Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 27, 2008

Will The Other Kennedy Help?

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

Read Less

Ted Kennedy Goes for Obama

Senator Ted Kennedy will be endorsing Barack Obama for President on Monday, following his niece Caroline’s endorsement of Obama today in the New York Times. The endorsement from this unreconstructed liberal, and a titan to the party’s left-wing base, should help Obama with the lower-income and less-educated voters he has been losing to Hillary in every contest. No longer, Obama’s supporters will claim, is he the candidate of just college candidates and Cantabridgians.

It will be interesting, however, to see how these same people square away their candidate’s persistent promise of “change” and unmooring American politics from the smoky, back room dealings of the past with an endorsement from the standard-bearer of one the country’s oldest and most notorious political dynasties.

Senator Ted Kennedy will be endorsing Barack Obama for President on Monday, following his niece Caroline’s endorsement of Obama today in the New York Times. The endorsement from this unreconstructed liberal, and a titan to the party’s left-wing base, should help Obama with the lower-income and less-educated voters he has been losing to Hillary in every contest. No longer, Obama’s supporters will claim, is he the candidate of just college candidates and Cantabridgians.

It will be interesting, however, to see how these same people square away their candidate’s persistent promise of “change” and unmooring American politics from the smoky, back room dealings of the past with an endorsement from the standard-bearer of one the country’s oldest and most notorious political dynasties.

Read Less

Obama and Israel–It Gets Worse

A follow-up to my post yesterday about the troubling views of one of Barack Obama’s top foreign policy advisers, Samantha Power. In 2002 she sat for an interview with Harry Kreisler, the director of the Institute for International Studies at Berkeley. Kreisler asked her the following question:

Let me give you a thought experiment here, and it is the following: without addressing the Palestine – Israel problem, let’s say you were an advisor to the President of the United States, how would you respond to current events there? Would you advise him to put a structure in place to monitor that situation, at least if one party or another [starts] looking like they might be moving toward genocide?

Get a load of Power’s response:

What we don’t need is some kind of early warning mechanism there, what we need is a willingness to put something on the line in helping the situation. Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import; it may more crucially mean sacrificing — or investing, I think, more than sacrificing — billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me at this stage (and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human rights abuses, which were seen there), you have to go in as if you’re serious, you have to put something on the line.

Unfortunately, imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. It’s a terrible thing to do, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. It’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to [leaders] who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Freidman has called “Sharafat.” [Sharon-Arafat; this is actually an Amos Oz construction — NP] I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention.

Just so we’re clear here: Power said that her advice to the President would be to 1) “Alienate” the American Jewish community, and indeed all Americans, such as evangelical Christians, who support the state of Israel, because 2) Israeli leaders are “destroying the lives of their own people.” 3) Pour billions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money into “the new state of Palestine”; 4) Stage an American ground invasion of Israel and the Palestinian territories — what else can she mean by a “mammoth protection force” and a “military presence” that will be “imposed” by “external intervention”? — in order to do the exact same thing that she considers the height of arrogance and foolishness in Iraq: an American campaign to remake an Arab society.

Note that this wasn’t her response to a question about her personal views of the conflict, or about what she envisions might be a utopian solution to the conflict; it was a response to a question about what she would tell the President of the United States if she was his adviser. Yesterday Barack Obama took a large stride toward the presidency–helped in some small measure by the speeches on behalf of the Obama campaign that Power has delivered–and it is time that someone asked him, while he is still a candidate, what he thinks of the perverse things his many foreign policy advisers have said about Israel and the Middle East.

As Samantha Power herself acknowledged, there is “a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import” that would like to know where Obama stands on these matters.

A follow-up to my post yesterday about the troubling views of one of Barack Obama’s top foreign policy advisers, Samantha Power. In 2002 she sat for an interview with Harry Kreisler, the director of the Institute for International Studies at Berkeley. Kreisler asked her the following question:

Let me give you a thought experiment here, and it is the following: without addressing the Palestine – Israel problem, let’s say you were an advisor to the President of the United States, how would you respond to current events there? Would you advise him to put a structure in place to monitor that situation, at least if one party or another [starts] looking like they might be moving toward genocide?

