculate the effect of presidential rhetoric on public opinion as against what public opinion would have been without it. And I'd expect public opinion in favor of a war with Iraq would have been very high after 9/11 purely due to low-information respondents who thought of the Middle East as a single unit that had attacked us, and who were prompted by the fact of the poll question to call the-thing-that-attacked-us "Iraq". And that it would have trailed off as information about the lack of connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks filtered into people's minds.

So saying that the support for war on Iraq was at its highest immediately after 9/11 isn't enough to demonstrate that presidential rhetoric in its favor didn't raise the amount of support from a baseline of what support would have been without the rhetoric.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:31 PM
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245 might be right were it not inconsistent with all the other evidence about the effects of the bully pulpit. In any event, there's little evidence that Bush's speeches helped persuade Democrats and independents of the case for war, unless you have some evidence that I'm not aware of.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:32 PM
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Wait a minute. Halford is trolling? Isn't anyone here a real sheep?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:33 PM
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Dammit, 247 is entirely pwned by 245.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:34 PM
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248 to 247, as well. Though my reading of the graph in 129 is that there's not a huge dropoff in Dem support between 11/01 and 9/02 (when the "rollout" started) which is what you'd expect if Bush was just pushing back against a steadily declining baseline. Rather, Dem and Ind support starts to fall off a cliff after 9/02. But I have a hard time reading small graphs.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:35 PM
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Well, I thought I was done, but Minivet and Natilo persuade me that I haven't made my point.

Support for war in Iraq was high when war wasn't imminent - when Americans were at a hate-fever pitch, and could imagine that we'd win without expending much effort, and that we'd have broad international support, etc.

As war became imminent, and as the immediate fever lessened, support for war naturally fell. The poll questions may be the same in November 2001 and March 2003, but they are polling different issues.

Do you favor war in Iraq? In November 2001, that question was highly hypothetical, and didn't delve into the necessary complications that would arise. It was like "Do you favor reducing the deficit?"

In March 2003, with peoples' minds somewhat more focused, that question had gradually taken on a new meaning: Do you favor this war, now? The fact that the American people were willing to pull the trigger (so to speak) strikes me as being obviously a result of the propaganda campaign to which they were subject.

But given the fact that the polls aren't geared to detect this sort of difference, I can only offer you our shared experience as evidence. If you think Bush would have done better by remaining silent - that he lied for no reason and to no effect - then we can agree to disagree.

If Obama gets something passed along the lines of Bowles-Simpson, Halford will be able to say that yes, of course, deficit reduction has always polled well. But getting from solid polls on that question to actual action isn't a gimme, and we wouldn't be on the brink of Bowles-Simpson (or something worse) without Obama's advocacy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:38 PM
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250: Yeah, I just need to outsource the rest of this thread to Charley, PGD and Eggplant, who are doing fine without me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:40 PM
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252 -- I didn't say he "lied for no reason and no effect." There are other constituencies for Presidential rhetoric beyond moving public opinion in the United States -- Congress, for example, or partisan Republicans, or, in 2002, international audiences.

But the rest of your argument is completely unfalsifiable. You just assume that (a) there would have necessarily been a huge dropoff in support for war, and (b) that Bush stemmed through his rhetoric, but offer no support whatsoever for justifying that assumption, other than simply stating that it is so.

A much more plausible story is that support for war in Iraq was initially high (in part probably because of Iraq/Al Quaeda confusion), and that Bush's advocacy on the issue caused support to increase or remain steady amongst his partisans, and decline substantially among Democrats (the group most inclined to notice the confusion), thus lowering overall public support. Nonetheless, support was still broad enough to convince many Democratic politicians to support going to war, along with Republicans. In short, Bush was able to go to war with broad-based support (obviously) but that this had almost nothing to do with his use of bully pulpit rhetoric to persuade members of the public who otherwise would have been opposed to a war to instead favor war.

I think that's a more plausible narrative, and one more closely supported by the evidence we have. It also accords with my memory, but that's neither here nor there.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 1:47 PM
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193

I presume they'd have gotten a conviction 2 years ago, and none of the stuff that made people jittery would have happened. Instead, we're still dicking around with commissions, and what was the takeaway from last week's commission hearings? KSM gets to wear a camo vest from Sears, and sales of this particular product went down when KSM endorsed it.

So you think KSM would have been tried and convicted in less than a year? The Fort Hood shooting occurred about when the KSM trial announcement was made and as far as I can tell the shooter is still nowhere near being tried so this seems unrealisitic.

And I expect at a minimum the trial (and resulting security measures) would have caused massive disruption in NYC.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:00 PM
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252: In March 2003, with peoples' minds somewhat more focused, that question had gradually taken on a new meaning: Do you favor this war, now? The fact that the American people were willing to pull the trigger (so to speak) strikes me as being obviously a result of the propaganda campaign to which they were subject.

