You are currently viewing archive for February 2008
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Tocqueville:

The New York Times informs that "if Mr. Obama becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, he is sure to face an onslaught from Republicans and their allies [read Swift boaters] that will be very different in tone and intensity from what he has faced so far." For much of this year, we are told, "Obama has been handled with relative care by Mrs. Clinton . . ."

So, when some Republican uses his real middle name (and forget that George Herberrrrrt Walkerrrrrr Bush stuff, that didn't count) or leaks a picture of him in a turban, or accuses him of rigging the Nevada caucuses, peddling dope, or being a slum lord, this will all be different in tone and intensity than the love fest that was Barack Obama's contest with Lady Macbeth. Let's make a note.

Because it is a "reminder that should Mr. Obama win the nomination, he will be playing on a more treacherous political battleground as opponents -- scouring through his record of votes and statements and his experiences before he entered public life -- looking for ways to portray him as out of step with the nation's values, challenge his appeal to independent voters and emphasize his lack of experience in foreign affairs and national security."

That'll be a new experience! No one did that to him in the primaries.

"Some of this will almost certainly take the shape of the Internet rumors and whispering campaigns that have popped up against Mr. Obama since he got into the race, like the false reports that he is Muslim."

And it's all true. McCain's aides "said that their first line of attack will be to portray Obama as liberal, and they have already begun pointing to a rating in the National Journal, based on his votes, of Mr. Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate."


A Waco Farmer: Mendacity. There is mendacity in this house.
We are on the precipice of electing the least-accomplished president (in terms of resume) in the 220-year history of the United States. As I have said before, Barack Obama is a man about whom we know almost nothing--but upon whom we find it easy to project our most optimistic collective aspirations. He is part philosopher king and part American Idol.

But what if we lose our nerve between now and the First Tuesday in November? What if we awake from our trance at some point during the hard-fought days of October and suddenly ask ourselves: "What in the Hell are we doing?"

Could that happen? I think so. Bill Clinton was absolutely right. Electing Obama is "rolling the dice." We know almost nothing about him other than we like him. This phenomena is not completely unprecedented in American politics—but, as I say, it is hard to think of an instance in which we (the people) have elected a lesser-known, less-experienced president than he. Of course, inexperience does not necessarily disqualify a person (it is my hunch that he would actually be okay, in a big picture, long term sense). But personal history and preparation ought to be a consideration, and it is possible that we just might get cold feet at some point.

Of course, I understand Obama-mania. I too am charmed and intrigued by the man from the Land of Lincoln.

He is tall and handsome. He is a stemwinder. He is a good family man. He appears extraordinarily virtuous. Evidently, we share the same religious orientation.

But let us be honest. Race is key to his meteoric rise to fame and political fortune. We are about to elect this most unlikely person to the highest office in the land not in spite of his race--but because of it. The election of Barack Obama would be a great point of national pride. If we as a people can elect a person of color to the highest, most cherished, and most respected of all national offices, we finally fulfill, in a demonstrably practical way, our national creed and sacred aspiration: a land of the free in which all men are created equal.

So, what is the problem? What scares me the most about Obama winning the nomination? Aside from his league-leading liberal voting record?

What if he loses?

There is a very real possibility that he will lose in the general election (on this, I am increasingly persuaded that his elevation is no sure thing). As I indicated above, when decision time comes, many Americans are going to develop legitimately serious doubts concerning this person about whom we know so little. What if he loses? What will that do to us?

There are myriad good reasons to vote for John McCain over Barack Obama. A McCain win in November would actually be the most logical choice on so many levels considering our present reality. Having said that, if Obama loses this upcoming general election to a white candidate, there will be many Americans who will believe in their heart of hearts that he lost because of his race. This will be bad for all of us. Very bad.

I am convinced that we are ready for a woman president. I am convinced that we are ready for an African American president. But I think we all owe it to ourselves to place before the electorate a person who is fully qualified and vetted. I worry that sending up an inexperienced Barack Obama as this first opportunity for most Americans to vote for a black man for president is a reckless move.

A more studied alternative? Why not let this relatively young man take his turn as understudy and emerge from a Clinton administration at fifty-four (still incredibly youthful in political years) and undeniably seasoned and better prepared to assume the most influential office in the world.

Moving so heedlessly at this point strikes me as risky cultural business. The Democratic Party seems intent on daring us to question the bona fides of this candidate. And, if we do, we all understand the racial minefield that we will face.

If Barack Obama secures the nomination, this is likely to be a very ugly election.
In reaction to the Sean Wilentz article in TNR, (which asserted that the Clintons have become victims of reverse "race baiting"), and in response to my previous post on that essay, a wise friend shared these insights with me via email. With permission, and under the sobriquet, Swabian Prince, I am very pleased to present this powerful analysis:

While Sean Wilentz makes some plausible points about the rather shameless non-innocence of the Obama people, in other areas the argument is tissue-thin. How can he seriously expect us to believe that Billy Shaheen’s remarks were “innocent”? Just on his say so? And I myself read the interview with Mark Penn, in which he WENT OUT OF HIS WAY to use the word “cocaine.” And the explanation of WJC’s comparison to Jesse Jackson is pathetic. In short, I don’t find any of his exonerations at all persuasive. The Clintons are not more ethical than their opponents, just more clumsy. No pair has more richly deserved the fate that now apparently awaits them. (Though even defeat will not mean the end of them. She will stay in the Senate forever. And I fully expect them to pull for McCain, if they can find a way to do so, so that she will have a second chance at the top slot.)

Where he is right is about the political use of the tactic of accusing others, preemptively, of “race-baiting.” But which party invented that tactic and specializes in its use? As far as I’m concerned, this is chickens coming home to roost. At one point Wilentz says that the Obama campaign was prepared to launch the anti-race-baiting even before the primaries began. True enough. But good Lord, EVERY Democratic campaign of any prominence is prepared to launch an anti-race-baiting campaign 24 hours a day. That is their bread and butter.

