I have so many thoughts in re Election 2008 that they are gridlocked at the intersections of my mind.

Allow me to begin the process of untangling in short and simple stokes.

First of all, is the Grand Old Party over?

Of course not. This is lunacy.

Nothing has proven more resilient in American political history than the two-party system.

Was it over for the Democrats after McGovern? After Carter and Mondale?

Was it over for the Democrats after the Congressional scandals of the 1990s?

Was it over for the Republicans after Richard Nixon? After Bob Dole won only 18 states in 1996?

Why is it never over? Because parties are peopled by human beings who have good intentions but are fatally flawed. The Democrats will overreach, eventually--and the GOP will be there to correct at some point.

As I have said previously, I am rooting for Obama to succeed. His success will be my success. But his success depends on a wise and careful reading of the political realities of the present. If he leans too far left, he is finished. But my sense is that he understands the necessity of pragmatic and cautious governance in this moment of national exigency.

If he is as smart as I think he is, we are going to see an administration wholly unlike any previous presidency. Four years from now, eight years from now, we may well be talking about a completely new version of political philosophy with roots in traditional American liberalism, but with a generous portion of American cultural conservatism. This potential hybrid might inaugurate an Era of Obama--but, even if it is flawlessly launched, this new way will ultimately falter. When it does, a loyal opposition, fine-tuned and re-examined, will offer a needed alternative.

The Day of the GOP is not over. Without a doubt, it may be cloudy right now. But our history indicates that storms come and go, and the sun and moon remain consistent points of reference. End of the GOP? Not likely.

02/11: Joe the Biden

As this campaign comes to a close, I direct you to an amusing piece on the Democratic nominee for veep in TIME Magazine: "Hidin' Biden." The article reveals that Joe Biden has become even less accessible to the press than Sarah Palin, with the Obama handlers counting the days and doing their best to sit on the gaffe-prone Senator until the clock runs out.

You will remember my utter disbelief when Obama tapped "Joe the Biden" as his number two.

Back then, in a post entitled "Biden? Really?" I wrote:

Why haven't we seen more Joe Biden dust-ups over the years? For the simple reason that no one really pays him much attention. Not so anymore. From now until 4 November, the world will be following him around and scrutinizing his every word. Not good for Camp Obama. Sure, the mainstream PrObama press will give him a pass whenever possible, but the conservative media will push and press every chance they get. My guess is that Biden will give them plenty of chances. These guys are likely to be putting out fires almost continually.

While events have proven the foundation of my assertion essentially correct, you will notice that none of his thoroughly predicted mischief made an impact on the election. None of it mattered. Why?

Simple: the fix was in.

When I predicted that his "penchant for injudicious statements" would prove embarrassing to Barack Obama, I had not gotten my mind around the fact that the prObama press corps was determined to shout down and/or not cover anything detrimental to their candidate.

As for Biden and the press and the future, we will see what the next eight years brings. My sense is that Biden cannot be contained or ignored for that long of a period. My suspicion is that we will get a lot of laughs out of Joe the Biden in the years to come.

One More Thing in that vein: once the election is over, and the need to cover for Biden recedes, we may well have another Alexander Throttlebottom on our hands.
I am on record, extensively, assuring all of you that Barack Obama will win the presidency this coming Tuesday. Having said that, many of us will remember that I spent most of last January explaining how John McCain could not win the Republican nomination. My record as a prophet is not one of 100 percent accuracy--but I keep slinging.

Polls seem to be tightening--what is really happening?

1. Cold Feet. We have spent approximately one week with Barack Obama as president-elect. That is, we have bought into the idea in our own minds that this international man of mystery is going to be our next chief executive. This week we are experiencing buyer's remorse. A lot of voters are suddenly unsure. No truer emotion in the human condition than cold feet.

"This is what I want. This is what I have to have. I will die if I don't get it." Then, once we own it: "Oh no, what was I thinking. This was a big mistake."

But, in this case, we have not really done it yet. We can still back out. Will we?

2. Media backlash. A lot of stories this past week (accompanied with unimpeachable statistical evidence) acknowledging the unprecedented media bias during this canvass (even the media seem to be feeling a bit sheepish about it). Even without the stats, we know it in our bones when the fix is in.

