Archive for October 26th, 2008

The Incredible Sunday Roundup

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Reading the expanisve opinion roundup in Sunday’s New York Times gives you the distinct impression that John McCain’s campaign is cooked. No one is coming right out and saying it. But neither do you have to read between the lines. The tone of the verdict is impossible to miss.

Here’s Conservative McCain supporter David Brooks:

Some of us hoped McCain would take sides in the debate now dividing the G.O.P. Some Republicans believe the G.O.P. went astray by abandoning its tax-cutting, anti-government principles. They want a return to Reagan (or at least the Reagan of their imaginations). But others want to modernize and widen the party and adapt it to new challenges. Some of us hoped that by reforming his party, which has grown so unpopular, McCain could prove that he could reform the country.

But McCain never took sides in this debate and never articulated a governing philosophy, Hamiltonian or any other. In Sunday’s issue of The Times Magazine, Robert Draper describes the shifts in tactics that consumed the McCain campaign. The tactics varied promiscuously, but they were all about how to present McCain, not about how to describe the state of country or the needs of the voter. It was all biography, which was necessary, but it did not clearly point to a new direction for the party or the country …

McCain would be an outstanding president. In government, he has almost always had an instinct for the right cause. He has become an experienced legislative craftsman. He is stalwart against the country’s foes and cooperative with its friends. But he never escaped the straitjacket of a party that is ailing and a conservatism that is behind the times. And that’s what makes the final weeks of this campaign so unspeakably sad.

Here’s moderate Nicholas Kristof, writing about al-Qaeda’s official endorsement of John McCain:

John McCain isn’t boasting about a new endorsement, one of the very, very few he has received from overseas. It came a few days ago:

“Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” read a commentary on a password-protected Islamist Web site that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and often disseminates the group’s propaganda.

The endorsement left the McCain campaign sputtering, and noting helplessly that Hamas appears to prefer Barack Obama. Al Qaeda’s apparent enthusiasm for Mr. McCain is manifestly not reciprocated …

The core reason why Al Qaeda militants prefer a McCain presidency: four more years of blindness to nuance in the Muslim world would be a tragedy for Americans and virtually everyone else, but a boon for radical groups trying to recruit suicide bombers.

Frank Rich, never one to celebrate early, writes:

There are at least two larger national lessons to be learned from what is likely to be the last gasp of Allen-McCain-Palin politics in 2008. The first, and easy one, is that Republican leaders have no idea what “real America” is. In the eight years since the first Bush-Cheney convention pledged inclusiveness and showcased Colin Powell as its opening-night speaker, the G.O.P. has terminally alienated black Americans (Powell himself now included), immigrant Americans (including the Hispanics who once gave Bush-Cheney as much as 44 percent of their votes) and the extended families of gay Americans (Palin has now revived a constitutional crusade against same-sex marriage). Subtract all those players from the actual America, and you don’t have enough of a bench to field a junior varsity volleyball team, let alone a serious campaign for the Electoral College.

But the other, less noticed lesson of the year has to do with the white people the McCain campaign has been pandering to. As we saw first in the Democratic primary results and see now in the widespread revulsion at the McCain-Palin tactics, white Americans are not remotely the bigots the G.O.P. would have us believe. Just because a campaign trades in racism doesn’t mean that the country is racist. It’s past time to come to the unfairly maligned white America’s defense.

Timoth Egan notes:

Republicans have been insinuating for years now that some of the brightest, most productive communities in the United States are fake American — a tactic that dates to Newt Gingrich’s reign in the capitol.

Brainy cities have low divorce rates, low crime, high job creation, ethnic diversity and creative capitalism. They’re places like Pittsburgh, with its top-notch universities; Albuquerque, with its surging Latino middle class; and Denver, with its outdoor-loving young people. They grow good people in the smart cities.

But in the politically suicidal greenhouse that Republicans have constructed for themselves, these cities are not welcome. They are disparaged as nests of latte-sipping weenies, alt-lifestyle types and “other” Americans, somehow inauthentic.

If that’s what Republicans want, they are doomed to be the party of yesterday …

Spurning the Reagan lesson, John McCain made a fatal error in turning his campaign over to the audience of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In so doing, he chose the unbearable lightness of being Sarah Palin, trotted out Paris Hilton and labeled Obama a socialist who associates with terrorists.

Not to be left out, Marueen Dowd piles on:

With the economy cratering and the McCain campaign running on an “average Joe” theme, dunderheaded aides, led by the former Bushies Nicolle Wallace and Tracey Schmitt, costumed their Eliza Doolittle for a ball when she should have been dressing for a bailout.

The Republicans’ attempt to make the case that Barack Obama is hoity-toity and they’re hoi polloi has fallen under the sheer weight of the stunning numbers:

The McCains own 13 cars, eight homes and access to a corporate jet, and Cindy had her Marie Antoinette moment at the convention. Vanity Fair calculated that her outfit cost $300,000, with three-carat diamond earrings worth $280,000, an Oscar de la Renta dress valued at $3,000, a Chanel white ceramic watch clocking in at $4,500 and a four-strand pearl necklace worth between $11,000 and $25,000. While presenting herself as an I’m-just-like-you hockey mom frugal enough to put the Alaska state plane up for sale on eBay, Palin made her big speech at the convention wearing a $2,500 cream silk Valentino jacket that the McCain staff had gotten her at Saks.

Nobel Economics Luareate Paul Krugman adds:

Mr. McCain seems spectacularly unable to talk about economics as if it matters. He has attempted to pin the blame for the crisis on his pet grievance, Congressional budget earmarks — which leaves economists scratching their heads in puzzlement. In the immediate aftermath of the Lehman failure, he declared that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” seemingly unaware that he was closely echoing what Herbert Hoover said after the 1929 crash.

But I suspect that the main reason for the dramatic swing in the polls is something less concrete and more meta than the fact that events have discredited free-market fundamentalism. As the economic scene has darkened, I’d argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. And this has worked to Mr. Obama’s advantage, because his opponent has run a deeply unserious campaign.

These columnits are all serious, sober people from across the political spectrum, not prone to the kind of hyperbole for the sake of ratings we’re used to seeing on CNN. As I say, none of them even came right out and so much as predicted an Obama win.

Rich, for example, in closing, would only go so far as to say, “this seems to be the election year” when voters are rejecting divisive, Rovian, GOP politics.

Krugman opened with: “Maybe the polls and the conventional wisdom are all wrong, and John McCain will pull off a stunning upset.”

Brooks leaves open the possibility of a McCain win, noting that he “would be an outstanding president.”

But, I have to say, reading these columns one after the other, shot-gun style, stacked four to a page and separated by artist-rendered bunting — it had the feel of a post-mortem, nine days early.

McCain is Freaking me Out a Little in Pennsylvania

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

I know polls show that Obama has had a consistent lead in Pennsylvania. But McCain has gone all-in there, and it concerns me.

It’s clear why. Consider: If McCain wins Pennsylvania, he can lose Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Viriginia — and still win the election.

With Murtha running around calling Western Pennsylvania “racist,” and with memories of Hillary Clinton’s drubbing of Obama in the primaries — and, apparently, with internal polls that show the race even closer than it seems — McCain has quintupled down on the state.

“We don’t believe any of the naysayers who believe Pennsylvania is out of reach,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying.

Apparently, Gov. Ed Rendell has all but begged Obama to return to Pennsylvania. I haven’t heard or read whether Obama has agreed.

If anyone knows of any reason Barack should not return to Pennsylvania in these last 9 days, speak now or forever hold your peace.