Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 10, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Obama

Karl Rove, who was the evil genius of the Republican Party before his one-time aide, McCain campaign chief Steve Schmidt, claimed the title, has this to say about the bizarre turn of events:

Of all the advantages Gov. Sarah Palin has brought to the GOP ticket, the most important may be that she has gotten into Barack Obama’s head. How else to explain Sen. Obama’s decision to go one-on-one against “Sarah Barracuda,” captain of the Wasilla High state basketball champs? It’s a matchup he’ll lose. If Mr. Obama wants to win, he needs to remember he’s running against John McCain for president, not Mrs. Palin for vice president.

Rove spares neither Obama or Biden:

Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can’t win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he’s been in the Senate. If voters dislike earmarks — and they do — they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year. Mr. Obama may also pay a price for his “lipstick on a pig” comment. The last time the word “lipstick” showed up in this campaign was during Mrs. Palin’s memorable ad-lib in her acceptance speech. Mr. Obama says he didn’t mean to aim the comment at Mrs. Palin, but he deserves all the negative flashback he gets from the snarky aside. Sen. Joe Biden has now joined the attack on Mrs. Palin, saying this week that her views on issues show she’s “obviously a backwards step for women.” This is a mistake. Mr. Obama is already finding it difficult to win over independent women and Hillary Clinton voters. If it looks like he’s going out of his way to attack Mrs. Palin, these voters may conclude it’s because he has a problem with strong women.

But aside from the tactical foolishness of all of this, there are signs that Obama himself is becoming the subject of a new kind of scrutiny — from his own party. He’s either distracted or obsessed. This is from Democrats.

The rest of the country, if he keeps this up, may conclude that his tone and lack of discipline make him a problematic choice for president.

Karl Rove, who was the evil genius of the Republican Party before his one-time aide, McCain campaign chief Steve Schmidt, claimed the title, has this to say about the bizarre turn of events:

Of all the advantages Gov. Sarah Palin has brought to the GOP ticket, the most important may be that she has gotten into Barack Obama’s head. How else to explain Sen. Obama’s decision to go one-on-one against “Sarah Barracuda,” captain of the Wasilla High state basketball champs? It’s a matchup he’ll lose. If Mr. Obama wants to win, he needs to remember he’s running against John McCain for president, not Mrs. Palin for vice president.

Rove spares neither Obama or Biden:

Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can’t win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he’s been in the Senate. If voters dislike earmarks — and they do — they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year. Mr. Obama may also pay a price for his “lipstick on a pig” comment. The last time the word “lipstick” showed up in this campaign was during Mrs. Palin’s memorable ad-lib in her acceptance speech. Mr. Obama says he didn’t mean to aim the comment at Mrs. Palin, but he deserves all the negative flashback he gets from the snarky aside. Sen. Joe Biden has now joined the attack on Mrs. Palin, saying this week that her views on issues show she’s “obviously a backwards step for women.” This is a mistake. Mr. Obama is already finding it difficult to win over independent women and Hillary Clinton voters. If it looks like he’s going out of his way to attack Mrs. Palin, these voters may conclude it’s because he has a problem with strong women.

But aside from the tactical foolishness of all of this, there are signs that Obama himself is becoming the subject of a new kind of scrutiny — from his own party. He’s either distracted or obsessed. This is from Democrats.

The rest of the country, if he keeps this up, may conclude that his tone and lack of discipline make him a problematic choice for president.

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An Apology Due to Obama?

The New York Times is reporting that

 President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

It is worth recalling that in his first major foreign-policy address, in August 2007, Barack Obama proposed raids against al-Qaeda in Pakistan without consultation, and making

the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

If the story is correct — and it reads like an official leak — the July date indicates Bush approved this plan while Musharraf was still in power. (He resigned his office in August.)  He was, however, vastly weaker and more compromised this past July than he was when Obama made his speech in 2007.

I was among many people who ridiculed the Obama proposal at the time, on the grounds that a) no nation violates the territorial integrity of an ally, even if that ally is problematic, and b) Obama’s bellicosity seemed entirely unbelievable, given that he spoke in the wake of his remarks about meeting with the leaders of the world’s worst regimes “without preconditions.” On the latter point, he was and remains wrong and foolish.

On the former point, though, he was, apparently, precognitive, and may be due an apology.

The New York Times is reporting that

 President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

It is worth recalling that in his first major foreign-policy address, in August 2007, Barack Obama proposed raids against al-Qaeda in Pakistan without consultation, and making

the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

If the story is correct — and it reads like an official leak — the July date indicates Bush approved this plan while Musharraf was still in power. (He resigned his office in August.)  He was, however, vastly weaker and more compromised this past July than he was when Obama made his speech in 2007.

I was among many people who ridiculed the Obama proposal at the time, on the grounds that a) no nation violates the territorial integrity of an ally, even if that ally is problematic, and b) Obama’s bellicosity seemed entirely unbelievable, given that he spoke in the wake of his remarks about meeting with the leaders of the world’s worst regimes “without preconditions.” On the latter point, he was and remains wrong and foolish.

On the former point, though, he was, apparently, precognitive, and may be due an apology.

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Re: You Heard It Here First

Jen, can I toot my own horn for a second? You have just quoted Obama telling David Letterman that in his now-famous and absurdly over-debated analogy, “she would be the lipstick.”

This is what I wrote about this matter yesterday, just after it broke:

 Obama’s remark — “put a lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig” — is being treated by the McCain campaign as an attack on Sarah Palin. I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here. Syntactically, the remark is not about Palin; it’s about John McCain. She’s the lipstick. He’s the pig.

