Monday Reads: Pre Debate warm-up jitters

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Good Afternoon!

Take my advice for tonight’s debate. Don’t watch the pundits or you’ll need some form of tranquilizer.  Have I mentioned how horrible Andrea Mitchell is lately?

So, the debate is tonight and of course, we’ll be live blogging the drama.  I am assuming there will be drama.  I’m still trying to figure out if there will be blood.  Several little bits about the particulars first before we get on with the big build up to the event.

Bloomberg TV will be running a fact check of the debate on its screen tonight.  I find that very interesting.  How many debates have ever needed real time fact check before?

Bloomberg TV will conduct on-screen fact checks of statements made by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during Monday night’s debate, POLITICO has confirmed.

The channel’s decision to conduct an on-screen fact-check sets Bloomberg apart from the other major TV networks, none of whom have committed to doing on-screen fact checks during the debate. Most will leave the fact-checking to segments in the post-debate analysis coverage.

Clinton’s supporters have called for aggressive fact-checking during Monday’s debate, saying that members of the media have failed to adequately fact-check and correct falsehoods from her Republican rival. NBC’s Matt Lauer was recently criticized for not correcting several false statements from Trump during a presidential forum on the network.

Spokespeople for the networks told POLITICO that on-screen fact checks would be hard to execute in real-time, which is why they were opting out. That leaves the real-time fact-checking up to NBC’s Lester Holt, the debate moderator, or Clinton herself.

The debate will be on at 9 pm Eastern. Lester Holt of NBC News will be the moderator.  The format will be somewhat informal. Here are the details via Heavy.first-date-nerves

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. It will be televised on all major broadcast and cable news networks.

The debate is being held on the anniversary of the very first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960. Here’s a look at the broadcast information:


DATE: Monday, September 26, 2016


AIR TIME: The debate will begin at 9 p.m. Eastern. It’s scheduled to end at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.


TV CHANNEL: This debate will be broadcast live on all the major networks and leading cable sites, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox, Fox News, MSNBC, and PBS NewsHour and Univision.

To find out what channel the station you want to watch is on for you, click here to go to TV Guide’s listings. Then change the “Provider” (right under TV Listings) to your local provider. You’ll be able to scroll down to see what channel the station you’re interested in is on for you.


LOCATION: Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York


MODERATOR: NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt.

12631562_10207197700835066_2340311403332702159_nMy guess is that the debate will either be very uninteresting or very volatile.  I can’t see much room for moderation in anything with Donald Trump participating. He’s the very definition of ASSymmetric political warfare. Jay Rosen–professor of journalism and media critic–believes that asymmetry between the parties right now has caused issues for the media. What do you do when one party has gone completely off the rails explicitly supporting policy that wouldn’t pass constitutional muster, is openly xenophobic, racist, and sexist, plus delegitimatizes private choices concerning love and religion?

Over that stretch I have tried to develop my own pressthink in reply to “theirs,” meaning the ideas most campaign journalists have about their work, and the explanations they tend to give when criticized for it. I tried to summarize the first 20 years of this tension in my 2011 lecture: Why Political Coverage is Broken. What I said there is still basic to how I do my criticism, but Trump’s spectacular intervention has raised the stakes and altered the terms of the debate.

Trump is not a normal candidate and can’t be covered like one. Journalists have finally accepted that. Just the other day Dean Baquet, editor of the New York Times, said this about Trump

He’s been hugely challenging. I don’t think we’ve ever had somebody who in my time as a journalist so openly lies, and that was a word that we struggled to actually utter. We’re used to, I think as journalists, we’re used to philosophical debates, like one party thinks we should go to war on Iraq, makes its case—exaggerates its case, we now know. But there are warring philosophies. I’ve never quite seen anything like [Trump], and I think it’s a real challenge for us.

Elections were about warring philosophies. Journalists sat in the press box and brought you the action. Baquet admits: this organizing image no longer organizes much. But even his phrase “hugely challenging” understates it, I think. Here are the major propositions I have been using to understand this unique and perilous moment.