Get a load of Power’s response:

What we don’t need is some kind of early warning mechanism there, what we need is a willingness to put something on the line in helping the situation. Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import; it may more crucially mean sacrificing — or investing, I think, more than sacrificing — billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me at this stage (and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human rights abuses, which were seen there), you have to go in as if you’re serious, you have to put something on the line.

Unfortunately, imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. It’s a terrible thing to do, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. It’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to [leaders] who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Freidman has called “Sharafat.” [Sharon-Arafat; this is actually an Amos Oz construction — NP] I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention.

Just so we’re clear here: Power said that her advice to the President would be to 1) “Alienate” the American Jewish community, and indeed all Americans, such as evangelical Christians, who support the state of Israel, because 2) Israeli leaders are “destroying the lives of their own people.” 3) Pour billions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money into “the new state of Palestine”; 4) Stage an American ground invasion of Israel and the Palestinian territories — what else can she mean by a “mammoth protection force” and a “military presence” that will be “imposed” by “external intervention”? — in order to do the exact same thing that she considers the height of arrogance and foolishness in Iraq: an American campaign to remake an Arab society.

Note that this wasn’t her response to a question about her personal views of the conflict, or about what she envisions might be a utopian solution to the conflict; it was a response to a question about what she would tell the President of the United States if she was his adviser. Yesterday Barack Obama took a large stride toward the presidency–helped in some small measure by the speeches on behalf of the Obama campaign that Power has delivered–and it is time that someone asked him, while he is still a candidate, what he thinks of the perverse things his many foreign policy advisers have said about Israel and the Middle East.

As Samantha Power herself acknowledged, there is “a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import” that would like to know where Obama stands on these matters.

Read Less

Caroline Kennedy Endorses Obama

I’m waiting for the crucial Tricia and Julie Nixon endorsements myself.

I’m waiting for the crucial Tricia and Julie Nixon endorsements myself.

Read Less

The Real Clinton Divide

Barack Obama’s victory speech in South Carolina last night was a visual and rhetorical masterpiece. His gaze literally fixed on some imaginary horizon, his chin raised as if to clear the shoulder-high muck of the past few weeks, the senator spoke of a newly united electorate with a confidence that suggested history in real-time. Obama’s vision of a pluralistic America with a shared will manages to rouse beyond the expected levels of mushy melting-pot sentiment. The senator constructs his unity dream from a real world blueprint, creating the most important effect for any running politician: you want to believe him.

Whether you bought this practical utopianism or you didn’t, the speech was a poetic triumph of the grand over the petty. Without ever saying their names, Obama shamed the Clintons. His high road was so elevated that Bill and Hillary’s malignant sniping and race-tactics seemed unreal by comparison. He made fellowship shine where division repulses, and redefined effortless in the process.

So, what does it mean that Bill Clinton answered ABC News’ David Wright’s question about Obama’s win with: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here”? We know the divide-and-conquer approach at work here. If the Clintons can split the vote down black-white lines, Hillary will win through sheer mathematics, as white voters outnumber their black counterparts. But the Clintons have been so thoroughly exposed (and seemingly punished) for exploiting race, one would think Bill would attempt to cloak this strategy. The fact that he didn’t means one of two things: either the Clintons are so cocooned from public sentiment that they exist in a reality of their own making, or they’ve finally admitted that venom is their medium and embraced it without apology. That’s the real Clinton choice. Both options are equally chilling.

Barack Obama’s victory speech in South Carolina last night was a visual and rhetorical masterpiece. His gaze literally fixed on some imaginary horizon, his chin raised as if to clear the shoulder-high muck of the past few weeks, the senator spoke of a newly united electorate with a confidence that suggested history in real-time. Obama’s vision of a pluralistic America with a shared will manages to rouse beyond the expected levels of mushy melting-pot sentiment. The senator constructs his unity dream from a real world blueprint, creating the most important effect for any running politician: you want to believe him.

