Saturday, February 16, 2008

Over-Estimating McCain

The media love affair with John McCain continues unabated by reality. Here's Michael Kinsley in Time magazine:
Republicans have pulled some dirty tricks before: Swift Boats, Watergate, you name it. But this time they have gone too far. In its desperate hunger for victory at any cost, the Republican Party is on the verge of choosing a presidential candidate, John McCain, who is widely regarded (everywhere except inside the Republican Party itself) as honest, courageous, likable and intelligent.

What people like Kinsley really like about McCain is that he's so willing to talk with the media and eagerly appear on shows like Kinsley's former gig at "Crossfire." He certainly treats the media a lot better than he treats the Senate colleagues who have been targes for his volcanic temper.

McCain may be well-liked but that doesn't necessarily make him a strong nominee for the Republican Party. Obama is much better liked than McCain and Hillary doesn't have nearly the association with the Republican Party that McCain has. Either way, McCain won't be a favorite as long as he's projecting a 200 year war in Iraq

--Or is that 400 years?

Friday, February 15, 2008

McCain Needs "Reverse Obama"

A McCain Dilemna. As he moves toward sewing up the Republican nomination, John McCain is facing a difficult problem. The hard core right-wing activists who are now calling themselves "Reagan conservatives" are deeply suspicious of McCain and he needs to find ways to placate them if his campaign is going to have any energy and enthusiasm. But, every move McCain makes to shore up his right flank will cost him votes among moderates, independents, and weak Democrats. These kinds of swing voters are so disgusted with the war, George W. Bush, and the right-wing that they'll be primed to pounce on any "flip-flopping" McCain does to make himself look more conservative. Rush Limbaugh himself believes that he can help McCain more by criticizing him than supporting him. As Limbaugh states on his radio show:
If I really wanted to torpedo McCain, I would endorse him . . . Because that would send the independents and liberals who are going to vote for him running away faster than anything. What people don't realize is that I am doing McCain the biggest favor that can be done for him by staying out of this . . . If I endorsed him thoroughly and with passion, that would end the independents and moderates, because they so despise me and they so hate me.

Needless to say, Limbaugh makes his living by being self-centered. So he doesn't realize that the same point applies to Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, George Bush, and especially Dick Cheney. If John McCain seeks support from these guys, he might as well seek endorsements from jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, page-seducer Mark Foley, and gay-denying bathroom Casenova Larry Craig.

The Second Dimension of the McCain Dilemna. Actually, the McCain dilemna runs even deeper because the role model he most needs to emulate is in fact Barack Obama. The right-wing commentariat makes the mistake of trying to place McCain under the umbrella of conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill. However, because they're gazing at their own conservative navels, they don't realize that Barack Obama has already pulled the first Ronald Reagan since before . . . Ronald Reagan. Above everything else, Obama's unshakeable "likeability" is changing the political field. On the one hand, many voters like Obama so much that they not only ignore but they're eager to ignore criticisms of him for being inexperienced, weak on health care, and the most liberal member of the Senate. On the other hand, Obama's rock star charisma is pulling his politial fans to the left so they can support him.

In the final two weeks of the 1980 campaign, Reagan convinced a relatively liberal American electorate to move to the political right in order to vote for him. In many ways, Obama has already trumped Reagan. He's become the charismatic face of liberalism in the same way that Reagan became the trusted face of the political right and Obama has already pushed the American political spectrum to the left as people move to support him. McCain might agree more with Reagan's policies, but it's Barack Obama who owns the Reaganesque charisma needed to move large masses of voters in new directions.

