Let me preface this with: I wish Mitt Romney were the Republican Presidential nominee.
That written, it would be an act of mind-boggling asininity for McCain to pick him as a Vice President. The recorded rancor and enmity between those two during the primaries would be used against McCain just as he, McCain, used Senator Biden’s words against Obama, but more so, as the enmity between the two–from what I read–was considerable.
Governor Sarah Palin is a better choice. Even if it is pointed out she has an experience deficit, the question to retort with is, to whom, Senator McCain (naturally, given her age) or Barack Obama? Given the Democrat rules this year, she has more experience to be President that Barack Obama, so I would find it difficult for the Democrat campaign to question her experience when the Republican ticket is the reverse–in experience–of the Democrats.
I don’t know how many women care if a Vice Presidential pick falls in the ‘oh, we both have ovaries, how lovely’ category but having a woman in the Vice Presidential slot would make Mrs. Palin the most powerful woman in US history, but that could get some votes from the Hillary supporters (who must certainly feel a bit scorned right now).
Posts For: August 25, 2008
Barack Obama is back to talking about negotiating with Iran. In Iowa today, he said a nuclear Iran would be a “game-changer for the region,” and that “no option is to be taken off the table, but in the meantime we have to make diplomatic progress.”
How about a game-changer for Obama? He used the same lines back in July, and they’ve grown no more substantive with age. If he is going to be champion of diplomacy until the eleventh hour, he needs to employ some of that famous out-of-the-box audacity and throw something–anything–specific and new into this long-failed calculus.
Obama has cast himself as George W. Bush’s (and John McCain’s) polar opposite here. Bush, according to Obama has been “saber-rattling” instead of employing effective diplomacy. This is a simple, digestible message of contrast that the Obama team has on an endless loop, but where is phase 2? How does Obama intend to use diplomacy effectively on a regime that’s been ignoring sanctions, threats, and incentives for decades? He’s had months and months to come up with something, and with only hours to go before the Democratic convention, here’s the best our visionary agent of change has to offer:
My job as president is to make sure we are tightening the screws on Iran diplomatically . . . to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a different calculation.
What screws? Sanctions are already supposedly in place. Tighten how? Europe has already demonstrated the extent of their willingness to pretend to exert pressure on Tehran. Does Obama plan to risk not healing all those supposedly nasty U.S.-EU rifts in order to–gasp–make Europe do more? And finally, just what does he think would make Iran calculate differently on the matter of nukes? If all the powers of the West could be brought to bear down on Iran, the mullahs would still go about ordering their scientists to spin centrifuges and erect missiles. Obama talks endlessly about games and tables as if Iran was a playroom instead of a potential theater of war. Diplomacy has failed with Iran because it is itself the wrong tool for the problem. If that’s not so, the Democratic nominee needs to tell Americans what could make it work.
After a perilous journey through the Eastern Mediterranean, the heroic activists of the Free Gaza organization have reached the shores of their promised land–Gaza–and made history, defying Israeli injustice and in the process establishing a vital supply line for the starved and besieged Gazans. At least, according to their own accounts.
For example, if you are to believe veteran activist Jeff Halper, the token Israeli on this ship of fools, this mission is the harbinger of a ferry service between Cyprus and Gaza. Good luck with that! I’d like to know where this business will be registered, where its investment capital will come from, and who’ll do the auditing.
The reality, however, looks somewhat different: the anticipated deliverance of Gaza at the hand of a few dozen remnants of the 1960′s generation failed to materialize. According to a Ynet news report
A Gaza activist told Ynet Saturday that local residents were disappointed by the small quantities of food brought in by two boats carrying international leftist activists.
“Many people thought these boats will make a significant contribution to break the siege, not only politically but also in terms of bringing in goods, equipment, food, and medicine,” he said. “However, once it turned out these boats contain too little food and mostly activists . . . some people left the beach disappointed.”
No surprise there. As Israeli officials said, humanitarian aid can go through the regular crossings by land. This stunt was not about rescue and deliverance: it was about the romantic self-aggrandizement of a few radical chic buffoons and a propaganda stunt by their puppet masters–the not-so-innocent International Solidarity Movement. Israel acted wisely in letting them through and denying them the much hoped for moment on live camera–being boarded by Israeli naval forces.
But the story is not over. Israel would do well to consider taking action against the Free Gaza operation. Jeff Halper is not exactly Richard Branson, so his promise of a direct service between Larnaca and Gaza City might be just one radical’s ruminations. Regardless, Israel should ponder the likelihood of more provocations–and perhaps, sooner or later, the inevitable attempt to use the Free Gaza folks to smuggle into Gaza not just a group of revolutionary tourists, but far more dangerous stuff.
I know that, after Hillary-night tomorrow, the Democratic surrogates will take to the airwaves breathlessly talking unity. Nonetheless, here are some uncomfortable questions I’d like to hear a reporter ask Obama over the next few weeks:
Will you consider Hillary Clinton as a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court should a justice step down during your presidency?