Whether you bought this practical utopianism or you didn’t, the speech was a poetic triumph of the grand over the petty. Without ever saying their names, Obama shamed the Clintons. His high road was so elevated that Bill and Hillary’s malignant sniping and race-tactics seemed unreal by comparison. He made fellowship shine where division repulses, and redefined effortless in the process.

So, what does it mean that Bill Clinton answered ABC News’ David Wright’s question about Obama’s win with: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here”? We know the divide-and-conquer approach at work here. If the Clintons can split the vote down black-white lines, Hillary will win through sheer mathematics, as white voters outnumber their black counterparts. But the Clintons have been so thoroughly exposed (and seemingly punished) for exploiting race, one would think Bill would attempt to cloak this strategy. The fact that he didn’t means one of two things: either the Clintons are so cocooned from public sentiment that they exist in a reality of their own making, or they’ve finally admitted that venom is their medium and embraced it without apology. That’s the real Clinton choice. Both options are equally chilling.

Read Less

The Not-So-Smart Anna Karenina

Matthew Yglesias points to a Facebook study of the most popular books in college. He notes that readers who cite Crime and Punishment (#98) had SAT scores 200 points higher than readers who cite Anna Karenina (#84). I can’t make head or tail out of the study itself, but Yglesias wonders why there would be this gap between two novels that “would seem to me to appeal to more-or-less the same audience.”

There’s a deep answer and a simple answer to this. The deep answer is that readers of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are not the same audience and never have been — that Tolstoy’s full-bodied portrait of life as it is actually lived stands in marked contrast with Dostoyesky’s exploration of people who find themselves drawn to extreme acts of social and moral transgression. When I was young enough to have heated conversations at the campus bar on such matters, it was invariably the case that a Tolstoy lover really disliked Dostoyesky, and that a Dostoyevsky lover had a certain amount of scorn for Tolstoy. So perhaps an argument can be made that Dostoyevsky’s more emotionally demanding work is more alluring to a more restless and probing intelligence. (Which was I? Sorry — as I recall, I loved both writers equally, though it was The Brothers Karamazov rather than Crime and Punishment and War and Peace rather than Anna Karenina that meant the most to me. And I fear I didn’t do especially well on my SATs anyway.)

But let’s go for the simpler answer: Anna Karenina was the May 2004 selection of the Oprah Book Club selection, and what it gained in mass sales it probably lost in SAT selectivity. Crime and Punishment hasn’t yet been favored by Barack Obama’s savior, nor has any other Dostoyesky work. (It has, however, been made into a television movie starring Patrick Dempsey as Raskolnikov. That’s right. McDreamy from Gray’s Anatomy took an axe to the pawnbroker’s head. No wonder you never saw it.)

Matthew Yglesias points to a Facebook study of the most popular books in college. He notes that readers who cite Crime and Punishment (#98) had SAT scores 200 points higher than readers who cite Anna Karenina (#84). I can’t make head or tail out of the study itself, but Yglesias wonders why there would be this gap between two novels that “would seem to me to appeal to more-or-less the same audience.”

There’s a deep answer and a simple answer to this. The deep answer is that readers of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are not the same audience and never have been — that Tolstoy’s full-bodied portrait of life as it is actually lived stands in marked contrast with Dostoyesky’s exploration of people who find themselves drawn to extreme acts of social and moral transgression. When I was young enough to have heated conversations at the campus bar on such matters, it was invariably the case that a Tolstoy lover really disliked Dostoyesky, and that a Dostoyevsky lover had a certain amount of scorn for Tolstoy. So perhaps an argument can be made that Dostoyevsky’s more emotionally demanding work is more alluring to a more restless and probing intelligence. (Which was I? Sorry — as I recall, I loved both writers equally, though it was The Brothers Karamazov rather than Crime and Punishment and War and Peace rather than Anna Karenina that meant the most to me. And I fear I didn’t do especially well on my SATs anyway.)

