In a lovely and conversational speech, McCain essentially is making the tough argument: his opponent sounds and looks great but is pursuing policies that are at odds with the realities we face. He also is making an eloquent argument against the cult of personality which is both humble (I learned in life it is not all about me) and thought provoking considering his likely opponent. If he can illustrate and impress voters with the obvious stature gap between Obama and him then he has his shot.
Posts For: February 12, 2008
His rivals, John McCain just said, offer a vision of “A world that can be made safer and more peaceful by placating our implacable foes.” He’s giving good, pointed speeches these days.
He just said that the American revolutionaries took on the British by saying, “Yes, we can.”
Hillary Clinton was hoarse and boring in Texas, where she gave a long speech ignoring her losses. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Barack Obama reiterates the scope and breadth of his victories. He is tentatively trying to engage McCain by coming up with a new term “Bush-McCain Republicans” (it doesn’t make any sense when you think about the policy and personal differences between the two but that is beside the point in a victory speech) while mixing standard Democratic fare (“Mainstreet vs. Wall Street”) with some Obama “bringing us together” atmospherics. He even gets a bit tough, accusing McCain of dumping his moral objections to the Bush tax cuts “for the wealthy” to win the GOP nomination. The challenge to McCain will be considerable: get past the very attractive Obama packaging and get voters to focus on what Obama is actually proposing (e.g. withdrawal from Iraq, end of the Bush tax cuts).
Saith Obama in his victory speech. The crowd roared an honest ovation, and Obama continued: “We honor his service.” Gracious and intelligent. Or is it intelligent?
Part of the weaponry in the McCain arsenal for November is reintroducing — or introducing — the extraordinary tale of his rival’s conduct in the Hanoi Hilton, including his refusal to leave when offered an exit by his captors. Many know it, but many don’t, and those who do won’t mind hearing it again. Obama is running as a personality candidate, and he is a marvelous personality. But McCain is something grander and rarer and nobler than that, and it won’t help Obama if he is one of the people who reminds the American people of it.
Is victory coming too easily for Obama? What we are seeing tonight is the possibility that the entire Clinton edifice is collapsing far more quickly than anyone imagined. As Jennifer points out, her decision to appear in Texas this evening has a “last stand” quality to it — remarkable for someone who only last week was neck and neck with Obama. Yet if Obama’s victory becomes a foregone conclusion over the next few days, he will have lost the most powerful weapon in his arsenal: his battle against the incumbent Democratic establishment. So long as Obama was in a tight race with Clinton, he could continue to polish his reputation as the man struggling to change the status quo. In that context, “Yes We Can” was an empty but sufficient message, one he could ride all the way through the Pennsylvania primary nearly 10 weeks from now. If Hillary is out of the way, the long-overdue examination of exactly what Obama believes willbegin. Clinton has been a perfect foil for him. That stage of the campaign is almost over, and Obama may soon wish he still had the Clintons to kick around for a while longer.
The story of the first few weeks of the primary season was that there was no momentum — that the winner one week would lose the next in both parties. That anti-momentum moment has passed. Barack Obama’s three victories tonight, coupled with his wins last week, indicate that he not only has momentum, but that he may already be a runaway train. John McCain probably won Virginia solely on the basis of his momentum, and it is very possible this night spells the end of Huckabee’s victories.
McCain is undoubtedly better as a counterpuncher and underdog. He will have plenty of opportunity for both in the general election. He also, I think, fell into coronation-mode and spent a lot of time collecting endorsements this week. He would be well advised this next week to spend some time in Wisconsin, which if he is fortunate will be in play in November, and start selling himself as much closer to the heartland than his Democratic opponent(s).
There’s something weird about McCain, Jennifer — an affect problem that was evident in in 2000 and now. Every time he wins something, he goes slack and makes a mistake. After winning New Hampshire in 2000, he went to South Carolina and spent two weeks whining about the mean things the Bush campaign was doing — effectively blowing his own positive message. He did it last week by wasting time campaigning in Massachusetts, which was Mitt Romney’s state, and he may have done it in this past week by taking it easy in Virginia instead of fighting to win by a large margin.
McCain, no doubt, would have preferred a huge margin of victory. Some will contend this is proof positive of something — his weakness in the South or with conservatives or with people who listen to talk radio. But realistically he is on track to win the nomination and should not take the bait, redesign his persona and run hard right. If he did, he would lose his “straight talk” image and do damage to his general election prospects. What he could do is what he began at CPAC: begin to draw contrasts between himself and the Democrats. There is plenty of material (e.g. Iraq, FISA, taxes) which he can talk more forcefully about, explaining both to conservatives and the average, middle of the road voter what a vast difference there is between the two parties. That, rather than running right or getting into any day-to-day battle with Huckabee would, it seems, be useful at this stage in the game.
The evidence suggests that John McCain may actually win Virginia by ten points. The exit polls said it was too close to call. This is, by my unofficial count, the ninth contest this year in which the exit polls were wildly inaccurate.
As I surmised, his narrow margin will only increase as Fairfax, Norfolk, Newport News and other more favorable counties come in. The margin when we are done may not be so close.
She is in Texas tonight getting ready to speak to her supporters and figure out what to do next. There is a good argument that she really should be in Wisconsin and make a stand there. That primary is on February 19. If she waits for Texas and Ohio on March 4 the race may be essentially over. (Sound like Rudy and Florida?) Wisconsin has plenty of working class Democrats for her to tap into there. Why wait for another week and another loss?