Wilentz does not mention the other form of identity politics in which the Clinton campaign has indulged itself with a dishonesty that rivals anything they are accusing Obama of. I’m talking about gender. For a perfect example of it—a pellucid example—see the quotation from Hillary in this [Jennifer Rubin post in Commentary]. The parallels are pretty exact. Just as Obama is running as the History-Making black candidate who is also post-racial (see David Hollinger’s embarrassing piece in the CHE), so Hillary is the History-Making woman candidate who is running strictly on her competence. Yeah right.

What we’re having right now is one of those “totems in collision” moments on the left, when two different articles of political correctness come into conflict. Generally, whenever race and gender come into collision that way, race wins. That was one of the many lessons of the OJ trial, and for that matter, the Clarence Thomas controversy. But of course, as the example of OJ suggests, the rest of us have to suffer from this. To Sean Wilentz I say, join the club. Now you know how it feels to be on the receiving end of the tactics your party has perfected.
~~Swabian Prince
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Tocqueville on Judicial Confirmations.

Just for the record:

One year into the 110th Congress, six circuit court judges have been
confirmed and the prospects are dim for the others. Thus are the
wages of McCain's "Gang of Fourteen." By comparison, fifteen
appellate court judges were confirmed during Clinton's last two
years. And I see that Fourth Circuit nominee Jim Haynes has retired
from his service at the Pentagon, with respect to which Quin Hilyer

"[E]very good wish to Jim Haynes, retiring as Chief Counsel for the
Pentagon, as he re-enters private life. This is a man who had served
his country literally for decades, and who gave up highly lucrative
employment for the last seven years in order to do so. He served well
and honorably in extremely difficult times and circumstances, and has
done yeoman's work to keep our country safe from international
terrorists. Yet he remains the only Republican judicial nominee ever
flat-out Borked by fellow Republicans. It was a travesty of justice
that we should never forget or forgive. The lead Borker was the
execrable Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and his wingman was
putative presidential nominee John McCain. If McCain has any class,
he will issue a statement thanking Haynes for his service to our
country. (But I won't hold my breath for McCain to show any class.
Strength and patriotism in serving the country he loves, yes; class,
not a bit.) But I digress. This is a note about Haynes. Because he
did not shrink from the service of his country, he truly, in Thomas
Paine's words, 'deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.'"

Hilyer comments posted on CONFIRMTHEM.

A Waco Farmer: Tocqueville and I disagree somewhat on this issue, and he writes in response to some of my previous posts on the topic, one of which was Setting the Record Straight on the Gang of Fourteen.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am an admirer of Sean Wilentz as an historian. For months now, it has been my intention to comment on his brilliant synthesis, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (even more so since I began reading Daniel Walker Howe's brilliant rebuttal, from the Whig point of view, and closer to my way of thinking, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848).

Notwithstanding, Professor Wilentz is a very political historian. And by that I don't mean he is primarily concerned with the history of dead white men; this is also true in part--but that is not my point. Sean Wilentz is an extreme Democratic Party partisan, who does not hesitate to bring his training, reputation, and rhetorical ability to bear in support of his deeply held political beliefs. For example, Professor Wilentz organized the "400 Historians Against Impeachment" back in 1998, which gave scholarly cover to the Clinton campaign to stay in office at all costs.

Almost always I disagree with Professor Wilentz's political crusades, and I have generally criticized his penchant for couching naked politics in scholarly drapery. However, his article published in the New Republic today offers staggeringly insightful analysis (read that to mean he agrees with me). In fact, he even borrows the same title (unknowingly) that I used a few days ago: "Race Man."

An excerpt from the Wilentz piece:

“A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card' were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so. Rather the Obama campaign and its supporters, well-prepared to play the 'race-baiter card' before the primaries began, launched it with a vengeance when Obama ran into dire straits after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada--and thereby created a campaign myth that has turned into an incontrovertible truth among political pundits, reporters, and various Obama supporters. This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.”

Read this long article in full here. It is the most trenchant analysis to date concerning this exceedingly important question.

From the Washington Post:

"The [Cuban] National Assembly bypassed a younger generation of politicians and named Fidel Castro's brother, Raúl, as president [on Sunday]...."

"The unanimous decision dealt a blow to Cubans who had hoped Sunday would mark a dramatic change of direction for the island nation ruled for nearly five decades by Fidel Castro, 81, who announced Tuesday that he was stepping down after a long illness."

"Raúl Castro, 76, promised to complete his brother's work...."

"{The Assembly named] José Ramón Machado Ventura, 77, as vice president, who fought with the Castro brothers during the Cuban Revolution."

1. So much for a "change you can believe in" for Cuba.

2. These guys make John McCain seem positively youthful.

One other note: according to NPR reporting, the initial announcement regarding Fidel's retirement appeared only in the single state-owned newspaper. Moreover, the announcement was exclusive to the online version of the organ--which was fine--except the internet is forbidden for regular Cubans.

Cuba Libre!
Friday I attended the 61st Annual Convention of the Texas Community College Teachers Association. As I have written in the past, I love these convocations. They are almost always moments of great fellowship among colleagues and very often remarkable for the memorable encounters with visiting scholars.

I intend to blog on several of the sessions I attended, but let us begin with a discussion of "It's the 60's Stupid," which featured Professor Steve Gillon, "resident historian for The History Channel and professor of history at the University of Oklahoma."

Adding to his many titles, Professor Gillon is the author of an upcoming study of modern political history, The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation. Based on his thinking, interviewing, and writing for The Pact, he arrived at this important conclusion:

The 1960s, or, more precisely, the battle over the meaning of the 1960s, more than any other single element, has come to define the battle lines in American politics. Gillon offers this succinct and cogent Bill Clinton quote to illustrate his point:

"If you believed the 1960s were good, you are a liberal; if you believed the 1960s were bad, you are most likely a conservative."