Rhetorically, Barack Obama likened his rival to a pig.

There’s a whiff of something very dangerous to Obama here. What this sounds like is nothing so much as Michael Dukakis, in 1988, likening George H.W. Bush to a rotting fish (“a fish rots first from the head,” he said). As if to demonstrate that the Dukakis example was floating through his brain at exactly the same moment, Obama then made a direct allusion to it: “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change,’ it’s still gonna stink after eight years.”

I don’t mean to keep this story going, and I don’t want to be humorless about this — but since he’s basically admitted it, isn’t there something even a little surprising about the fact that according to Obama himself, he drew an analogy between  John McCain and a pig?

For what it’s worth, I see Obama has told Letterman that “the failed policies of John McCain would be the pig.” Fine.

But here’s a thought experiment for you. Obama picks Hillary instead of Biden. The next week, McCain goes out there and says that some plan of the other ticket is like “putting lipstick on a pig.” Now, what do you suppose would have happened in that instance?

Jen, can I toot my own horn for a second? You have just quoted Obama telling David Letterman that in his now-famous and absurdly over-debated analogy, “she would be the lipstick.”

This is what I wrote about this matter yesterday, just after it broke:

 Obama’s remark — “put a lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig” — is being treated by the McCain campaign as an attack on Sarah Palin. I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here. Syntactically, the remark is not about Palin; it’s about John McCain. She’s the lipstick. He’s the pig.

Rhetorically, Barack Obama likened his rival to a pig.

There’s a whiff of something very dangerous to Obama here. What this sounds like is nothing so much as Michael Dukakis, in 1988, likening George H.W. Bush to a rotting fish (“a fish rots first from the head,” he said). As if to demonstrate that the Dukakis example was floating through his brain at exactly the same moment, Obama then made a direct allusion to it: “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change,’ it’s still gonna stink after eight years.”

I don’t mean to keep this story going, and I don’t want to be humorless about this — but since he’s basically admitted it, isn’t there something even a little surprising about the fact that according to Obama himself, he drew an analogy between  John McCain and a pig?

For what it’s worth, I see Obama has told Letterman that “the failed policies of John McCain would be the pig.” Fine.

But here’s a thought experiment for you. Obama picks Hillary instead of Biden. The next week, McCain goes out there and says that some plan of the other ticket is like “putting lipstick on a pig.” Now, what do you suppose would have happened in that instance?

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You Heard It Here First

In the Lipstick Controversy I accused Barack Obama of objectifying Sarah Palin — reducing her to the status of a  lady’s cosmetic. I was right. From his appearance on Letterman, Obama declares:

“Keep in mind that, technically had I meant it this way –- she would be the lipstick!”

Well  that clears that up. My only question: Has he gone stark, raving mad? This is supposed to help him, suggesting that rather than an animal it is just a decorative accessory which pops to mind when he thinks of his opponent’s running mate? Someone, anyone with a modicum of common sense, needs to sit him and Joe Biden down and tell them to stop. Just stop. It’s too painful to watch.

In the Lipstick Controversy I accused Barack Obama of objectifying Sarah Palin — reducing her to the status of a  lady’s cosmetic. I was right. From his appearance on Letterman, Obama declares:

“Keep in mind that, technically had I meant it this way –- she would be the lipstick!”

Well  that clears that up. My only question: Has he gone stark, raving mad? This is supposed to help him, suggesting that rather than an animal it is just a decorative accessory which pops to mind when he thinks of his opponent’s running mate? Someone, anyone with a modicum of common sense, needs to sit him and Joe Biden down and tell them to stop. Just stop. It’s too painful to watch.

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Re: Can’t Anybody Play

John, others — indeed participants in the Lipstick Game – have noticed the same phenomenon. The MSM dean of Conventional Wisdom, who,  as I blogged about, appeared on  CNN last night to excoriate everyone for focusing on this story declares tonight: “Another Evening News Victory For Steve Schmidt.” We seem to be in the Mobius Strip of  Palin-mania: Obama grouses, the press reports, Obama reacts, the press reports and on it goes. For some variety, Joe Biden throws in a gaffe or two a day.

And tomorrow? The Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson airs. That’ll be good for several days of coverage. It seems there will be no end to it.

John, others — indeed participants in the Lipstick Game – have noticed the same phenomenon. The MSM dean of Conventional Wisdom, who,  as I blogged about, appeared on  CNN last night to excoriate everyone for focusing on this story declares tonight: “Another Evening News Victory For Steve Schmidt.” We seem to be in the Mobius Strip of  Palin-mania: Obama grouses, the press reports, Obama reacts, the press reports and on it goes. For some variety, Joe Biden throws in a gaffe or two a day.

And tomorrow? The Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson airs. That’ll be good for several days of coverage. It seems there will be no end to it.

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Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?

So here’s the lipstick state of play. The morning shows led with it today. Barack Obama chose to come out fighting. He declared the entire issue an example of the “politics of distraction.” He said, “Enough is enough.” I’ve been flicking around the news channels all day. What is the story? Lipstick on a pig. Lipstick on a pig. Lipstick on a pig. Did he really insult her? Didn’t McCain’s one-time spokesman Torie Clarke write a book called Lipstick on a Pig, therefore shouldn’t McCain not act surprised by the term’s use? On the other hand, didn’t the crowd’s roar yesterday when Obama used the phrase indicate his rapt audience assumed he was talking about Palin, and isn’t Obama a gifted enough public rhetorician that we can assume he got just the response he wanted? And then the chyron, over and over, on MSNBC and Fox and CNN: Lipstick on a pig, lipstick on a pig, lipstick on a pig.