Moreover, Americans are not big fans of the media. Natural Question: why are these guys willing to lie, obfuscate, and run interference for this candidate? Is it really in our interest to hand this election over to the prObama press corps? Suddenly, we've got a bad feeling about all of this.

3. America loves an underdog. Gotta love that Johnny McCain. He does not know the meaning of quit. Do you believe in miracles?

4. John McCain finally found an issue and a symbol. Joe the Plumber. We are finally on GOP turf. We win elections in this country on three issues: small government, taxes, and cultural populism. "Spreading the wealth around" gave us an opening. The feeding frenzy on Joe was offensive and disturbing. The "redistribution" stuff was more gas on the fire. And now the ever-shifting definition of rich ($250K, $200K, $150K, $120K) is probably innocent enough--but, nevertheless, devastating. This undisciplined message reminds us that whatever number the Democrats have in mind is whimsical and not subject to any accountability. If they take control of the White House and improve their numbers in Congress, the Democrats can literally do anything they want.

5. Sarah Palin. No matter how many talking heads in the media assert that Sarah Palin was a big mistake--she continues to hammer home her points in an appealing way. She weathered her nadir a few weeks ago--when Tina Feylin almost stole her soul. But, since then, she has won a vice presidential debate, gone toe-to-toe with the cast of SNL, taken to the offensive again, and continued to thrill the heartland.

Bottom Line: Johnny McCain is on a roll. Will it be enough to come all the way back? I continue to say no--but nobody knows anything--and nobody more so than I. But this seems to me like too far to come in too short of a time. McCain needs another week or two to pull off this comeback. I suspect this is a last gasp of a dying campaign. But, then again, who knows?

One great thing about this being a close election, however, is that it may give pause to Obama. If he wins a squeaker, perhaps the unexpected close call will remind him that this is a center-right nation. Overreach on the part of a Democratic majority guarantees a devastating defeat at some point in the future.

One Last Thought: if things are getting tight, should we expect one last "November Surprise" directed at McCain-Palin? I suppose tonight would be the absolute last chance for any devastating revelations.
Category: Campaign 2008.15
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Mark McKinnon wrote a brilliant column earlier this week that everyone should read.

He asserts:

Steve Schmidt and his colleagues took John McCain further than he had any reasonable right to, given the political climate.

McKinnon reminds us of this obvious truism:

One of the physical laws of politics is that if your campaign wins, youíre a genius. If you lose, youíre an idiot.

I agree. Get off McCain.

Considering the daunting political geography, there were only two times over the past three years in which I thought the Republicans had a good shot at winning this election. The first instance was when the Jeremiah Wright revelation finally emerged as a public issue. I was convinced that the American people would never tolerate Wright's brand of incendiary race mongering. Of course, at the time, even then I saw it more as the end of Barack Obama rather than the Democrats. I fully expected Hillary to pick up the pieces and carry her party to victory in November.

In re Wright, my instinct (my absolute certitude) has never been more wrong. Why did the Wright episodes not sink Obama? The media supported their man during his two times of trial concerning his longtime pastor. First, the prObama press rallied around his excellent speech in Philadelphia, which cleverly clouded the issue of Wright by thoughtfully addressing the larger issue of race in America. Then, when Wright reinserted himself into the campaign with his insanely riveting performance at the National Press Club, the candidate reversed himself. After saying he could never disown Wright--Obama vehemently disowned him, and his fans in the mainstream media applauded and accepted the about-face in stride.

Then, in what may be the most amazing display of restraint in the history of American politics, John McCain decided early-on to declare the issue off limits. Why? Without a doubt, Obama's twenty-year relationship with Wright was a legitimate issue. Why? McCain correctly reasoned that the exploitation of Reverend Wright would so divide the American electorate along racial lines that victory would pale in comparison to the cultural damage. Country First. Amazing.

For this unprecedented magnanimity McCain gained what? Ironically, the mainstream media trafficked the ubiquitous notion of McCain as a negative campaigner who had lowered himself to ruthlessly, relentlessly, and unscrupulously attacking his virtuous opponent. Shame, shame, John McCain.