This whole line of argument is hella sketch from an Occam's Razor point of view. Why is this more plausible than thinking that hatred for George W. Bush among liberals, moderates and fellow travelers tended to increase significantly over that 18 month period, causing a number of people to go from lukewarm support for war in Iraq to staunch opposition? That's certainly what it seemed like to me at the time.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:01 PM
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But the rest of your argument is completely unfalsifiable.

Not so. It's merely unfalsifiable using poll data. Had the polls been geared to ask the actual question in November 2001: Would you favor a huge military commitment to Iraq in the absence of meaningful international support and to the neglect of Afghanistan (etc., etc.), then those November 2001 polls would have offered evidence that maybe we could cite.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:02 PM
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181

I do disagree with the idea that it's likely that Obama could achieve a major public opinion change on immigration issues by giving a lot of pro-immigration reform speeches.

But you do agree that he could move public opinion in a conservative direction? And that more generally a President can move opinion within his party towards a position held by the other party?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:05 PM
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256: I guess Occam is a matter of judgment. I always thought liberals tended to be anti-use-less-war, and that a deviation from that stance is what needs to be explained. Your mileage obviously varies.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:05 PM
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256.2 -- yeah, me too. I'm a fairly partisan Dem voter. If, in November 2001, George W. Bush and Tom Daschle had held a joint press conference and had explained why we had to go to war in Iraq, particularly if there were hints of Al Quaeda-Iraq cooperation, I might have been inclined believed them, at least if the reasons were not insane.

As 2002-2003 progressed, and Bush spoke more and more, and opposition to Bush grew, I became increasingly convinced that I was being lied to and that the Bush administration were horrible people, and opposed the war before it started, largely out of a belief that the Bush people absolutely couldn't be trusted and that there was no "secret" reason why the war might make sense that I might not have grasped. A large part of the reason I opposed the war is that Bush supported it.

I mean, I'm not trying to make my anecdote stand in for history, but a bunch of Democrats, but not quite enough, having roughly my reaction over 2001-2002 is pretty consistent with the polling data.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:09 PM
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This is probably the stupidest argument I have read on unfogged. Presidents sway public opinion by giving speeches and doing other stuff. But their sway on public opinion is not infinite. So the fact that the public supports something isn't enough by itself to say whether the president has swayed them to do so or not.

But guess what! Swaying the public isn't done in secret! We don't have to guess whether a president, past or future, has tried to sway the public one way or another; we can actually find out by reading things they wrote and said.

At this point it seems like you guys are just doing public theater or something.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:13 PM
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The problem isn't guessing whether a president has tried to sway public opinion, text -- you're right that that bit is generally pretty obvious. The problem is figuring out whether it works.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:15 PM
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we can actually find out by reading things they wrote and said

So you think that by reading political speeches we can reach conclusions about the effects of those speeches on public opinion?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:15 PM
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Is anyone here to argue that presidential speeches have no effect on public opinion?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:16 PM
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I think that's Halford's take, yes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:17 PM
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I wouldn't say no effect. I'd say that, in general, the effect is to heighten partisan divides over issues without measurably moving overall public opinion.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:17 PM
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Can we just stipulate that if a president makes speech X supporting an issue, and that issue comes to fruition, that we can hold him responsible for it? And if a president makes speech Y, not supporting that issue, then we can't blame him? Then we can move on to insulting each other's genitals.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:18 PM
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Robert Halford, you don't think that FDR's speeches had anything to do with public support of the New Deal? What's wrong with you?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:19 PM
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Just admit that you're wrong so I can make fun of your penis or something.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:20 PM
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And that there can be effects derived from introducing topics into the public discourse. For instance, if the President started talking about Honduras all the time, high-information voters would be talking about Honduras. It's just that Democrats would likely be into whatever Obama wanted to do in Honduras, and Republicans opposed. This particular effect may still be more muted in foreign policy, where there's still sometimes a remnant of the old "politics stops at the water's edge" thing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:21 PM
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Okay, counterfactuals always unknowable, got it.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:22 PM
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261: At this point it seems like you guys are just doing public theater or something.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:22 PM
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269: I think if there's anything Unfogged stands for, it's that while we may not agree on all possible political issues, we can overcome our differences and agree to mock each other's junk. Needledick.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:23 PM
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It would make more sense to argue whether or not causation exists at all. Go bring out some hoary arguments against causation and we'll have a proper debate on it while making fun of genitalia. But if you stipulate that causation exists, and you want to argue that public speeches by presidents don't effect public opinion, I'm going to just skip straight to the small penis jokes.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:23 PM
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I'll have you know my penis is thicker than a needle!


