Pre post mortem on McCain Campaign

Alex Massie two days ago (h/t Larison):

Equally, “constructing” a “narrative” of Obama as a “lightweight celebrity” was a strategy that depended upon Obama showing himself to be nothing more than a lightweight celebrity candidate. But what if he showed more than that? What would the McCain campaign do then? In other words, McCain’s strategy depended upon Obama failing, not McCain succeeding. As such it was vulnerable. Indeed, it was predicated upon an analysis that was not the GOP’s to control.

Now I’m not here to praise the McCain campaign before I bury them by any means.  And Alex makes a number of smart critiques:  e.g. he is right that the Palin selection while temporarily helped, she hurt in the long run.  [Somebody I know hypothesized about that very possibility awhile ago].

But I want to focus on this notion that McCain’s campaign was about Obama failing.  As a simple matter actually that was in fact the only chance McCain had.  For the longest time, I’ve been saying that McCain could never have won this election (minus some attack or horrible foreign policy crisis a week out from the election), but Obama could lose the election.

If we return to Drew Westen’s 5 point decreasing order scale of importance in voting, point #1 (most important) is party identification/party numbers.  So McCain was always screwed on that front–any GOP nominee would have been.  It’s was only worse in McCain’s particular scenario because he didn’t have the GOP base going in.  He needed a base plus middle this year to win.  But the more he went for his Maverick/moderate side, the more he alienated his base–which got reminded of McCain’s positions on campaign finance, immigration, etc.

But the more he went to the base, the more he lost the middle/independents/moderates who despise the Republican base.  And as that base has headed further and further into wingnuttery, that only makes it that much worse for Sen. McCain.

As Mike Murphy said, these guys (McCain’s camp) are running it like’s it Texas.  They are trying to run up the score–i.e. play to the base.  But they are still thinking this is 2004, that a base rollout scenario is what will gain victory.  But that’s exactly Westen’s point #1, the GOP brand is completely trashed, except for its base.  The 20-28% or so who approve of Bush that is.  That is not going to get you a victory.

So heading down the list.

#2 is a candidate’s emotional connection with folks/#3 qualities (e.g. leadership) of the candidate.

But here again McCain again was screwed.  You will recall in the summer he ran a biography tour and focused on #2 and #3 relative to him, positively.  War hero, POW, etc.  McCain also (as Westen noted) opened up the negative line of attack to come on Obama by referring to himself as the “American President America has been waiting for.”

But on #2 & #3 on simply a positive comparison (i.e. the good side of both), McCain was toast.  Because Obama represents the future, McCain the past. Obama connects with the growing cultural edge of authenticity and extraversion over McCain’s introversion and classic top-down authority view of gaining standing.  [Which explains McCain gets so visibly angry by Obama and thinks he’s jumped his place in line].

Bonus negative in McCain’s column, he was a Vietnam vet.  Or just a war vet generally.  Reagan beat Carter.  Clinton beat Bush 41 and Dole.  Bush II beat Gore and Kerry.  Non-military vet over military vet each time.  Also extraverted, forward looking, optimistic candidate over introverted ones.

Moreover, we live in an era of television campaigns.  And McCain is not built for the television era:  introverted, uncomfortable very often, very poor speaker and is “HOT” in Marshall McLuhan’s language.  Where the medium is the message.  And TV McLuhan said is a Cool medium.  The message that is communicated through telelvision is calm, connection, sincerity.  Obama is the quintessence of cool in that regard.  Which is whatever the punditocracy say after each debate on policy matters and such, Obama kept blowing out McCain in the audience polls.

In sum, on the three most important things that decide the election, McCain was 0 for 3.  If he only stayed positive and made the case for him.  Sure he had the more experience thing going and could try his Reformer argument, but that wasn’t going to be enough to overcome the anger at the Republican party and Obama’s charisma.

So there only chance was to attack (Rovian style) Obama’s strengths in categories 2 and 3.  That he can’t be trusted–i.e. “bad associations”.  Attempt to link him to the whole train of 60s/70s liberals (“hate America”)…Wright, Ayers, and infanticide charges enter the picture. Say that he is arrogant (Obama not country first), flash in the pan.

McCain was always, so long as Obama kept his cool, in a no-win situation.  Either he disrespect Obama–celebrity, liar, etc.–and then Obama shows up (and this is Massie’s point) and then McCain looks like the contemptuous, cantankerous, sour grapes/angry old man that he was in the debate the other night.   Or he play gracious to Obama, in which case then all the other factors come back to push Obama to victory.

Again, it was only whether Obama could lose it not whether McCain could win.  Obama made a mistake or two earlier on:  most egregiously the “bitter guns/religion” comment (and that when his numbers tanked).  But Obama it should be remembered has run a very impressive (to put it mildly) campaign, whatever one’s views of his politics.