The second moment when I thought victory was attainable came with the advent of Sarah Palin. Her dynamic explosion onto the political scene completely transformed this campaign. For all the pundits who want to point to Palin as McCain's downfall, they should recall how low down the McCain fortunes were when Palin raised him up to parity with the Obama juggernaut.

If I have a complaint against McCain worth pressing at this point, it is my sense that his campaign squandered the potential of Sarah Palin--hiding her under a bushel.

Once the Palin phenomenon emerged, the opposition pushed back with everything they had--correctly comprehending that crushing Palin was "make or break" for Obama 2008. It was not pretty--but the opposition expertly destroyed her public persona. The all-out offensive included blatant lies, distortions, double standards, and a devastating doppelganger--Tina Fey-lin.

Don't blame McCain for selecting the Alaska governor. It was the most brilliant political coup of this new century. However, you can blame McCain for not pushing back hard enough and/or quick enough. You can also blame Team McCain for not giving the young maverick her head. Sarah Palin is incredibly formidable live and on the attack. She should have been running circles around the enemy in a series of guerrilla raids--not laying low or attempting to connect to the electorate through taped and edited interviews with nightly news anchors.

Having said that, McCain has been McCain--and I give him credit for a bully effort. In a year in which the Republican brand is all but discredited, McCain fought valiantly and honorably. In a year in which no straightforward Republican strategy had even a ghost of a chance at success, McCain ran a courageous insurgent campaign. Not perfect--but perfection is a little bit too much to ask in human kind. Well done, Johnny McCain.

25/10: Did You Know?

Has anybody noticed that many of the most reputable public opinion polls indicate that Barack Obama is set to garner the biggest white male vote for any Democratic Party candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964?

According to the Zogby-Reuters-C-SPAN poll, white and male voters are fairly evenly split between John McCain and Obama (both in the forties among "decideds")--with McCain holding a modest edge within both groups.

According to the same poll, 95 percent of African Americans report that they are likely to vote for Barack Obama. A staggering numberóbut not surprising in that this near monolithic statement of support would signal only a slight uptick from the past two elections: African Americans voted 92 percent and 88 percent for Al Gore and John Kerry, respectively, in 2000 and 2004.

More disappointing--but perhaps not surprising--huge numbers of Hispanics seem likely to vote for Obama as well. Many polls predict a twenty-to-thirty point drop off for McCain in 2008 from the Bush heights of 2000 and 2004. Some of that turnaround must be attributed to Obama's charisma and appeal as a minority candidate, but some of it, undoubtedly, is the mendacious Spanish-language ads depicting John McCain in league with the Talk Radio anti-immigration populist revolution of 2007. If voters had any sense of recent history, they would find these blatant lies so preposterous as to be hilarious. But, unfortunately, that particular "if" is a luxury we don't enjoy this election.

As many of you know, I tend to view George W. Bush as much more astute than the hapless buffoon he plays on TV. He certainly understood better than most that chasing off Hispanic voters was a bad idea for the GOP in the long term. It seems that those chickens are coming home to roost this time around.

But, back to the real point of this post, what does it mean for our "racist nation," if Barack Obama wins more white males than any other Democratic candidate of the post-New Deal era?

As I have said before, the liberal establishment in this country has a huge stake in the accepted notion that I am a racist. Why else would a middle-class American continue to vote Republican? Because I am a simpleton who does not understand my own interests. The GOP waves the bloody shirt of race hatred, homophobia, and evangelical sophistry in front of my face, and I revert to conditioned behavior.

Not too long ago America was "too racist" to elect Obama. But as his election grows more probable, we are now forced to endure the new explanation: white America is so desperate for a competent leader that there is no choice but to accept Obama. Economic fear trumps race prejudice. This assumption, by the way, rests on the well-known fact that Barack Obama is an expert on the economy.

All that noise aside, "whitey" turning out in record numbers to vote for the first serious African American candidate for president in our nation's 220 year history will speak loudly and clearly. Of course, the axis of disingenuousness, so invested in the image of virulent racism lurking in heart of Red-State America, will use every weapon in its vast arsenal to combat the notion of the United States as a place that actually hungers for racial justice and fairness.