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:24 PM
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off to swim again, sorry.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:25 PM
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FDR's speeches had anything to do with public support of the New Deal

Not much for public opinion on any specific New Deal program, no, though they were great public relations campaigns that got people to like Roosevelt generally, and were therefore useful to him (and the most popular lines were generalities like "The only thing we have to fear.").

When FDR tried to use the Fireside Chats, which had been deliberately non-pointed and basically banal, to specifically try to move the public in favor of his Court packing scheme, he failed spectacularly. The FDR speeches weren't effective at persuading people of the merits of New Deal policies, and FDR mostly struck out spectacularly when he tried to use his super-powers of persuasion to go around Congress on specific issues. Though I do think (as with Reagan and Clinton) his speeches were effective at getting people, particularly partisans, to like and admire him.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:29 PM
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I think the concern about disruption was totally overblown for partisan reasons, and should have been faced down. People who whine should be asked if they prefer release of the 9/11 murderers. No? Try them where they killed people. And if they want to make a speech about how proud they are of what they have done, let them make it to a jury of New Yorkers.

Allocution doesn't take awfully long. Instead, what we've had for years and years now are the fits and starts while they try to get a new court system up and running, with theater like whether KSM can wear a military uniform.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:30 PM
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And I should also say that I think that FDR's speeches (like those of other Presidents) may have been useful in helping turn ideas that were already popular into legislation.

But that's different than using the bully pulpit to move public opinion.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:32 PM
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278: This.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:34 PM
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I will say that Halford's opponent here isn't any of us, but the BushII/Romney/Village theory of presidential leadership, where millions upon millions of people are just waiting for the word, to do or not do whatever it is that the leader has articulated. And BRA are really in love with this idea.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:36 PM
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I haven't been following the Ft Hood shooter, but is he also going to military court?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:37 PM
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Who's BRA?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:40 PM
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Yes. Military Justice. And, obviously, not preceded by years of investigation (both before and after KSM's 2003 arrest).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:42 PM
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Typo: BRV.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 2:42 PM
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Boise River Valley?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:18 PM
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Bacon, radish & voatsiperifery.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:25 PM
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Possible route to comity on the most ridiculous argument text has every seen on this site: I do think a theory of political change that runs someone (President) makes a speech >> public changes their mind >> public convinces political system to act is highly unrealistic. There is no direct relationship between public opinion and political action, the views of the public are only one element and successful action need not be strongly supported by a majority. What is important is that politicians perceive legitimacy for their actions -- that they have cover in presenting their policies as legitimate political choices that are within some kind of consensus. You can do this even if the majority disagrees with you if you have built up legitimacy over time and properly worked the propaganda / noise machine. E.g. the majority of the public has consistently opposed tax cuts for the rich for decades but the massive Bush tax cuts for the rich were certainly perceived as legitimate. I think it would be foolish to overlook the role of Reagan and the Republican ideologues of the 1980s in laying the groundwork for that.

I think no single actor is more effective than the President in creating the kind of air cover/perceived legitimacy that I'm talking about, or in pushing previously fringe ideas into the mainstream. To me one measure of a president is how he changes the national dialogue about what is legitimate and what is not.

But again the relationship between measured public opinion and this kind of legitimacy is indirect. It helps to realize that we do not in fact live in a democracy...particularly not a direct democracy.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:26 PM
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278

I think the concern about disruption was totally overblown for partisan reasons, and should have been faced down. ...

The opposition was bi-partisan and included prominent New York Democrats like Charles Schumer. See here

Critics in Congress of the efforts to try alleged co-conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal courts in New York City, including prominent New York Democrats, weren't so reticent and quickly declared victory on the divisive issue. After Holder announced his intention to try KSM in New York, Congress erupted with opponents of the plans arguing that New York would give KSM a platform to spew anti-American rhetoric and make the city a target for more terrorist attacks.

"This means with certainty that the trial will not be in New York. While not unexpected, this is the final nail in the coffin of that wrong-headed idea," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. "I have always said that the perpetrators of this horrible crime should get the ultimate penalty, and I believe this proposal by the administration can make that happen

Obama wasn't going to win this.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:26 PM
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288 is not to say I believe in a simple heroic president-led model of change, just that a president has a ton of resources that he can devote to pushing a movement along. A lot of the details of what Halford is saying re the difficulty of ascribing social change solely to a President and the ways that presidential action can backfire are sensible enough.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:29 PM
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284

Yes. Military Justice. And, obviously, not preceded by years of investigation (both before and after KSM's 2003 arrest).

