Thursday, February 21, 2008

Political Update for February, 2008

You know who was really upset about the broohaha over John McCain (hard to believe it is pretty much over already -- but more about that later)? I guess the McCains are (although he looked serene at the press conference Thursday morning) but I think the Clintons were more upset. Unless McCain turns out to be the same phony most politicians are, he will benefit from it, in fact, already has, as Republicans and conservatives rallied around what appears to be a hit job from their arch media villain -- The New York Times. But Hillary C. is desperately trying to find a way to gain popularity against the charismatic political figure in my memory. And yesterday, no one was paying attention until the debate (Serbia was a little distracting too).

If you read these pages, you know that I prefer McCain to all other candidates and have long predicted that he has the best chance to win the election amongst Republicans. It appears like I was wrong about Clinton winning for the Dems, but that we should know soon enough. However with Obama in the race on the left, they do get their best candidate. Clinton may have more experience (and I do not deride experience gained from her time as first lady, although it is limited), but her negatives are so high, and she will so rally the conservative troops against her, that she would be the worse candidate of the two.

If Obama and McCain are the candidates, it might tell us something. That people really are sick of politics as usual, and the partisan bickering that goes on in Washington. I know McCain has apparently dropped the f' bomb on a few people in his career, but that has never bothered me (really, I use it so often I'm thinking of printing up cards with it in bold). On the whole, it appears to me that his career is about the same thing that Obama's campaign is about. Let's cut down on the partisan attacks, debate civilly and try and work on the problems people have. That is the "change" people are looking for.

That being said, is it really true? Or will we just find that when push comes to shove, people will run back to their partisan bases, and find the other candidate evil and angry and unfair? I hope not, but after more than a quarter century of watching politics (I was a late starter) I have to say that I am cynical that a substantial amount of people feel more like I do, and less like Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olbermann does. Frankly, almost everyone I personally know looks at the other side for the most part with a leery eye, even if they occasionally have a position independant of partisanship. If the other side does something good, then it is for secretly selfish reasons. If they do something they disagree with, it is because they are evil and want to destroy America, or gather power for themselves and their friends. I have to admit that often a lot of that is true (except the destroy America part) but it is certainly widely displayed by both sides, and it is not always true.

I will almost certainly vote for McCain (hard to think of circumstances where Obama or Clinton would convince me otherwise unless he turns so hard right to please the conservative base that it becomes a toss up). The Democrats and Republicans I like generally would not do well in primaries and caucuses. He did.

There are a number of reasons that McCain, against the grain of the conservative side of the Republican party, is going to be their candidate. First, his personal story is pretty much acknowledged by all to be impeccable. Although it is sometimes still brought up, I do not believe that most people who know about it believe he was more than a nominal name in the now ancient Keating scandal. He handled it as well as can be expected, by acknowledging that he had made a mistake (without saying he did anything wrong). Unlike with John Kerry, who served less than a half year in Vietnam and is perceived by some as speaking against the military, McCains military record is not only praised by everyone, but is genuinely taken to be heroic (although I have to admit, I have never understood the part of the story where he was given an opportunity to leave ahead of other men due to his status of being an Admiral's son, and chose to stay a prisoner -- could not his captors just have forced him to leave?).

Because it is clear that the Democrats have the upper hand right now in the congress and polls show that Obama or Clinton would likely beat any Republican) intelligent conservatives realize that if they do not want the two most powerful branches to be totally in the power of their political enemies, they had better put up someone who can win with independents.

I like McCain for the same reason I believe Obama will be a formidable candidate. They both appear that they will be principled and, at the same time, work with their adversaries. The difference will come down to experience. If Clinton can score points with some folks about her experience advantage, imagine what John McCain will be able to do.

Of course, Obama's campaign is proofed against an attack in that manner, as he showed recently. He will simply acknowledge that McCain has more experience, but insist that his judgment (get out of Iraq) is better than McCain's (stay in Iraq). He certainly will have popular opinion on his side, particularly if there is another sustained blow up.