Barry was supposed to be the neophyte but against both McCain and Clinton he appeared the much cagier, veteran.  Obama’s ability to stay cool and play rope a dope with the atttacks coming at him, instead of responding in anger, helped him enormously.  Can’t be underestimated how much.  As a contrast imagine how Hillary would have responded to similar attacks.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Quote of the Day: Larison

Heh Indeed:

There is an idea circulating out there that the killer combo of Joe the Plumber and “spread the wealth” may save the election for McCain.  Now you might say that this just whistling past the graveyard, but that doesn’t do it credit.  This is really more like four-part harmony singing in a freshly-dug grave as the dirt is being piled on.

As Larison correctly notes, this isn’t that kind of year.  That they still this late in the game refuse to face the reality, means they are going down.

Bonus: For those of you who believe (perhaps falsely given the political circus) that the original context of statements has some bearing, then Ambinder here on the context of spread the wealth.  Short version:  Obama was responding to a question from Joe the Plumber about a flat tax.  Meaning Obama’s spread the wealth answer simply means he is upholding a progressive income tax.  Which is not exactly news.  Hardly the 2nd coming of Karl Marx.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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prez debate + twitter

Update I:  (Morning After).  On the “kill him” reference.  This probe suggested it wasn’t saidHere is the Times Tribune piece arguing it did happen.  Here is Milbank claiming a separate occurrence of the same words.  I didn’t realize there were two different (possible) versions of this.  I only knew about the Milbank one.    (h/t to Andrew Sullivan for the links).  So even if the Fed probe of the Scranton event is correct (and it wasn’t said there), I haven’t seen any counter-evidence that it didn’t occur at the Florida fundraiser Milbank attended.


gonna try a combo tonight. see how it goes:

All Times PST

[6:06] McCain’s first answer was really muddled. Obama is on his shipping job overseas boilerplate, but he shifts to health care and environment.

[6:08] If you are wondering where an Ohio plumber is coming from (see here). Obama gets a litlte dig on how McCain is watching too many of his own commercials. I just don’t get this McCain tax attack line. Obama looks pretty calm.

[6:11] McCain is just really awful to watch. Sorry to say. oooh, he just dropped a class warfare. Jeez Louise, he’s back on the 2nd Highest Corporate Tax Rate BS. Does he not get Obama is going to cut taxes on more people than him?

[6:14] With taxes down, Earmarks are coming. Oops, looks like he took at left at energy independence. Although I’m definitely with Johnny Mac on ending the Brazilian ethanol import block. oh yeah, there are earmarks. Yes, bonus shot at the Chicago Planetarium. I just don’t get this. McCain did this in the previous two debates. He gets the automatic earmarks count for 18 billion out of a possible 1 trillion debt.

[6:21] McCain just had a decent shot there on you should have run 4 years ago. I guess. He’s finally looking stronger. He will “balance our budgets”. Good luck with that.

[6:23] It’s really annoying when McCain interrupts Obama. Not very respectful. Obama just got a good shot on McCain quoting “Fox News”. Obama gets McCain more on economics per se than Bush in general.

[6:26]. Oh hello. Interesting question by Schieffer on whether they would say s–t to their faces. And McCain’s excuse that his VP is saying he palled around with terrorists is Obama’s fault because he didn’t go to the townhalls. And now John Lewis–McCain is the real victim. Ugh. This is pathetic. If he thinks this is going over with the moderates, he is outta his f’in mind.

[6:29]. ooh schnap. subtle dig at McCain’s narcissism and touchy feelings. This is smart. He says it doesn’t matter if I get hurt, it’s about la gente. McCain’s answer was all about how his hurt feelings. And gets McCain on his campaign’s crazy (though truthful) admission that if the discussion is economics, they are toast.

[6:31] whoa. McCain is getting so angry. God he is being such a jerk. WTF is he talking about Obama slurring veterans? He’s said somebody (who DID) said “Kill him” (meaning Obama)**** (see note above) and “he’s a terrorist.”

[6:36]. WHAT??? He just said ACORN was about to perpetrate the biggest electoral fraud in history. WHAT?

[6:39] McCain goes on a tirade about ACORN, Ayers, and then says, “My campaign is about not raising taxes.” This is beyond parody.

[6:41] The idea that Biden is good VP because he comes from Scranton–I love the guy but seriously? But this is nothing compared to McCain’s answer on Palin. She’s a reformer and she knows about Autism…what? She says Russia from her house and the Moon from her porch too.

[6:49] This is dreadful. Yeah CANADA gets a nod. Everyone drink some Molsen. South Korea boo!!! F–k kim chee.

[6:52] How did this turn into a report on McCain’s summer trip (Colombia, Canada)?