The Reverse Obama. This allows us to identify one dimension of what John McCain is going to need to accomplish to win the election. In essence, McCain has to fully reverse the "Obama effect" and induce the American electorate to move back in a right-wing direction. Where the American electorate opposes the war, McCain needs to make people enthusiastic about the occupation of Iraq. Where the American electorate now accepts universal health insurance, McCain needs to get them to rethink. The same is the case with economic policy, gay marriage, and other issues where public opinion has moved to the left and accelerated that movement as a result of Obama's popularity. To win, McCain would have to be so much more personally popular than Obama that he could reverse Obama's own effect on the voting public as well as the public's general rejection of the Republican Party and the right-wing. That's an extremely tall order and I don't think McCain's up to it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Bitter Fruit of an Early Lead

Back in October when Hillary Clinton was peaking in the polls, the staff here at RSI warned that her 50% poll numbers were more BAD news than anything else.
Yesterday, a Washington Post/ABC poll came out with Hillary at 53% and Obama at 20%. Most of the time, political candidates consider it to be really good news if they make that kind of big leap in the polls. But I think 53% is more Trojan horse than gift horse for the Hillary campaign . . . If the numbers are real, they might be a sign that Hillary is peaking too soon. That's especially because Hillary's going to become more of a target for negative media coverage and right-wing smears the farther ahead she gets. If Democrats start listening to the negativity, the numbers will go back down. Being so far ahead also creates the likelihood of complacency, decreasing creativity, and lower energies as candidates and their staffs sit on their huge leads. That can also bring the numbers back down.

According to Karen Tumulty of Time, one of the problems with the Hillary Clinton's campaign is that Hillary's top people didn't think that Obama was going to be really competitive and that Hillary consequently didn't have to organize much in the way of caucus operations or a get out the vote ground game.
.As a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns who is not affiliated with any candidate this time around puts it, the Clinton forces "get to every state later. They spend less. They don't get the best people." . . . The campaign's inner circle has finally begun to expand. Austin, Texas, advertising man Roy Spence (who helped come up with the state's "Don't mess with Texas" slogan) will aid in shaping the candidate's message . . . Adviser Harold Ickes, who for months has been urging the Clintons to focus on ground-game vulnerabilities . . . Moaned a top official: "The work on the ground was never done. We have been consistently outhustled in the field."

I think Hillary would make a better president, but that's not all that primary elections are about. They're also about whose campaign organizations are going to do the best in the general election. If Barack Obama's campaign organization has indeed consistently more effective than Hillary's, then that's an argument for nominating him. It's also an argument for Obama's potential effectiveness as a president. After all, any president has to maintain an on-going political campaign if they're going to be successful in office.

McCain Goes for the Coulter Vote

The Senate passed an intelligence bill that banned waterboarding torture, but John McCain voted against the ban even though he had previously condemned waterboarding.

It would be easy to say that McCain was "against waterboarding before he was for it" and score cheap rhetorical points that way.

But I prefer to score cheap rhetorical points in different ways.

Instead of being inconsistent and hypocritical (what politician isn't inconsistent and hypocritical), McCain is taking his shot at getting the most important conservative vote in the country--Ann Coulter's.

Coulter indicts McCain as insufficiently conservative on a wide variety of items, including immigration, right-wing judges, McCain-Feingold, and global warming.

But Coulter also excoriates McCain's previous opposition to waterboarding as a form of torture.
He (McCain) hysterically opposes waterboarding terrorists and wants to shut down

Obviously, support for torture is a big litmus test for Ann Coulter and her hard-right acolytes. For a lot of people on the right, 9-11 was worth it because it gave them an opportunity to defy American law and international law, stick it to liberals, and show how tough they were by supporting torture for al-Qaida suspects. I'm sure McCain sees this and is beginning a political "full monty" in which he strips himself of all his previous moderate and reform positions and exposes his "inner right-winger" for all to see.

Anything for Ann's vote.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Barack Obama Night at RSI

Barack Obama Night at RSI

Obama Rolls. Barack Obama crushed Hillary Clinton in Virginia and Washington DC with majorities of 75, 60, and 64. Hillary didn't congratulate him, but I don't see any reason why I shouldn't.

Congratulations to the Obama campaign.

Obama's also moving ahead in the delegate count and he's poised to be a better front-runner than Hillary. I think that Hillary would make a better president than Obama, but he'll be the stronger front-runner. There's tremendous enthusiasm associated with his candidacy and the Obama campaign is doing an equally tremendous job of taking advantage of that enthusiasm.