Gillon asserts that the 1960s produced a "culture of choice." The 1960s blurred the clear lines of morality based on tradition. We once lived in an America in which we shared a common sense of right and wrong. We live today in a society in which we can choose our own values--not that there is anything wrong with that.

The political debate today, says Gillon, revolves around proponents of this new "culture of choice" and the adherents of the traditional "culture of authority."

Why did conservatives hate Bill Clinton so much? Ostensibly, Clinton offered much for them to like: he was a Southern Baptist, "New Democrat" speaking the language of small government, individual responsibility, and law and order. Why the enormous antipathy for Bill Clinton from the very beginning of his national career?

The first "child of the sixties" to be elected president, Clinton represented the triumph of this alternative culture of choice. While there were less obvious signals from the earliest days of his public life, the Lewinsky episode placed the cultural conflict in plain view. What was the transcendent argument beneath the tawdry surface of L'affaire Lewinsky? The culture of choice created a "realm of privacy" in which consensual sex among adults must never be subject to moral authority or corporate scrutiny. As Clinton defended himself with exegeses concerning the "meaning of is," nonplussed conservatives wondered: "Where is the Outrage?"

Who is winning this war over competing cultures?

Certainly, the Republicans made great strides harnessing the conservative backlash following the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. The GOP embraced the mantle of traditional values to great success, winning the presidency seven out of ten times from 1968 to 2004, and establishing itself as the majority party from 1994 through 2006. The secret to their success? Professor Gillon offers this absolutely brilliant observation: conservatives created a language of "cultural populism."

The Democratic Party realignment achieved under Franklin Roosevelt during the New Deal era (which lasted for forty years) rested upon the language of "economic populism." The Democrats became the party of the little man, beating back "economic royalists" intent on crushing powerless working people. But the turmoil of the 1960s allowed the Republican Party to craft a message that also appealed to the working man (albeit in a different key), as so many Americans saw the moral foundations of the world they understood crashing down around them.

I have previously referred to this mass appeal as a general feeling that the GOP was the "party of common sense":

The Republican Party has become the party of common sense. We have approximately 12 million undocumented (illegal) immigrants in our country. We should do something to stop that. Common Sense. Terrorists are trying to kill us. We should try to kill them first. We should treat them roughly and follow them around and listen to what they are saying on their cell phones. Common Sense. America is a good place. That is why so many people are trying to come here. Common Sense. Men should marry women. Common sense. Lower taxes and smaller government good; an intrusive and bloated federal government that sees our collective pocketbook as a blank check is bad. Common Sense. Peace through strength. Common Sense. Guns don't kill people; people kill people. Common Sense. Put criminals in jail, and they will commit fewer crimes. Common Sense. And I could go on.

Sometimes the simplest answer really is the best answer.

Of course, "common sense" is not always right: the Earth really does revolve around the sun--regardless of the way things look. Sometimes the world really is "complicated" and "common sense" solutions are only manifestly obvious from a certain perspective--often the majority perspective.

An Aside: another way to articulate this divide might be "common sense" versus "complexity." Ronald Reagan saw the USSR as an "evil empire," while others in the "party of complexity" seemed paralyzed by the ambiguity in the communist experiment.

Gillon sees two fundamental challenges to continued Republican success through cultural populism (at least in the short term):

The GOP runs the risk of becoming the party of nostalgia and ridiculous hypocrisy.

The old moral values are more and more anachronistic. Most Americans do not really understand the old value system--and almost no one wants to hold themselves to those old more rigorous and confining standards. That is, even the proponents of a culture of authority for greater society seem to prefer a culture of choice for themselves. Gillon: "We have accepted the culture of choice for ourselves, even as we cling to the authority rhetoric of the past."

Example: Larry Craig. The great danger for the moral party is that they will consistently fail to live out the values they preach. As the gap between rhetoric ("moral virtue") and reality ("wide stance') becomes a chasm, the risk is great that the morality play will become farce.

My thoughts: Perhaps Professor Gillon places too much emphasis on highly charged words such as "morality" and "choice." The party of "authority" is at an increasing disadvantage in the modern world. However, if you tweak the language some, the party of "common sense" will always be viable. We are a people who believe in revival and renewal. We are a nation of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. We are a species that often comes back to basics in our perpetual search for meaning. My prediction: the party of tradition will survive.

Final Thought: Professor Gillon offers a provocative framework for the present political predicament through a provocative understanding of our recent past. I look forward to reading his book.
For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.
~~Michelle Obama

We are on the precipice of electing the least-qualified and, based on experience and resume, the most unlikely president in the 220-year history of the United States. Barack Obama is a man about whom we know almost nothing--but upon whom we find it easy to project our most optimistic collective aspirations. He is part philosopher king and part American Idol.

The most important element in the Obama fairytale?

Race. Yes. He is handsome. He is tall. He is a mesmerizer. He is a good family man. He is evidently extraordinarily virtuous. But let us be honest. We are about to elect this darkest of dark horses not in spite of his race--but because of it.

For a whole host of white folks in America (many of whom are conservative) Obama personifies racial reconciliation. To be even more precise, for many, he represents a form of racial redemption, even reparation. If we as a people can elect a person of color to the highest, most cherished, and most respected office in the land, we finally fulfill, in a demonstrably practical way, our national creed: all men created equal.

In a way, I agree with Michelle Obama that this is a generation of Americans of whom we should be rightfully proud; they desperately want to bury the ghosts of the past. However, this fact should come as no surprise to any fair-minded observer; this collective desire for racial salvation has been a long time coming, and the manifestations of this "hunger" have been all around us for decades.

An Aside: Americans are a good people on so many levels. Some other time we can discuss the basic goodness of America at length. In short, I am slightly offended and greatly saddened by Michelle Obama's facile declaration.