1. Political journalism rests on a picture of politics that journalists and politicos share.

As practiced by the “mainstream media” (the professionals who work at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, the AP, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Reuters, Bloomberg, Politico, Time magazine) political journalism is constructed — it rests entirely — on a mental picture of the American system in which the two major parties are similar actors with, as Baquet put it, “warring philosophies.”

Elections are the big contests that distribute power between them. The day-to-day of politics is a series of minor battles for tactical advantage. The press is part of this picture because it distributes attention, but — in this view of things — it doesn’t participate in politics itself. It reports on battles large and small, questions the power holders, tries to reveal machinations going on behind the scenes and generates public interest in the drama of politics. But it is unaligned with the major players and unaffected by the outcome of the contests it chronicles.

To report successfully on such a system you need sources who trust you inside both parties. You need people in both parties who will return your calls and have drinks with you at the Des Moines Marriott. The simplest way to guarantee that is to look at politics in the same way that people in the party establishments do. The political pros who staff the committees and run the campaigns and consult with the big players are the closest readers of political journalism and closest in outlook to the journalists who consider reporting on politics their profession.

I called this a mental picture, but it’s more than that. It’s a stable framework within which work can be done, coverage can be planned, knowledge can be refined, reputation can be won, careers can be built. The image of two similar parties with warring philosophies that compete for tactical advantage also positions the mainstream press in a comfortable way: between partisan players as chronicler, questioner and referee. Among those most comfortable with that position: media owners and managers hoping to alienate as few people as possible.

In other words: powerful forces keep the mental picture in place.

2. Asymmetry between the parties fries the circuits of the mainstream press.

Now imagine what happens when over time the base of one party, far more than the base of the other, begins to treat the press as a hostile actor, and its own establishment as part of the rot; when it not only opposes but denies the legitimacy — and loyalty to the state — of the other side’s leader; when it prefers conspiracy theory to party-friendly narratives that at least cope with verified fact; when it is scornful of the reality that in a divided system you never get everything you want.

This is the thesis that Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein developed in their 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. They are think tank scholars with PhDs and Washington insiders who were frequently called on by journalists to explain trends and furnish quotes. They had the same incentives as journalists to stay on conversant terms with politicos in both parties. Mann and Ornstein came to the conclusion that something had changed in the Republican Party. Their summary of it:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

How will Lester Holt handle the short-finger vulgarian?  How will Hillary respond to the man who has used sexism, meanness, and lies to characterize her entire life and accomplishments?    Lester Holt is probably not what is needed to get to the crux of this mean campaign season.  John Oliver and his entertainment form of news is probably a better source of analysis and outrage.

Political scandals, whether focused on Hillary Clinton’s email use or Donald Trump’s shady business dealings, have emerged as one of the most popular talking points of the 2016 presidential election. But as John Oliver explained on the latest“Last Week Tonight,” when you break down all the alleged scandals plaguing both candidates, it’s overwhelmingly clear that there is no contest: Trump is “unethically compromised to an almost unprecedented degree.”

“This campaign has been dominated by scandals, but it is dangerous to think that there is an equal number on both sides,” Oliver said. “You can be irritated by some of Hillary’s—that is understandable—but you should then be fucking outraged by Trump’s.”

Fucking outraged indeed.

So, what do “they” expect?  Here’s a bit from ABC.