[6:53] McCain is just firing in any directions. Obama is the New Hoover?!!?

[7:01] Joe Six Pack to Joe the Plumber. You can’t make this shit up.

[7:05] McCain called Obama “Sen. Government.”

[7:10] Obviously McCain would appoint a anti-Roe person and Obama of course would put someone on who would.

[7:11] He just referred to the Leadbetter case as a trial lawyer dream. Not helpful. wow. McCain is bringing up the bogus present votes and the Live Birth BS.

[7:15] Caring about the health of the mother (legitimately) is the extreme pro-abortion position?

[7:17] Last question on education where they both are so boilerplate and put me to sleep. This has been totally abysmal. Though I actually have to say Schieffer was by far the best debate moderator. [Not that big of an accomplishment given the other ones].

[7:22] I think McCain did better (at certain points) on policy. But his contempt is so negative. It hurts him so much. People see that whatever else they hear. So I guess I have to give it to Obama in a sense–it doesn’t hurt him (or not enough to matter).

[7:28] But Obama is the one who is comfortable in his skin. He is not afraid of McCain. McCain is psyched out by Obama.  In Marshall McLuhan’s medium is the message, the medium of television as he would say is a cool medium (versus radio is hot).  Cool=Obama, WAY TOO HOT=McCain.

Published in: on October 15, 2008 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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McCain’s Stunt Redux

This is what I believe Sarah Silvermann calls being a douche noozle (h/t dkos):

KATIE COURIC: And, Bob, I understand that John McCain actually floated an alternative plan. What can you tell us about that?

BOB ORR We’re told at the White House Senator McCain offered an alternative plan that would include fewer regulations and more corporate tax breaks for businesses, kind of a private solution. But we’re also told those ideas angered and surprised Democrats like banking chairman Chris Dodd who now says he thinks the White House summit was more of a political stunt for McCain.

So lemme get this straight.  For days Chris Dodd & Crew are busting their sacks to get something done, McCain comes in and rides the hard-core House Republican anti-bailout economic shock doctrine and helps blow the thing up (for now–we’ll see about tomorrow). He runs his whole bipartisan/fix Washington shtick until you know actual bipartisan/quasi-working is going on in Washington which would kill his political chances, so he helps undermine it.  Seriously?  Country first my white arse.  A little John McCan’t on this one it would seem.  Jebus God Almighty.

To quote that great rap line–“Move b–ch get out the way.”

Update I:  At least Daniel hasn’t fallen for this crap.

Update II:  If you didn’t see Colbert last night.  He was en fugeo.

Update III: Oh yeah, he still claims as of tonight he won’t debate.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t actual suspend his campaign.

Update IVAmbinder reports differently.  He puts it on Boehner and sees McCain more as simply walking into a blown up situation.  Though of course even if that is the case,  the reason McCain was at the White House in the first place was (as Dodd correctly pointed out) a political show orchestrated by his campaign with the executive.  But still leaves this question from Ambinder:

After all, if not to get these recalcitrant Republicans on board, why did McCain go to Washington in the first place?

McCain doesn’t have that kinda pull with House Republicans.  With the base ones. that is  McCain again is forced with the basic problem of his campaign:  he needs the base to win but the base’s view are rejected by the vast majority of the country.  [Plus he doesn’t have total trust from the base from his years of not being totally 100% down the line on all their issues].  How can he simultaneously embrace his right-wing base and yet make it look like he’s different and such moves broadly appeal beyond the confines of the Republican base?  At a time when that brand (Republican party, esp. base Republican) is at its lowest point.

In this instance how that shakes out is that McCain has to behind the scenes play ball with the House guys (anti-bailout) and then try to sell that as Maverick/Sticking it to Washington as Usual to appeal to the middle.  Except the middle wants a deal (and a debate for that matter).  Generally that circle is squared in the McCain Camp by obfuscation, grandstanding, smoke & mirrors, and deflection of attention in another direction.

If George Bush really thought McCain was the guy to come in and make the House Republicans vote for this bill, Bush is a whole lot dumber than I think he is (and that’s saying something).

Update VThis seems like the third way on this one.  The House Republicans and McCain had an arrangement worked out.  So McCain doesn’t have to bring it up at the meeting, but he clearly isn’t surprised by it either (and supports the basic move).  Looks like, iow, McCain (as I had hunched) came to Washington to vote against the compromise plan because that would have ended any shot of his campaign for all intensive purposes.  Minus some major Obama unforced error/gaffe that is.

McCain will use this as a way to both push through a hard-right deregulationist agenda–he is after all at heart a “deregulator”–and then to position this publicly as him being Mavericky, bucking the Washington Consensus.  [Kinda undercuts his bipartisan thing but whatever].  Fighting for the people (in actuality really rich people but hey what’s that to an uninformed public).