In other words, Obama and the Democrats who are hotly defending him against the charge that he was saying anything negative about Palin or McCain have succeeded in continue to fan the flames of the story ever higher. I think it’s safe to say that Chris Matthews, who spent half an hour on it, hates this story like poison and demanded that the Republican flack who came on to speak McCain soundbites admit that he was in the wrong and that the whole issue is bogus. And yet there was that half-hour on it. Why?

Because the story is golden — because it’s Palin, and women, and the question of politesse vs. hardball, and the classic reversal of candidate of the supposed “party of women” getting himself in hot water for saying something his rivals in the “daddy party” could argue with even minimal plausibility was “sexist.” Because this is what cable news, and talk radio, and the American media in the 21st century, hunger for. Because you can’t imagine what a huge star Sarah Palin has become in less than two weeks, and how the mere mention of her name causes ratings to spike — and so if one anchor were to refuse on principle to lead with it, the channel surfers would just jump away to a rival who was more than happy to feed the bottomless hunger for this latest twist in the tale.

If I were an Obama supporter, I would be more disheartened today than I have ever been about this candidacy, because it is demonstrating not only a lack of sure-footedness, but a rather astonishing amateurishness.

So here’s the lipstick state of play. The morning shows led with it today. Barack Obama chose to come out fighting. He declared the entire issue an example of the “politics of distraction.” He said, “Enough is enough.” I’ve been flicking around the news channels all day. What is the story? Lipstick on a pig. Lipstick on a pig. Lipstick on a pig. Did he really insult her? Didn’t McCain’s one-time spokesman Torie Clarke write a book called Lipstick on a Pig, therefore shouldn’t McCain not act surprised by the term’s use? On the other hand, didn’t the crowd’s roar yesterday when Obama used the phrase indicate his rapt audience assumed he was talking about Palin, and isn’t Obama a gifted enough public rhetorician that we can assume he got just the response he wanted? And then the chyron, over and over, on MSNBC and Fox and CNN: Lipstick on a pig, lipstick on a pig, lipstick on a pig.

In other words, Obama and the Democrats who are hotly defending him against the charge that he was saying anything negative about Palin or McCain have succeeded in continue to fan the flames of the story ever higher. I think it’s safe to say that Chris Matthews, who spent half an hour on it, hates this story like poison and demanded that the Republican flack who came on to speak McCain soundbites admit that he was in the wrong and that the whole issue is bogus. And yet there was that half-hour on it. Why?

Because the story is golden — because it’s Palin, and women, and the question of politesse vs. hardball, and the classic reversal of candidate of the supposed “party of women” getting himself in hot water for saying something his rivals in the “daddy party” could argue with even minimal plausibility was “sexist.” Because this is what cable news, and talk radio, and the American media in the 21st century, hunger for. Because you can’t imagine what a huge star Sarah Palin has become in less than two weeks, and how the mere mention of her name causes ratings to spike — and so if one anchor were to refuse on principle to lead with it, the channel surfers would just jump away to a rival who was more than happy to feed the bottomless hunger for this latest twist in the tale.

If I were an Obama supporter, I would be more disheartened today than I have ever been about this candidacy, because it is demonstrating not only a lack of sure-footedness, but a rather astonishing amateurishness.

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That Shrinking Map

New polls from New Mexico, North Dakota and Alaska–once all thought to be potential gets for Barack Obama–now show John McCain in the lead. He is also enjoying a small lead in Virginia. Again, none of this is irreversable but it gets very, very hard for Obama to get to 270 if McCain wins Missouri, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New Mexico and states in the Mountain West like North Dakota and Montana. Try it at home. Now, that’s something to panic about.

New polls from New Mexico, North Dakota and Alaska–once all thought to be potential gets for Barack Obama–now show John McCain in the lead. He is also enjoying a small lead in Virginia. Again, none of this is irreversable but it gets very, very hard for Obama to get to 270 if McCain wins Missouri, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New Mexico and states in the Mountain West like North Dakota and Montana. Try it at home. Now, that’s something to panic about.

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The Worst Cable Pundit . . . IN THE WORLD!

It’s no secret that MSNBC’s launching of The Rachel Maddow Show signaled the network’s decisive turn towards the left in its coverage of political news. After all, Maddow had risen through the ranks of liberal media organizations in recent years, hosting her own show on Air America Radio and standing in on occasion for Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown. But, as the first two airings of Maddow’s show have demonstrated, Rachel Maddow is hardly MSNBC’s response to Sean Hannity. Rather, she is MSNBC’s response to fact-based political commentary, with the one-time Rhodes scholar dedicating her hour of nightly airtime to furthering blatant conspiracy theories.

For example, take Maddow’s discussion of yesterday’s alarming report that, seven years after 9/11, the United States is still “dangerously vulnerable” to a WMD attack by terrorists. After attributing this quotation to 9/11 Committee Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton–and mislabeling him a Republican–Maddow unleashed this ridiculous rant:

There’s actually a bunch of reports coming out now on how little we’ve done to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction. “The Washington Post” today describes, quote, “years of bureaucratic drift” that all these blue ribbon commissions are trying to cut through. So we’ve had years of bureaucratic drift and we’ve made only minor progress on this issue in seven long years.