–ANALYSIS — ABC’s RICK KLEIN: What if he apologizes? What if he behaves himself? What if he drops “Crooked Hillary” for “Madam Secretary”? What if – stay with us here – he doesn’t stretch the truth? Forget the no-holds-barred attacks Donald Trump has proven himself capable of. Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare might be humble Trump, since that would flip storylines enough to potentially dominate the takeaways regardless of what else happens at Hofstra. Clinton’s camp is pressuring Lester Holt to do the fact-checking the candidate doesn’t want to do by herself. But she may be in the position of wanting and needing to draw Trump out – to bait him into a discussion of President Obama’s birth status, for instance, or a real policy discussion on Iraq or Afghanistan or ISIS. Clinton-as-aggressor would surely be unexpected. It also may be helpful in a race where she continues to struggle to lock down her base. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Trump getting a larger share of Republicans and of Romney voters than Clinton is of Democrats and Obama voters. Clinton isn’t known for smackdowns. But it may not hurt for her to show some fight.

downloadJames Hohmann from WAPO says Trump has won the expectations game already.

— Reviewing the coverage ahead of Trump’s 9 p.m. showdown with Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University makes it sound like all the GOP nominee really needs to do is not talk about how well-endowed he is…

“I think that Trump is buoyed by the very low expectations. This is a guy who’s never debated one-on-one … So if he does passably, we’ll all say he won,” a Politico reporter said last week. The headline of a lead story on Politico this morning, citing anonymous “insiders,” declares that “The heat is on Hillary.”

A lot of people are going to look at Donald Trump and think, ‘Hey, if he can even get out a good sentence and show off his experience, then he’s doing well,’” New York Times correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said on “Morning Joe” last week, addressing the Clinton campaign’s complaints that she’s being subjected to a double standard.

“Clinton has the much tougher task tonight,” NPR declares in its curtain-raiser this morning.“She has the burden of high expectations. The former senator and secretary of state, who’s now been through two presidential campaigns, is an experienced debater who knows policy inside and out. But her job is very hard — Clinton has to convince voters who don’t want to vote for Trump but haven’t warmed up to her that she is likeable, honest and trustworthy. And she has to press her case that Trump is unqualified to be president without being overly aggressive or ‘harsh.’”

“I do think that the stakes are much higher in this debate and all the debates for Hillary Clinton,” CNN’s Dana Bash said on the air recently. “Because she is a seasoned politician. She is a seasoned debater. Yes, we saw Donald Trump in the primaries debate for the first time, but he is a first-time politician. So for lots of reasons—maybe it’s not fair, but it’s the way it is—the onus is on her.

The liberal group Media Matters has rounded up several other examples in this vein. The editor in chief of The Hill, Bob Cusack, also said on Fox News earlier this month that the bar for Clinton is “higher” than for Trump. “So there is an opportunity for Trump—if he can do the prep work and land some zingers—he could really make up some ground in the battleground states,” Cusack said.

As the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel notes, tongue in cheek, “Debate Bar So Low For Donald Trump That If He Doesn’t Vomit, He’s Exceeded Expectations.”

— This tenor of coverage has influenced public perceptions about the debate. Our new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the race is within the margin of error nationally. Likely voters split 46 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Trump. Among registered voters, Clinton and Trump are tied at 41 percent. The poll finds that eight in 10 voters plan to watch tonight’s debate, prompting some to estimate that upwards of 100 million could tune in. Overall, no matter who they’re supporting, 44 percent expect Clinton to win versus 34 percent who expect Trump to come out ahead. Many who say they’ll watch have already made up their minds. While about one in five registered voters say the debate could change their minds, only 6 percent said there is a good chance of that occurring.

So, anyway, the press is still trying to buck up Trump–imho–to make this a horse race.  It includes coverage of the upticks or down ticks  in the latest polls from Colorado and Pennsylvania.  Again, you can’t seperate random variance from trend in one data point so paying attention to any one poll without knowing  a lot of the past and the details is quite delusional.stress_and_anxiety_funny

Just one point separates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in two states that are critical to both candidates’ chances of becoming president, according to new CNN/ORC polls in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

In Colorado, likely voters break 42% for Trump, 41% for Clinton, 13% for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 3% for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Pennsylvania’s likely voters split 45% for Clinton, 44% for Trump, 6% for Johnson and 3% for Stein. Those divides are well within each poll’s 3.5-point margin of sampling error.