At this point, who can bet against them?
I voted yesterday in Waco, Texas. In addition to the six or seven generic retired regulars I generally see when I cast my ballot during early voting, I also encountered (literally) scores of citizens seemingly unfamiliar with the venue and/or the system but, nevertheless, gleeful and anxious to participate in the carnival atmosphere. These were young people (likely college students) and many African Americans of all ages.

FYI: I arrived approximately ten minutes after the Elections Office opened for business. There were probably ten Obama supporters outside on the periphery of the parking lot enthusiastically waving signs for their candidate. There were no Republican counterparts.

What lesson do I draw from this scene? This election is over. While I don't think it possible that Barack Obama will take Texas--I look for him to do surprisingly well here. More importantly, look for a lot trouble down-ticket for Republicans (if not in Texas, in a lot of other surprising places).

Why is Obama going to do so well?

1. Give him some credit. He is an amazingly gifted candidate.

2. This is a very bad year for Republicans.

--Why so bad? Because Republicans ran a lousy war. Give Petraeus, Crocker, and Gates credit for saving our asses--but we were in a mess directly connected to Bush administration malfeasance.

--Why so bad? Because Republicans ran a lousy economy. We are ten trillion dollars in debt. We are TEN TRILLION DOLLARS in debt!!! We are $10,000,000,000,000.00 in debt. Forget about all the explanatory noise--Republicans did not lift a finger during their six years in control of Washington to place us on a path to economic sanity.

--Why so bad? Because the Republicans ran a lousy PR campaign. Some of the above could have been justified with the right amount of sincerity and finesse. But it wasn't.

3. Media Manipulation.

As Mark Salter complained the other day, the political reporters in this campaign have covered 2008 with a "thumb on the scale." They are fully invested in an Obama victory, and they are "blunting attacks against Obama even before the candidate can articulate a defense." These guys are in the tank to an extent unprecedented in modern American politics (for comparison sake, see the Washington Globe's coverage of Andrew Jackson circa 1832).

What do I mean? Some examples:

Candidate for president, Barack Obama, the forty-seven year-old, half-term senator from Illinois, is imminently qualified to transform America and the world. On the other hand, candidate for vice president, the forty-four year-old, half-term governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is an embarrassment to all right-thinking citizens and proof that John McCain cannot be trusted.

Joe Biden (in reality, the most prolific human gaffe machine since Norm Crosby) is an eloquent and wise statesman of renown, who provides additional depth and understanding to the already exceptionally brilliant former editor of the Harvard Law Review--as if he needed such buttressing. On the other hand, Sarah Palin (who, in reality, has had one bad taped interview with an unfriendly edit) is the tongue-tied airhead with a penchant for mentioning beauty pageants and keeps saying, "I can see Russia from my house."

Barack Obama is his own man and a healer, likely to transcend the cruel racial and partisan divides that afflict our nation, distributing (not to be confused with re-distributing) love and friendship to all Americans. This is the dawning of the age of Obama.

John McCain is Bush redux, incapable of bucking his odious party and slavishly loyal to the discredited Republican orthodoxy. He was not always this way--and this is the tragic part of our tale-- but he sold his soul to the Devil (Karl Rove--who is, in fact, acting as the silent mastermind to his current campaign) in order to gain the presidency at any cost and quench his fierce and blinding ambition.

Barack Obama is the tax reformer who wants to ease the burden on 95 percent of Americans. Believe him. He could not say something like that if it were not true. John McCain, on the other hand, is erratic and consumed by his contempt for our young champion. Sadly, the erstwhile Maverick and operator of the once storied straight-talk express will say anything to get elected. This is all very dishonorable.

And so it goes. I could go on--but what's the point?

Okie Gardener: steak dinner in Cowtown? You're on. If you win, bring the kids and new members of the family. I will gladly pony up for a feast if you are right.
In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dated 27 September, the Congressional Black Caucus declared bankruptcy reform directed at "distressed homeowners" an essential component to any "financial rescue package." Otherwise, the letter suggests, the Caucus would see the plan as a bailout for Wall Street rather than a benefit to the American people.

As you know, the bankruptcy reform did not make the final cut.

What role did the Black Caucus play in the Monday vote?

Of the thirty-nine (39) members of the Caucus casting votes on the bill, twenty-one (21) voted in the negative. While approximately 60 percent of Democrats voted in the affirmative for the bill, 21/39 in opposition is significantly higher than the party profile. Moreover, four out the five Congressional Black Caucus officers voted against the measure.