But let’s go for the simpler answer: Anna Karenina was the May 2004 selection of the Oprah Book Club selection, and what it gained in mass sales it probably lost in SAT selectivity. Crime and Punishment hasn’t yet been favored by Barack Obama’s savior, nor has any other Dostoyesky work. (It has, however, been made into a television movie starring Patrick Dempsey as Raskolnikov. That’s right. McDreamy from Gray’s Anatomy took an axe to the pawnbroker’s head. No wonder you never saw it.)

Read Less

Sunday In Florida

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the “Obama Clubs Hillary” stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain “succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive.” The St. Petersburg Times added its endorsement.

I would agree for reasons stated here that the Crist endorsement is very meaningful, even though many voters have already cast ballots. Whether warranted or not, the McCain team thinks their man has the momentum. Unfortunately for the poll-obsessed among us, polls at this stage may not shed much light on where the race is heading. As we saw with the weekend debate before New Hampshire’s primary and the Hillary big cry, the impact of significant news happenings a day or two before election day generally don’t show up in final polling.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Boston Globe offers up this piece on the realities of the turnaround efforts of Mitt Romney’s multi-billion-dollar firm Bain Capital, which unsurprisingly focused on profits and efficiency, not jobs. The story includes this John Edwards-esque comment from a Romney spokesman: “Governor Romney is not critical of companies that have to reduce their workforce in order to remain competitive. He is critical of Washington politicians who throw up their hands in despair and say there’s nothing we can do about it . . . Governor Romney can’t promise that he will bring back lost jobs, but he can guarantee that he will fight for every job.” Because “fighting” is what really matters, I suppose.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the “Obama Clubs Hillary” stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain “succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive.” The St. Petersburg Times added its endorsement.

I would agree for reasons stated here that the Crist endorsement is very meaningful, even though many voters have already cast ballots. Whether warranted or not, the McCain team thinks their man has the momentum. Unfortunately for the poll-obsessed among us, polls at this stage may not shed much light on where the race is heading. As we saw with the weekend debate before New Hampshire’s primary and the Hillary big cry, the impact of significant news happenings a day or two before election day generally don’t show up in final polling.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Boston Globe offers up this piece on the realities of the turnaround efforts of Mitt Romney’s multi-billion-dollar firm Bain Capital, which unsurprisingly focused on profits and efficiency, not jobs. The story includes this John Edwards-esque comment from a Romney spokesman: “Governor Romney is not critical of companies that have to reduce their workforce in order to remain competitive. He is critical of Washington politicians who throw up their hands in despair and say there’s nothing we can do about it . . . Governor Romney can’t promise that he will bring back lost jobs, but he can guarantee that he will fight for every job.” Because “fighting” is what really matters, I suppose.

Read Less

McCain’s Busy Day

John McCain snagged the biggest endorsement in Florida (and aside from Nancy Reagan, arguably the biggest in the race as a whole) tonight as Charlie Crist have him the nod, and a hug too boot. Crist has a 65 percent approval rating and this will help, if nothing else, by monopolizing local media coverage for the last day or so of the race. Why did Crist wait so long? He might have preferred another candidate, but waited to see if he might play a decisive role. Not to be overlooked: McCain endorsed Crist in his primary and certainly had a favor to call in. (In the category of gathering in the GOP establishment, Howard Baker who had backed Fred Thompson, also endorsed McCain today. No word yet on the popular, moderate Tennessee Senator Bob Corker.)

Until the Crist news broke, most of the day was spent in a heated argument between McCain and Mitt Romney. McCain pointed to an interview Romney gave earlier in the year on Good Morning America in which he suggested that “the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, and the leadership of the Iraqi government.”

McCain contends this shows that Romney supported a secret deadline for withdrawal. Romney vehemently denied this and pointed to a number of his statements supportive of the surge and Bush’s policy. McCain shot back and later added statements from Lawrence Eagleburger and James Woolsey attacking Romney’s resoluteness.