Sam Wang–a great neuroscientist and poll analyst–suggests we ignore the expectations game as well as focusing too much on an individual poll.  He says its more important to watch the polls AFTER the debate.

Polls are likely to move after the debate. It is the moment when voters get to make a direct, side-by-side comparison of the two candidates. This may also be the last time for any significant shift in the race.

Both before and after the debate, pundits will emit opinions about “expectations.” This commentary does not have predictive value. It would be better if they kept their focus on policy substance or factchecking.

Here are three reasons why you should basically ignore the onslaught of horserace punditry that is about to rain down.

It’s a tight race. Clinton’s the favorite but close enough that Trump would probably pull ahead if he “wins” debate.http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/ 

Above is a mild example of what you can expect in the coming 24 hours. This particular statement is a bit circular: of course Trump will probably be perceived as “winning” if his numbers improve. However, there’s a bigger problem: the premise of “meeting expectations” itself carries no predictive value.

Trump could take the lead, but it would go against what we know so far. I would characterize the race as being very close, but not as uncertain as you might think. Why? The unappreciated story of 2016 is the amazing stability of public opinion. As measured by national polls, 2016 marks the most stable Presidential race in >60 years of modern polling. At the level of state-poll-based analysis, the stability is even greater. This basic fact should inform all analysis.

Wang provides 3 reasons and explanations. I’ll just list the points here and let you go read the explanations.636066015689702126754581096_college-tips-article

1. What commentators think about “exceeding expectations” is an anti-indicator.

2. If polls move after the debate, the reasons were baked in a long time ago

3. Polarization has made it difficult for opinion to move much.

I think his bottom line is most interesting here.

The groups that may choose up sides are self-described undecideds (4%), Gary Johnson supporters (8%), and Jill Stein supporters (3%). Undecideds andJohnson supporters are likely to split evenly between Clinton and Trump, while Stein supporters should break heavily toward Clinton. Tomorrow is a chance for them to get on the bus.

I guess that probably means more outreach to millennials is necessary.  Here’s the link to RCP and the latest poll by poll result.

So, hopefully, we will see you tonight as we nail bite our way through this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Nate’s Numbers: the numbers converge

I’ve spent all my professional life drenched in numbers and statistics so Nate Silver’s numbers fascinate me. It’s probably the same reason they drive Republicans and pundits to distraction. Unraveling trend is easier with numbers than hateful, wishful thinking motivated by political piety. So, Karl Rove got on TV–probably trying to save what’s left of his credibility–saying that Romentum was stopped by Sandy. Romentum was a bit of canard and it turns out so is Sandy. Silver tries to discern the possible factors behind the recent numbers and looks at the Sandy Factor.  That’s a relatively simple task for any one with a database and a background in trend analysis.

When the hurricane made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, Mr. Obama’s chances of winning re-election were 73 percent in the FiveThirtyEight forecast. Since then, his chances have risen to 86 percent, close to his highs on the year.

But, while the storm and the response to it may account for some of Mr. Obama’s gains, it assuredly does not reflect the whole of the story.

Mr. Obama had already been rebounding in the polls, slowly but steadily, from his lows in early October — in contrast to a common narrative in the news media that contended, without much evidence, that Mr. Romney still had the momentum in the race.

Moreover, there are any number of alternatives to explain Mr. Obama’s gains before and after the storm hit.

  • Mr. Obama was adjudicated the winner of the second and third presidential debates in surveys of voters who watched them.
  • The past month has brought a series of encouraging economic news, including strong jobs reports in October and last Friday.
  • The bounce in the polls that Mr. Romney received after the Denver debate may have been destined to fade in part, as polling bounces often do following political events like national conventions.
  • Democrats have an edge in early voting based on states that provide hard data about which party’s voters have turned out to cast ballots. Some voters who were originally rejected by the likely voter models that surveys apply may now be included if they say that they have already voted.
  • Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have been running lots of advertisements, which could have some effect, especially in the swing states.
  • Mr. Obama’s voter-targeting operation may in fact be stronger than Mr. Romney’s and may have begun to show up in the polls.
  • Mr. Obama’s approval rating is at 49 or 50 percent in many surveys, a threshold that would ordinarily predict a narrow re-election for an incumbent.
  • Some elections “break” toward one or another candidate at the end as undecided voters tune in and begin to evaluate their decision.