Hillary Clinton has met with more foreign leaders than almost any other Democratic politician. Will she be on your short list for Secretary of State?
Eighteen million Democratic primary voters voted against you and for Hillary Clinton during the primaries. Why did you not choose her as your running mate?
Obama knows how to handle these kind of curveballs. But it is important not to let his campaign simply sweep Hillary under the rug after the convention wraps up.
Barack Obama’s staff seems to be distracted or confused. Or maybe they have some revealing poll results available only to them. How else to explain them airing this ad?
Barack Obama: I’m Barack Obama and I approved this message.
ANNCR: With all our problems, why is John McCain talking about the sixties, trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers?
McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers’ crimes, committed when Obama was just eight years old.
Let’s talk about standing up for America today.
John McCain wants to spend $10 Billion a month in Iraq, tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, selling out American workers.
John McCain, just more of the same.
A McCain spokesman fired back: “The fact that Barack Obama chose to launch his political career at the home of an unrepentant terrorist raises more questions about his judgment than any ad ever could. And the fact that he’s launching his own convention by defending his long association with a man who says he didn’t bomb enough U.S. targets tells us more about Barack Obama than any of tonight’s speeches will.”
What would possess the Obama camp to go down this road? Obama’s lame defense of the relationship–that he was eight when Ayers committed his crimes–is, of course, entirely irrelevant. His association with Ayers, as Hillary Clinton pointed out in the Philadelphia debate, ran deeper than he has tried to present it and it began and continued when both men were adults, long after Obama had become acquainted with Ayers’s past.
Soon enough everyone will learn that Ayers donated money to Obama, held a fundraiser to launch his first political race in his home, served on the board of the Woods Foundation with Obama, and headed the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (the records of which Stanley Kurtz will gain access to tomorrow), an organization which Obama supported and for which he may have approved grant money. We are off to the races on this. It’s unclear why Obama opened the door.
Perhaps realizing it all will inevitably come out, he wanted to begin trying to shape the public perception of this relationship. But he has just begun setting out to convince Americans that he is a patriotic, non-radical, non-exotic guy just like them, so the timing could not be worse. After all, how many of us are friends with unrepentant former terrorist bombers?
Today, the White House announced that Dick Cheney will leave for Georgia, Italy, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine next week. He is taking the trip at the request of President Bush. In the meantime, it looks as if Condoleezza Rice has been shunted off to the side, as David Hazony notes today. After a few fruitless years of aimless diplomacy, is Dubya changing course again?
Let’s hope so. The polite policies of Condoleezza Rice are obviously not working. She sought to partner with the Kremlin, and that approach resulted in the inability of the United States to predict Russian aggression beforehand and to counter it afterward. Cheney, at this moment, is one of the few Bush administration officials who sees the world in somber tones. In other words, he sees the world clearly.
In our world, populated by resurgent autocrats and aggressors, strong democracies need to protect the weak ones. We failed Georgia, and the most we can do now is engage in a long struggle first to preserve what is left of it and then rollback the substantial Russian gains. Yet we can do better for our other endangered friends.
So here’s a simple proposition. When Cheney meets Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, he should say this in public: “The United States will consider a Russian attack on your country as an attack on the United States.” We essentially gave that promise to Poland last week as part of the missile defense deal, and we should not be downgrading the now-threatened Ukraine into a secondary category of ally.
The international system is crumbling at this moment, and our first order of business is to prevent further erosion. The best way to do that is to recognize who are our friends and who are our adversaries. And, yes, by protecting our friends.
Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev growled at ex-Soviet Moldova, warning that any breakaway conflicts (particularly involving the region of Transdniestria) could inspire a Russian attack similar to the one against Georgia over two weeks ago.
“After the Georgian leadership lost their marbles, as they say, all the problems got worse and a military conflict erupted,” Medvedev told Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin.
“This is a serious warning, a warning to all,” he added. “And I believe we should handle other existing conflicts in this context.”
And there are other existing conflicts in the area, to be sure. It’s time the U.S. starts worrying about Transdniestria and all the other unpronounceable regions of the former Soviet Union, because if Russia begins swallowing them up due to conflicts we’ve never heard of, we’re going to awake one day to find that old red blob once again spreading across the Eurasian map.
The GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development was established in 2001 and consists of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. It would seem that a league of post-Soviet states working together to move policy (however slowly) Westward in spite of Russia’s backsliding represents the most positive post-Cold War development the U.S. could ask for. Yet we’re doing little to support most of these obvious allies. With the exception of Ukraine (who Russia threatens directly), these countries are marked by so-called “frozen” internal conflicts, and in each Russia is playing at least one side. In Azerbaijan, for example, Russia is arming the Armenians who now occupy the Nagorno Karabakh region against the Azeris. Because of OSCE agreements, the U.S. is forbidden to choose a side in this conflict, even as Azeris beg for America’s assistance.