But the political machine designed to hype our fear of an attack using weapons of mass destruction, that’s banging on all cylinders, working very well, thank you. Because converting fear into votes is apparently a much more urgent priority right now than actually taking concrete steps to make the country safe from those threats.

Got that? In Maddow’s fact-free analysis, the Bush administration is so cunning that it has enlisted a respected former Democratic congressman as its tool for spreading fear–paradoxically benefiting electorally from a report that actually criticizes the (lame-duck) administration’s performance.

Later in the show, Maddow reaffirmed her political ignorance. While discussing the Bush administration’s announcement that it would transfer troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, Maddow demonstrated a disturbing unfamiliarity with the U.S. Constitution:

… in terms of Iraq strategy, wouldn’t we be better served by the next president-elect making these decisions in November, starting the day after the election, rather than this administration pledging now what’s going to happen in February, after Bush’s gone?

Apparently, Maddow doesn’t know that the sitting president–and not the president-elect–makes decisions regarding military strategy in his capacities as commander-in-chief. But luckily for Maddow, she made this comment while hosting the rare U.S. Army general similarly unaware of this constitutional factoid. “Oh yes,” responded Gen. (ret.) Barry McCaffrey, “I couldn’t agree more.”

For this reason, it must be pretty cool being Maddow. In a media culture that technically aims to present both sides of every issue, it must be nice to host guests who agree with your outlandish assertions unequivocally.

It’s no secret that MSNBC’s launching of The Rachel Maddow Show signaled the network’s decisive turn towards the left in its coverage of political news. After all, Maddow had risen through the ranks of liberal media organizations in recent years, hosting her own show on Air America Radio and standing in on occasion for Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown. But, as the first two airings of Maddow’s show have demonstrated, Rachel Maddow is hardly MSNBC’s response to Sean Hannity. Rather, she is MSNBC’s response to fact-based political commentary, with the one-time Rhodes scholar dedicating her hour of nightly airtime to furthering blatant conspiracy theories.

For example, take Maddow’s discussion of yesterday’s alarming report that, seven years after 9/11, the United States is still “dangerously vulnerable” to a WMD attack by terrorists. After attributing this quotation to 9/11 Committee Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton–and mislabeling him a Republican–Maddow unleashed this ridiculous rant:

There’s actually a bunch of reports coming out now on how little we’ve done to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction. “The Washington Post” today describes, quote, “years of bureaucratic drift” that all these blue ribbon commissions are trying to cut through. So we’ve had years of bureaucratic drift and we’ve made only minor progress on this issue in seven long years.

But the political machine designed to hype our fear of an attack using weapons of mass destruction, that’s banging on all cylinders, working very well, thank you. Because converting fear into votes is apparently a much more urgent priority right now than actually taking concrete steps to make the country safe from those threats.

Got that? In Maddow’s fact-free analysis, the Bush administration is so cunning that it has enlisted a respected former Democratic congressman as its tool for spreading fear–paradoxically benefiting electorally from a report that actually criticizes the (lame-duck) administration’s performance.

Later in the show, Maddow reaffirmed her political ignorance. While discussing the Bush administration’s announcement that it would transfer troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, Maddow demonstrated a disturbing unfamiliarity with the U.S. Constitution:

… in terms of Iraq strategy, wouldn’t we be better served by the next president-elect making these decisions in November, starting the day after the election, rather than this administration pledging now what’s going to happen in February, after Bush’s gone?

Apparently, Maddow doesn’t know that the sitting president–and not the president-elect–makes decisions regarding military strategy in his capacities as commander-in-chief. But luckily for Maddow, she made this comment while hosting the rare U.S. Army general similarly unaware of this constitutional factoid. “Oh yes,” responded Gen. (ret.) Barry McCaffrey, “I couldn’t agree more.”

For this reason, it must be pretty cool being Maddow. In a media culture that technically aims to present both sides of every issue, it must be nice to host guests who agree with your outlandish assertions unequivocally.

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Commentary of the Day

Eric Baum, on John Podhoretz:

I recall flying to Israel, and being asked to explain quantum gravity, to prove I was really a physicist.

Eric Baum, on John Podhoretz:

I recall flying to Israel, and being asked to explain quantum gravity, to prove I was really a physicist.

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Re: An Explanation

John, I would concur entirely will all that but there is perhaps something else at play. As voters have figured out, Barack Obama is a “talker,” not a “doer.” It may be that when talk — an overhyped acceptance speech, for example — doesn’t do the trick Obama is simply at a loss. He was always able to cajole and persuade, charm and win over people before. Now his rhetoric, at least the type he chose to employ isn’t doing the trick, so what does he do now? It must come as a shock, a body blow that words don’t always win the day.

And if he really isn’t a doer, then the tasks ahead — readjusting personnel, finances, and strategy — may be simply daunting for him. He is in a word in uncharted territory. Faced with adversity and lacking the power of words, he may simply not know what to do.

None of this is to say that the race is lost for him. That would be as foolish as saying the race was already won in June. However, it does raise the issue as to what resources, skills and experience Obama might draw on to steady his sinking ship. His opponents may falter, Palin’s luster may dim, and McCain can flub a debate, but if not–what’s Obama going to do? I suspect neither he nor anyone around him knows.

John, I would concur entirely will all that but there is perhaps something else at play. As voters have figured out, Barack Obama is a “talker,” not a “doer.” It may be that when talk — an overhyped acceptance speech, for example — doesn’t do the trick Obama is simply at a loss. He was always able to cajole and persuade, charm and win over people before. Now his rhetoric, at least the type he chose to employ isn’t doing the trick, so what does he do now? It must come as a shock, a body blow that words don’t always win the day.