That's not the case with Hillary's campaign. Her support has always been fragile in the sense that her numbers sink whenever she or one of her surrogates slip up and they've had really bad slips with the black community.

In fact, another Hillary surrogate, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, slipped up tonight by claiming that Obama would lose a lot of votes in Pennsylvania because he's black. Rendell's facts are right. I've got relatives in Northern Pennsylvania who I'm sure wouldn't vote for Obama for racist reasons and I ran into plenty of racists in Philadelphia. But the politics of that kind of statement are ham-handed and stupid. He's implying that Hillary Clinton would welcome the white racist vote just as much as someone like Ronald Reagan or George Bush. That's not only stupid, it's morally wrong. Rendell's also stupidly implying that Obama would deserve to win the Pennsylvania primary if so many racists weren't voting. Why couldn't he just say that Hillary has been making an effective case for herself in Pennsylvania.

That's the kind of dumb statement that cuts into Hillary's already fragile vote and makes it more likely that Obama will win. With friends like Rendell, Hillary doesn't need enemies.

Obama's Friends. I'm not sure Barack Obama's friends are so hot either. Obama endorsers Claire McCaskill and Tim Johnson were among the 19 Senate Democrats who voted against key Democratic amendments to the awful warrantless wiretap/telecom immunity legislation that passed the U. S. Senate today. As Glenn Greenwald points out in a great post, people like McCaskill and Johnson aren't necessarily voting to endorse the Bush administration's criminal behavior just out of fear of the Republicans or the corruption engendered by telecom lobbying cash. They also believe that the Bush administration should be able to do what it wants and that the telecom companies that cooperated with them should not be held accountable. If Obama is going to carrying out massive change as president, how is he going to do so with a substantial rump of Democratic Senators who see the world in the same terms as Dick Cheney unless he's carrying a very big hammer. That's not to mention the weak and easily influenced Democratic leadership of Senators like Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller.

Obama as Symbol. Joe Biden famously used a racial stereotype to refer to Barak Obama as "clean." But Obama actually is becoming a symbol of someone who is clean in the sense of not being tainted by controversy, failure, or any of the other kinds of scars that accumulate with sustained presence in any area of endeavor.

Don Banks of picked up on this theme while interviewing an NFL head coaching candidate about the new trend to hire NFL head coaches who had neither head coaching or coordinator experience.

"To me, the whole run on these head coaches this year is a little like Barack Obama's candidacy,'' the coach said. "The experience factor may be light, but these guys who don't even have any coordinating experience, they're squeaky clean. They don't have any negatives that you can attack. The interesting thing is that their lack of a track record is actually seen as a positive.

"I can't help but think that if a guy is that clean, he sells better. If you have no blemishes, you can mold them and spin them to your fans and the media any way you want. Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War because she was in the Senate at the time, and if she hadn't, she probably would have been labeled a traitor. But it's still being held against her, while Obama didn't have to cast a vote, so he can say he was against the war from the very start.''

Like untested NFL coaches, Barack Obama is selling better as a candidate than the battle-scarred Hillary Clinton. As is the case with NFL coaches, however, the very difficult problems of American government are not going to go away if Barack Obama is elected president. Obama's campaign has been very good at portraying him as a squeaky clean, no blemishes kind of candidate and the right hasn't succeeded in bruising him up with their racial innuendo at all. But the question that bothers me is whether Obama would remain squeaky clean after he started withdrawing troops from Iraq, dealing with the federal budget, and getting any kinds of meaningful reform legislation through the Congressional meat-grinder.

I don't think so and I'm wondering what Plan B is going to be.

Monday, February 11, 2008

More On Stealing Your Lunch Money

Here's an article from Washington state GOP chair Luke Esser when he was in college. I guess he meant it as humor, but the sense of his barely suppressed yearning for vote suppression is as palpable as Bill Kristol's yearning for endless war.