What is our racial future?

Historian Joseph Ellis recently asserted with some judgmental sadness that the founders, for all their glorious vision, could not imagine a biracial society. In truth, history has not proven them wrong. They thought the transition from a slave culture to a racially harmonious society impossible. For the most part, they believed (see Jefferson for the most famous example of this thinking) that African Americans could never forgive white America for "thousands of provocations" during the long dark period of violent subjugation. Jefferson feared black-on-white reprisals and a "race war." Even more importantly, Jefferson and his generation could not foresee a day in which whites ever fully accepted blacks as equal citizens. Jefferson (and later Lincoln) predicted a humiliating and ultimately unsatisfactory second-class citizenship status in a white-controlled world for the sons and grandsons of freed slaves.

Were they wrong? How long after emancipation did white America hold back full citizenship from black America? Has black America forgiven white America for the injustices of the past?

Michelle Obama's comments betray this remaining fissure in the American family. While a huge segment (perhaps a vast majority) of white America desires a new day of racial equality and common cause, too many black opinion makers continue to dwell on the inequities of the recent past. Barack Obama's decision to embrace the black side of his inheritance and virtually ignore the white family that raised him is also significant. Of course, it is important to note, as many commentators have done already, that persons with "black blood," historically, have not had the luxury of choosing which race to embrace.

On the other hand, what the founders may not have considered, and what Barack Obama seems to personify (if not always articulate), is the future of America as a multi-racial and mixed-race society rather than a bi-racial one.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A prediction: as more and more liberal commentators and newsreaders castigate McCain for being a conservative, the more conservatives will develop warm feelings for him. Many of us hate him as a result of the people who seem to fawn over him. Ironically, by November, most of us will like him in reaction to the same coterie of jackals, who will excoriate him relentlessly for his admirable lifetime record of defending the things we hold dear.
~~Bosque Boys, 10 days ago

The mainstream media barrage upon the presumptive Republican nominee has officially begun--albeit with a surprising lack of subtlety.

Page One of the New York Times, the paper of record for the axis of liberalism in America, charges today that John McCain engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a beautiful female lobbyist thirty-years his junior.

The New York Times evidently sat on this story since December. Why?

The main thrust of the story--McCain and the young femme fatale--allegedly transpired nearly a decade ago. Again, why now?

An Aside: according to the Times, this relationship reached its peak during the year prior to McCain's unsuccessful run for the White House in 2000. If true, the Bushies, who ran the most "despicable whispering campaign in the history of American politics," somehow missed this major story that the Times somehow uncovered through good solid investigative journalism. Kudos to the Gray Lady. They must be smoking big fat cigars over there on Eighth this morning.

Okay. So what?

Here is how the Times will try to play this story? They have already floated the idea that conservative opponents of McCain were shopping this scandal. Perhaps this is true. Of course, the Times must contend with the question as to why the same story was unworthy of publication back when the revelation might have helped some of McCain's Republican opponents--but it is now in the public interest to air all of this now that McCain's opponent is most likely Barack Obama--who, ironically, is currently in minor trouble with the press for the first time in his magical campaign.

So, in a perfect New York Times world, this story will further torpedo McCain with social conservatives, while at the same time affixing guilt for the bloody work on them as well.

We will see how well that works. It will be a hard sell--but the Huffington Post crowd will surely swallow the double-reverse conspiratorial narrative hook, line, and sinker.
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
1. Am I wrong? Or is this over? For some reason, I have the strong sensation that the Clinton campaign finally died last night. The losing margins keep getting bigger and bigger, and her core supporters keep getting thinner and thinner. The polls in Texas are moving the wrong direction, and Obama seems bigger in Houston than Yao Ming. Are we done here?

The other side of the coin: we are all tired, emotional, and lacking good sense. Let' s see what the next two weeks bring.

2. Perhaps too late to help Hill, but the Obama scrutiny may be beginning. Last night CBS News led with Barack's phrase borrowing and, more importantly, Michelle's untoward remarks about America. More (much more) on that later. Prospective post title: uncovering a nation to be proud of in a sea of genocide, enslavement, and oppression. Michelle's telling admission will not play well in fly-over country where most of us love the good ole USA--no matter who we elect as president.

3. National Security (in addition to unconflicted patriotism) is the great unifier in the Republican Party. The world is a dangerous place. Obama wants to withdraw from Iraq and begin a new era in which we earn the trust and acceptance of the world by loving them unconditionally.

I am reminded of an old riff from some long-forgotten minor league comedian:

I want to be around when the meek inherit the Earth. Because I am going to take it from them. "Give me the world, meek!" What are they going to do about it? They are meek.

My guess is that there are plenty of opportunistic malefactors out there waiting for us to go soft in the head. My prediction: the next hegemonic world power will not be nearly as generous or compassionate as the United States (regardless of what Michelle Obama might think).
FYI: I am scheduled to share briefly my thoughts on tonight's latest election developments and trends on air this evening for KTSA Radio (San Antonio). If you are interesed in listening, I am scheduled from 8:10 to 8:20 p.m. CST. For live streaming click here and then click the icon in the top-right corner.
A lot of hopeful speculation recently has the Clintons losing the nomination and splitting the party; that is, many conservative observers, supremely confident that they know what makes the Clinton's tick, have predicted a "scorched-earth policy," if Hillary loses.

Not likely.

These right-wing talkers are committing the same error they always make in dealing with the Clintons: they underestimate their talent and exaggerate their faults.

For example, think about the government shutdown of 1995. Intoxicated by our own propaganda, too many on our side assumed that "Slick Willie," the draft-dodger, would turn and run in the face of a firm conservative posture. This was a fundamental and colossal misunderstanding of the man from Hope (or Hot Springs or Harlem or wherever). And we paid the price for our arrogance. I trace the decline of Newt Gingrich in American politics to that misreading and over-confidence.