If we can’t arm Azeris, we need to do more diplomatically to resolve the crisis. This means, among other things, putting pressure on Armenia. In the Caucasus, Russia has been steadily keeping at the divide part of a divide-and-conquer plan for years. Having invaded Georgia with impunity, they now know they can choose to blow down the houses of other neighbors at their own convenience. There is no reason to let them do so without so much as an attempt at prophylactic measures. Combined, the nations of GUAM cover over 300,000 square miles and contain more than 60,000,000 people. (This is to say nothing of their vast oil reserves.) That’s a lot of pro-Western promise to hand over to Vladimir Putin without a fight.
Matthew Continetti examines the fate of Barack Obama’s “change” message. It is getting thrown overboard, or perhaps restyled as a standard class-warfare attack. (“Change the government for the rich” appears to be where they are heading.) Why is it faltering or getting a make-over?
The same reason that The One is faltering and getting a make-over: it turns out that, aside from Obama groupies, not enough voters bought into Obama-mania and “change we can believe in” mantra. Either they didn’t understand it or thought it was an insufficient rationale for a presidential campaign. In part, Obama undid it himself by violating every precept of the New Politics he was offering (e.g. selecting a Washington insider running mate, flip-flopping on a dozen issues, resorting to negative ads). But really, it’s a mark of how narrow the base of his support in the primary was–young voters, urban elites, ultra-liberals–that the message that was so wildly successful with those voters (not to mention the fawning media) is ultimately useless with older swing voters who will decide the election.
At bottom, the “change” message was vapid. We’re going to find someone untouched by any real Washington experience, throw all the lobbyist out, rescue the “good ideas” that die in Washington and heal partisan divisions by virtue of the personal magnetism of the most extreme liberal candidate to run for the presidency since George McGovern? (Who’s a lot less liberal than he was in 1972 and probably than Obama is now.) Yeah, right.
What’s the downside of dumping “change”? The screaming Obamaphiles, those undependable young voters, might not be so thrilled about The Chosen One. If they don’t flock to the polls The One will be at the mercy of older voters who are wary (at best) about his qualifications. Once we dispense with the silly idea that being unqualified for the presidency is a plus, voters–especially the older, independent ones and some former Hillary Clinton fans–will be back to mulling whether Obama is really up for the job. In other words, if we aren’t going to “change” everything in Washington, why not get someone more capable and experienced?
All that said I think Obama is right to refashion his message. Populsim is always a Democratic favorite–Al Gore tried it and nearly won. In the second half of the Democratic primary it was this very message of little-guy populism, healthcare, jobs, tax help and the like which allowed Hillary Clinton to get back into the race and made her the unlikely heroine of blue collar voters. If Obama goes this route it will be one more bitter pill for Clinton fans to swallow: Obama took the nomination from their gal and is now stealing Clinton’s message. Such is the irony of politics.
Rachel L. Swarns has written a positively surreal piece in today’s New York Times about the potential setbacks to black America engendered by . . . an Obama presidency.
Mr. Obama has received overwhelming support from black voters, many of whom believe he will help bridge the nation’s racial divide. But even as they cheer him on, some black scholars, bloggers and others who closely follow the race worry that Mr. Obama’s historic achievements might make it harder to rally support for policies intended to combat racial discrimination, racial inequities and urban poverty.
In other words, progress might create the illusion of progress.
They fear that growing numbers of white voters and policy makers will decide that eradicating racial discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity have largely been done.
And wouldn’t the evidence kind of support that? Sure, there’s data about income inequality and that data should never be ignored, but if America sees fit to elect a black man to the highest office in the land, wouldn’t the theoretical implications of such data need to be overhauled? At least a little bit? Ah, but such a reconfiguring represents a major threat:
“That is the danger, that we declare victory,” said [Howard University sociologist] Mr. [Roderick J.] Harrison, who fears that poor blacks will increasingly be blamed for their troubles. “Historic as this moment is, it does not signify a major victory in the ongoing, daily battle.”
Which kind of leaves you wondering: what would?
Here is the biggest jaw-dropper of the whole piece, offered up by none other than Barack Obama’s Maryland campaign co-chairman:
“A few of my white friends have asked me, ‘With Barack achieving all of this, will we be in a position where we can put race aside?’ ” said Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who is a co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s campaign in that state.
Mr. Cummings said he points them to statistics on lingering racial disparities in education, health and income. “I hope that progressive-minded people will not make a blanket conclusion that if Barack has made it, everybody can make it,” he said.
Heaven forbid that such a toxic message of hope and change should reach the masses!