And if he really isn’t a doer, then the tasks ahead — readjusting personnel, finances, and strategy — may be simply daunting for him. He is in a word in uncharted territory. Faced with adversity and lacking the power of words, he may simply not know what to do.

None of this is to say that the race is lost for him. That would be as foolish as saying the race was already won in June. However, it does raise the issue as to what resources, skills and experience Obama might draw on to steady his sinking ship. His opponents may falter, Palin’s luster may dim, and McCain can flub a debate, but if not–what’s Obama going to do? I suspect neither he nor anyone around him knows.

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Re: Democrat Nervous Breakdown

Well, Joe Biden’s saving charm is that he often says exactly what’s on his mind. And that, I suspect, is what is on the minds of just about every Democrat in the country. The Clintons are very pleased, no doubt, with the mass buyers’ remorse that has broken out, even within the Democratic ticket. But no use crying over spilt milk. Biden better figure out how he can help his Presidential nominee. He might start by sticking to an approved script. But the chances of that happening, I would bet, are slim to none.

Well, Joe Biden’s saving charm is that he often says exactly what’s on his mind. And that, I suspect, is what is on the minds of just about every Democrat in the country. The Clintons are very pleased, no doubt, with the mass buyers’ remorse that has broken out, even within the Democratic ticket. But no use crying over spilt milk. Biden better figure out how he can help his Presidential nominee. He might start by sticking to an approved script. But the chances of that happening, I would bet, are slim to none.

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Democrat Nervous Breakdown Watch #2

Joe Biden says that Hillary Clinton might have been a better vice presidential pick than he: “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be Vice President of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend; she is qualified to be President of the United States of America. She’s easily qualified to be Vice President of the United States of America and quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me, but she is first-rate.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVy2yh28eig[/youtube]

Joe Biden says that Hillary Clinton might have been a better vice presidential pick than he: “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be Vice President of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend; she is qualified to be President of the United States of America. She’s easily qualified to be Vice President of the United States of America and quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me, but she is first-rate.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVy2yh28eig[/youtube]

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Democrat Nervous Breakdown Watch

Politico reports that “South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler sharply attacked Sarah Palin today, saying John McCain had chosen a running mate ‘whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.’”

In other news, MSNBC has just asked Carol Fowler to host a show at 10 PM.

Politico reports that “South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler sharply attacked Sarah Palin today, saying John McCain had chosen a running mate ‘whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.’”

In other news, MSNBC has just asked Carol Fowler to host a show at 10 PM.

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An Explanation for the Obama Flail

Perhaps the reason Barack Obama seems so rattled by the McCain surge is that he’s never actually faced a competent and agile competitor to his Right, and has never really been called upon to broaden his appeal to voters who live in a different ideological frame. He should have learned something about this in the primaries, when Hillary Clinton ran to his populist Right and almost caught him. But he seems to have taken it that his narrow victory was an affirmation of his message rather than a warning sign of his need to appeal more widely to Americans who don’t live within his electoral comfort zone.

Or perhaps the problem is not solely his own. Perhaps the problem has to do as well with his campaign consultant, David Axelrod. Make no mistake: Axelrod and his colleague David Plouffe came up with a brilliant strategy to prevail in the Democratic primaries. Their conception of how to use the caucus states to slingshot Obama into a lead it would be structurally impossible for Hillary Clinton to overtake was one of the great political plays of our time.

But knowing how to win as an insurgent in a primary battle when the rules were bizarrely misunderstood by Obama’s rival is one thing; knowing how to win with an electorate that will probably be, at a minimum, 125 million strong is another. And here Axelrod and Plouffe may simply not have the (dare I say it) experience necessary to help Obama conduct this fight.

Axelrod comes out of leftist Democratic politics,. He was a liberal Chicago journalist who became a campaign consultant, and he has specialized in helping his candidates  prevail in primary races when winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the entire election. He did well in majority black cities with black candidates to begin with, has been a key player in the victories of Richard Daley in Chicago, and performed yeoman service for Eliot Spitzer in New York and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts. And, of course, there was Obama’s massive Senate victory in 2004.

What all these races have in common was that, in the general election, there was no Republican nominee with even a whisper of a chance to win for Axelrod’s guy to bump up against. The general-election contest was a slow-motion coronation.

So this is new for Axelrod, as it is for Obama. They are not running in a mostly liberal, mostly Democratic state. They are running in a 50-50 country, in which far more people describe themselves as “conservative” than say they are “liberal.” For them, it is probably difficult to imagine that Sarah Palin has appeal, but she does. Even McCain’s appeal is mostly elusive to them, because they basically know no one who thinks the Iraq War is anything but an act of gross criminality, they don’t quite know how to handle an electorate that may not be happy about Iraq altogether but certainly isn’t comfortable pulling out –and would probably prefer it if we took lemons and made lemonade rather than standing around shouting, “Lemon! Lemon! Lemon!”

Turns out this election isn’t going to be a coronation, and getting whiny and defensive and overly angry at standard-issue political tactics isn’t the way to go about changing strategy so that you can figure out how to win this thing.

UPDATE: My word! My old pal and colleague Mark Cunningham has made many of the same points right here.