Now, based on the overly simplistic characteristic we feed to our less-intelligent allies, we are casting the Clintons as so egocentric and petty that they will bring the whole party crashing around their own personal defeat.

Two reasons why this is extremely unlikely:

1. There is not one scrap of historical evidence that points to that assumption. True the Clintons are incredibly ambitious (and petty at times), but they have never been "barn-burners"?

2. More importantly, what is in it for them, if they pursue a path of destruction? Out of one side of our mouth, we chastise Bill for being fantastically legacy-driven--and, out of the other, we assume that he will destroy himself historically by executing the most petulant political blunder of all time.

If Hillary loses the nomination, the Clintons will do as wise politicians have always done; they will support the nominee. Sometimes the support is heartfelt, and sometimes it is pro forma--but it has generally been there. I have serious doubts that the Clintons will break the pattern.

So, optimistic Republicans need to come up with another idea on which to hang their hopes.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Why do I subscribe to TIME and not Newsweek? It is a long story unworthy of telling--but, suffice it to say, it makes no sense.

The editorial team of Evan Thomas and Jon Meacham make Newsweek, while not perfect, the historian's news magazine of choice. If it is true that journalism is the first draft of history, I predict that the thoughtful and careful Thomas and Meacham manuscripts will require minimal revisions. Kudos to these fellows.

Thomas's latest article details the complicated relationship between the Clintons and the Beltway press corps. It is spot-on and well worth the read:

Poison Dynamic: The Clintons have long had a rocky relationship with the media

His thesis: the modern presidency and the modern press are irreconcilably antagonistic. Why does Hillary get the short end of the coverage during Campaign 2008? She is the object of residual antipathy from her previous days in the White House.

There have been plenty of ups and downs, but Thomas points to the irony that graying Bill Clinton is the old new kid in town and the vibrant Barack Obama is the new new kid in town.

Earlier this season I quoted All About Eve, when I cautioned: "buckle your seatbelts, we are in for a bumpy ride."

In re Bill Clinton, another Eve quote: "Nothing is forever in the Theatre. Whatever it is, it's here, it flares up, burns hot and then its gone."

One quibble: Thomas is loath to assert that the press coverage does have a bias toward liberal candidates (although I have heard him say as much in other venues). On this occasion, however, he seems unwilling to admit that a subsequent contest between two current media darlings, Obama and John McCain, will inevitably fall to the most stalwartly liberal of the two: Obama.

Read the Evan Thomas piece. Absolutely brilliant.
Category: Campaign 2008.10
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last week, Iowa State political science professor, Steffen Schmidt (aka "Dr. Politics"), lectured in Waco. During that visit and in subsequent conversations, Schmidt pointed out that the much-trumpeted Latino loyalty toward Clinton seems much more a function of familiarity (or lack of familiarity with Obama) rather than a deep-seated personal affinity for Hillary. Moreover, based on the most recent polling, Mrs. Clinton's two firewalls (Hispanics and white women) both seem to be crumbling.

Things are tough in Clinton-land at the moment.

Having said that, and keeping in mind the above analysis, here is the equation as I see it:

The nomination is coming down to the super delegates. If they voted today, they would vote for Obama because he seems unstoppable. The good news for Clinton: they are not voting today. She has time to punch a hole in his balloon.


It will be very tough, but Clinton must sweep the upcoming final big three states (very difficult but not impossible). For all that has gone sour in her campaign, Hillary has consistently excelled in these upscale high-stakes contests. Then, most importantly, she must somehow break the "spell" of Obama by casting doubt on him in some way between now and the day of decision.

One promising development: Republicans are warming to the prospect of running against Obama. The smart guys are starting to see some very appealing flaws in his defenses. There are ways to hit him. The most liberal senator. "Cut and run" in a moment where it finally looks like we might get things turned around in Iraq. Al Sharpton. His Black Nationalist church. Some oldies but goodies: taxes, gun control, abortion, etc.

I have always seen Obama as a big gamble: he could prevail in a huge way ("painting the map blue" as he says). Or we could wake up from our trance midway through the coming fall election season and suddenly look at this guy and say: "what in the hell are we doing?"

An aside: An Election Day repudiation of Obama would be a national disaster. If this great hope for and emblem of reconciliation (racial and otherwise) gets that close and loses, the collective disillusionment will be colossal. As a people, we would be loath to deny this candidacy--but, on the other hand, shall we elect a president about whom we know almost nothing simply because we desire some sort of symbolic closure to our tortured racial history?

When not caught up in the fantasy, all of this gets fairly serious, precarious, and frightening.

Between now and this summer, I can certainly envision a moment in which strategically minded Democratic Party big-wigs entertain grave doubts about Obama's electability. In that scenario, three for the price of one (Obama as VP) may emerge as a much safer bet.

And, once again, I continue to wonder if Obama himself really believes in his heart of hearts that he is truly ready for this dance. He might find the second slot a welcome relief, finding a face-saving exit from a daunting task exacerbated by unreasonable expectations he has done so much to help create.
Category: Campaign 2008.10
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
For years and years to come, when political historians and political junkies gather to remember the truly remarkable stories of triumph and tragedy, they will speak of the Huckabee campaign of 2008 in hushed tones of reverence. Seriously, pols will study and emulate the Huckabee achievement for decades. What makes this one so special?

Never has a candidate done more with so little.

Huckabee is a truly gifted comedian. He is funnier than Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy, both of whom were genuinely quick-witted pols with exceptional timing. While he sometimes over-extends (he gets a bit over-confident when he is on a roll), night-in and night-out he is Jay-Leno funny.

His commercial with Chuck Norris may be the all-time best of its kind: YouTube here.

"Chuck Norris doesn't merely endorse a candidate; he tells America how it's going to be."

Huckabee draws from a seemingly inexhaustible supply of great lines:

"They said this was a two-man race; they were right, and I am one of them."