Blame us for the rain tomorrow. Forget what the weatherman says, and plan on wearing those galoshes Tuesday. You better trust us. We’re taking care of everything.
There’s a very good reason why we have decide to rain on your parade. It’s just politics. And taken the right way, politics can be a lot of fun, almost as fun as sports.
We all remember those great political traditions — whistle-stop tours, kissing babies, voter fraud, dirty tricks, and voting a straight Republican ticket.
Of course, no honest person would be content to blindly vote a straight Republican ticket. That’s because a few of the G.O.P. candidates aren’t conservative enough to deserve the honor of sharing party affiliation with the likes of President Reagan.
Like any sport worth its salt, in politics you have adversaries, opponents, enemies. Our enemies are loudmouth leftists and shiftless deadbeats. To win the election, we have to keep as many of these people away from the polls as possible.
Now your average leftist loudmouth is a committed individual and can almost never be persuaded to ignore his constitutional rights. The deadbeats, however, are a different matter entirely. Years of interminable welfare checks and free government services have made these modern-day sloths even more lazy. They will vote on election day, if it isn’t much of a bother. But even the slightest inconvenience can keep them from the polling place.
Many of the most successful anti-deadbeat voter techniques (poll taxes, sound beatings, etc.) that conservatives have used in the past have been outlawed by busybody judges.
The only means of persuasion left available to us are Acts of God, who we know is exclusively on our side. I’m talking about seriously inclement weather. I want Biblical floods and pestilence. I will settle for rain, sweet rain. The deadbeats won’t even go out in the rain for their welfare checks (they send one of their social workers to
pick it up). There’s no way they’ll vote if it’s raining.
Unfortunately it hasn’t been raining nearly enough lately. Some October days were positively balmy. That means the clouds need a little help.
Borrowing some of the great traditions of the natives of our area, Washington conservatives will gather in Bellevue tonight to hold their first annual Rain Dance. Those interested can gather in the northeast parking lot of Bel Square (corner of N.E. 8th St. and Bellevue Way) at 8 p.m.
Working together, we can assure that only people of substance will vote tomorrow. Remember to bring your dancing shoes tonight and don’t forget those galoshes tomorrow.

Thirty Down, Thirty to Go

This morning, I weighed 213 on the hospital scale. That's down 30 pounds altogether from the beginning of the diet on Jan. 7 and 3 1/2 pounds from my last weigh-in ten days ago.

That's very good and there's some side benefits. With a little more spring in my step, I did a little run up the stairs at Rader Hall yesterday. People are starting to notice as well.

I'm especially proud that I didn't fall into binge given what a horrible week I had last week. Randall Swain announced last week that he was leaving Morehead State for Eastern Kentucky University--goddamned EKU! Between being mad at Swain and coming to grips with the fact that we might be down to four faculty next semester, I've been really down in the dumps.

But at least I didn't take out my discouragement by eating like there was no tomorrow. I also hopped back on the exercise bike last night.

Thirty down, Thirty to Go!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Did a Republican Steal Your Lunch Money!

That question came to mind when I saw that the Republican state chairman in Washington State had stopped the electoral count at 87% of the votes cast last Saturday.

Here's Mike Huckabee's campaign being as outraged over GOP malfeasance as any liberal.
The Huckabee Presidential Campaign will be exploring all available legal options regarding the dubious final results for the state of Washington State Republican precinct caucuses, it was announced today. Campaign Chairman Ed Rollins issued the following statement: "The Huckabee campaign is deeply disturbed by the obvious irregularities in the Washington State Republican precinct caucuses. It is very unfortunate that the Washington State Party Chairman, Luke Esser, chose to call the race for John McCain after only 87 percent of the vote was counted. According to CNN, the difference between Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee is a mere 242 votes, out of more than 12,000 votes counted-with another 1500 or so votes, apparently, not counted. That is an outrage.
Can't these people do anything with violating the law, trampling on people's human rights, torturing people, promoting the worst kinds of bigotries, or being grotesquely unfair?

It seems the answer is no!

But it might all be a matter of socialization. I've heard the Republican Party demands evidence that a person has stolen lunch money from little kids before letting them work as "political operatives."

And then there's Ann Coulter and kittens.