Perhaps the reason Barack Obama seems so rattled by the McCain surge is that he’s never actually faced a competent and agile competitor to his Right, and has never really been called upon to broaden his appeal to voters who live in a different ideological frame. He should have learned something about this in the primaries, when Hillary Clinton ran to his populist Right and almost caught him. But he seems to have taken it that his narrow victory was an affirmation of his message rather than a warning sign of his need to appeal more widely to Americans who don’t live within his electoral comfort zone.

Or perhaps the problem is not solely his own. Perhaps the problem has to do as well with his campaign consultant, David Axelrod. Make no mistake: Axelrod and his colleague David Plouffe came up with a brilliant strategy to prevail in the Democratic primaries. Their conception of how to use the caucus states to slingshot Obama into a lead it would be structurally impossible for Hillary Clinton to overtake was one of the great political plays of our time.

But knowing how to win as an insurgent in a primary battle when the rules were bizarrely misunderstood by Obama’s rival is one thing; knowing how to win with an electorate that will probably be, at a minimum, 125 million strong is another. And here Axelrod and Plouffe may simply not have the (dare I say it) experience necessary to help Obama conduct this fight.

Axelrod comes out of leftist Democratic politics,. He was a liberal Chicago journalist who became a campaign consultant, and he has specialized in helping his candidates  prevail in primary races when winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the entire election. He did well in majority black cities with black candidates to begin with, has been a key player in the victories of Richard Daley in Chicago, and performed yeoman service for Eliot Spitzer in New York and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts. And, of course, there was Obama’s massive Senate victory in 2004.

What all these races have in common was that, in the general election, there was no Republican nominee with even a whisper of a chance to win for Axelrod’s guy to bump up against. The general-election contest was a slow-motion coronation.

So this is new for Axelrod, as it is for Obama. They are not running in a mostly liberal, mostly Democratic state. They are running in a 50-50 country, in which far more people describe themselves as “conservative” than say they are “liberal.” For them, it is probably difficult to imagine that Sarah Palin has appeal, but she does. Even McCain’s appeal is mostly elusive to them, because they basically know no one who thinks the Iraq War is anything but an act of gross criminality, they don’t quite know how to handle an electorate that may not be happy about Iraq altogether but certainly isn’t comfortable pulling out –and would probably prefer it if we took lemons and made lemonade rather than standing around shouting, “Lemon! Lemon! Lemon!”

Turns out this election isn’t going to be a coronation, and getting whiny and defensive and overly angry at standard-issue political tactics isn’t the way to go about changing strategy so that you can figure out how to win this thing.

UPDATE: My word! My old pal and colleague Mark Cunningham has made many of the same points right here.

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On The Hunt

Forget the Reagan “Bear in the Woods” ad–now there are wolves in Alaska. There is good reason for the McCain camp to keep up the pressure, of course, there is new polling data to confirm the McCain-Palin surge and the huge shift among independents.

It will be interesting to see what (aside from panic) the Obama camp has in mind. Sure would have been helpful if they had agreed to some nice substantive townhall debates. Ah, well.

Forget the Reagan “Bear in the Woods” ad–now there are wolves in Alaska. There is good reason for the McCain camp to keep up the pressure, of course, there is new polling data to confirm the McCain-Palin surge and the huge shift among independents.

It will be interesting to see what (aside from panic) the Obama camp has in mind. Sure would have been helpful if they had agreed to some nice substantive townhall debates. Ah, well.

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What’s New?

Camille Paglia gets it mostly right when she sizes up Sarah Palin as a new feminist role model. (I’ll part company on the favorable comparison with Madonna.) And her take on Obama, the Palin maneuver, and the media is pretty much spot on:

What in the world possessed the Obama campaign to let their guy wander like a dazed lamb into a snake pit of religious inquisition like Rick Warren’s public forum last month at his Saddleback Church in California? That shambles of a performance — where a surprisingly unprepared Obama met the inevitable question about abortion with shockingly curt glibness — began his alarming slide.

. . .

Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy — one of the most stunning surprises that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama’s triumph of the night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. It was like watching a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football — or one of the great light-saber duels in “Star Wars.” . . . This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor.

And she is right that the media did its part:

Over the Labor Day weekend, with most of the big enchiladas of the major media on vacation, the vacuum was filled with a hallucinatory hurricane in the leftist blogosphere, which unleashed a grotesquely lurid series of allegations, fantasies, half-truths and outright lies about Palin. What a tacky low in American politics — which has already caused a backlash that could damage Obama’s campaign. When liberals come off as childish, raving loonies, the right wing gains. I am still waiting for substantive evidence that Sarah Palin is a dangerous extremist. I am perfectly willing to be convinced, but right now, she seems to be merely an optimistic pragmatist like Ronald Reagan, someone who pays lip service to religious piety without being in the least wedded to it. I don’t see her arrival as portending the end of civil liberties or life as we know it.

Paglia gets to the heart of why Palin has set off such a frenzy: she is redefining the model of a successful female poltician. Before her, women in high office consisted of victim-mongering liberals and country-club Republican Congresswoman and Senators, and a stray cabinet position or two. And now we have something utterly different: a “new style of muscular American feminism.”

Whether McCain-Palin wins or not, a lot of people have a different vision of what a powerful female politician can look and sound like–somewhat like themselves and their neighbors. No wonder tens of thousands of people are turning out. They want a glimpse of what the future of conservatism, the Republican Party, and maybe even feminism will look like.