Mike Huckabee leads with about 12% of the vote. However, and it is a big however, no votes are yet in from Fairfax County (the most populous county and filled with Washington professionals) or from Norfolk(lots of military). Stay tuned.
They will be held open until 9:30 p.m., 90 minutes later than scheduled. Some have suggested the same should have been been done in Virginia where D.C. commuters were caught in weather-related traffic snarls.
Barack Obama has gone from winning caucuses by huge margins to, evidently, winning primaries in significant states by huge margins. Hillary Clinton really is on the ropes now.
Obama wins Virginia. The GOP race in Virginia is deemed “too close to call” from the exit polls (which we know were so wonderfully accurate so far).
At my polling place, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 3 to 1 when I voted in the afternoon. Icy weather spurred some talk of delaying the poll closing. There is plenty of anecdotal talk of GOP voters crossing over to vote for or against one of the Democrats. We will see shortly.
This past Sunday, the Dallas Morning News ran an interview with Democratic Texas state legislator Juan Garcia. Garcia is Barack Obama’s Harvard buddy and is very involved in Obama’s Texas campaign. He gave what I consider to be a remarkably frank description of Obama’s election to the presidency of the Harvard Law Review:
It was “the height of the political correctness movement, and no more so than at the cathedral of political correctness that was Harvard Law,” he said.
Protests were held against “perceived failure to hire and grant tenure to women and minority academics, which was a huge deal at the time and split a lot of campus factions,” Mr. Garcia said.
It was during this time, Mr. Garcia said, that Mr. Obama was elected president of the Harvard Law Review.
“Barack was able to fill in that vacuum and to resonate with both sides of that issue,” he said.
So women and minorities constitute “both sides” of the politically correct argument.
What’s interesting is that we have an eye-witness account of the first “Obama moment,” and it was as fatuous as the one we may be living through now. The big question at Harvard in the late eighties was women or minorities. Twenty years later, it’s the issue on which the Democratic nomination will turn.
Ah, the gifts of higher education!
Yes — and it is one of the stupidest of Israel’s many ill-conceived tactics for managing its conflict with Hamas. In weeks past, Israel reduced fuel shipments to Gaza, closed down crossing points, and over the weekend it reduced (by only one percent) the electricity it supplies. Are the people of Gaza themselves deeply implicated in the rocket war? Of course they are–huge numbers of them have nurtured, supported, voted, and cheered for Hamas. In large part, they are getting what they deserve. But making them suffer is still a counterproductive strategy. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Collective punishment has done nothing to stop the rocket fire, which in fact has significantly worsened in recent months.
2. The Hamas leadership is immune to the suffering of its people, and will not change its policies because of Israeli manipulation of that suffering. Ismail Haniyeh and his gangsters have repeatedly demonstrated that they couldn’t care less whether the people of Gaza are forced to wade through raw sewage because of the rocket war.
3. Squeezing the residents of Gaza does not administer the intended political lesson, which is to demonstrate to Palestinians that violence causes suffering, while diplomacy creates opportunity. Unfortunately Gaza and the West Bank are not home to a political culture that is receptive to this kind of message; large numbers of Palestinians continue to rally around those leaders who they see taking the fight to Israel.
4. It absolves Palestinians from having to consider the idea that their own leaders are the cause of their misery. Israel has once again given Palestinians ample evidence for continuing to believe in the sanctity of their own victimhood.
5. It creates not just condemnatory press coverage of Israel, but coverage that helpfully crowds out stories that might focus on Hamas’ belligerence and malfeasance.
6. It causes foreign governments, including even the United States, to warn and criticize Israel — statements that occupy the headlines, in place of stories about Hamas’ aggression or Israel’s more legitimate acts of retaliation.
7. Collective punishment shifts the narrative of the conflict — journalists are only too eager to help — from one in which Israel has been forced to respond to Hamas’ implacable terrorism to one in which Israel is punishing the imprisoned residents of Gaza, starving and humiliating them over something they cannot control. Narratives are vitally important in this conflict, and just as in Lebanon two summers ago, Israel is losing the battle over the narrative.
8. It inverts culpability for the conflict, allowing the political leaders who prosecute the rocket war to remain in power (and remain alive), while the people suffering under that leadership bear the brunt of Israel’s retribution.
Not a bad job, even by Israel’s typically high standards of ineptitude.
None of this is to say that Israel should not get out of the business of supplying utilities, food, and water to Gaza as quickly as humanly possible. It just means that Israel should develop a more productive and morally pure means of doing so.
That would involve the announcement of a date on which Israel will cease non-military contact with the Gaza Strip: no more humanitarian shipments, electricity, water, etc. Give fair warning, whether it’s six months or a year away, so that Hamas and its international saviors cannot claim that Israel has sprung a cruel surprise on them. Give the UN, EU, and Iran time to collaborate on power and desalination plants for Hamas if they like–but nothing should prevent Israel from sticking to its deadline, the day when the disengagement will be completed and the mismanagement of Gaza will fall entirely to Hamas.
In the meantime, the entire Hamas political leadership should go to the top of Israel’s targeted killings list. It’s long past time that the war was taken to the people who are most directly responsible for prosecuting it.