You know, I’m almost willing to join a religious institution to say – THANK GOD, IT IS OVER. No more angry emails calling fine people like the four candidates names, or, otherwise demeaning them, no more raised tempers, no more watching commentators issue supposedly journalistic opinions with all the fairness of a group of four year olds deciding who is going to be first in line. I have not yet heard any person I know say they are not glad it’s over.
I started watching this campaign in Fall, 2006. For fun, I made some predictions as to what would happen. Before I recount my mistakes, I’m happy to say that I was right about some of them – that McCain would win the Republican nomination, that Huckabee and Romney would be players, that the Democratic race would be between Clinton and Obama, with Edwards being out early, and that the other jokers on both sides just didn’t stand a chance.
In retrospect, of course, correct predictions look obvious, but back in ’06, Huckabee was a virtual unknown, McCain was facing very stiff competition from Giuliani and Romney in particular (and was almost out of it at one point), Edwards was considered a leading contender and belief in Obama was, at best, limited until the Iowa primary just this year.
Where was I wrong? I had a great deal of trouble deciding if Clinton or Obama would get the nod, but, long after I decided that McCain would be the Republican nominee, I determined that Clinton would just prevail over Obama. I don’t feel real stupid, because she sure made it interesting for longer than many thought she could or should and I see few out there who did predict his success. My best prediction, as I felt alone outside of the Clinton team, was that she would win New Hampshire. Not that it matters much anymore, but when you lose the big enchilada, you are grateful for small victories along the way.
And, of course, I was dead wrong that McCain would beat whoever the Democratic candidate at the end. I was counting on his having a competent campaign. There seems to be a consensus among everyone that it was not. Obama may have run the best, most efficient, most on message campaign ever (at least in the media era) and McCain one of the worst losing ones, possibly worse than Kerry’s 2004 effort.
Here’s my smattering of unorganized thoughts on the election:
Racism: The ding donging that racism is dead, that there will never be another contest in which the Wilder effect occurs, is overstated. Obama is a unique person with unique qualities. For one thing, he is bi-racial. For another, his education, mannerisms, speech patterns, etc., lean on his white side, enough so that there was an argument in the black community (initially) about whether he was “black enough” to deserve the mantle of black candidate.
I like Obama personally. What’s not to like? He is dignified and cool, seems almost unflappable, has a dry sense of humor and deflects negativity like no one you’ve ever seen. But, particularly in the primaries, I was not pleased with the accusations of racism, not just from his supporters, but from his staff as well, of white liberals like the Clintons and Geraldine Ferraro. Now, I understand that different people have different sensitivity to racism but, I didn’t read the codes like they did. Unjustifiably calling someone a racist is pretty close to being a racist in my book. It’s an ugly word and too freely flung about.
I congratulate McCain, although he ran far to negative a campaign for my tastes, for so strongly insisting that racism not play a roll in his own campaign, that there were no accusations by Obama’s team during the general election (some of McCain’s supporters are a different story). However, when McCain asked him to challenge the statement of civil rights’ icon, John Lewis, that McCain’s campaign reminded him of George Wallace’s, Obama refused. That did not impress me at all.
However, it was not in Obama’s interest to level charges of racism in the general election, because moderate conservatives and independents whose votes he wanted were not as comfortable with such accusations. There was one blip when McCain referred to him as “That one”. I guess some people see it as code for “boy”.
McCain: I still like the guy. Absolutely my favorite politician. But, he deserved to lose in the political sense. It’s his campaign and you can’t blame the advisors. Ironic that everyone was so impressed with his concession speech. They really shouldn’t be. Most losing candidates make their best speech then when the pressure is off and they can be humble and a little more honest.
Bush: This was not a referendum on Obama at the end. It was a referendum on Bush. “A third Bush term” resonated with enough independents to make a difference, and frankly, I am impressed that McCain even got 46% of the vote, given his own clinging to Bush policies at times.
Palin: The media found its fall gal, as it did with Gore in 2000, Dan Quayle in ’88 and others. More than anyone, she became a lightning rod for angry attacks – pig, hater, religious freak, stupid (idiot and moron, too). I’ve heard them all. I don’t think she is the most educated candidate, but, it seems to me she made less foolish mistakes than Joe Biden. Personally, I like to ask people to who call her an idiot if they think they are as accomplished as she is. And though rumors are running amock now about her lack of geography knowledge, I would love to give a pop quiz to journalists who hold themselves so high and mighty. Want to bet many could not find Singapore or Guyana on a map.
People watched CBS’s Couric interview with her, cut up into 5 days, and saw each day getting worse, until the last one just made them cringe. It wasn’t that her answers were wrong, she just wouldn’t answer a question (my belief, it was on orders), and it just got painful. It painted her for the whole election.
This was not the same person who I saw making speeches all over the country, often without a prompter and more mellifluously (my favorite word, although one I believe I never actually used in a sentence before) than the others. McCain frequently misspoke during speeches, Obama stuttered and Biden often sounded quite wacky, but Palin speaks without an ummmm, which I wish I could do, and usually in full sentences. However, I expect for a while when people think of her they will think of the Tina Fey version. There are more outright lies about her out there than for any other of the candidates. Possibly it is still happening.