Camille Paglia gets it mostly right when she sizes up Sarah Palin as a new feminist role model. (I’ll part company on the favorable comparison with Madonna.) And her take on Obama, the Palin maneuver, and the media is pretty much spot on:

What in the world possessed the Obama campaign to let their guy wander like a dazed lamb into a snake pit of religious inquisition like Rick Warren’s public forum last month at his Saddleback Church in California? That shambles of a performance — where a surprisingly unprepared Obama met the inevitable question about abortion with shockingly curt glibness — began his alarming slide.

. . .

Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy — one of the most stunning surprises that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama’s triumph of the night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. It was like watching a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football — or one of the great light-saber duels in “Star Wars.” . . . This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor.

And she is right that the media did its part:

Over the Labor Day weekend, with most of the big enchiladas of the major media on vacation, the vacuum was filled with a hallucinatory hurricane in the leftist blogosphere, which unleashed a grotesquely lurid series of allegations, fantasies, half-truths and outright lies about Palin. What a tacky low in American politics — which has already caused a backlash that could damage Obama’s campaign. When liberals come off as childish, raving loonies, the right wing gains. I am still waiting for substantive evidence that Sarah Palin is a dangerous extremist. I am perfectly willing to be convinced, but right now, she seems to be merely an optimistic pragmatist like Ronald Reagan, someone who pays lip service to religious piety without being in the least wedded to it. I don’t see her arrival as portending the end of civil liberties or life as we know it.

Paglia gets to the heart of why Palin has set off such a frenzy: she is redefining the model of a successful female poltician. Before her, women in high office consisted of victim-mongering liberals and country-club Republican Congresswoman and Senators, and a stray cabinet position or two. And now we have something utterly different: a “new style of muscular American feminism.”

Whether McCain-Palin wins or not, a lot of people have a different vision of what a powerful female politician can look and sound like–somewhat like themselves and their neighbors. No wonder tens of thousands of people are turning out. They want a glimpse of what the future of conservatism, the Republican Party, and maybe even feminism will look like.

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The Beagle Blogger Is Back

And now, apparently having agreed to observe a craven silence on his misogynistic opinions regarding Sarah Palin, of which I am highly doubtful he has bethought himself,  he is now calling John McCain “evil” for, among other unspeakable crimes against humanity, failing to endorse John Kerry in 2004.

If there is a heaven, and Michael Oakeshott is in it, he has just, for the first time in his existence, corporeal or non-corporeal, giggled.

And now, apparently having agreed to observe a craven silence on his misogynistic opinions regarding Sarah Palin, of which I am highly doubtful he has bethought himself,  he is now calling John McCain “evil” for, among other unspeakable crimes against humanity, failing to endorse John Kerry in 2004.

If there is a heaven, and Michael Oakeshott is in it, he has just, for the first time in his existence, corporeal or non-corporeal, giggled.

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Slapping Iran

Note the appropriate verb employed by AP writer Jeannine Aversa:

The Bush administration on Wednesday slapped financial sanctions on a major Iranian shipping line and its affiliates for allegedly helping to transfer military-related arms and cargo.

The departments of State and Treasury announced the action against the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, also known as IRISL, and 18 of its affiliates for providing logistical services to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which controls Iran’s ballistic missile research, development and production activities.

The action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the company that are found in the United States are frozen. Americans also are forbidden from doing business with the company and its affiliates.

Is anyone else outraged that, up until today, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines was free to keep liquid assets in the U.S. and do business with Americans? If such obvious and mild steps as these constitute the kind of eleventh-hour emergency tactics we’re banking on, we might as well keep business relations open and make a few bucks while the mullahs make their weapons.

“Not only does IRISL facilitate the transport of cargo for U.N. designated proliferators, it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce,” Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrrorism and financial intelligence said in a statement. “IRISL’s actions are part of a broader pattern of deception and fabrication that Iran uses to advance its nuclear and missile program,” he claimed.

Uncovering an operation that complex and diffuse requires months of intelligence work. Why were these sanctions not instituted at the first sign of IRISL wrongdoing? Better yet: Why were they not instituted preventatively, considering IRISL has always been intimately involved with the government in Tehran?

Note the appropriate verb employed by AP writer Jeannine Aversa:

The Bush administration on Wednesday slapped financial sanctions on a major Iranian shipping line and its affiliates for allegedly helping to transfer military-related arms and cargo.

The departments of State and Treasury announced the action against the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, also known as IRISL, and 18 of its affiliates for providing logistical services to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which controls Iran’s ballistic missile research, development and production activities.

The action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the company that are found in the United States are frozen. Americans also are forbidden from doing business with the company and its affiliates.

Is anyone else outraged that, up until today, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines was free to keep liquid assets in the U.S. and do business with Americans? If such obvious and mild steps as these constitute the kind of eleventh-hour emergency tactics we’re banking on, we might as well keep business relations open and make a few bucks while the mullahs make their weapons.

“Not only does IRISL facilitate the transport of cargo for U.N. designated proliferators, it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce,” Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrrorism and financial intelligence said in a statement. “IRISL’s actions are part of a broader pattern of deception and fabrication that Iran uses to advance its nuclear and missile program,” he claimed.

Uncovering an operation that complex and diffuse requires months of intelligence work. Why were these sanctions not instituted at the first sign of IRISL wrongdoing? Better yet: Why were they not instituted preventatively, considering IRISL has always been intimately involved with the government in Tehran?

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A Story of Our Times

I, like other members of the media, was cordoned off in a designated area at the McCain-Palin event. Cameras were on risers, print/online down below. I happened to be standing next to a well-known New York Times reporter. She was interviewing “real” people leaning on the barricade separating us from the crowd. When she told two middle-aged ladies that she was from the Times they recoiled. She breathlessly assured them that “editorial has nothing to do with the news.” They stared blankly. She grabbed a copy of the Grey Lady from her bag, as if to point out that there were different pages for opinion and news. They looked skeptical. She pressed on, “Do you read the New York Times?”