The first thing new defense counsel is going to do is ask for an indefinite delay while they investigate this very complicated case themselves. Then they will ask for $100 million or so to pay for all their own experts. And they will subpoena all the documents that they can think of which have any connection at all to the case, the more sensitive or classified the better. And they will make every complaint about the conditions under which KSM is being held that they can think of. And you think the whole thing would have been wrapped up inside of a year. No way.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:37 PM
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But MAJ Hassan is getting a trial in the standard, long-established, military court system. Not in the new-fangled military commission system. Some of the players may come from the same sources (e.g., JAGs), but the systems are different enough. Hassan's pretrial maneuvers are almost done.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:39 PM
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Hassan s/b Hasan


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:41 PM
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may have been useful in helping turn ideas that were already popular into legislation.
But that's different than using the bully pulpit to move public opinion.

I don't understand this distinction at all, sorry. If a president's speech emboldens legislators to write bills, that's because the president has swayed the public and the legislators are responding to that sway, right?

I don't mean to be overly abusive, I'm just having trouble understanding your argument, even though you have been making it at length.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:44 PM
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I do think a theory of political change that runs someone (President) makes a speech >> public changes their mind >> public convinces political system to act is highly unrealistic. There is no direct relationship between public opinion and political action, the views of the public are only one element and successful action need not be strongly supported by a majority. What is important is that politicians perceive legitimacy for their actions -- that they have cover in presenting their policies as legitimate political choices that are within some kind of consensus. You can do this even if the majority disagrees with you if you have built up legitimacy over time and properly worked the propaganda / noise machine. E.g. the majority of the public has consistently opposed tax cuts for the rich for decades but the massive Bush tax cuts for the rich were certainly perceived as legitimate. I think it would be foolish to overlook the role of Reagan and the Republican ideologues of the 1980s in laying the groundwork for that.

I agree with all of that. I really do! It's different than the proposition that I'm arguing against, which is saying that the President can, in general, effectively use speeches and other kinds of direct appeals to move overall public opinion in the President's favor on specific issues, whether in the short, the medium (8-10 year), or the longer term.

On "legitimacy," I dunno, it's complicated. Bill Clinton proposed a BTU tax, which these days (tragically) would not be a "legitimate" opinion, and the fact that he proposed it and lost did not make it more legitimate. Ditto health care reform, on his model. It's hard to think of examples of Presidential rhetoric legitimizing "fringe" positions, since Presidents are usually fairly mainstream. Perhaps you can think of an example. Torture came to mind, but as the thing I linked to above indicated, about 45% of the public supported torturing terrorists in some circumstances before the Bush Administration's rhetoric on the issue, so it was hardly a fringe position, and I don't think Bush's speeches on the issue moved public opinion much, though tragically Obama's anti-torture speeches may have helped to build partisan pro-torture sentiment.

I tend to think political legitimacy gets built like most things in political life, over time and from the ground up, and that Presidential rhetoric mostly matters for the implementation phase (taking a movement and helping it enact laws) and, to a lesser extent, coronating already-mainstream ideas as "official."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:47 PM
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There is no direct relationship between public opinion and political action, the views of the public are only one element and successful action need not be strongly supported by a majority.

This is a far cry from where we started, no? I don't think anyone here would argue that there was a direct relationship between a speech and a bill being passed. There is however a strong indirect link between public lobbying and legislative action. And the president certainly participates in that public debate. Are you conceding that now?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:49 PM
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If a president's speech emboldens legislators to write bills, that's because the president has swayed the public and the legislators are responding to that sway,

No. There is a big difference between "the public supports x" and "we are implementing the coalition to enact x into law." Speeches can be useful for the second point, because they set the tone and agenda for the legislative enactment, not because they are moving overall public opinion in the President's favor.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:50 PM
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Oh sorry, I quoted the wrong debater in that one.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:50 PM
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So you think that coalitions form between the president and legislators because the legislators just like what the president says, and aren't thinking about reelection?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:52 PM
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There is however a strong indirect link between public lobbying and legislative action. And the president certainly participates in that public debate.

Yes, but the way in which that works is not that Presidential rhetoric moves the general public to positions they didn't hold previously. The President 's participation in legislative action works best when he picks an idea that's already popular, and helps to get that on the legislative agenda.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:52 PM
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So you think that coalitions form between the president and legislators because the legislators just like what the president says, and aren't thinking about reelection?

No.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:53 PM
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I'm having trouble understanding how your response in 297 actually relates to what I wrote. I never said that "the public supports x" is equal to "a coalition will enact x into law." I do notice a lot of straw lying around though.

Maybe you want to try that one again?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:53 PM
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So you think that coalitions form between the president and legislators because the legislators just like what the president says, and aren't thinking about reelection?
No.