Daniel, don’t get me wrong: I’m very cognizant of the downsides of a Joe Lieberman pick and not quite certain how John McCain would overcome the policy differences. But I am intrigued by the possibility and not thrilled with the other options. Of those other options, I agree that Tim Pawlenty is the best of the lot. In an election lacking anyone with a smidgen of executive or out-of-Washington experience, he could be a breath of fresh air. And yes, his geography and everyman appeal are pluses. Still, on the one issue which matters most to McCain–national security–Pawlenty doesn’t quite fit the bill.
But events of the last few days may point in a different direction. Given the enormous emphasis placed on wooing Hillary Clinton voters and aggravating the Democrats’ internal divisions, which are real and serious, I wonder if it’s time for a woman VP. (Tip for Democrats: It’s never a good idea to refer to the losing candidate’s supporters as “Japanese soldiers in the South Pacific still fighting after the war is over.”) Again, there is no obviously outstanding choice, but Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina may seem more viable as McCain goes all-out to lure independent, moderate, middle-aged women.
There is no ideal candidate in all of this and I imagine the McCain team is ruminating about all these concerns and more. But the biggest lesson of Obama’s failings this summer should be be their guide: national security matters, voters want gravitas, and older swing voters are where the election will be won or lost. We’ll have to see where that leads the McCain team.
It’s possible that VP nominee Joe Biden is really popular in Pennsylvania. That’s exactly what we’ve been told in the days since he was selected as Barack Obama’s running mate:
[E]lectorally, Biden could help lock down Pennsylvania, as well as connect better than Obama has in blue-collar Michigan and the “U” of Ohio (Toledo to Youngstown).
The Pittsburgh-Tribune-Review, for example, ran a story about Biden’s roots in Scranton, PA:
The Delaware senator will help Obama in Philadelphia and its vote-rich suburbs, where he’s a well-known figure as a close neighbor who has appeared regularly in the Philadelphia media market.
David Broder of the Washington Post echoed this sentiment (the Scranton boy) this morning:
Biden brings a blue-collar sensibility that has been lacking in Obama’s campaign, reflecting his background in Scranton, Pa., and Wilmington, Del.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor, Ed Rendell, has predicted that choosing Biden will help Obama in his State:
“The governor thinks it’s a great pick and that it will help Obama in Pennsylvania,” his spokesman Chuck Ardo told PolitickerPA.com. Rendell said at a press conference Tuesday that Biden has “the most experience in foreign affairs, the most experience in terrorism and national security.” He also said southeast Pennsylvania is very familiar with the senator from Delaware because his political ads have run in the Philadelphia media market for years. “We’ve been watching Joe’s ads for 31 years,” he said.
Now, with all these experts saying essentially the same thing, one has to treat any counterarguments with humility. They all know Pennsylvania much better than I do. However, in all these stories I read, not one proof was presented or one piece of data adduced to support the Biden-is-really-a-Pennsylvanian-for-all-practical-political-purposes school of thought.
So, I’ve decided to check some available data, namely the Quinnipiac University polls done in the state when Biden was still a candidate for the presidency. Did he have a chance in this presumed favorable territory? Was he well liked in Pennsylvania? Did he fare better in PA than in other states?
Take a look! Here’s a poll of Pennsylvania voters from February of 2007. Biden got 5 percent support for the Democratic candidacy and approval ratings of 27 percent (less than all other surveyed candidates). 30 percent were disapproving. 40 percent hadn’t “heard enough” (after thirty-six years of Senate service!) of this fellow Pennsylvanian. These are not very impressive numbers. But Biden did even worse elsewhere: in Connecticut (2 percent support, 18 percent favorability), New York (1 percent support, 19 percent favorability), Florida (2 percent support, 20 percent favorability).
In a poll conducted in three “swing states”–Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida–in June of 2007, one can clearly see the comparative advantage Biden has in PA. He got 2 percent in Florida, 1 percent in Ohio and 5 percent in PA. But in August, this slim advantage disappeared: Biden got 2 percent in PA, exactly like Florida and less than the 3 percent in Ohio.
In September and October, Biden was still running–but his support was very low. One percent in Florida, 3 percent in Connecticut, 3 percent in New York, and in Pennsylvania–his state of supposed strength–exactly the same: 3 percent. And between February and November, Biden failed to gain any traction in PA, and lost almost half of his already meager support there. True, he was busy in Iowa, but so were the other candidates. Later, he quit the race, but never endorsed Obama or Clinton. Thus, his possible impact on the contentious Pennsylvania primary was never empirically tested.
So what am I trying to say here? That Biden will not help Obama in PA? I can’t say that, especially not when so many experts say the opposite. All I’m really saying is this: tell us how you know that Biden’s selection means Obama can take PA.
There are a spate of new reports suggesting that the Democrats may no longer been on the side of the angels in the lobbyists/special interest department. It seems that Joe Biden has collected $6.5M over the years from lobbyists, lawyers, and other folks the Obama campaign has labeled as the villains of Washington. Biden carried water (and amendments) on behalf of his hometown credit card company MBNA in the bankruptcy bill debate and voted for the bill in opposition to most of his fellow Democrats. Biden’s son Hunter has worked as a lobbyist and consultant–for among other firms–MBNA. (Emphatic denials abound that he didn’t lobby his father, but Hunter’s firms have been widely active on Capitol Hill and aren’t talking about Hunter’s colleagues’ contacts with Biden’s office). And Biden collected $85M in earmarks in 2008 alone.