As you know, the bill failed by twelve votes.

We have been told repeatedly by Democratic leadership that Barack Obama has never been more than a phone call away during this crisis, ready to help the process along in any way possible.

Interesting Question:

What influence did Senator Obama, member in good standing within the Black Caucus, exert on the votes within this oftentimes extremely unified coalition?
A Bosque Boys Timeline:

30 August: A Hail Mary (a low-percentage play that just might work and why).

31 August: The Genius of the Palin Pick (three reasons why Palin might play well and a prediction that the prObama frenzy might backfire).

5 September: The Homerun (how Palin's convention speech changed the nature of this contest).

6 September: Is She Reagan? (she is engaging and polarizing, in a positive political way--but a word of caution: we have only known this woman for eight days).

11 September: Immediate Analysis of the Charlie Gibson interview (not devastating but not great). September 12: Charlie sinking; Sarah on the rise.

13 September: Let's be honest
with what we have here (Sarah has limits; she is no Republican David; she may be as good as Reagan was when he first emerged on the national stage--but early Reagan was much rougher than we remember).

Where Are We Now?

Palin is not as good as her maiden speech--but she is not as bad as Tina Fey (who, by the way, may well prove to be the single-most influential and effective outside actor in this entire election season).

What has happened to our girl? Bill Kristol had it right today on FOX News Sunday: "we have not let Palin be Palin."

We/they have gotten inside her head. She is a raw natural talent with great instincts. We have filled her head with "do's and don'ts." Team McCain has overprotected her, creating the impression inside and outside the camp that she is vulnerable. They have her second-guessing herself.

She needs to relax. She needs to breath through her eyelids.

Let Palin be Palin.

It is worth mentioning that no candidate in history has ever had so much scrutiny and/or so many bright lights in the American intelligentsia rooting for her complete and utter humiliation. In this way, at least, she is Reaganesque.

There is no question that she faces an atrocious double standard. If some reporter had her on tape blithely conversing about visiting all fifty-seven states, or placing President Roosevelt on TV in 1929, she would be over. Sarah Palin does not get the benefit of the doubt, ever. She is the nation of Israel; every battle, every interview is a fight for survival. She is singular among the candidates in that she faces a sudden-death situation every time she walks out of her house.

An Important Aside: the double standard is not sexist--although her liberal tormentors play on sexual stereotypes. Rather, the double standard is the half-century-old conservative disadvantage dealing with left-leaning media institutions, multiplied by a factor of 100 because so much is at stake and her presence makes the race so volatile.

But no honest observer can deny the double standard. Obama can hem and haw, stammer and stutter, and misspeak all across America--but nothing he says will ever do damage to the template of the articulate and erudite constitutional law professor. Joe Biden is good for a gaffe a day (and the Roosevelt thing is perhaps the worst of all time--much worse than "potatoe" in the mind of this history teacher), but none of that matters. Joe Knows.

In truth, none of these gaffes really do matter very much--but the glaring unfairness of the coverage frustrates us. "Call 'em both ways, ref." You can call fouls any way you choose--just make sure a foul is a foul on both ends of the court.

So What?

We got a big event coming on 2 October. It's a Thursday (one day before my 10th Wedding Anniversary--thanks be to God). But this truly is Must See TV.

Conventional Wisdom: silver-haired Senator Joe Biden is going to demolish Tina Fey.

My guess (my hope, perhaps) is that Tina Fey won't show up. From Day One, we have all known Sarah Palin had to deliver on two occasions: her convention speech and the veep debate. She hit a homerun in late August. If she can muster coherence on this Thursday night in early October, it will be tantamount to slapping a tough pitch down the first base line into the right-field corner for a triple.

Is that even possible? If nothing else, we have the expectations game on our side. Although Team Obama understands this--and with their willing accomplices in the media--they may attempt to rehabilitate Palin a bit this week, to fatten her up for the kill. However, Tina Fey and the boys (ours and theirs) and Sarah Palin herself have done too much over the last fortnight to establish the Palin template--it is set in stone.