I’m not someone who overestimates the degree to which majority of voters don’t pay attention at more than a surface level, so I can appreciate the cynicism of the thing.  But to be fair, if the electorate had any common sense/intelligence obviously he wouldn’t be able to pull such a move off.  That he can is a testament to the poor state of our media/body politic.

I’m still not convinced it will really push him to victory, but I think it helps makes the election closer than it should probably be otherwise.

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lipstick Wearing Pigs and Paper-bagged Fishies (aka English Comprehension 101)

This is beyond self-parody. There is no word for this.

So Obama said that McCain trying to wrap himself in the mantle of change was like putting lipstick on a pig. A phrase anybody with an English-comprehending brain knows means you are trying to dress something up as new/more appealing when in actuality you haven’t change the essence of the thing (it’s still a pig, with or without lipstick). Pig obviously bearing the connotation of dirty, muddy, filthy, etc.

So the McCain camp said that (I kid not) Obama was being sexist and calling Gov. Palin a pig. [Normally men are called pigs in sexist language–memo the McCain camp. I don’t think Obama was saying McCain is a cross-dresser?!!].

Except that Obama then said right after the big comment the following:

“You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change,'” Obama continued, “it’s still gonna stink after eight years. We’ve had enough of the same old thing! It’s time to bring about real change to Washington. And that’s the choice you’ve got in this election.”

Obviously the rotten fish in the bag amplifies the lipsticked pig. Both are trying to cover what are negative things (pigs as dirty, fish as rotten/smelly). Those analogies, according to Obama, refer to John McCain being a creature of the Republican Party and trying to give the appearance of change/reform, when in Obama’s mind, nothing essentially is different (still pig, still rotten fish).

Jake Tapper points out that McCain himself used the lipstick on a pig line before criticizing Hillary’s health care plan and no one (rightly) accused him of sexism to Clinton. Because of course there is none. [Tapper also shows another time Obama used the lipstick/pig line in reference to President Bush…how sexist was that statement?]

But that level of basic non-stupidity (not even anywhere near intelligence just not being a blinkered dumbass) is apparently beyond the juvenile morons who run the McCain camp (either that or they are absolutely craven bastards–I’ll let the reader decide which is more likely and which is more offensive) and then this.

Former Mass Gov. Jane Swift er, swiftboated (??) (sex-boated?) Obama in a conference call. Then some non-moron quoted her the line about the fish, which evoked this response (which is FOR THE AGES):

It was pointed out to Swift that, after the line about the pig, Obama had said, “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change,’ it’s still gonna stink after eight years.”

Swift then suggested that Obama was calling McCain a fish.

Are you kidding me? WTTF? (The Extra T stands for Triple).

So looking at, calling someone a fish means they are either:

A)A Canadian or American online poker player
B)A new guy in jail or a new student at school (i.e. fresh bait)

We know McCain loves craps, so perhaps Obama was referencing his gambling vice? I mean he talked about lipstick and Sarah Palin wears lipstick so he must have been calling her a pig right (so argued, I s–t you not Fmr. Gov. Swift). Except since McCain doesn’t send out his emails and is still learning The Google, I’m assuming that online poker is beyond him.

I guess that leaves Obama calling McCain a new inmate in jail? That must be a new low and is a very under handed and unethical way of referring to John McCain’s POW past, right? I mean the only jail McCain was ever in was in Hanoi. How dare Obama–he must apologize at once!!!

To quote girl on the street:  Oh no you didn’t Barack Obama, no you didn’t.

Actually, wait a minute, no you actually didn’t.

Published in: on September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm  Comments (7)  
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McCain’s Speech

I didn’t get a chance to see it live, but read through the text a few times\. It’s not particularly harsh. Line or two about how Obama thinks he is the chosen messiah for the times and McCain is the servant, but they feel (at least in the reading) phoned in.

Not heavy on specifics to say the least (mention of the child tax credit increase). Still no direct mention of Afghanistan–only a vague reference to al-Qaeda. Lots of boilerplate.

But I did find this graf intriguing–not sure I agree or disagree but it’s an intriguing connection:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school?

The essence is that he fights for America, particularly a focus on middle America. He’ll fight corruption in Washington, bad guys abroad. That’s good but who could be against these things?

It’s a surprisingly serene text given the vitriol of the previous two days, particularly last night. As well as the fear Obama campaign they have run. For all of Rudy’s discussion last night that the Democrats were afraid to offend terrorists and Palin’s snark about how Democrats wanted to “read them their rights”, there is NO direct mention of what McCain claims (or did until the Russian-Georgian war anyway) was THE existential threat: namely (so-called) Islamic extremism.