The New York Times explains that:
a review of the legislative record finds as many instances when Mr. Biden joined Republicans to defeat attempts by his Democratic colleagues, including Mr. Obama, to soften the bill’s impact on those same constituencies. He was one of five Democrats in March 2005 who voted against a proposal to require credit card companies to provide more effective warnings to consumers about the consequences of paying only the minimum amount due each month. Mr. Obama voted for it. Mr. Biden also went against Mr. Obama to help defeat amendments aimed at strengthening protections for people forced into bankruptcy who have large medical debts or are in the military; Mr. Biden argued that the amendments were unnecessary because the legislation already carved out exemptions for those debtors. And he was one of four Democrats who sided with Republicans to defeat an effort, supported by Mr. Obama, to shift responsibility in certain cases from debtors to the predatory lenders who helped push them into bankruptcy. In many of these battles, Mr. Biden’s Democratic colleagues often voiced their frustration with the big financial interests arrayed against them. Senator Paul Wellstone specifically cited MBNA during a floor debate in March 2001 over his call for stronger protections for debtors forced into bankruptcy because of medical bills — an amendment that Mr. Biden would later vote against. “It just so happens that the people who find themselves in terrible economic circumstances through no fault of their own — major medical bills, they have lost their jobs, or there has been a divorce — it is my view as a former political scientist and now a senator for the State of Minnesota that those people do not have the same kind of clout that MBNA Corporation has,” Mr. Wellstone said.
There is nothing extraordinary about how Biden operates. This is typical for Senators who have been around for decades. Does it seem odd for such a devoted liberal defender of “the little guys” to have cast aside all of the populist arguments to vote repeatedly in favor of the bankruptcy bill, on the side of the credit card giant that employed his son and made his own financial situation easier over the years? Perhaps. But it is, of course, just this sort of behavior that the Obama camp has railed against in its quest to position The One as superior to all his lowly colleagues who fall prey to the evil lobbyists.
Will any of this matter? Usually revelations of this type never seem to slow down the Democrats’ populist train. Because their motives are so pure and their devotion to the poor so darn obvious, they rarely receive the same harsh treatment that their Republican opponents do for the very same conduct. Granted, it may make Obama’s own attacks on these specific issues–lobbyists and their money–harder to maintain, but it will take more than all this to knock out The One’s broader class warfare message.
As for McCain, he might do well to ramp up his reformer credentials. As the guy who investigated special interests, voted against their pork-laden bills, and never took a single earmark, he seems to have the high ground in the good government department. He might in fact be a fairly good messenger for the message Obama has been trying to deliver: it’s time to clean out Congressional pork and self-dealing. Perhaps a proposal to ban immediate family members from lobbying on matters on which their relatives vote would be a good place to start.
If I hadn’t been listening to IDF radio this morning, I probably would not have known that Condoleezza Rice is about to land in Israel. True, a few minutes ago a big motorcade drove by my perch in the central Jerusalem neighborhood of Rechavia–too big to be just our Prime Minister; must be someone from abroad–but aside from that I think that Israelis are reacting to Rice’s visit with little more than a suppressed yawn. On the radio, commentators mentioned that Olmert’s government is a lame duck, that our Foreign Minister is too busy trading barbs with the Tourism Minister and Defense Minister and anyone else who opposed the budget in yesterday’s vote; that our Prime Minister is drowning under an old scandal, and our Defense Minister under a new one. Everyone’s thinking about Israeli elections, and too little time is left for the Bush administration to expect anything significant to happen. Last time Rice visited, I noted its non-eventfulness. This time, everyone seems to be asking: Why is she here?
Or put another way: Given the major foreign-policy challenges currently facing the Bush administration, why is the Secretary of State spending her time on the least profitable of world conflicts, the Graveyard of Diplomats, the Western Middle East?
If the trend quoted by Shmuel Rosner is right, that Rice is perceived as failing Bush on key crises like Georgia, it may just be that she is in the process of being peeled off central foreign-policy projects and relegated to ceremonial mop-up jobs in Bush’s waning months. It is not pretty to watch, all this dancing around for nothing. And I thought yesterday’s day-long Israeli government meeting on the budget seemed staged. But today it feels like we’re back at Annapolis, still shaking our heads, still wondering if there’s a better way.
Jennifer, with all due respect to you (and Bill Kristol), I disagree about Lieberman. In selecting Joe Biden as a running mate, Barack Obama chose reputation over geography. John McCain can’t afford to do the same.
