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CSotD: Waiting for Beitelbaum

Edison Lee satirizes our fascination with polls, but, silly as the gag is, he doesn’t exaggerate a great deal, which is what makes it work.

Watching the polls is like watching the stock market, the difference being that stock prices are based on actual trades while the polls are subject to things like sample size and methodology and who bothers to respond etc etc

But they’re similar in that they go up and down for a variety of reasons and that you’re a chump if you bother watching too closely or think your tinkering is going to improve them.

Or try this analogy:

Polls are the tout sheets of horserace coverage, with horserace coverage being the media’s tendency to ignore substantive discussion of policy proposals in favor of watching every bump in the polls.

The other day, the NYTimes published some poll results and all hell broke loose, particularly because of a story at NYMag, which set everyone’s hair on fire by declaring that Trump was obviously going to win and nothing could stop him.

Though if instead of reading the story from the links on Twitter and Facebook, you went back to NYMag itself, you’d have found another story, same issue, same topic, telling everyone to relax and not take it all so seriously.

Meanwhile, both the first and fifth most popular stories on the site are about Keanu Reeves and his apparent girlfriend though we’re not sure they’re really a thing.

Which means that, if the election were held tomorrow, Keanu’d win. Or possibly she would. It’s not clear.

But keep watching those polls!


Meanwhile, back in the drawing room

Lee Judge neatly sums up the analysis of Elizabeth Warren’s “Medicare for All” plan.

As I noted yesterday, the chief flaw in the plan is its complexity, and not only can she not lay it out in all its detail but neither can anyone truly grasp what portion she has laid out, at least not this quickly.

Even someone with her economics background has to pin a little Jell-O to the wall in coming up with numbers, because there are factors like “avoided cost” that are rough estimates at best, while — largely because of how Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are handled — hospitals use some of the same shifting accounting practices that give the Defense Department those million-dollar hammers.

After all of which, you’re still guessing at need, at the future economy and at everyone’s eventual income.


Which doesn’t mean it can’t work, but I think Jimmy Margulies is a little premature on this comparison, and I suspect (hope) he’s kidding.

Though plenty of people declared the New Deal unworkable, and plenty of them still do, which is a bit like still insisting that if God intended men to fly he’d have given them wings.

That skepticism made more sense at Kitty Hawk than it does at O’Hare.


My own take is to agree with Mike Smith that what is really premature is promising what you’ll do if you’re elected, and maybe you have to have been down this road before.

I was similarly skeptical about Bobby Kennedy. I liked him, and, as the dust began to clear, I supported him because he was more electable than Gene McCarthy, he wasn’t LBJ’s lapdog like Humphrey and he wasn’t Richard Nixon.

But I was annoyed by the excitement around him, because I got the feeling his ardent supporters really thought he’d be sworn in on January 21, the troops would all be home by the end of the month, and poverty would have disappeared by Valentine’s Day.

There seems to be a lot of the same wide-eyed goofiness around the Warren campaign, only she seems to be promising things with a specificity Bobby did not.

Though with the cacophony of the Democratic race so far, it’s a little hard to tell who’s promising what. At the moment, my favorite candidate is Beto O’Rourke because he said “Screw this. I’m going home.”

I’d like to see more candidates adopt his platform.


The cover-up, not the crime

Bill Bramhall offers a response to Trump’s insistence that people should read the transcript of his call to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

It’s a good response even on the surface, since Dear Leader clearly has no idea what’s in that document. Does it matter? Well, eventually.

For now, probably not. Trump is a bullshit artist, which works marvelously well in the world of commercial real estate and also has its place in politics.

And his claim that impeachment is phony is bolstered by the fact that other people have also not read the Constitution, while his defiance of the law empowers people like Rand Paul to declare that he can break the whistleblower statute if he wants to.

Hey, every man a king, at least until they discover that John Roberts and some of his fellow justices have not only read that document but may also believe in it.

Which has apparently occurred to Gordon Sondland.

There is an interesting parallel between Trump’s wanting people to read the transcript of that call and Nixon offering a transcript of the White House tapes, which is that neither transcript was honest and accurate.

It would be lovely for some Alexander Butterfield to step up and reveal that, in fact, all such phone calls are recorded, but, even without that, witness testimony about a doctored record may prove more damaging than the revelation of what was actually said.

We will see.

Meanwhile, Trump’s rallies in Mississippi, Virginia and Kentucky seem to have produced mixed results, and while batting .333 is excellent in baseball, it’s not good enough in electoral politics.

It can gladden the heart to fill a stadium with cheering fans.

It can also be pleasant to see polls that confirm your popularity.

But the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.




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