Who’s right and does it matter? I think the best that can be said for McCain is that Romney played his cards very close to his vest until late last fall on the surge. You may recall the New Hampshire debate in which Romney would only say that the surge “apparently” was working. McCain pounced at the time and this left some conservatives speculating that Romney was prepared to distance himself from Bush. But the point of McCain’s attack today, I suspect, was to highlight in flashier terms the argument McCain has been trying to make for some time: Romney lacks national security experience, never spoke up about the Rumsfeld policy’s failings and didn’t advocate for the surge before it became obvious it was succeeding. If that is the discussion for the next couple of days, and not the two candidates’ relative economic expertise, that benefits McCain. On the merits of this particular fight, the usually supportive media are a skeptical of McCain’s charge.

John McCain snagged the biggest endorsement in Florida (and aside from Nancy Reagan, arguably the biggest in the race as a whole) tonight as Charlie Crist have him the nod, and a hug too boot. Crist has a 65 percent approval rating and this will help, if nothing else, by monopolizing local media coverage for the last day or so of the race. Why did Crist wait so long? He might have preferred another candidate, but waited to see if he might play a decisive role. Not to be overlooked: McCain endorsed Crist in his primary and certainly had a favor to call in. (In the category of gathering in the GOP establishment, Howard Baker who had backed Fred Thompson, also endorsed McCain today. No word yet on the popular, moderate Tennessee Senator Bob Corker.)

Until the Crist news broke, most of the day was spent in a heated argument between McCain and Mitt Romney. McCain pointed to an interview Romney gave earlier in the year on Good Morning America in which he suggested that “the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, and the leadership of the Iraqi government.”

McCain contends this shows that Romney supported a secret deadline for withdrawal. Romney vehemently denied this and pointed to a number of his statements supportive of the surge and Bush’s policy. McCain shot back and later added statements from Lawrence Eagleburger and James Woolsey attacking Romney’s resoluteness.

Who’s right and does it matter? I think the best that can be said for McCain is that Romney played his cards very close to his vest until late last fall on the surge. You may recall the New Hampshire debate in which Romney would only say that the surge “apparently” was working. McCain pounced at the time and this left some conservatives speculating that Romney was prepared to distance himself from Bush. But the point of McCain’s attack today, I suspect, was to highlight in flashier terms the argument McCain has been trying to make for some time: Romney lacks national security experience, never spoke up about the Rumsfeld policy’s failings and didn’t advocate for the surge before it became obvious it was succeeding. If that is the discussion for the next couple of days, and not the two candidates’ relative economic expertise, that benefits McCain. On the merits of this particular fight, the usually supportive media are a skeptical of McCain’s charge.

Read Less

What Do They Do Now?

John, I agree that even the Clintons may find it hard to spin a 2 to 1 loss, but they will try. They will argue this was racial politics, unlikely to be duplicated since no state has such a high percentage of African American voters. Well, yes, winning over 80 percent of the African American vote in a state with the largest percentage of African American voters will be a salient fact. However, truth be told, Obama got a respectable 24 percent of the white vote and won overwhelmingly among voters below 60 and among young white voters. At the very least, it is a stinging rebuke to the Bill/Hillary team (70 percent of voters thought their attacks were unfair and late deciders went strongly for Obama despite Bill’s blitz and histrionics this week).

Obama will ride a wave of excitement and breathless coverage for a few days but then he does have his work cut out for him. Bluntly put, he must do better among white voters, especially in states like California where African Americans are only 7 percent of the electorate. Perhaps the specter of the Clintons’ rejection will encourage others beyond Caroline Kennedy to join Obama’s cause.

And what of John Edwards, who seems to be regularly below the Mendoza line? He trudges on, apparently with a nine state media buy because. . . because why? Well, that’s what John Edwards likes to do. Also, the savvy might recognize that with a well balanced Obama-Hillary fight and proportionally assigned delegates the possibility for a brokered convention increases. With that, so does Edwards’ bargaining leverage. (Would he be the first person who ran for VP with two different people at the top of the ticket?) Let’s hope the price for his delegates doesn’t include an important spot like Attorney General. ( Would the first order of business be a pardon for Dickie Scruggs?)