"Don't tell me about the math. I didn't major in math; I majored in miracles."

Although I placed Huckabee on the Bosque Boys watch list back during the summer when he was merely a funny formerly overweight governor from hillbilly country, I have, in fact, consistently underestimated him.

After I predicted he had crested during the weeks preceding the Iowa caucus, following his amazing victory, I promised to never again sell him short. But there I was on the local six o'clock news last Tuesday opining that West Virginia was an aberration, and Pastor Mike would not play a role in the national primary. He got the last laugh, and I was on at ten explaining myself.

Fortunately, I was unavailable to appear that Thursday night to explain how the departure of Mitt Romney marked the end of the 2008 Republican campaign.

During the week before Super Tuesday the conservative talkers had shrilly demanded that Huckabee cease and desist for the good of the party and the movement and the memory of Ronald Reagan. When he refused, they unanimously inferred a cabal, insisting the Huckabee candidacy was merely a stalking horse for John McCain.

Ironically, this week it is the McCain forces who are calling on Huckabee to do the right thing and pack it in before he further embarrasses the home team by defeating the presumptive nominee.

Do I think Huckabee is going to win? Not a chance--but, once again, what do I know? Nothing.

For the record, for all the talk from Camp McCain concerning "dirty tricks" and "distortions" (all while the senator gave as good as he received), the Republican establishment went to great lengths to destroy the reputation of a pretty decent fellow in Huck.

On a serious note: there are a lot of evangelicals out there who think Huckabee got a raw deal with the party. While I am not necessarily one of them, the least-reported big story of this campaign is the growing rift between anti-evangelical conservatives and the so-called Christian Right.

An observation: There is a lot of confusion, frustration, and a sense of betrayal out in the evangelical conclaves. This is problematic. Republicans generally lose when they do not energize religious conservatives.
Back in November of 2006, I reprised a unilateral discussion of McCain and his bid for the presidency, which read:

Back in March, I explored my own mind in re John McCain. I am more convinced today than I was then that McCain is likely our man. Below are my thoughts then.

My post from 13 March [2006]:

Today New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (and the Democratic Party) officially declared war on John McCain, calling him "slippery and evasive" and a "right-winger." Although I fought hard against McCain's candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2000, for the last several months I have been telling my friends that I think McCain may be our guy for 2008.

First of all, why was I so dead-set against McCain six years ago? Frankly, it is hard to remember exactly, but I came to genuinely dislike him for a time. I started out an Orin Hatch supporter, and then I reluctantly settled on George Bush because he looked like he could win and I liked his family. He also struck me as an unpolished but authentic and sincere man ("I believe in grace, because I have seen it ... In peace, because I have felt it ... In forgiveness, because I have needed it"). On the whole, George Bush has not disappointed me.

Why my dislike for McCain? Once committed to Bush in the early months of 2000, McCain was the enemy. I disagreed with McCain-Feingold, which was one of the cornerstones of his campaign. Perhaps most importantly, I was spooked by his boosters. Looking back, I was very suspicious of someone who courted the MSM and appealed to my hardcore Democratic friends (although I predicted back then that McCain's liberal admirers would desert him in the general election). Moreover, I felt he was playing to the Beltway press corps (and we are supposed to hate the Beltway press corps). In retrospect, my distaste for McCain based on his association with reporters who flocked to his bandwagon on the "straight-talk express" was unfair and not quite rational.

Why does McCain appeal to me today? McCain self-identifies as a Reagan Republican (as he has throughout his career). He is a Westerner. He is rock-solid on conservative issues (today Paul Krugman asserts that McCain's voting record is currently ranked the third-most conservative in the Senate). Krugman has it just about right: McCain is not a radical opponent of tax cuts; McCain has a long history of toughness against rogue states (Krugman makes the important point that William Kristol supported McCain over Bush in 2000; McCain's foreign policy would have been similar to Bush's, only stronger). Krugman also fumes that McCain is now friendly with the Religious Right and positioning himself as "an extremist on abortion."

Krugman makes a lot of sense to me (did I really say that?).

Insert: Read the full Krugman piece from March 13, 2006 here, entitled "The Right's Man."

Moreover, McCain, who had the power to derail Bush in 2000 and 2004, rallied around the flag and proved his loyalty to Republican ideas. McCain set aside any personal animus and did the right thing for the right reasons. He had every opportunity for revenge, and he passed. You must admire that kind of discipline. McCain has supported the war on terror unflinchingly. Although he balked on the torture question, and he called consistently for more troops in Iraq during 2003 and 2004, arguably, he was right on both counts.

McCain drew near-unanimous condemnation from conservatives for his leadership role in the "Gang of Fourteen" (aka "The Mod Squad"), but that seems somewhat misplaced and wrong-headed now that the compromise netted us Roberts and Alito and broke up the logjam of conservative Circuit Court nominees.

Why now? In brief:

1. McCain will run as a Reagan Republican, but he will not carry the baggage of the Bush administration. The GOP faces tough times in 2006 and 2008. The next election will be a referendum on President Bush (35 percent approval). But no Republican candidate can succeed running away from George Bush. Republicans cannot nominate an "outsider," anti-Washington governor (it just won't fly). Having said that, there needs to be some distance. McCain will run on his record of integrity and independence and fiscal responsibility, at the same time promising to stay the course where it counts.

To that end, McCain is an articulate spokesman for conservative common sense. The winning candidate will need to connect with the public. The GOP candidate will need to sell a program that is not very popular right now. McCain is a great communicator. His vaunted appeal to "moderates" (much criticized in some conservative circles) really means that many regular Americans perceive McCain as a good man and wise leader.