Good! Now when the president makes a speech, and a coalition is formed because of that speech, do you think that legislators are reacting just to the merits of the speech, or to the public's reaction to the speech?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:55 PM
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You seem to want to argue that Presidential speeches move overall public opinion, such that it's a good investment of time for Presidents to go around making speeches on issues to sway public opinion in their favor on specific issues. I'm saying that, overall, this strategy is unlikely to work for a President -- that is, speeches and the like are unlikely to move overall public opinion. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

I do think there's a role for the Presidential speech in agenda setting. Presidents and Congresses want to do a lot of things, and they only have a little time. A speech can signal that it's time to get one thing done and not another, and that this is where the President will put his political capital. That's not unimportant. But if the thing the President wants done is unpopular, going around and giving speeches about it will not in general make it popular.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 3:59 PM
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303 -- Legislators are usually reacting to how popular or unpopular they think the proposal will be in their districts, whether they can get it passed, and what the merits of the proposal are.

A presidential speech can help indicate that this is an issue around which a coalition is forming. It can also signal that the issue under discussion is something the President's partisans are in favor of.

It can't (usually) do much one way or another to persuade legislators that something is or isn't popular generally, because Presidential speech-making doesn't usually move overall public opinion.

Are we done?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:02 PM
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Your thesis jumps around more than a flea, Robert Halford! No, we aren't done.

Are you arguing that presidents aren't capable of swaying public opinion? Or that public opinion isn't capable of swaying congress to pass a law? Both?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:04 PM
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If you're arguing that presidents aren't capable of swaying public opinion, I think the onus is on you to provide some data to back up that remarkable thesis. And not just a bunch of words that don't actually relate to what people are saying or what you're trying to prove.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:06 PM
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If you're arguing that congress couldn't be swayed by public opinion polls and, in reaction, pass a law, I'm just going to laugh in your face.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:06 PM
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I think these claims are way overblown, and the fact that a particular senator from New York was willing to pander to them doesn't say anything to me about their validity, or even viability if the president had insisted.

Predictions about the alternative mnon-coddling' path have been way overblown in the other direction. It would be interesting to know what John Walker Lindh thinks of Salim Hamdan's current living situation.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:07 PM
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Text, why don't you start reading here, follow the links, and then get back to me.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:07 PM
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And if you don't see how the two link up to create an indirect link between presidential speeches and law-making, I'm going to ask you to please try again.

And you have a small penis.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:07 PM
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The President 's participation in legislative action works best when he picks an idea that's already popular, and helps to get that on the legislative agenda.

even if that is true it doesn't explain much as there are numerous ideas that poll reasonably well and can't get political space, and even more that could become popular if they got more publicity.

the proposition that I'm arguing against, which is saying that the President can, in general, effectively use speeches and other kinds of direct appeals to move overall public opinion in the President's favor on specific issues, whether in the short, the medium (8-10 year), or the longer term.

I know I keep repeating that speeches are only one part of Presidential communication, but it's really true. Presidents control a huge apparatus, including the Administration as a whole with separate communications capacity in each agency, the White House communications shop, outside surrogates, they channel funding for thinktanks, they influence stories and coverage through granting or withholding access, etc. By their appointments they set up selected people on career tracks where they have independent influence. There's just a lot there. It really makes more sense to think in terms of influence than specific words and isolated speeches.

Bill Clinton proposed a BTU tax, which these days (tragically) would not be a "legitimate" opinion,

I think the carbon tax variant of a BTU tax, particularly a revenue neutral one, would have been legit if the left had not abandoned ship for carbon trading/permits. This is also caught up in the general issue of whether any taxes are seen as legit.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:08 PM
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And in a district court, I think KSM would have pled. Now he gets a worldwide presumption that he's facing kangaroo justice.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:08 PM
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By their appointments they set up selected people on career tracks where they have independent influence. There's just a lot there. It really makes more sense to think in terms of influence than specific words and isolated speeches.

Sure, exercising influence is important, including through career development. That's a big part of wielding real power. It's not the same thing as "making speeches" or "framing issues."

I agree that the agenda-setting thing is important. There are a limited number of bargains that can be struck between a President and Congress, and speeches can indicate (but aren't necessarily the most important aspect of) the terms of the negotiation.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:14 PM
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310: I scanned the post, I'm not going to follow all the links. The post itself admits that a presidential speech can sway public opinion. It just precedes that admission with the caveat that presidents usually don't make speeches to push issues that are already unpopular.