Obama has been incredibly impressive as a campaigner. His presence coming on stage reminds me of Dean Martin (cool and graceful). Even when he danced on stage last night he did so in such a restrained fashion. If you can, check out Will Smith's character in the movie Hitch instruct Kevin James' character how to dance in a restrained fashion and then watch Obama move to the beat. I bet he saw the movie.

While he rightly countered Clinton's plagiarism attack by calling it silly to say that he plagiarized from one of his campaign chairman who told him to use the lines (and I think she is done with that -- having garnered boos from the debate audience last night when she brought it up) it is more annoying when he channels Martin Luther King, Jr.'s diction when making a speech. Although he carries it off very well, I'd rather he talk like Obama.

I'm not going to revise my prediction. They are for fun, as no one can really predict what is going to happen consistently, and if you change them, what was the point in making them. So, I have to stick with Hillary unless she gives up after next week. And I will stick with McCain too, regardless of who he faces.

McCain handled the mini-scandal, engendered by a New York Times article first appearing on it's website Wednesday night as well as I have ever seen any do it before him. In fact, he was so good, he could give a seminar to those who are telling the truth or lying. He had the press conference the very next morning, making that the story; he was exceedingly calm; he started right out by saying that the story was untrue; he did not rely on a faulty memory (which, after 8 years, would not be unfair); he brought his wife up on stage with him, ruling out questions like - "Did you ever have any type of sexual relationship with Vicki Iseman?"; when he was asked a direct question such as did you have an "improper" relationship, he gave a one word answer -- "No" and moved on to the next question. No finger wagging for him. In fact, he handled the whole matter the way Obama dances -- understated but with confidence.

Still, although I would hate to see someone I have hoped would be president for the last decade fail because of an old sex scandal, I still do have a few questions. Was it really within bounds for him to write two letters on Iseman's client's behest? A spokesman for the FCC said it was highly unusual and unprecedented. Did he do it at her specific request? If I wanted to pursue the prurient aspects I would have asked him if he were ever alone in her home or in a hotel room with her. Or if he ever had a meal with her alone. It's a better way to ferret out an admission that there was something.

As for my beloved New York Times (and here in Virginia, I still have The Sunday Times mailed to me), they blew it. It probably was not for the wrong reasons. After all, they did endorse him and even this week conservatives were still saying how McCain was the darling of the left wing media.

So, what happened? Why would they go with an anonymously sourced story (at least for the sordid part) where other editors have come out and said they would not have published it? Possibly, some in the media suggest, they have other information they can't corroborate, but that is really not even fair to consider unless there is some evidence of it. I think it is more likely they just goofed when they felt the heat from the New Republic which was going to publish a story about the story (this is getting ridiculous).

One thing the media politely does not mention is that it is long acknowledged that at least when McCain was young, he was quite the ladies man. Who could blame him? Women are going to be attracted to handsome war heroes in office. He does have a trophy wife, you know. Again, not that I blame him. So do many politicians. And it doesn't mean the trophy wives aren't wonderful people too. Being attractive doesn't make you dumb or mean (unless you are raised in the entertainment business). But, those of you who who are middle aged men -- can you deny that an attractive women half your age making a fuss about you, perhaps touching your arm occasionally, or laughing at your jokes, isn't going to give you --- ummm, manly thoughts? And that perhaps you would be tempted to play around? Hmmm? No? Yeah, right.

I would not be surprised to hear that just about any politician or otherwise famous person had an affair from the Pope to Bob Dole. These things happen. I'd be more surprised if they turned them down. Me, cynical? Naaah.

I have never understood the media's determination to get scoops. Does anyone usually remember who reported something first? News organizations even create quasi-scoops -- "this just in special to FoxNews" -- "CNN has just learned" -- and that sort of nonsense.