2. McCain is battle-tested and up to the challenge. The next presidential election will prove devastatingly cruel and heartless. Think Hillary Clinton and James Carville and Paul Begala and Paul Krugman unleashed. This is no time to learn as you go along. The Republicans need a tough guy for this very tough upcoming race. McCain's life experience and his sense of humor will help him navigate the ugliness.

3. Lindsey Graham. Graham is the brightest shining star on the Republican horizon and a long-time McCain supporter. Graham will be a floor leader in the Senate in a McCain presidency, positioning him for bigger and better things to come. McCain and Graham represent the future of the party.

What say you? What are your reasons for and/or against McCain?


February 11, 2008. New Material: Much has changed--but some elements remain the same. One thing is for certain, as Krugman did twenty-three months back, we can certainly expect McCain's erstwhile allies in the mainstream press to quickly abandon him in earnest and then crucify him in support of their newest new kid in town.

A prediction: as more and more liberal commentators and newsreaders castigate McCain for being a conservative, the more conservatives will develop warm feelings for him. Many of us hate him as a result of the people who seem to fawn over him. Ironically, by November, most of us will like him in reaction to the same coterie of jackals, who will excoriate him relentlessly for his admirable lifetime record of defending the things we hold dear.

FYI: I no longer characterize McCain as a “great communicator.” I now remember what I disliked about him in 2000: his tendency to go negative while at the same time assuming a victim pose. However, he has certainly lived up to every inch of his advertised “toughness.” This fellow is as hard as an old hickory tree.

One last prediction: none of it will matter. McCain loses.
Category: Something Personal
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Yea - sing it anyway

~Martina McBride

Due to health issues, an overloaded teaching schedule, and his regular duties as a minister of the Gospel, the Okie Gardener is currently taking a sabbatical from blogging. This leave of absence comes after several years of exemplary and tireless service to our blogging community. I greatly appreciate his dedication to civil discourse, education, and the American political process. Until his return, I will miss his insightful posts very much.

I have reason to believe that the Gardener subscribes to the view that "the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." Feel free to support him with your prayers and offer him your encouragement.
If you did not read the "comments" sections under Looking Forward: Election 2008 and/or Explaining Bill's Odd Behavior, you may have missed an extended (and worthwhile) discussion of "where we are" right now. I am posting some highlights here from my thoughts in response to JC's provocative questions and/or assertions:

JC: I believe Clinton still has the edge over Obama. The hard-core Dems. will follow Bill (not necessarily Hillary) for the most part. Bill has enough political power to make things go their way.

WF: Some "hardcore Dems" will side with Bill--but my guess is that the majority will fall in with the Obama juggernaut, if it is still on course. They want to win more than they feel any sense of obligation to Bill. The Clintons are finding to their great surprise and chagrin that their vaunted ability to control the party machinery is wide but not very deep.

JC: There are Democrats who will have to hold their noses (big time) to put the Clintons back in the White House.

WF: Yes. More and more Democrats seem to have serious reservations about the Clintons. I find this amusing, as they are now offended by the same attributes that Rush Limbaugh has been castigating for nearly two decades. But life is funny. Enough said.

However, never underestimate the power to hold your nose and vote for your party candidate. Even as bad as things are for John McCain, the vast majority of Republicans who are fundamentally unhappy with him will ultimately "hold their nose" and pull the lever.

The Democrats are more desperate to win this time around; therefore, we can expect them to be even less reticent about "nose holding."

JC: Many Independents and some Democrats would vote for McCain/Crist.

WF: Can you really vote for McCain? The war monger? The man who says he might fight the Iraq war for 100 years? The man with an 84 percent conservative lifetime record in the Senate?

The cruelest part of this election may turn out to be the betrayal of McCain's enablers, many of whom may now feel compelled to paint the "maverick" as the reactionary. We will see.

Experience and Organization: Isn't Obama equal to Hillary in that regard?

WF: Hillary has tremendous experience. She has been actively engaged in politics since law school. It is not fair to take that away from her. She is not a political wife in the image of Barbara or Laura Bush or Pat Nixon. She played a crucial and active role in the political life of Bill Clinton. She has held her own in a very high profile senate seat. She is an incredibly polished and practiced American statesperson.

Obama's organization must be read as an endorsement of his ability to command and control. But more than organization and strategy, Obama is winning on charisma. Having said that, I take nothing away from his genius and vision in understanding this campaign better than any other candidate in the race. But I am serious when I wonder if even he wonders if he is actually ready to carry the ball on this.

JC: Obama isn't scary. In particular, his youth is less scary than McCain's age. McCain will be 72 by November, and has had some health problems. That VP choice will be very important.

WF: Obama is a bit scary on some things. He is an idealist--and they have traditionally scared the American electorate. He has no record of legislative or executive accomplishment. All we have is image and ideas. They are powerful--but Obama-mania is an unpredictable vessel on which to run a fall election campaign.

I will give you that McCain is the most UNattractive candidate in either party to come down the pike in decades. His age is dreadful. His looks are dreadful. His oratory is dreadful. Standing on a stage with Obama will be an extremely painful experience for Senator McCain. I have said before, I do not think he can overcome the surface visuals in this image-conscious age.

JC: I agree that a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket would be the strongest bet for the Dems. I'm not sure either would want the #2 slot. Obama could learn a lot by traveling with Bill, and they would make quite a pair. But Obama would risk tarnishing his image and desire for a different kind of politics.

Throwing in with the Clintons would be an imperfect choice for Obama--but one thing 46-year-old idealists have to learn at some point is that this world is full of imperfect choices.

After I intimated that Obama's original anti-war stand on Iraq was more good fortune and local politics than far-sightedness,

JC responded:

As an ardent Obama supporter, I wanted to take exception to your characterization of his opposition to the Iraq war as "politically expedient". Although he wasn't yet on the national scene, Obama was gearing up for his U.S. Senate run at that time. If you think about the confusion that reigned then, and what most of us thought was a certainty: that WMD would be found in Iraq, Obama was the only Democrat (later to run for president) who saw the situation with clear eyes. Finding chemical weapons or a nuclear program in Iraq, would have immediately put Obama in a bad position for his senate run.