That’s different….I guess. I find it a weird combo of a fairly sedate speech mixed with this language of fighting and the fightin’ spirit. It reads like something from George HW Bush in 92 or Dole in 96.

I do like this shout out to Alvin Toffler and a Marxist twinged techno-economic base/superstructure argument:

We need to change the way government does almost everything: from the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children. All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington.

In Tofflerian, McCain is describing the Third Wave de-coupling of our institutions from the economic platform–schools built around the Fordist assembly line model, entitlement system built out of the WWII employer era Big Gov/Big Labor/Big Business consensus. Maybe Gingrich wrote that section.

Then he ends with his story of being a POW. So he will run the biography tour, the vague embrace of greatness conservatism (“freedom, prosperity, low taxes, family values”) and try I suppose some appeal to the center–some I’m not Bush frame–while he has the others do the nasty work of fear Obama/rev up the base. It’s a tough bet because if he (McCain) is to do the attacking he runs the risk of losing women/moderate votes, appearing irascible/crotchety. But if they don’t get him some existential threats (see his response to Russia), he fades and mostly phones it in.

I guess it’s all they can do. But he’s really going to have to step it up for the debates. The major problem for his campaign is that the Palin story appears headed to continue to overshadow McCain. What possible very short term gains that might get (and I’m not convinced there will be), that can’t be good for them I gotta think.

Amateur Campaign Watch:

They had McCain in front of a green screen again?

if you didn’t see Colbert with the Green Screen Challenge, here is my favorite:

Update i: A reader writes into Andrew Sullivan, saying the speech sounding more like a reminiscent, nostalgic swan song for a career than looking forward to a new one. I think that’s about right. That gets at what I was trying to say about the lack of urgency in the text.

Update II: Mrs. Dierkes (my Mrs.) likes this Green Screen challenge (which incidentally was my second favorite).

Conservative Left Wingism

James Poulos writes:

At any rate, the main distinction to be drawn here is between cultural conservatives, who are willing to bet the future of their country on the practical virtue and persuasive power of their practices, and social conservatives, who mistakenly seek to create a nonentity (’society’) in order to get people who don’t share their culture to act, in public, at least somewhat more like they do. Or so I’d argue, anyway…Republicans would do well to work to protect and maintain significant parts of working-class culture (but not others: a story for another day); they would do ill to try to ‘create’ in America something meant to give us all a sense of being in a more ‘blue-collarish society.’

He also sees (unnerving) parallels between the right social cons and left wing traditions towards society creation, particularly disturbing when done from the top-down. This is why I said that I thought Palin should focus on her story, her gifts, and an argument from McCain rather than be the attack dog against Obama.

When sticking to the former she was a culture conservative–in James’ formulation. She legitimately defended her culture. And as Conor Friedersdorf (James’ blogging confrere) correctly points out Obama had it coming on her line about how people from small towns don’t appreciate big city politicians saying one thing to them and another to a shi-shi San Fran audience.

But when she went into full on attack dog mode, I felt like we were seeing the social con side come out. [Disclosure: I found that section fairly revulsive]. The social con side that possibly wants to decide what books you should/shouldn’t read at the library. Or more creepily from my perspective (as a seminarian!!!), equating certain political outcomes with God’s will.

Another line of conservatism that this point about a conservative left-wing societal creation impulse would hold of course is neoconservatism (in foreign policy). Neocons of course were former Trotskyites/left wingers so that makes perfect sense. They transferred their allegiance for a utopian societal creation from a domestic sphere (they became anti-New Deal/Great Society) to foreign countries (“remaking the Middle East.”)

McCain/Palin then at its best is a cultural conservatism–McCain defending the military ethos, Palin the family life/marriage-work mix, both helping to foster republican (little r) civic virtues.

McCain/Palin at its worst however is the combination of these two top-down right-wing enforcement streams: neo and social conservatism.

We’ll see if McCain can turn it around here tonight and pivot to the center in the upcoming campaign, but my fear is the headed the way of the latter.  If so, it’s going to get very ugly.  And it’s not just the sexism thing that is going to be lobbed out, the racial waters are inevitably going to get roiled again.  It’ll be the worst of the Dem primary all over again–as opposed the positives of having the first woman and first A-A on the tickets.

My fingers are crossed for the former, but my head tells me differently.

Press to McCain: It’s War Mother Father

Joe Klein comes out guns blazing as well as he should. Time to take these amateur punks down a few pegs. For all this jibber jabber about how Mccain puts the country first and is not some elitist like Obama, why is McCain such a petulant hissy-fight throwing egomaniac.