Each of these hypotheses could merit its own article. But the point is that the causes for Mr. Obama’s gain in the polls are overdetermined, meaning that there are lot of variables that might have contributed to the one result.

If I had told you in January that Mr. Obama’s approval rating would have risen close to 50 percent by November, and that the unemployment rate would have dropped below 8 percent, you likely would have inferred that Mr. Obama was a favorite for re-election, with or without a hurricane and what was judged to be a strong response to it.

Whatever the causal factors, Nate’s numbers look good for the President.  Sam Wang–a Princeton number kruncher–says it not only looks like the President will hold his office but that the US Senate might see a Democratic Pick up of two.  This is an important firewall for those of us that care about things like Supreme Court appointments and getting rid of the filibuster silliness that has allowed the Republicans to basically thwart governing.  Dems may pick up Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

Rather than responding to the analysis, the Republicans continue to attack Nate Silver the man.  You may recall this Krugman piece last week about The War on Objectivity.

Brad DeLong points me to this National Review attack on Nate Silver, which I think of as illustrating an important aspect of what’s really happening in America.

For those new to this, Nate is a sports statistician turned political statistician, who has been maintaining a model that takes lots and lots of polling data — most of it at the state level, which is where the presidency gets decided — and converts it into election odds. Like others doing similar exercises — Drew LinzerSam Wang, and Pollster — Nate’s model continued to show an Obama edge even after Denver, and has shown that edge widening over the past couple of weeks.

This could be wrong, obviously. And we’ll find out on Election Day. But the methodology has been very clear, and all the election modelers have been faithful to their models, letting the numbers fall where they may.

Yet the right — and we’re not talking about the fringe here, we’re talking about mainstream commentators and publications — has been screaming “bias”! They know, just know, that Nate must be cooking the books. How do they know this? Well, his results look good for Obama, so it must be a cheat. Never mind the fact that Nate tells us all exactly how he does it, and that he hasn’t changed the formula at all.

This is, of course, reminiscent of the attack on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science and much more. On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.

This is really scary. It means that if these people triumph, science — or any kind of scholarship — will become impossible. Everything must pass a political test; if it isn’t what the right wants to hear, the messenger is subjected to a smear campaign.

Any kind of scholarship has become challenging under Republican fanaticism as witnessed by the attacks on evolution, climate change, and the economic analysis that shows there is no such thing as an economic benefit created by low marginal tax rates for the rich.  Just ask scientists trying to get grants to study things like stem cell research. Fox gets people to believe anything.  Science causes them to retreat to their medieval churches and scream about intervention by celestial beings.  (So, if gawd caused Sandy to take out NJ and NY because of Gay Rights, does this mean gawd caused Sandy to give Obama momentum?  Ask Grand Inquisitor Pat Robertson about that one.)

Yes, Nate’s numbers took another upward tick this morning.  He also believes that Obama will take the popular vote which should be dismaying to all those journalists that keep wanting to turn this into a white knuckle election.

Silver also added to Obama’s likely number of electoral votes on Monday. He now sees the president winning 307.2 to 230.8 for Mitt Romney, a tiny tick higher than he saw the race on Sunday.

He also sees Obama capturing the popular vote, taking 50.6 percent to Romney’s 48.5.

Rachel Maddow insists the Republicans see the numbers and actually believe that their man Mittster is a goner.  The blame game has already begun.  Haley Barbor blames Sandy.  Lindsey Graham is actually looking at numbers and notices that that demographics are not in their favor.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  ”If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95% of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

– Politico quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), saying that demographics would be the only reason for a hypothetical Mitt Romney loss Tuesday.

