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July 2008

More on Transitions

In my earlier post on the topic I said “Normally this happens once one is actually elected. Not before one is even officially the nominee.” BZZZZZ. Wrong.

What is true, is that in the cases where the transition hasn’t started until after the election, they have always been rushed and the start of the new administration has been rocky. A variety of presidents, including Reagan and W himself have started transitions very early. Clinton and Carter apparently started to, but then changed their minds, and their transitions were a bit rocky.

More here, from a guy that tries to turn the story around by criticizing McCain for NOT having started his transition already:

McCain’s Presidential Transition Gaffe
(Paul C. Light, Huffington Post, 25 Jul 2008)

The question is not why Obama made the decision, but why Sen. John McCain has not. Instead attacking the Obama campaign for “dancing in the end zone,” McCain should have appointed his own planning team long ago.

Obama has plenty of historical precedent to draw upon. On the Republican side of the aisle, Ronald Reagan began his 1980 planning effort in early spring under a senior confidant. The planning produced the fastest transition to governing in modern history, which translated directly into Reagan’s victories on budget and tax cuts only six months into the term.

George W. Bush also began his planning early, which produced a remarkably disciplined transition that laid set the stage for another round of tax cuts. It is hard to imagine how the transition could have succeeded without it. Given the Florida impasse, it is hard to imagine how the Bush transition could have succeeded without the pre-election planning.

On the Democratic side, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also began their planning early, but waffled when it came time to use the plans. Under intense pressure from their campaign staffs who rightly complained about a lack of consultation, both decided to start planning again all over again the morning after the election.

Seperate States

A good article followed by good discussion on one of the topics I find fascinating… the theoretical right (or absence there of) of states to leave the United States. For the record, I was quite convinced by Jefferson Davis’ arguments in his memoirs that despite the loss in the war, and subsequent post-war SCOTUS opinions, the South probably SHOULD have been able to leave peacefully.

Now, the question of if the South’s reasons for leaving were legitimate, or if it would have been proper for the North to let them leave, recognize their independence as a separate and sovereign country, but then immediately declare war on the new country for purposes of making it submit and ending slavery and perhaps reincorporating it later… that’s a completely different question. That’s probably the way I think it should have played out. But that isn’t what happened, so it is a sort of moot point.

Anyway, good discussion in the article (and attached comments) for those interested:

Secession, Ignorance, and Stupidity
(Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy, 24 Jul 2008)

I don’t think that belief in a right of secession by itself demonstrates ignorance about either law or American history. The Constitution is famously silent on the issue of secession. It doesn’t explicitly guarantee states a right to secede, but also doesn’t explicitly forbid secession. Interestingly, the Articles of Confederation explicitly stated that the union is “perpetual” (which seems to foreclose secession), but the Constitution which superseded the Articles does not include any such language. This silence has led to ongoing debate over the constitutional status of secession. Prior to the Civil War, many respected scholars and political leaders claimed that secession was permitted by the Constitution. Many were apologists for slavery, but by no means all. For example, political leaders from several northern free states asserted that they had a right to secede at the 1814 Hartford Convention. In light of this history and the ambiguity of the constitutional text, I don’t think that belief in a right to secession is at all unreasonable, much less a sign of obvious ignorance or stupidity.


It was reported yesterday that Obama is already assembling a transition team. Normally this happens once one is actually elected. Not before one is even officially the nominee. Now, yes, I buy the notion that it is a complicated process, and previous transitions could sometimes have benefited from a early start.

But it is still more than three months before the election, and almost six months before the inauguration… I talked about this on the podcast a couple weeks back. He needs to not get cocky.

Sure, the state by state polls have him with a nice healthy lead right now in the electoral college. And McCain has been screwing up left and right. Currently things look very good for Obama.

But… you can’t be taking it for granted… or you will start making stupid mistakes thinking you have room for error. And for that matter just LOOKING like you think you have already won (as some people are interpreting parts of the overseas trip) can have negative consequences too.

Yes, there is a lead. But the public is fickle, and things can change quickly. And we have more than three months left. Obama needs to not start believing his own hype here.

Electoral College: New Hampshire Swings, McCain Weakens in Mississippi

Obama’s lead in New Hampshire based on the last 5 polls in the state slips to less than 5%, bringing the state from “Weak Obama” to “Lean Obama”… and making New Hampshire once again a swing state. A five point lead is nothing. If the right things hit in a news cycle, a five point lead can evaporate in days, faster than polls can track it. So New Hampshire is very much in play for McCain once again.

Now, New Hampshire is small. Only four electoral votes. But this is important because this is the first time since May 2nd… almost 3 months ago… that a “Weak Obama” state has slipped back into the leaning swing state category. (Interestingly enough, it was New Hampshire back then too.)

So for the first time in quite a long time, McCain starts to improve his “best case” scenario where he gets every one of the swing states. Is this an indicator that Obama’s long bounce is finally over, and things will start tightening again as we head into the last three months of the campaign? Or is this just a soon to be reversed blip? We’ll see over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Obama gains ground as McCain’s lead falls under 10%, moving the state from “Strong McCain” to “Weak McCain”. Still a long way from being a swing state though.

Current Summary:

McCain Best Case – McCain 281, Obama 257
Obama Best Case – Obama 389, McCain 149

If everybody gets their leans (and Obama gets DC) – Obama 306, McCain 232

Assuming each candidate wins each of their Strong and Weak states (and Obama gets DC)… Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri and Colorado are still MUST WIN states for McCain. He needs to get all seven to win. If Obama wins in any one of those swing states, he wins the Presidency.

PS: Will someone please do a poll in DC, so I can stop having to give the DC disclaimer. :-)