Key quotation:

The second thing is more insidious: Steve Schmidt has decided, for tactical reasons, to slime the press. He wants the public to believe that there is an unfair–sexist (you gotta love it)–personal assault going on against Palin and her family. This is a smokescreen, intended to divert attention from the very real and responsible vetting that is taking place in the media–about the substance of Palin’s record as mayor and governor. Sure, there are a few outliers–and the tabloid press–who have fixed on baby stories. That was inevitable….the flip side of the personal stories that the McCain team thought would work to their advantage–Palin’s moose-hunting and wolf-shooting, and her admirable decision to have a Down Syndrome baby. And yes, when we all fix on the same story, whether it’s a hurricane or a little-known politician, a zoo ensues. But the media coverage of the Palin story has been well within the bounds of responsibility. Schmidt is trying to make it seem otherwise, a desperate tactic.

Good luck Camp McCain. Got nobody to blame but yo’self for this one.

The more the election is off Obama, the more it is the asylum on wheels that is the current Republican party (and the Straight Talk Express in particular) the better for Obama. They know this right? They can’t be that dumb can they? Then why the hell do this? What in God’s name are they thinking?

McCain was always faced with a difficult task of a de-energized base while needing moderates to win. The more he tried outreach to one, the more he hurt his chances with the other. Go moderate and the base doesn’t mobilize in sufficient numbers. Throw bloody dripping scorn and acid-laced red meat to the base (see Palin and Rudy speeches) the more the moderates/independents flock to Obama.

I guess he has given up that game of trying to win the center. This is flashbacks to Bob Dole in 96 or HW in 92 with Buchanan calling for a war. The only reason this worked in 2004 was because 9/11 was still fresh and Democrats were cowed by Bush. But Bush ran against this very model in 2000 (compassionate conservatism remember?). Every other election run along this red meat base strategy since 92–with the exception of ’04–has been a loss for the Republicans. Looks like you can chalk another up to the marketing geniuses over there.

Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 8:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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Reverse Sexism, Sarah Palin, & Gloria Steinem

[Welcome Readers from C-Span]

You know things have gone a little wacky, when a right-wing conservative is deploying Gloria Steinem (Gloria Steinem?!!??) to support the Sarah Palin pick and claiming left-wing anti-female sexism.

The charge in question belongs to Chrystia Freeland of The Financial Times.

She opines:

During the Democratic primaries, Gloria Steinem, pioneering feminist and Hillary Clinton supporter, argued that the contest had revealed that gender was “probably the most restricting force in American life”. She illustrated her point by imagining a female version of Barack Obama and contending that no woman with such a slender biography would be considered seriously for the presidency.

It is now clear that Ms Steinem was right – although proof comes not from the treatment of the Democratic lioness Mrs Clinton but from the responses, particularly on the left, to the Republican newcomer Sarah Palin. Less than 24 hours after the triumphant close of a convention that nominated a 47-year-old first-term senator as its party’s candidate to be president of the United States, Democratic heavyweights were sputtering with horror at the idea of a 44-year-old, first-term governor as Republican vice-presidential nominee.

But is that right? I mean it is certainly true that Obama spent more time in elected public office than Clinton, yes? And if the problem is that Obama was a one-term senator and Palin a one-term governor, Hillary is/was only a 1 1/2 term Senator, yes?

Ok, so if you ignore that query–or if you count being First Lady of Arkansas and of the Nation as executive experience (which to be fair, given that it was the Clintons maybe you could, maybe she did have a great deal of influence/decision making capacity which wouldn’t otherwise accrue to that otherwise ceremonial post)–then I guess you could make Steinem’s argument. Otherwise Hillary’s record is not particularly thicker than Obama’s. Been a Senator for a couple of years more and got the one main vote (Iraq) she took during that time wrong, which he got right.

The case for a thicker Clintonian resume however is not helped by Freeland later saying (dumbly imo):

“In contrast with Mrs Clinton, whose most important political decision was whom she married”

as opposed to say I don’t know, voting or not voting for a war. This person whose most important decision was whom she married is the backbone of Steinem’s argument against the “thin resume” guy. Wait, I’m confused now, anybody else?

But even if you accept GS’ premise–that no woman would ever be accepted with “so thin a resume”–the obverse of that is therefore not also true. The (unstated) corollary to the no woman could ever gain to that position with so thin a record premise is that Hillary lost the Democratic Primary because of sexism. When in reality Hillary lost the primary because she voted for the Iraq War and ran a poor campaign and never took Obama seriously (like say how Steinem refused to either).

I think Freeland in the Obama/Palin matchup is underestimating what having run in the longest national political campaign for presidency ever does in terms of that vague catchall experience. He has been in the public eye for 19 months, 20+ debates, run against (and beat) the Clinton machine/Democratic establishment (versus say the Alaska Rep. Establishment, except well maybe not totally), has had numerous meetings with the financial and foreign policy establishment/elite, done the foreign leader/delegate circuit.