Nor does he need to. What McCain needs are electoral votes in unexpected places. That’s why Minnesota’s popular governor Tim Pawlenty suddenly makes the most sense for McCain’s running mate. Like others, I have trouble suppressing a yawn when I hear Pawlenty’s name. Most Americans have never heard of him. He’s never felt the heat of national politics. And the press will have almost no interest in explaining, much less understanding, his Sam’s Club Republican theories. But remarkably, Minnesota has become a competitive state this month. At a time when Republicans barely have an edge in Colorado, New Hampshire, and Virginia, a bet that Pawlenty could push Minnesota into the Republican column doesn’t sound crazy any more.
This is not merely wishful thinking. Bush lost Minnesota by 3 percent in 2004 and 2 percent in 2000. The latest Rasmussen poll has Obama up by 4.5, but earlier in the summer Obama was up by double digits. Last week, a Survey USA poll had Obama up by only 2. And in a year when the GOP is facing humiliation in Senate races, Al Franken can’t get ahead of incumbent Norm Coleman. (The more I think about it, bringing national attention to the fact that the Democrats are running this rude, hot-headed, and infrequently funny liberal can’t be such a bad thing for McCain.)
There have been empirical arguments against Pawlenty all summer. Rasmussen did a poll that suggested that putting Pawlenty on the ticket might encourage fewer Minnesotans to vote for McCain. This seems nonsensical and probably just captures the stronger opinions of the state’s McCain haters. A University of Minnesota blog argues that Pawlenty’s high approval rating has fallen this year, with rumors that he is on McCain’s VP short list. But there is no escaping that fact that Pawlenty is a proven vote getter in Minnesota, even in 2006, when Republicans were getting beaten up everywhere else.
Pawlenty is also well-known in neighboring Wisconsin, a state John Kerry won by a mere few thousand votes in 2004 and where Obama’s double digit lead has also been cut in half this summer.
The McCain campaign will never create the national buzz or excitement that Obama has, even with a running mate like Bobby Jindal or Sarah Palin. McCain has to accept the fact that if he is going to win, he is going to win dull, carving out a tiny lead in battleground states. Pawlenty has a chance of contributing to that strategy in some small, narrowly focused way. That makes him good enough.
George Will is right that most of Barack Obama’s economic and energy policies are hooey: “This year’s campaign, soggy with environmental messianism, deranged self-importance and delusional economics, the question is: Where is the derisive laughter?” And because Obama is hesitant to get into the details of what he means and how it’s all going to work, John McCain should do it. It is pretty funny stuff and good fodder for ads.
At least in one post-Joe Biden poll Obama’s seven-point lead from the previous month is gone. Not Biden’s fault, but let’s be honest: he isn’t going to change many voters’ minds.
The main promoter of MSM conventional wisdom says that in the long run, the “housing” face-off helps McCain. Once Obama starts acting like a typical Democrat rather than the Messiah of New Politics, he’s at a disadvantage.
The Wall Street Journal observes: “The biggest false note in Saturday’s joint Obama-Biden appearance was when Mr. Obama said that Mr. Biden will help him “turn the page on the ugly partisanship of Washington.” Tell that to Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas or Ursula Meese, wife of Reagan-era Attorney General Ed Meese, whom Mr. Biden drove to tears with one of his ugly Judiciary Committee tirades. Mr. Biden has been in the middle of some of the Beltway’s most ferocious partisan warfare.”
Reading the tea leaves–actually the seating chart–the McCain team suspects that Barack Obama is writing off a few faux battleground states.
Mitt Romney never managed to charm the local press and one hometown piece suggests he’s not the right number two for McCain.
Given Joe Biden’s ties to lobbyists, you can only hope we’ve seen the last of the nonsense games about counting lobbyists, former lobbyists and lobbyists’ donations. You see, once it’s a Democrat with lobbyist connections it is a non-story.
The only one who would have been more fun than Joe Biden? Ed Rendell. And he really is from Pennsylvania. And as one of Hillary Clinton’s most stalwart allies, he might have calmed some Hillary fans. (They still aren’t coming around to The One.)
Joe Biden isn’t Hillary–but he shares her worst habit (well, one of them)–the Walter Mitty-like penchant for wild exaggeration. It is as if the Obama team took all the worst qualties from the Clintons (e.g. exaggeration, secrecy, flip-floppery) and claimed them as their own.
When Tom Brokaw says that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews aren’t the “only voices” at MSNBC, it belies the obvious reality: MSNBC has made them the face and voice of its “news.”
Mark Halperin realizes that “the kind of voters who showed up for Obama in most primary and caucus states are more liberal and partisan than the centrist and independent citizens who will decide this election in the battleground states.” (The former are the ones peeved they didn’t get a timely text message and the latter don’t think he’s up to be commander-in-chief.) When you picture the voters who matter –a craggy Michigander or a mother of four from Hampton Roads, Virginia–Obama’s chances don’t seem so great anymore.
