Thursday, September 4, 2008

Change 90-10 (someone is wrong on the internet!)

Here's Barack Obama during his acceptance speech:

[T]he record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.

Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

I don't know about you, but I am not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.
Matt Yglesias has a cavil with that:
[I]t doesn’t make sense. They’re construing “change” as a binary quality and saying that the Bush-McCain overlap means that change is unlikely to occur. But this is a very strange interpretation of the voting statistic. The normal way of construing it would be that Bush and McCain agree about a lot of stuff, so McCain’s brand of change is going to be small-scale incremental change. But the Obama campaign is interpreting it as meaning that there’s a 90 percent chance of things staying exact the same, along with a 10 percent chance of things changing dramatically, as if a McCain administration is going to set its course at random.
Uh, no, 90% agreement between McCain and Bush does not imply "small-scale incremental change" and that's so because in numerous particular areas, many of them quite significant -- the Iraq war, tax policy, health care, privatizing social security, banning abortion, teaching creationism in tax-funded schools, judicial appointments, etc. -- McCain and Bush are 100% agreed. In other words, the 10% difference doesn't apply evenly to each and every policy question, but amounts to something like this: given 100 votes in the Senate, McCain would vote with Bush 90 times and against him 10 times. He wouldn't cast 9/10 of a pro-Bush vote and 1/10 of an anti-Bush vote on each of 100 votes. It doesn't work that way.

Above and beyond that, I'm struggling to find these elusive 10%. Where does McCain differ from Bush as of this moment? On what particular issues is he "going maverick" against the current leader of his party? There was a time when he seemed to embrace the realities of climate change, but he has backed off from that.

A vote for McCain-Palin is a vote for a third Bush-Cheney term.

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