While it is true as Freeland points out, Obama is running for Prez and Palin only for VP, she should mention that Prez would be if elected the oldest first term individual ever elected in US history and therefore there are legitimate questions about succession/possibility McCain dying in office. In which case the only in Palin is “only” running for VP quickly disappears.

But all that aside, I think Steinem is probably right that no woman would enter the fray in a way Obama did if Obama were a woman. Doesn’t at all explain why/how Clinton lost the Democratic Primary–other than he was there to sink her (necessary but not sufficient condition)–but Steinem may be right on that point. Also continues still to underestimate how impressive Obama has been in many regards. [He is a mixed racial self-identified black man named Barack Obama running for Prez after all…in the US mind you]. The fact that he was a man–and that he had been against the Iraq War–got him a foot in the door I suppose but doesn’t in anyway predict what he was able to do once said foot was in said door. It was all him after that point.

I also agree with Freeland that much of the negative pushback against Palin is because she is a social conservative right-winger. That does leave open (as CF points out) the question of whether the “feminist” in this context means supporting policies that one thinks of as more pro-women which may be advocated by a man as opposed to a woman versus helping women as such, as represented by the possibility of the First Woman VP. I’m not gonna take sides on that one, just to say it’s out there.

But if the former is true, doesn’t this again undercut the thin resume argument vis a vis a Palin? I mean if it were decided that the more feminist (if there is such a thing) thing to do would be to vote Obama because of his supposedly more pro-woman policies, then wouldn’t the women (and pro-feminist men) voting against Palin be voting correctly? i.e. Voting on self-interest and policy not because of some reverse sexism?

Of course the other obvious ginormous elephant in the room that Freeland doesn’t mention–cuz it might wreck her whole theory–is that Palin got the nod because she was a woman. And only because she was a woman. And if she were a man with the kind of (*cough*…thin?) resume she has, she wouldn’t have been picked.

iow, All this episode may prove is that any campaign that picks a candidate pretty much entirely on gender and ideological persuasion while there are valid questions of suitability for the role without having clearly done their proper homework on vetting the individual in question is bound to get some stuff thrown back/blow up in their face. I’m not sure it at all proves Steinem’s thesis–which is the central point of Freeland’s article.

e.g. I can’t imagine a scenario in which John McCain had picked say Olympia Snowe as his VP and she would have been questioned by the left as “inexperienced”. They would have critiqued her–she is a Republican after all–but no sane person would have questioned her qualifications/capacity for the job. But Snowe is pro-choice, so she didn’t fit the ideological purity test necessary for McCain. If we are playing the what is good for feminism card–is it good he passed over more highly qualified women for a younger one because she looks good and people like her and he needs her so other people will like him who before didn’t? I’m just asking.

While I have some questions about the main point of the article (both Freeland’s and Steinem’s), I think Freeland makes a good point at the end. Which is whatever else, if Pain is elected, it’s good that the US finally has a woman VP. I’m still not convinced she’ll actually be the nominee by the election and I’m pretty damn sure the pure pandering of the pick is the nail in the McCain Coffin. But if a miracle were to occur, I’ll be glad we have a woman VP. I still be nervous that it’s her. But maybe she’ll change my mind.

I think the way she got there was not the best. She got (imo) an undeserved promotion, which nobody would pass up. So I don’t have anything against Palin. I think McCain was too cynical by a mile in making this pick and that of the legitimate criticisms/questions around Palin (not the family stuff) he brought that on himself and I don’t have a lot sympathy for his victim card with the media or the charge by Carly Fiorina that this is a smear campaign based on sexism. Apparently even Meg Whitman agrees.

On another note, I actually think Palin will do quite well in her speech tonight. If however they have her be the red meat/attack dog against Obama that could really backfire and bring on loads more media pushback against her. I think her speech should be about her story, her ideals, why you should vote for John McCain. And leave it that.

The real question is how is she going to show up after leaving the convention. She is gonna have the crowd on her side tonight to be sure. But what are they gonna do after that? Keep her from the media?

Update I: And even if there were rampant sexism on this one, wouldn’t by Gov. Palin’s own logic, this mean that the appearance of whining as a counter strategy only hurt their case?

Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 3:53 pm  Comments (4)  
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McCain 4.0 Updated with Palin Speech Live Thread

Dick Morris must have gotten the talking points early because last night’s post from him clearly signaled the new (old?) McCain: the reformer/maverick. The most obvious manifestation of the new track is the VP Choice, AK Gov. Sarah Palin.

Morris’ premise is that the Dems have spent their old convention bashing Bush and not McCain (read Obama’s or Biden’s speech Morris?). McCain is not Bush (so goes DM) hence they failed in their primary attack.

Here is Morris’ list of McCain’s difference from Bush:

• McCain fought for campaign finance reform — McCain-Feingold — that Bush fought and ultimately signed because he had no choice.