The Fox panel (including Mara Liasson and Juan Williams) is in basic agreement: Obama blew it by not choosing Hillary Clinton and Obama still has to prove he’s up for the job.
There is a lot to this. The McCain team learned to survive by defying low expectations, using cheap web ads and free press and featuring a highly interactive candidate. Everything they learned then is coming in handy now.
As the New York Times headline helped the Obama campaign point out, Obama’s Pick Adds Foreign Expertise to Ticket: “In Mr. Biden, Mr. Obama selected a six-term senator from Delaware best known for his expertise on foreign affairs.”
The most recent example of that expertise is Biden’s 2006 proposal for dividing Iraq into three cantons and withdrawing American forces:
The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in, a plan designed by the military for withdrawing and redeploying American forces, and a regional nonaggression pact.
It is a matter of profound good fortune for both America and Iraq that Biden’s plan was never given serious consideration.
Read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive here.
Last Thursday, Barack Obama mockingly admitted to reporters that he had indeed decided on a vice-presidential pick but that he wouldn’t release his name until he notified his supporters via text message and email. And, finally, after the buzz maxed out, Obama made his choice public at around 3 a.m. on Saturday morning. Later that day, Obama and Joseph Biden held their first joint conference, but press reports indicate that the two will not be seen together until Obama delivers his convention speech, when he accepts his party’s nomination as candidate for President of the United States.
After Senator John Kerry selected John Edwards as his vice-presidential pick in 2004, the two candidates went on a week-long tour together. In fact, as Major Garrett reported on Fox News, since 1984, Democratic nominees have spent several days campaigning together after the announcement of the Vice-Presidential nominee.
Why is Obama not going to appear with Biden as often as possible over the next few days?
Obama is breaking with precedent in what seems to be a political ploy to steal McCain’s vice-presidential buzz and the subsequent Republican National Convention’s thunder. If Obama-Biden appearances were to dominate the news cycle for the next days (Obama’s campaign stops over the next few days will insure more than a bit of coverage already), it would only be at the expense of the Democratic National Committee’s convention. The photo-ops would prominently dominate news cycles, instead of the featured speakers (e.g. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama, etc.). But by waiting for the convention to be over before the side-by-side campaigning begins, Obama can only be attempting to take away press from McCain and the RNC.
McCain, though, isn’t following precedent either. While “candidates have sometimes gone dark while their opponents held their conventions,” the New York Times reports, “Senator John McCain plans to do a little campaigning to try to stay in the public’s eye while the Democrats gather to nominate his rival in Denver.” In addition, he is frequently releasing campaign advertisements to make sure his name isn’t lost in the frenzy.
The battle has only begun.
Chuck Todd on Meet The Press described the female, middle-aged moderate and independent voters who aren’t sold on Barack Obama:
Nearly half of them supported Clinton in the primaries. In effect, we even slice it even more. We–we’re able to take a look at what our pollsters call “Hillary not Obama,” and it’s this group of voters that supported Clinton in the primaries, are not there yet with either Obama, supporting McCain, or sitting in undecided. And all of them look like, in this very respect, they’re Democratic voters on the issues, they’re picking a Democrat and generic matchups not just for president, but for Congress. So they are going to walk in that voting booth, and they’re going to vote for a Democrat for Congress, they’re going to vote for a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, which is why everybody knows that the House and Senate are going to pick up members. But these women are not there yet on Obama. Some of them are, are angry. Some of them–a lot of them live in rural and small-town America. And when you think about the primary campaign as it wore on, the Clintons campaigned in this area and had a message of “Obama’s not ready to be commander in chief, John McCain is.” Well, guess what? They believe, in our poll, John McCain’s ready to be commander in chief, Barack Obama isn’t. Obama needs Hillary Clinton at this convention to sell him to these voters. And, and not just to be convincing that she supports him. That isn’t it. She’s got to say, “Look, this guy’s ready to be commander in chief,” and mean it. It’s a big deal. Her speech is a big deal, far bigger than President Clinton.
Suddenly everyone is in the “prop up Barack Obama” business–Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and maybe Bill too. It raises two issues for The One.
First, can anyone other than Obama himself really reassure voters that he is the commander-in-chief they’ve been waiting for? Everyone not in a coma knows that Hillary is dutifully doing her part so as to avoid any later accusations that she booby-trapped Obama’s presidential run. So the debate will be endless as to whether she really, really means it and whether those fingers are crossed behind her back when she says all those nice things about the man she said just a few months wasn’t ready for the 3 a.m. call. And even if she really, really means it, people do have minds of their own– they might just have decided The One isn’t for them.
Second, the very act of so many people insisting that Obama is up to speed creates the “protest too much” phenomenon. So many people, all more experienced and knowledgeable than The One, insisting “No, no the kid’s really okay,” carries with it the potential to have the opposite impact. Voters may wonder why he needs all this validation (and why one of the validators in particular isn’t at the top of the Democratic ticket).