One of the ladies meekly replied, “I read about the New York Times.” I began to chuckle softly. She turned, “Who do you write for? Why are you laughing?” I began to respond that her line was likely not effective with this crowd, but she interrupted, “I do this all the time.” She then turned to her interviewee (who was now on the receiving end of a painful sales pitch) and continued, “You have to read the New York Times. Don’t just listen to what Bill O’Reilly says.”

You likely didn’t need any confirmation that the Times’ reporters believe only dolts think their news coverage is biased. Had she asked me why these folks are hostile to her publication I could have reeled off a list of obvious examples — ignoring the success of the surge, the front page faux scandal about McCain and the lobbyist, the Times‘s own public editor pointing out the paper’s delinquency in reporting on Reverend Wright, and, of course, the Palin feeding frenzy (including the error in reporting her affiliation with the Independence Party). There is more than a flimsy metal barricade separating the MSM from the public. The former need to get out more–literally and figuratively.

I, like other members of the media, was cordoned off in a designated area at the McCain-Palin event. Cameras were on risers, print/online down below. I happened to be standing next to a well-known New York Times reporter. She was interviewing “real” people leaning on the barricade separating us from the crowd. When she told two middle-aged ladies that she was from the Times they recoiled. She breathlessly assured them that “editorial has nothing to do with the news.” They stared blankly. She grabbed a copy of the Grey Lady from her bag, as if to point out that there were different pages for opinion and news. They looked skeptical. She pressed on, “Do you read the New York Times?”

One of the ladies meekly replied, “I read about the New York Times.” I began to chuckle softly. She turned, “Who do you write for? Why are you laughing?” I began to respond that her line was likely not effective with this crowd, but she interrupted, “I do this all the time.” She then turned to her interviewee (who was now on the receiving end of a painful sales pitch) and continued, “You have to read the New York Times. Don’t just listen to what Bill O’Reilly says.”

You likely didn’t need any confirmation that the Times’ reporters believe only dolts think their news coverage is biased. Had she asked me why these folks are hostile to her publication I could have reeled off a list of obvious examples — ignoring the success of the surge, the front page faux scandal about McCain and the lobbyist, the Times‘s own public editor pointing out the paper’s delinquency in reporting on Reverend Wright, and, of course, the Palin feeding frenzy (including the error in reporting her affiliation with the Independence Party). There is more than a flimsy metal barricade separating the MSM from the public. The former need to get out more–literally and figuratively.

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Notes from the McCain/Palin Event: 7

As luck would have it, standing next to the press enclosure were two Alaskans, the Hudsons. David was a state trooper there and now is a high ranking official with the National Guard, living in Virginia. And yes Palin was his commander-in-chief in Alaska. He rattles off a list of her responsibilities: sets policy, makes sure they are equipped, deploys them, visits the troops. As for the fired trooper at the heart of “troopergate” Hudson says, “It’s unacceptable for any trooper to be unprofessional. . . The union doesn’t always let you do it[fire someone].” As for Palin, he smiles and says he’s thrilled to see that ” an unknown Alaskan politician can make it to the top.” He and his wife are delighted–each will receive a check for $3249 from the permanent oil fund plus another tax refund for $1200. They attribute this to Palin’s management of the oil fund and state budget.

The McCain camp is saying 23,000 people showed at the rally. It was large, but maybe only three-quarters of that. On the way out I chatted with Russell Paige, 49 years old, from here in Fairfax. He is a self-described libertarian who wasn’t thrilled with McCain because of McCain-Feingold, but he likes his stance on earmarks and tax cutting. Palin? “I like everything I’ve heard about Sarah Palin.” Among his female friends, he says, all of them are buzzing abut Palin. “I think there is a hidden tidal wave of women who would have voted for Hillary for the wrong reason and will now vote for Palin for the right reason.” The McCain camp hopes he is right– and the Obama camp is fearing that he is.

As luck would have it, standing next to the press enclosure were two Alaskans, the Hudsons. David was a state trooper there and now is a high ranking official with the National Guard, living in Virginia. And yes Palin was his commander-in-chief in Alaska. He rattles off a list of her responsibilities: sets policy, makes sure they are equipped, deploys them, visits the troops. As for the fired trooper at the heart of “troopergate” Hudson says, “It’s unacceptable for any trooper to be unprofessional. . . The union doesn’t always let you do it[fire someone].” As for Palin, he smiles and says he’s thrilled to see that ” an unknown Alaskan politician can make it to the top.” He and his wife are delighted–each will receive a check for $3249 from the permanent oil fund plus another tax refund for $1200. They attribute this to Palin’s management of the oil fund and state budget.

The McCain camp is saying 23,000 people showed at the rally. It was large, but maybe only three-quarters of that. On the way out I chatted with Russell Paige, 49 years old, from here in Fairfax. He is a self-described libertarian who wasn’t thrilled with McCain because of McCain-Feingold, but he likes his stance on earmarks and tax cutting. Palin? “I like everything I’ve heard about Sarah Palin.” Among his female friends, he says, all of them are buzzing abut Palin. “I think there is a hidden tidal wave of women who would have voted for Hillary for the wrong reason and will now vote for Palin for the right reason.” The McCain camp hopes he is right– and the Obama camp is fearing that he is.

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