A McCain-Obama race would be exciting. Both are generally very popular and will, when push comes to shove, have the backing of most people in their party. But both also attract a fair number of independents, which will make it interesting. There is no doubt that McCain has far more experience than Obama, but the polls have convincingly shown that people really don't care about that right now. Bush didn't have much experience qualifying him to be president the first time around, but his team had oodles of it. And what haven't they messed up?

There are some people who absolutely will not vote for Obama. I can think of people I know or who I have met, who will not because they "know" or fear he is a Muslim (and, apparently, they conclude, that would make him sympathetic to terrorists and middle-Eastern tyrants). Frankly, those people would not have voted for Clinton either, so this is not much of a negative. I suppose that if I hear enough talk radio hosts call him Barack HUSSEIN Obama, I might get mad enough to sit out the election. Probably not though, unless McCain comes off like the old, cranky powerful white man that the left would like to paint him as.

My advice to Mr. McCain should Obama be your opponent -- never go negative. It would not work for you anymore than it did Clinton. Although that is McCain's nature as a candidate, when he went negative against Romney, he got a lot of flack. It will work with Obama all the less; he is just too likeable. He has even made being of mixed race cool (which is a good thing).

He should also ignore Mr. Limbaugh's suggestion to learn the lesson that you must beat liberals, not pal around with them. Being controversial gives Rush a lot of listeners (I'm one, although I turn him off every few minutes when he shifts from policy to partisan, but the real fight will be for independents and he has no good advice about how to win them). As an independent, I would really, really like it if just for once, both candidates had to pander for my vote. McCain must convince independents that he will be as non-partisan as they think Obama will be, and that they might as well have the one who also knows a few world leaders

I'd also suggest McCain pick up on my early suggestion (and, believe me, he and all powerful politicians read this) that he think about Michael Steele of Maryland, a moderate Republican -- not coincidentally a black male -- for a running mate. It galls me that I think picking someone partially based on race might be helpful, but there you have it. McCain should not even deny that skin color was a consideration because he can also say that is as qualified as anyone for the VP slot. Steele is the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and the current president of GOPAC, the premier Republican action committee. He lost out on a 2006 Senate bid, but I liked the way he debated. We know that McCain must go with a relatively young person, in any event. Failing that, I still think Huckabee (although perhaps too critical of McCain's legislative history) or Duncan Hunter would be a good choice. That way, the whole South would get to hope that McCain wins and then dies. Don't put it past them. Partisans aren't known for their sympathy.

I also think that Obama picking a black man or any woman would be a bad idea. Many people are very ready, even want to, vote for a minority or woman. But picking another minority or woman as a running mate will give many of those same people the feeling that he may be carrying a very liberal agenda with him. Balance is the name of the game this time around.

My main advice to Obama would be to be respectful but not deferential. Actually, he doesn't need to hear that from me. He is a rock star and knows instinctively how to act like one. Perhaps he is just a really nice guy. Of course, every instinct I have tells me to avoid humanizing any politician who has been around more than one year. Still, he shows that he is a force to be reckoned with -- a perfect example, perhaps, of the man meeting the moment.

But, so many things could happen in the next eight months or so up until the election. There could be another terrorist attack, which might be good or bad for McCain, depending on who wins the spin battle. Or, McCain could stumble over a cord and fall. Fair or unfair, it would hurt his chances.

My last subject. What is Ron Paul doing still running? Now that the nomination is all but certain, he has gone from eccentric internet phenom to quack. It was one thing when he could get a word in edgewise at the debates, but does he really think anyone is listening anymore?

I conclude these long winded remarks with my traditional, if not bold -- who knows? It's always safe.


  1. Anonymous1:25 PM

    OH for the love of god, stop equivicating! Be a mensch and take a stand! "On the one hand, on the other hand...." GAG ME! You are much more interesting when you plant your feet and take a manly swing.

  2. Nah, that's really not what I'm about. I enjoy making predictions, but in terms of what is right and what is wrong, I am a champion fence sitter, and I really do believe that it's mostly one the one hand . . . on the other hand. However, as cable tv and talk radio has shown us, it is no way to get ratings.


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .