Isaac Chotiner

Quote Of The Christmas Season!
December 26, 2007

This may be the lamest line ever from a campaign aide. It comes from the NYT story this morning on John Edwards' chronic lateness: Speaking in general about Mr. Edwards’s tendency to run late, Mark Kornblau, the campaign’s traveling press secretary, offered a more obscure explanation: “Fighting hard for change sometimes takes a few extra minutes.” --Isaac Chotiner 

Condi As Person Of The Year
December 24, 2007

In a troubling sign that the media's love for Condoleezza Rice has managed to infect the public at large, this Rasmussen poll reports the following about whom "the people" would have chosen as Person of the Year:. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Democrats would have selected Gore, 11% Rice, and 6% Putin. Among Republicans, 40% would have voted for Rice, 27% for Petraeus, and 10% for Gore. 40%?!?!

Why Do People Hate Top Ten Lists?
December 22, 2007

Even for those of us who enjoy annual Top 10 lists, it's still a drag to read every critic tiresomely disown the activity they are taking part in. Here's Manhola Dargas today, in an especially egregious example: The whole point of a Top 10 list, a friend recently scolded me, is to number them. (I was declining to do so.) My friend was wrong, but only because Top 10 lists are artificial exercises, assertions of critical ego, capricious and necessarily imperfect.

Rudy's Terrible, Terrible Strategy
December 17, 2007

Chris' post below on how Huckabee actually hurts Rudy does nothing so much as to make one think about the monumentally stupid electoral strategy that the former mayor's campaign has followed all year. Giuliani's (probable) loss of the nomination, however, may have at least one good side effect for ailing fans of smart politics. Namely, the idea of committing halfway to states will be permanently put to rest. When John McCain decided to cede Iowa to George Bush in 2000, he completely ignored the state.

Huckabee On "gay Sex"
December 13, 2007

The most amusing part of Zev Chafets' big Huckabee profile has for some reason been getting scant attention. Here's Chafets: The governor regards 1968 as the dawning of ‘‘the age of the birth-control pill, free love, gay sex, the drug culture and reckless disregard for standards.’’ Gay sex, huh? That wasn't around before 1968? Perhaps scientists invented it along with the pill... --Isaac Chotiner 

Quick Debate Round-up
December 12, 2007

The worst debate of the campaign--by far. The questions were boring, the candidates did not have enough time to answer, and Keyes was allowed to be bullying and obnoxious. More substantively, Romney and Huckabee both did very well (the Fox focus group, for what it's worth, overwhelmingly liked Romney), while McCain and particularly Giuliani seemed almost invisible. Thompson had some good lines, but isn't going anywhere. In short, not much of a debate, and probably not very significant. --Isaac Chotiner 

Special Poll Round-up!
December 11, 2007

That front page New York Times/CBS News poll has been getting a lot of ink, and you can see the full results in PDF form here. Although not really mentioned in the write-up, the numbers on the economy are striking. Bush's approval rating on the economy specifically is 5 points lower than it's ever been. Moreover, by 18 percentage points, respondents give the advantage to Democrats when asked which party would "ensure" a strong economy.

White House Press Secretary: What Cuban Missile Crisis?
December 10, 2007

A charming story (third item) about White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: Appearing on NPR's light-hearted quiz show "Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me," which aired over the weekend, Perino got into the spirit of things and told a story about herself that she had previously shared only in private: During a White House briefing, a reporter referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis -- and she didn't know what it was. "I was panicked a bit because I really don't know about . . . the Cuban Missile Crisis," said Perino, who at 35 was born about a decade after the 1962 U.S.-Soviet nuclear showdown.

Did Invading Iraq Scare Iran?
December 10, 2007

The excellent Steve Coll has an extremely confusing and unsatisfying Comment in this week's New Yorker. Here's Coll: Iran’s ruling clerics are revealed in the estimate as nervous types. As the mullahs watched the United States recklessly invade Iraq, in 2003, to destroy weapons of mass destruction that no longer existed, they harbored the guilty secret that their atomic-bomb program did exist, and might yet be discovered. So they apparently put their bomb work to rest.

What Did The Iranian Defectors Say?
December 09, 2007

The Los Angeles Times has a big story today on Iranian defectors. Here's the lede: The CIA launched a secret program in 2005 designed to degrade Iran's nuclear weapons program by persuading key officials to defect, an effort that has prompted a "handful" of significant departures, current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation say. The previously undisclosed program, which CIA officials dubbed "the Brain Drain," is part of a major intelligence push against Iran ordered by the White House two years ago. This would certainly explain the NIE's turnabout.