THOM FRIEDMAN: On Wednesday, The New York Times on the Web flashed a headline that caught my eye: “U.S. to Unveil $1 Billion Aid Package to Repair Georgia.” Wow, I thought. That’s great: $1 billion to fix Georgia’s roads and schools. But as I read on, I quickly realized that I had the wrong Georgia.
We’re going to spend $1 billion to fix the Georgia between Russia and Turkey, not the one between South Carolina and Florida.
Sorry, but the thought of us spending $1 billion to repair a country whose president, though a democrat, recklessly provoked a war with a brutish Russia, which was itching to bash its neighbor, makes no sense to me. Yes, we should diplomatically squeeze Russia until it withdraws its troops; no one should be invading neighbors.
But where are our priorities? How many wars can we fight at once without finishing even one? Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Georgia. Which is the priority? Americans are struggling to meet their mortgages, and we’re sending $1 billion to a country whose president behaved irresponsibly, just to poke Vladimir Putin in the eye. Couldn’t we poke Putin with $100 million? And shouldn’t we be fostering a dialogue with Georgia and with Putin? Otherwise, where is this going? A new cold war? Over what? MORE
FRANK RICH: We still don’t know a lot about Palin except that she’s better at delivering a speech than McCain and that she defends her own pregnant daughter’s right to privacy even as she would have the government intrude to police the reproductive choices of all other women. Most of the rest of the biography supplied by her and the McCain camp is fiction.
She didn’t say “no thanks” to the “Bridge to Nowhere” until after Congress had already abandoned it but given Alaska a blank check for $223 million in taxpayers’ money anyway. Far from rejecting federal pork, she hired lobbyists to secure her town a disproportionate share of earmarks ($1,000 per resident in 2002, 20 times the per capita average in other states). Though McCain claimed “she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities,” she has never issued a single command as head of the Alaska National Guard. As for her “executive experience” as mayor, she told her hometown paper in Wasilla, Alaska, in 1996, the year of her election: “It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.” Her much-advertised crusade against officials abusing their office is now compromised by a bipartisan ethics investigation into charges that she did the same.
How long before we learn she never shot a moose?
Given the actuarial odds that could make Palin our 45th president, it would be helpful to know who this mystery woman actually is. Meanwhile, two eternal axioms of our politics remain in place. Americans vote for the top of the ticket, not the bottom. And in judging the top of the ticket, voters look first at the candidates’ maiden executive decision, their selection of running mates. Whatever we do and don’t know about Palin’s character at this point, there is no ambiguity in what her ascent tells us about McCain’s character and potential presidency.[…] By hurling charges of sexism and elitism at any easily cowed journalist who raises a question about Palin, McCain operatives are hoping to ensure that whatever happened in Alaska with Sarah Palin stays in Alaska. Given how little vetting McCain himself has received this year — and that only 58 days remain until Nov. 4 — they just might pull it off. MORE
PUSSIES: MSNBC Pulls Anchor Chair Out From Under Olbermann’s Butt
NEW YORK TIMES: MSNBC tried a bold experiment this year by putting two politically incendiary hosts, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, in the anchor chair to lead the cable news channel’s coverage of the election. That experiment appears to be over. After months of accusations of political bias and simmering animosity between MSNBC and its parent network NBC, the channel decided over the weekend that the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host David Gregory would anchor news coverage of the coming debates and election night. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will remain as analysts during the coverage.
The change — which comes in the home stretch of the long election cycle — is a direct result of tensions associated with the channel’s perceived shift to the political left. […] The success of the Fox News Channel in the past decade along with the growth of political blogs have convinced many media companies that provocative commentary attracts viewers and lures Web browsers more than straight news delivered dispassionately.But as the past two weeks have shown, that success has a downside. When the vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin lamented media bias during her speech, attendees of the Republican convention loudly chanted “NBC.” MORE
PHAWKER: Oh No, The Republicans Are Mad At Us, We Better Stop, We Might Get In Trouble!
NEW YORK TIMES: But one advertisement, from Chevron, seemed strikingly on point. “It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil,” it said. “We’ll use the next trillion in 30.” This nicely framed a big part of the energy challenge. It was also a reminder of why John McCain is proving, so far, to be such a disappointment on issues he once seemed to understand better than almost anyone else in his party.
The world is consuming oil at a ferocious pace because of runaway demand in India and China and because America — the world’s largest consumer — is only beginning to confront its addiction. This cannot go on forever. Even the conservative United States Geological Survey predicts that oil production will peak by midcentury, meaning that future prices will make today’s $3.70 gas look like chump change.
The John McCain of a few years ago understood this. He sponsored a bill with John Kerry that would have aggressively raised fuel economy standards, and another that would have put a stiff price on carbon emissions to encourage investment in cleaner technologies. Unfortunately, that John McCain has receded from view just in time for the presidential campaign. He has dropped his opposition to offshore drilling, pandered shamelessly by urging a gas tax holiday, and missed several crucial votes on bills extending credits for wind and solar power.
And while his acceptance speech promised “the most ambitious national project in decades,” including efforts to improve energy efficiency, increasing oil production remains the centerpiece of his strategy. These positions divert public attention from an unavoidable truth: a nation that uses one-quarter of the world’s oil while owning only 3 percent of its reserves cannot drill its way to happiness or self-sufficiency. MORE