I have more to say about her, because other than Obama, she is the new face, but I’ll save it for another time. But, I am not her water carrier. I reserve opinion on the whole ethics scandal (which I do think is overblown in its importance) and her in general. Unfortunately, campaigns are the worst way to get to know anyone.
Biden: As Palin took the abuse, Biden got the media pass. He could say that the vice president’s duties were defined in the wrong article of the constitution and no one blinked. To the contrary, when Palin said the Vice President ran the senate, she was castigated. He could say that the U.S. and France chased Hizbollah out of Lebanon and no one cared, even though it never happened. He could make his gaffe about the world testing Obama when he became president, he could just go off on tangents during speeches which boggled the mind (one I remember was on whether sisters with sisters were tougher than sisters with brothers) and there would be no comment on the media.
Kerry: The winner of who I am maddest at after this election? Not Obama and McCain, both who ran the usual highly negative campaigns, but John Kerry, who, I admit, I was never impressed by and could not vote for in ’04 even though Bush had performed so badly in his first term. Here’s why. Personal friendship means something to me. McCain and Kerry are long time friends. Kerry even asked McCain to be his VP choice. While McCain said no, he took a lot of heat for standing up for Kerry during the swift boating. It is one of the things I love about McCain. But, when McCain became the candidate, Kerry took some unkind cuts at him. I don’t care if he says McCain is not as good a choice as Obama or that he disagrees on policy, but his character attacks on McCain after McCain stood up for him, were just childish and spiteful.
Joe Lieberman: I was never a big Lieberman fan because I am a little concerned with his insistence that we need more religion in politics. He also seems to have some first amendment issues, although I also tend to think many politicians do. But, I like that he came out for his friend, McCain, despite Lieberman’s still caucusing with Democrats and I like his hawkish views. Mostly, I like it when any politician crosses lines, either in affiliation or policy. It says to me country over party. It is what attracts me most to McCain and some of that rubs off on Lieberman.
But I’m a weirdo. Most people like one party better than another and hate it when someone on their team takes the other team’s side. That’s why a number of Democrats/liberals I’ve heard speak about him wish him not well. Now that the Democrats don’t need him so much, his fate as to his chairmanship lies in Harry Reid’s hand.
Full power: Thanks to the excesses of the Republicans when they had both houses and the presidency, the Democrats find themselves in the same position. Already I have heard talk that this will be forever, just as there were Republicans making that prediction 6 years ago. Wrong. Inexorably wrong.
This is already the big question -- will he govern from the center or left? The real battle here is not conservative versus liberal. The conservatives will do what all parties out of power do, make nuisances of themselves as best they can. That’s to be expected. Any conservative not expecting a liberal administration can start screaming now. The real fight for Obama is between him and Pelosi and Reid.
I don’t expect Obama to be Lyndon Johnson, although I think he is much tougher than many conservatives expect, but he has to find away to dominate the agenda and concentrate on the things he was elected for – the economy (does anybody care that much about Iraq anymore?). When the Democrats came into congress they had their agenda and it was understandable they made that 100 day push. But, if they decide, as say Tom Delay did in ’04, that we have all the cards so lets do whatever we want – well, you see where Tom Delay is today. On the sidelines.
Economy: This is Obama's first test and he is already backpedaling as fast as he can. However, we get what we deserve. Almost all our politicians do that and we never call them on it.
We got a short bounce in the market after the election, and then, it crashed again. Sad when a nearly 500 point drop is not much reported on. In recent volatility terms, it is not that impressive. My own spidey-sense tells me that the economy is going to get worse. Someone who reads this blog and will hate being quoted told me that A bulk merchandise seller on Long Island, BJs, is laying off workers as we head into the holiday season. Can that possibly be a good sign. Here’s a paragraph from a newsletter by a trading guru, Dennis Gartman:
“We note than that The ISM non-manufacturing index is now at its lowest level ever in the decade + of its existence. GDP will be negative for the 4th quarter, and the only question is how negative? We'll be surprised if, when all is said and done, that the economy in the current quarter has not fallen by at least 3.5%.. if not more. Ask the local automobile dealer how his business is? It is not good; indeed it is horrible. Ask the dry cleaner; ask the retail dress shop owner... indeed, even our friends in orthopaedic surgery tell us that their business is off materially as bad knees, sore shoulders, hurting hands remain bad, sore and hurting because those suffering can't afford the "co-pays" beyond their insurance payments.”
I only give you a little taste of it. Manufacturing is down as well and every other indicator which we'd like to see up.
2008: Govern as a moderate, communicate with the public, undue the worst of the Bush excesses (secrecy and over-classification, signing statements, rigged military tribunals, Afghanistan) and keep Pelosi and Reid from trying to turn us hard left and you will probably get my vote next time. Cave to them, and govern left and you will probably lose it (unless the Republicans put up somebody more unsuitable).
What could be more fair?
I'm done with politics in this blog for a while, I hope, unless something interesting comes up. I may do a Bush retrospective at one point, but, as I said before THANK GOD IT'S OVER (and pray they don't start running for the next one the day after the mid-term elections start).
- 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 . . . .