Yeah, the blame game has begun and the election isn’t even over. Funny he should bring up Hispanic and black voters. Latino Decisions found that Hispanics support President Obama in historic numbers — 73 percent. They believe that’s enough to carry President Obama to victory in four swing states and ultimately to win re-election. Those four swing states are  Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.

This is closer to the truth.  Republican policy statements as expressed by “severely conservative” Mitt have driven off the young, hispanics, blacks, and women.   I had MSNBC on mute most of the weekend when they were following the candidates around.  All you have to do is look at the people used as back drops for candidates’ speeches to realize who really is on the losing side of US demographics.  This is part of the numbers game.  You can’t build momentum or fantasize a trend based on capturing an ever decreasing slice of the American Pie.

Which brings me to the post election deconstruction that should occur in the Republican party.  When will the actually give up on the Southern Strategy?  We’ve seen more race baiting in this election that I’ve frequently wondered if the ghost of George Wallace is running the Romney campaign.  We’ve seen attacks on women’s rights that make me wonder if Republicans know that women got the right to vote. We’ve seen support of policies that are based on show us your papers that remind me of old NAZI movies.  You can’t attack and demonize the majority of the electorate and expect the numbers to come in for you.  You also can’t build policy on attacking scientific models and theories.  The Republican party has definitely shown that its plan for America is to try to recreate the past no matter what the cost.

All I can say is go Nate go!  Win one for Ada Lovelace and the country.  There are easy ways to figure out which events contribute to trend and what’s just random.  People should pay more attention to Nate Silver and a lot less attention to the likes of Karl Rove and Haley Barbour.  Nate Silver bet Joe Scarborough $2000 that his analysis was right saying “Occam’s Razor: Pundits are useless”.   That’s something I completely grok.

“I think I get a lot of grief because I frustrate narratives that are told by pundits and journalists that don’t have a lot of grounding in objective reality,”


Can Ryan’s Radicalism Shift the Focus off the Hunt for Romney’s Tax Returns?

So,what better way to take the focus off your own short comings and the way you hide your viewpoints and taxes than to appoint a VP candidate that is sure to be a touch stone with the political press? That’s how I see the Ryan appointment. Romney’s positions are all over the place. Ryan’s are very much on record. Romney’s specific agendas and plans have been as translucent as his tenure at Bain and his tax returns. Ryan’s agenda is very much known. Ryan holds extreme views on abortion and all social issues as well as having introduced two extremely controversial and unpopular budget plans. What a way to change the conversation. Here’s a reminder of the extremist positions of Paul Ryan who still manages to be a media darling. This is from The Daily Beast today and was written by Michelle Goldman.

By now, you surely know, if you didn’t already, that Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, wants to privatize social security and turn Medicare into a voucher system. You might have read that, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, his economic plan “calls for radical policy changes that would result in a massive transfer of resources from the broad majority of Americans to the nation’s wealthiest individuals.”

Less attention has been paid, though, to Ryan’s hard-right positions on social issues. Indeed, on abortion and women’s health care, there isn’t much daylight between Ryan and, say, Michele Bachmann. Any Republican vice presidential candidate is going to be broadly anti-abortion, but Ryan goes much further. He believes ending a pregnancy should be illegal even when it results from rape or incest, or endangers a woman’s health. He was a cosponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a federal bill defining fertilized eggs as human beings, which, if passed, would criminalize some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization. The National Right to Life Committee has scored his voting record 100 percent every year since he entered the House in 1999. “I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” he told the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack in 2010. “You’re not going to have a truce.”

