The Plank

Tnr.com's Week In Review (7.11.08)

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TNR.com loves the smell of policy reversals in the morning. This week, John McCain promised to balance the budget while calling for massive tax cuts--a highly dishonest act that Jonathan Chait likened to the death of irony. Then McCain shamelessly exaggerated how much economists support his plan and talked out of both sides of his mouth on cap-and-trade.

Obama didn't get off scot-free either: While his tonal shift on Iraq comes as no surprise, Michael Crowley wondered if he actually is changing the substance of his position.

Luckily, the candidates were rescued by distractions--in the form of Whinergate and Castrationgate. Noam Scheiber invoked Michael Kinsley to explain Phil Gramm's impolitic remarks. Jamie Kirchick and Jason Zengerle dug up old Jesse Jackson gaffes, while Crowley added a few doses of perspective. After all, sometimes "a castration threat is just a castration threat." Eve Fairbanks decried the influence of so many loose-lipped surrogates on the election season.

But who do the distractions benefit? Chait thinks McCain's flip-flop attacks are capable of eroding Obama's credibility; but Noam says they may redound to Obama's advantage--and Noam and Chris Orr both think campaign distractions are good for Obama.

Crowley wondered if McCain's brand just isn't suited for a general election campaign, and Isaac Chotiner said "letting McCain Be McCain" is a terrible idea.

And Webb Watch ended this week when Jim Webb pulled himself from the vetting process--leaving us to ruminate about Sam Nunn, Chuck Hagel, John Edwards, and a gaggle of angry PUMAs.

--Barron YoungSmith

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