John, I agree that even the Clintons may find it hard to spin a 2 to 1 loss, but they will try. They will argue this was racial politics, unlikely to be duplicated since no state has such a high percentage of African American voters. Well, yes, winning over 80 percent of the African American vote in a state with the largest percentage of African American voters will be a salient fact. However, truth be told, Obama got a respectable 24 percent of the white vote and won overwhelmingly among voters below 60 and among young white voters. At the very least, it is a stinging rebuke to the Bill/Hillary team (70 percent of voters thought their attacks were unfair and late deciders went strongly for Obama despite Bill’s blitz and histrionics this week).

Obama will ride a wave of excitement and breathless coverage for a few days but then he does have his work cut out for him. Bluntly put, he must do better among white voters, especially in states like California where African Americans are only 7 percent of the electorate. Perhaps the specter of the Clintons’ rejection will encourage others beyond Caroline Kennedy to join Obama’s cause.

And what of John Edwards, who seems to be regularly below the Mendoza line? He trudges on, apparently with a nine state media buy because. . . because why? Well, that’s what John Edwards likes to do. Also, the savvy might recognize that with a well balanced Obama-Hillary fight and proportionally assigned delegates the possibility for a brokered convention increases. With that, so does Edwards’ bargaining leverage. (Would he be the first person who ran for VP with two different people at the top of the ticket?) Let’s hope the price for his delegates doesn’t include an important spot like Attorney General. ( Would the first order of business be a pardon for Dickie Scruggs?)

Read Less

The Obama Triumph and the Clinton Crisis

The colossal size of Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in South Carolina — a 28-point margin — really does suggest the possibility that her candidacy is going to implode in the ten days between tonight and Super Tuesday on February 5. First, a 55-27 loss in a state she was projected to lose by 12 or 13 points is very significant. It indicates that polls aren’t properly measuring the intensity of Obama’s support. Exit polls say he won 52 percent of those who decided in the last week. That’s not only a reflection of the hostility generated by the ugliness of the Clinton attacks against him. It’s also a reflection of a genuine and unmistakable degree of excitement he is generating on his own. That kind of excitement can’t be quenched by negative campaigning against him unless that negative campaigning is issue-driven, and the stuff the Clintons have been throwing at Obama has nothing to do with issues.

And it’s important to ignore all the blather about how Obama won because he dominated the black vote. We know from Iowa and New Hampshire that he can win white votes, particularly among more affluent and younger whites.

It would be foolish to assume Mrs. Clinton can’t win. But she is going to have to change her ways to win, to run a different campaign, to find a way to establish differences between her and Obama on issues that redound to her benefit. The problem for her, and it is a very big problem, is that Obama doesn’t have to change a thing to win. Not a thing.

The colossal size of Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in South Carolina — a 28-point margin — really does suggest the possibility that her candidacy is going to implode in the ten days between tonight and Super Tuesday on February 5. First, a 55-27 loss in a state she was projected to lose by 12 or 13 points is very significant. It indicates that polls aren’t properly measuring the intensity of Obama’s support. Exit polls say he won 52 percent of those who decided in the last week. That’s not only a reflection of the hostility generated by the ugliness of the Clinton attacks against him. It’s also a reflection of a genuine and unmistakable degree of excitement he is generating on his own. That kind of excitement can’t be quenched by negative campaigning against him unless that negative campaigning is issue-driven, and the stuff the Clintons have been throwing at Obama has nothing to do with issues.

And it’s important to ignore all the blather about how Obama won because he dominated the black vote. We know from Iowa and New Hampshire that he can win white votes, particularly among more affluent and younger whites.

It would be foolish to assume Mrs. Clinton can’t win. But she is going to have to change her ways to win, to run a different campaign, to find a way to establish differences between her and Obama on issues that redound to her benefit. The problem for her, and it is a very big problem, is that Obama doesn’t have to change a thing to win. Not a thing.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.