Indeed, Ryan exemplifies a strange sort of ideological hybrid that now dominates the GOP. On economic issues, he’s a hardcore libertarian who once said, “[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker…it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” Yet when it comes to women’s control of their bodies, he quickly turns into a statist. “In the state of nature—the ‘law of the jungle’—the determination of who ‘qualifies’ as a human being is left to private individuals or chosen groups,” he wrote in a 2010 essay titled “The Cause of Life Can’t be Severed from the Cause of Freedom.” “In a justly organized community, however, government exists to secure the right to life and the other human rights that follow from that primary right.”

For anyone who wants to know how Ryan thinks, that essay is worth reading. It’s about 1,500 words long, but the word “woman” doesn’t appear in it once. Nor does the word “mother.” To him, a woman’s claim to bodily autonomy or self-determination doesn’t merit even cursory consideration. Here’s his analogy: “The car which I exercised my freedom of choice to purchase…does not ‘qualify’ for protection of human rights. I can drive it, lend it, kick it, sell it, or junk it, at will. On the other hand, the widow who lives next door does ‘qualify’ as a person, and the government must secure her human rights, which cannot be abandoned to anyone’s arbitrary will.”

Here’s the same source but an article written by Paul Begala who focuses on Ryan’s plutocratic upbringing. Today, it’s all about Ryan’s very public radicalism and his hypocrisy.

In selecting Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has doubled-down on the one thing he has never flip-flopped on: economic elitism. Romney, born to wealth, has selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who was also born to wealth. As the former University of Oklahoma football coach, Barry Switzer, once said of someone else: both these guys were born on third and thought they hit a triple.

There’s nothing wrong with inherited wealth. Lord knows great presidents from FDR to JFK came into their fortunes through the luck of birth. But there is something wrong with winners of the lineage lottery who want to hammer those who did not have the foresight to select wealthy sperm and egg.

Finally, we have peered into Mitt Romney’s core. It is neither pro-choice nor pro-life; neither pro-NRA nor pro-gun control; neither pro-equality nor antigay. But it is pro-wealth and very anti–middle class. Mitt Romney has decided to go nuclear in the class war.

Paul Ryan, the darling of the New York–Washington media elite, is almost certainly not the most qualified person Romney could have picked. Unlike governors like Chris Christie or Tim Pawlenty, or a former high-ranking White House official like Rob Portman, Ryan has never run anything larger than his congressional office or the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. The elite love Ryan because he speaks for more cowardly members of their class; his stridently anti–middle class policies are music to their ears.

You will often hear people who ought to know better dress up Ryan’s savage economic priorities with euphemisms. Ryan wants to “fix” Medicare. No, he doesn’t. He wants to kill it. Saying Paul Ryan wants to “fix” Medicare is like saying the vet wanted to “fix” my dog Major; that which used to work very well no longer works at all—and Major is none too happy with the procedure.

Ryan’s budget is the fiscal embodiment of the deeply evil, wholeheartedly selfish so-called philosophy of Ayn Rand. In fact, Ryan has described Rand as “the reason I got involved in public service,” and reportedly makes staffers read her works.

Think about that. As my buddy James Carville has said, what would all the Best People say if Nancy Pelosi made her staffers read, say, Margaret Sanger? Or if Barack Obama made interns study Das Kapital? Sure, a few months ago, facing Catholic protestors at Georgetown University, Ryan said he renounced Rand. But as the national Catholic weekly, America, wrote, he did not change the substance of a single policy. Some renunciation. It seems to me Ryan has renounced Rand’s politically incorrect atheism, not her morally bankrupt philosophy of Screw Thy Neighbor.

So, how long will the focus be on Major’s neutering rather than poor Shamus who was strapped to the top of a car for 12 hours?

How long will the focus be on Paul Ryan whose life is an open book compared to the secretive and snaky Willard?

Was this part of the strategy of picking Paul Ryan. Was this an attempt to get the focus off of the car elevators, the dancing horses who get bigger tax deductions than most people’s children, the you don’t get to see my taxes stand, the insults to Japan and Britain and the highly botched tour abroad? Is this all about appeasing the base and getting the punditry to chase a less important bone?