From your own link, Robert Halford, you're admitting that presidential speeches can affect public opinion. And good on you for that! Now what are your other problems with the causal chain set out above?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:20 PM
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Robert Halford, would you tell a president to stop making public speeches altogether and just meet with lawmakers in private? Do you think things would work better that way?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:22 PM
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Here's part of the thing I linked for Text, although unfortunately with the links removed, in case you're interested. Of course, it also demonstrates that text is an imbecilic half-wit who can't read.

Q: So, Obama's jobs speech was a barnburner. Surely this will pull Obama's approval ratings out of the doldrums, no?

A: Presidential speeches don't really move the president's job approval ratings. See political scientist George Edwards's book, On Deaf Ears, Table 2.2.

Q: Really?

A: Really.

Q: Okay, well, then surely the speech will make people support his jobs plan, right?
A: Really.

Q: Okay, well, then surely the speech will make people support his jobs plan, right?

A: Presidential speeches don't tend to persuade people on policy either. Take the "Great Communicator," Ronald Reagan. In The Strategic President, George Edwards shows that Reagan could not move opinion on signature issues like aid to the contras. And Reagan's advocacy for increased defense spending was soon followed by a decrease in support for additional defense spending. Public opinion on government spending often moves in the opposite direction as presidential preferences and government policy.

Q: So maybe one speech can't make a difference, but surely a sustained campaign can.

A: Chances are, it won't. Even Reagan realized this. In his own words:

Time and again, I would speak on television, to a joint session of Congress, or to other audiences about the problems in Central America, and I would hope that the outcome would be an outpouring of support from Americans... But the polls usually found that large numbers of Americans cared little or not at all about what happened in Central America...and, among those who did care, too few cared...to apply the kind of pressure I needed on Congress.
And you can also think about George W. Bush and the effort to reform Social Security. Lots of the examples in Edwards's book involve multiple speeches on the same topic.

Q: So forget public opinion then. What's really important is whether the speech helps get his policies passed. So do speeches influence Congress?

A. The short answer: presidents don't often succeed in persuading reluctant members of Congress to go along with their views. Take Lyndon Johnson, supposedly a master manipulator of Congress. Edwards shows that support in Congress for Johnson's initiatives was not systematically higher than Kennedy's or Carter's. For example, on crucial votes in the House, Johnson won the support of 68% of Democrats and 29% of Republicans. Kennedy did better among Democrats (74%) and worse among Republicans (17%). Carter did worse among Democrats (59%) but the same among Republicans (29%).

Q: So do presidential attempts at persuasion do anything?

A: What presidents can do, Edwards argues, is "facilitate" change in favorable environments.

Q: What does that mean?

A: Let's work though an example from a different book, Who Leads Whom, by the political scientist Brandice Canes-Wrone. But it's going to get a little complicated. Are you ready?

Q: Ready.

A: Canes-Wrone examined every nationally televised primetime presidential address between 1957 and 2000. She excluded State of the Union Addresses to focus only on speeches that were at each president's discretion. She noted every appeal related to domestic policy and then scoured polling archives to see what the public thought about the president's ideas. She found 99 cases where there was a relevant polling question about that policy.

Q: That sounds time-consuming.

A: No doubt it was. Here's what she found: On average, presidents made appeals about policies that were already popular. On average, 56 percent of the public supported the president's policy. Of course, presidents do at times advocate for policies that are less popular, but that's more the exception than the rule. So you can see how, as Edwards argues, presidents want to capitalize on a favorable environment.

Q: Great. Does this apply to Obama's jobs speech?

A: The polling data isn't ironclad. But there's some evidence that more people support what Obama is proposing to do than oppose it.

Q: So back to this study. Do these appeals actually get policies passed?

A: Canes-Wrone tries to answer that. She looks at budgetary data, where it's easy to determine what the president wanted--more spending, less spending, etc.--because presidents have to submit a budget. Then she looked at what they got from Congress. And she also knows from reading all the presidential speeches whether the president made a public appeal about a particular budget area. So now she can figure out whether a presidential budget appeal affected how closely Congress's budget bills corresponded to the president's budget proposal. There are 1,225 presidential proposals. Presidents made public appeals on 79 of them.

Q: But wait. Couldn't it work the other way around? Couldn't the president decide to make a public appeal about something that he knew Congress already agreed with?

A: Canes-Wrone takes account of that in her statistical model. I'll spare you those details. Here's the bottom line. A public appeal by a president is associated with an enacted appropriations that is 11-16 percentage points closer to the president's proposal, relative to appropriations that did not receive an appeal.

Q: So the speeches mattered!

A: Yes, they did. But one qualification: I've been discussing domestic budgetary items. When the president makes an appeal about foreign budgetary items, the effects are much more muted--about 2 percentage points.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:25 PM
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would you tell a president to stop making public speeches altogether and just meet with lawmakers in private? Do you think things would work better that way?

Probably not.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:26 PM
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A hypothetical!