We will be tuning in on Thursday to see a ferocious liberal lion devour a confused and nearly defenseless Christian. If she can hold her own, we might just have something new to talk about for a week. If she can rise above the expectations, SNL may actually have to come up with a goofy Democratic character.

On the other hand, if she falters at all, say goodnight, Gracie. This debate very well could be exactly what most observers expect: the final nail in the coffin for McCain-Palin 2008.
Just when I had called all TV debates meaningless, Jim Lehrer and his friends offer a vastly improved format designed to encourage more substantial interaction. The new regime was not perfect. Too often, just when the two principals began to find a rhythm, Moderator Lehrer started blowing his whistle and instructing the two contestants to reset for a new line of questioning. Having said that, this was the most fluid and meaningful debate in recent memory.

Some quick thoughts:

1. The so-called Truth Squads are all over McCain and his extemporaneous (I presume) use of Dwight Eisenhower and the Longest Day (following Jim Lehrer's prefatory remarks noting Ike's 1952 quote concerning "national security and solvency").

Some smarties are upset that Johnny Mac called D-Day the "greatest invasion in history" (numerically it was not). Many are jubilantly noting that McCain inaccurately described Ike's famous letter of responsibility (written beforehand in case of failure) as a letter of resignation.

Come on fellas. Is this the best we can do? At worst, this was a harmless error that did not alter McCain's obvious point on accountability. And, arguably, it is a semantic distinction without a difference. It is easy to read that note as a letter of resignation (one old warrior confessed to me that he always saw it as a suicide note). In any event, it is a document speaking to the tradition of falling on one's sword, which is a practice that has fallen severely out of favor in modern culture. It is a long way from "mistakes were made," which illustrated brilliantly McCain's simple assertion.

2. The exchange on the economy was less than revealing. McCain got the best of the debate with his promise to freeze spending, drill offshore, and pursue nukes--but the economy remains Barack Obama's major asset in this campaign. Nothing transpired tonight to alter that basic fact of life.

3. McCain won the battle of the Surge. Obama cannot compete with McCain on the current facts concerning Iraq. Obama repeatedly staggered under the weight of recent events, invoking the specter of Osama bin Laden, evading 2007 by emphasizing the decisions of 2003, and even reminding his audience that Joe (Biden) knows. But again--does any of that really matter right now? Remember when we thought this election was going to be about Iraq?

4. McCain gave a tour de force on foreign affairs knowledge, effortlessly integrating into the conversation unpronounceable names and obscure faraway places. During these riffs, Obama could do little more than furrow his brow and nod his head in a serious way. McCain pounded the point that Obama had no idea or understanding of American foreign relations. I believe him. But, again, does anyone really care about foreign policy experience in this election? My hunch is not so much.

5. I don't have FOX News--but it certainly seems that Obama is dominating the spin on TV (the networks and PBS). The mainstream consensus: draw (or, slight edge for Obama). Considering that this debate was McCain's strong suit, a draw for Obama equals BIG CASINO.

My sense is that McCain did better than the talking heads think right now. We will see how this all plays out over the next forty-eight hours. My guess is the "take away" (the on-again, off-again drama) generated more interest in the debate than we might have seen otherwise; therefore, I would expect some high numbers in re viewers.

My guess: not as bad for McCain as the pundits are predicting-- but, certainly, no dramatic knock down for the maverick.

Revised and extended version of the comments section here.
Barack Obama on why he insists on maintaining the debate on Friday night as scheduled:

"This is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess."

"In my mind, [the debate] is more important than ever."

Three Quick Things:

1. No one new will be in charge of this mess until 20 January. We have an election in 40-odd days--but we wait more than two months after that for an actual changing of the guard. We cannot wait four months for a fix.

2. The debate in question is over foreign policy--not economics.

3. And the last thing we need is two donkeys (and I am not talking party symbols here) "demagoguing it up" on TV. We need two statesmen who are willing to forgo political advantage and put their country first. No solution is possible with the grandstanding Congressional leadership mugging for the cameras and dueling for the best plan to help the "little people." Our only hope is some selflessness.

Elections be damned. I salute John McCain for the sentiment and the paean to the founding heroes of the United States of America. Even if he is just being cynical (and I am not at all sure that he is), I appreciate the sop to an antiquated American tradition. John Quincy Adams would be proud.