In the end, Obama will have to persuade voters he’s up for the job. Meanwhile, John McCain and his ads are out to persuade Clinton voters that McCain’s experience and toughness make him the more acceptable alternative now that Clinton’s run is over. After four days of the Democratic Convention we’ll see how the Clinton supporters feel.
Bill Kristol suggests that Joe Biden’s elevation tips the balance in favor of Joe Lieberman for John McCain’s VP pick. He explains:
Lieberman could hold his own against Biden in a debate. He would reinforce McCain’s overall message of foreign policy experience and hawkishness. He’s a strong and disciplined candidate.
Well, yes he’s a Democrat (but I suppose he could convert), pro-choice, and liberal on many things. But Kristol argues:
Now as a matter of governance, there’s no reason to think this would much matter. McCain has made clear his will be a pro-life administration. And as a one-off, quasi-national-unity ticket, with Lieberman renouncing any further ambition to run for the presidency, a McCain-Lieberman administration wouldn’t threaten the continuance of the G.O.P. as a pro-life party. In other areas, no one seriously thinks the policies of a McCain-Lieberman administration would be appreciably different from those, say, of a McCain-Pawlenty administration.Would McCain-Lieberman have a better prospect of winning than the more conventional alternatives? If they could get over the early hurdles of a messy convention and an awful lot of conservative angst and anger, I’ve come to think so. . . The charge that McCain would merely mean a third Bush term would also tend to fall flat. And an unorthodox “country first” Lieberman selection would reinforce what has been attractive about McCain, and what has allowed him to run ahead of — though not yet enough ahead of — the generic Republican ballot.
I would like to think that the national security and bipartisan appeal of the ticket would outwiegh all the problems and the internal divisions within the Republican Party. And if McCain were well behind, it would be easy for him to throw the long ball and tell the base it’s the only shot they have. I just don’t know whether McCain’s team, after successfully wooing the base, wants to go back and do it all again. The temptation is great to play safe–goodness knows one mediocre debate performance by a Tim Pawlenty won’t sink the ticket–and find a responsible, competent and conservative-friendly VP.
Still, I come back to Kristol’s suggestion because none of the other VP candidates mentioned so far outshines Lieberman on accomplishment, experience, verbal persuasiveness and national security bona fides. He may, simply put, just be the best VP whom McCain could pick, both as a candidate and as a partner in governing. If McCain thinks he can reformulate a bipartisan national security policy and tackle some tough domestic issues like entitlement reform, Lieberman would be a powerful symbol that the country needs to get past stark partisan divisions.
Obama couldn’t bring himself to pick the best VP he had, Hillary Clinton. There are always reasons to avoid a headache. But in the end Obama might have forfeited the greatest asset he could have had in his race. McCain might just decide he shouldn’t make the same error. And come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time McCain decided to sacrifice something he really believed in for the sake of Republican Party peace and unity.
In short, if there is anyone to do this sort of thing it is McCain.
While everyone seems to be praising Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden for running mate as a much-needed corrective to Obama’s foreign policy inexperience and elitist aura, one of Israel’s top political commentators sees the choice as a disaster for the Obama phenomenon. Writing in YNet, Nachum Barnea has only praise for Biden’s record on Israel — “In recent years I met him twice… When it comes to Israel, his record is perfect.” Yet in choosing Biden, Obama has, in an instant, lost all his revolutionary lustre.
What happened to Barack Obama is the same thing that happened to Hillary Clinton before that: He rose up on the wings of change, excited some voters as if he was a rock star and pushed away others – and then he froze in midair.
His decision to choose Joe Biden as his candidate for vice president illustrates the complete change that he went through since his primaries victory: He lost the revolutionary momentum that distinguished his campaign; he lost his freshness. He has become cautious, predictable, and conventional. It is no wonder that the young people who espouse his candidacy are now telling pollsters they will not bother to make it to the polling stations.
There is something to Barnea’s analysis, and it holds true not only for Obama, but for politicians more generally who run for office: The only thing worse than having a gaping flaw in your credentials is trying too hard to compensate for it — for at that moment, you admit that your flaws are far more important than you had previously led your devotees to believe. By picking Biden, Obama blinked when it comes to the revolution.
McCain, for his part, is supremely lucky to have Obama as his opponent, for it allows him to play the straight man, building his campaign on quiet strength and sound judgment, never having to play the revolutionary. In his current role, his famous temper is far less of an issue than it would have been if he were running against someone like Al Gore, who destroyed Ross Perot’s political hopes in a single debate years ago when he got Perot to lose his temper in public. But Obama’s appeal is in his ability to inspire a sense of hope, not calm. If the race stays neck-and-neck in the polls, and there are no further major strategic changes on either side, there is a good chance the race will utimately go to McCain, for the simple reason that once in the voting booth, a great many voters will, at the last minute, prefer a narrative of safety to one of hope.