52% of the population support passage of a law. They also tend to support the president. Opposition party, however, does not support the law. And opposition party controls congress by one or two seats.

President makes some speeches! Now, 64% of the population supports passage of the law. One or two congressmen, in swing states, decide to vote in favor of the law.

Question: do we live in fantasy land or is this not something that happens over and over again throughout history?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:27 PM
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Did you really just cut and paste that ridiculous post into a blog comment? What planet are you from?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:28 PM
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52% of the population support passage of a law.
. . . .
President makes some speeches! Now, 64% of the population supports passage of the law.

That, for all meaningful purposes, essentially never happens in our system, as you'd know if you read the links above.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:29 PM
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FDR's an interesting case because arguably public opinion operated differently prior to the existence of widely available national media and FDR presidencies were right during that transition period. Fortunately, for many political scientists, history begins when data appears in formats suitable for quantitative analysis, so we don't have to worry about going back that far when making general statements about American politics.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:31 PM
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I read the entire post, Halford. It doesn't support your thesis, and it's not even convincing in support of its own much more limited thesis.

Speeches aren't important because . . . Ronald Reagan complained that his didn't help him enough in an autobiography?? You're going to have to do a lot better than that.

And your penis is probably not any bigger now.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:32 PM
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OK. I'll just consider you a moron, and back away.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:33 PM
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Do whatever you can to get out of this debate, you mean.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:34 PM
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Anyway, I think in the early years FDR probably did more "we just did something, here's what that's about" speeches than cultivating public opinion speeches, although his first inaugural is pretty strongly in favor of reforming the banking system.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:34 PM
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I think in the early years FDR probably did more "we just did something, here's what that's about"

Yes, this is true. And related to the point about the rise of the mass media that you just made.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:36 PM
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I know it's not their intent, but sometimes the Monkey Cage makes me wonder if anything in the world ever matters.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:46 PM
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I'm saying that, overall, this strategy is unlikely to work for a President -- that is, speeches and the like are unlikely to move overall public opinion. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

Robert Halford has a thesis that the president should keep his mouth shut, and if you can't provide him with contrary evidence, he's right.

That sounds like the beginnings of a brilliant op-ed.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:51 PM
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OK, we're in deep imbecile land. That's fortunately one thing that doesn't happen too much around here, but I guess times are changing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:53 PM
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Speeches can be useful for the second point, because they set the tone and agenda for the legislative enactment, not because they are moving overall public opinion in the President's favor.

You've already stipulated -- I think -- that congress responds to public opinion when it decides to enact legislation (and even when it sets the tone to do so, whatever that means).

So if speeches convince congress to act, aren't they doing so by affecting public opinion? You are so close to completing the circle here, I know you can get there.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:55 PM
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I have so missed this place.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:56 PM
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Robert Halford, do you always resort to calling people imbeciles after they make you look disingenuous?

Myself, I insulted your penis throughout, so even if you had somehow come out on top, I could have kept doing so without looking petty.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:56 PM
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speeches convince congress to act, aren't they doing so by affecting public opinion

No.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:57 PM
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And with that, I'm done. Text, you can continue to stupid up the joint. If anyone wants to read more on this, the link at 310's a good place to start.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:59 PM
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brilliant! another op-ed.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 4:59 PM
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Would a man with a big penis run away like that? I'm going to leave that for the viewers at home to decide.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:00 PM
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321: That, for all meaningful purposes, essentially never happens in our system

I admit this puzzles me, Halford. I get what you're saying, that presidential speeches (or just statements) are unlikely to move the public from disliking to liking a policy proposal, if it wasn't already reasonably popular.

But this way back at 92 seemed odd to me:

92: An exception is when presidential rhetoric catches up with public opinion (eg gay marriage).

This looks like an eternal out, according to which you will say that any time a presidential speech/statement appears to sway public opinion, it's only an appearance of influence, because public opinion was already there.

I don't want to get heavily involved in this argument, but the state of Maryland is poised to pass the first same-sex marriage proposal that survives going to state-wide popular referendum; it really does look as though Obama's recently stated support for it has made a real impact on the views of African Americans in the state.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:04 PM
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WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE EVEN TALKING ABOUT ANYMORE


Posted by: OP GR | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:06 PM
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338 -- I just mean that there's almost no evidence of Presidential speechmaking swaying public opinion (meaning the overall percentage of the population in favor of a specific policy or proposal). It's been studied extensively, and there's very little evidence that speechmaking has an effect. I've already linked to the relevant research a bunch.

On gay marriage, there's a lot of polling, and it's clear that (a) gay marriage became much more popular from 2008-2012, without any support from Obama; (b) Obama's announcement in support did not meaningfully change overall public opinion on gay marriage, and (c) the announcement did cause a number of Democrats to support gay marriage, but this was offset by a countervailing partisan effect.