• McCain led the battle to restrict interrogation techniques of terror suspects and to ban torture.

• McCain went with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a tough measure to curb climate change, something Bush denies is going on.

• McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts when they passed.

• McCain urged the Iraq surge, a posture Bush rejected for years before conceding its wisdom.

• McCain favors FDA regulation of tobacco and sponsored legislation to that effect, a position all but a handful of Republican Senators oppose.

• McCain’s energy bill, also with Lieberman, is a virtual blueprint for energy independence and development of alternate sources.

• After the Enron scandal, McCain introduced sweeping reforms in corporate governance and legislation to guarantee pensions and prohibit golden parachutes for executives. Bush opposed McCain’s changes and the watered-down Sarbanes-Oxley bill eventuated.

• McCain has been harshly critical of congressional overspending, particularly of budgetary earmarks, a position Bush only lately adopted (after the Democrats took over Congress).

You will quickly notice a pattern–almost all of those are the McCain of 1999-2003. Not the McCain of 2004-Present.

McCain has abandoned his own stance on Campaign Finance Reform and Immigration Reform. He voted against his own Climate Change Bill. He originally yes did vote against Bush tax cuts but now supports them and wants to add even more tax cuts during a war for the rich. He voted against the application of the Army Field Manual to the CIA (leaving open torture options).

Morris of course knows these things. So unless McCain is flipping back to the early 90s McCain 2.0 then these counter defense seems patently stupid. The only issues on which McCain has clearly broken with Bush is MORE BELLIGERENCE vis a vis Russia, Iraq, and Iran. Not particularly appealing to independent voters.

But to the degree McCain has any chance, I guess this is it. He could only ever win under the image of being a maverick and has to hope he can keep his rightward base only through red meat/anonymous smears to fear Obama. With the Palin pick however he has totally undercut his own message about Obama’s unreadiness for office.

I’m watching McCain’s event from Dayton OH (an hour from where I grew btw) and they just ran what I think is a new ad which said, “Don’t Hope for Change, Vote for It.” It didn’t hit Obama on being inexperienced but simply not the guy to bring change.

It is a change election and McCain now is on that turf. No more celebrities–still references to how he puts country first–but this is dangerous waters for McCain. Especially come the Republican Convention. But it’s as smart of politics as McCain can play.

Update I: I’m watching Palin speak. It’s an interesting pairing with McCain to say the least. It’s good on first appearance, but I’m not sure how it will wear. She’s not starting off very strong in her speech. There is going to be a super steep learning curve for her. She’s cute as a button and has a son enlisted in the army and is heading to Iraq. 3/4 of Prez and Vice Prez picks have children in Iraq.

Her children have super whitey white names like Piper, Trig, Willow. She’s clearly a sweet person, but man she is as she says, a “hockey mom.”

Update II: She’s talking about her anti-corruption stance, she’s getting stronger and clearer. She now sounds like Obama talking about taking on the lobbyists and oil companies plus her work bringing Republicans and Democrats. The crowd clearly digs her. But she’s only got a few weeks to bone up because she is to me not anywhere near ready. She’s not a horribly bad speaker. Better obviously than McCain (though that’s not saying much). She’s not really that good either. She’s had some flashes of real strength, so I bet she’s a quick study. She probably improves.

Update III: She just called him, “Sen. John S. McCain”. That was weird. Why the S?

Wait a sec….(Double) POW Alert from Palin. This pick helps with the “I don’t know how many houses I own” issue. She is clearly not Richie Rich Romney.

Update IV: Oh yeah, she is giving shout out to Ferraro AND Clinton. Really going for those PUMA votes. Although she just made a strong call that by electing McCain you break the glass ceiling that Hillary dented. [Except Hillary was referring to the Presidential Role not VP, so unless she is banking on John going to God I’m not sure that works technically but is probably effective nonetheless].


Looks like Mickey Kaus could yet be proved right and Mike Murphy could come back on board the Straight Talk Express. It’s much better to see the relaxed, freewheeling not angry, grouchy McCain.

I think the Crowd just chanted, “Yes We Can.” WTF?

She botched up the ending. That’s alright. I’d give her a B.

The Music is better than Obama’s.

Update V: Uh oh, guess we will be hearing about how she opposes abortion in all cases including rape.  The only exception being danger to life of the mother.  Also she wants to teach creationism in public schools.  Jed Report has the details.  (h/t WashingtonMonthly).

So I see the logic now.  She has legitimate reformer credentials plus staunch hard right credentials particularly among the social con crowd, and then McCain tries to win on his supposed mavericky qualities plus war hero/tough dude.

Published in: on August 29, 2008 at 9:20 am  Comments (4)  
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