I mean, I was still very happy Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, and there were lots of good reasons for him to do it that have nothing to do with changing overall public opinion in terms of polling. But it didn't have that effect.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:10 PM
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it really does look as though Obama's recently stated support for it has made a real impact on the views of African Americans in the state

I'd buy that (though I don't know if it's true), but it's a relatively rare circumstance.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:11 PM
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I still don't know what BRV means, if anybody wants to help.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:16 PM
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Robert Halford, it sounds like parsimon just gave you a specific example of a presidential speech swaying public opinion, which then convinced a legislature to act.

Do you have any actual stats, polls, or other data to show presidential speeches can't sway public opinion in most cases?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:18 PM
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Yes, you half-witted jackass. I linked to many of them above, and am not going to do it again.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:20 PM
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I followed the link, Robert, as I'm sure many are capable of doing. It doesn't provide that evidence. Do you have anything else?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:24 PM
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I haven't caught up for this thread, well except for the hard to miss personal insults, but it seems like a more interesting question is why apparently popular policies don't get enacted and whether presidential support (defined to include more than speeches), if it was lacking, could have pushed them over the edge.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:25 PM
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This isn't a criticism of Monkey Cage, but going over the first few pages I came across this post. I had really hoped the idea of markets as information aggregators would've died with the financial crash as so much magical thinking*.
*Yes, James, I know you won that contest that one time, so they occasionally work, but they are no substitute for rigorous analysis.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:25 PM
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Do you at least have an anecdote? You could try making one up.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:25 PM
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Already linked, you trolling dumbass, in addition to other evidence provided to you. Why don't you fuck off to wherever you were before?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:28 PM
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Robert Halford, have you read that book? If so maybe you could actually tell us some of the relevant data in it. I'm sure nobody would mind.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:30 PM
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I was here long before you, and I think I'll stick around awhile.

I'm not going to buy that book though. If you've read it, why don't you tell us what it says and how it relates to your thesis?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:31 PM
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the hard to miss personal insults
That was the best part. I don't know what Tweety was talking about. I feel way better.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:35 PM
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I'm sorry you now seem to be both too weird and too stupid to participate in the discussion here. 1/2 might have sufficed. Maybe something happened in your absence. Were drugs involved, no offense to drugs?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:36 PM
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Well, 353 to 352, obviously. And I do feel better! Fuck this idiot.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:37 PM
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Robert Halford, you're my new favorite commenter. I'm glad you mean no offense to drugs but I think you should lay off the hard stuff for awhile.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:39 PM
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I mean who else would just link to an amazon page and then act as though he'd proven something? Yes, I admit, that book probably exists.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:40 PM
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I have to cook dinner. Don't nobody go nowhere.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:42 PM
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341: I'd buy that (though I don't know if it's true), but it's a relatively rare circumstance.

The circumstances in Maryland are distinctive, yes: there's been a serious tension in the black community over same-sex marriage, particularly in the black Christian community, and Maryland has a lot of black religious people. Also note that the legislation passed over resistance from the black community; it's the fact that this is now a popular referendum that makes Obama's contribution valuable. It made a difference, judging from the variety of local op-eds, radio interviews, letters to the editor, and whatnot from black leaders and pastors saying, essentially, 'This is about equal treatment before the law, something that African Americans know a lot about. Churches are not required to perform same-sex marriages if it's against their beliefs We must stand in support of equal treatment before the law.'

I don't want to carry on, but really, Obama's made a difference here -- and he was uniquely place to do so, of course -- and by the way, I am so thrilled that we (this state) are about to do this! I hope.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:45 PM
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309

I think these claims are way overblown, and the fact that a particular senator from New York was willing to pander to them doesn't say anything to me about their validity, or even viability if the president had insisted.

Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior Democratic Senator from New York, was also opposed. As was Democratic Senator Feinstein. As was Democratic Representative from NYC, Nydia Velazquez. As was the Democratic governor of New York, David Paterson. See here.

The President wasn't in a position to insist when he needed every vote for his health care bill.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:50 PM
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343: it sounds like parsimon just gave you a specific example of a presidential speech swaying public opinion, which then convinced a legislature to act.

Point of clarification: Obama's position didn't convince the state legislature to act. It already had -- it passed the measure. It's gone to popular referendum, and that's where it was going to go down if the people refused to support it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:51 PM
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313

And in a district court, I think KSM would have pled. Now he gets a worldwide presumption that he's facing kangaroo justice.

Why would he plead? Going to trial sounds like a lot more fun to me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-22-12 5:54 PM
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