You should read his entire speech, if you have not.

WF: Obama's 2002 anti-Iraq speech is a great speech. And, YES, it is incredibly prescient. On the other hand, I think it is a stretch on your part to argue that it was bad politics (even if he was preparing to run for the Senate). After all, he was not preparing to run for the Senate in Texas; he was vying for a seat from Illinois. He was not thinking about a presidential run like John F. Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Chris Dodd et al. He was planning on running for the US Senate in a state where Dick Durbin never lost a wink of sleep voting against the war resolution.

JC: I noted your description of Obama supporters... but I think I'll let that pass!

WF: As for Obama supporters: I think they are good folks--just overly optimistic about human nature. This is the endearing flaw of most progressives, who make great and compassionate friends--but often steer us into intractable problems on the macro level.

Of course, I continue to support the most naive idealist of the modern era, George Bush. So who am I to chide you for your sanguine assessment of what Obama can accomplish?
Thinking Out Loud:

1. If the Democratic "super delegates" had to decide today, thinking strategically, they would pick Obama (as he seems unstoppable). But they don't have to pick today. The imperative for Team Clinton? They must win Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania (tough but not impossible); however, that is not the hardest part. In addition to that feat, the Clintons must knock a big hole in the mystical Obama aura of purity, righteousness, and invincibility.

2. Moreover, the Clintons must convince the Democratic Party establishment and decision makers that a Clinton/Obama ticket is the ultimate "sure thing." Conventional wisdom has it that Obama will trounce McCain. I am inclined to believe that. But, in truth, there are great risks. There are some very scary things about Obama (youth, inexperience, LBJ-style liberalism, his black nationalist church, etc.). If the Democrats pick Obama, they are hoping for a potential watershed election, but they will necessarily hold their collective breath for seven months (three months--whatever). Running Obama at the top of the ticket is a big gamble. It is a good gamble, of course, for there will be great reluctance among voters to deny America our moment of "racial redemption" and a "fresh political start." This could very well be an election in which ideology and logic go out the window. Nevertheless, there will be some very tense moments for Democrats during an Obama fall campaign.

What if the Democrats pick Clinton? The conventional wisdom holds that the contest between McCain and Hillary is very close--with McCain holding a slight advantage. I disagree. While it is the probably the best match-up for the GOP, she is more likely to slug it out with McCain and, in the end, probably win a very tight election.

Practical Drop-Dead Serious Question: even if McCain picks Florida governor, Charlie Crist (a distinct possibility and a smart choice), and Crist delivers Florida, what do you do for Ohio, which is seemingly irreparably poisoned for Republicans right now? And, if you don't win Ohio, how do you win the general election--if you are a Republican candidate?

FYI: For those who want McCain to pick Joe Leiberman, he simply cannot. McCain must try to reach out to conservatives. He cannot pick a running mate whom conservatives perceive as more liberal than he. Conservatives love Joe Leiberman when he is running against Ned Lamont or slamming Harry Reid--but they don't want his 95-percent liberal point of view in a position of real power.

Back to the Democrats: What of a unity ticket? The Dream Ticket (Clinton/Obama) delivers the enthusiasm of the "Obamanation" and the crafty experience of Team Clinton. Bill and Barack can travel the world "repairing the image of the United States," while Hill stays home, works hard, and grinds out laws and executive orders. In truth, it would probably be a very efficient administration.

If Obama takes the second slot, he has the leverage to write his own ticket. He will opt to redefine the recently redefined role of the modern VP, and he will position himself well to run for president in 2016 as the most qualified candidate in that field at the still very young political age of 54. Not a bad move. And maybe even Obama realizes that he is not quite ready for prime time. As smart as he is, he may realize that he needs eight years of seasoning before he takes over the most powerful office in the world.

By the way, if Hillary snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, and "steals" the nomination, and then offers the veep to Barack H. Obama, he cannot refuse. For if BHO refused the second slot, and Hillary lost, he would never recover from the ill will generated within the party. He would never overcome the perception of selfishness.

But Hill and Barack together? Forget about it. Roll Bill, Chelsea, and Michelle (not to mention Oprah) into the mix, and you have the most attractive combination since JFK, LBJ, and Jackie.

3. As for McCain, there is good news and bad news.

Good News: McCain is not a bad fellow; that is, he is a whole lot better than Hill, Bill or BarackO. The caricature created by his enemies bears almost no resemblance to the real McCain. Bad News: It does not really matter, he is not going to win.

Let us be optimistic and assume that somewhere between 92 and 95 percent of the currently irate conservatives come around to McCain. That is not enough. The GOP is running uphill this year. The victory of McCain is the result of a collective Republican funk (depression). If the GOP had any fight in them, McCain would never have won this nomination. Down deep in their bones too many Republicans believe that this race is futile. They are tired, worn down, and frustrated. Why? They see the myriad obstacles to victory, and they have a palpable sense of justified guilt over the lost opportunities of the last fourteen years.

Things are tough. To win in this particular cycle, the GOP would need 110 percent support. Ninety-two percent, 95 percent, or even 99 percent is not going to cut it.

Furthermore, Conservative Talk Radio has also sown the seeds of the McCain failure in 2008. McCain cannot appease these foes with any amount of conservative rhetoric, nor can he come up with a veep choice that completely repairs the damage done. Some conservative talkers are trying to undo the damage (like Hugh Hewitt--God Bless Him), but they are not enough. Too many (Rush, Hannity, the Great One) have gone too far in convincing their listeners (literally millions of us) that McCain is a liberal devil. Supporting McCain at this point would strike too many of those honest folks as a betrayal of conservatism. Frankly, Rush and his gang have created a monster that they cannot dismantle completely. Again, keep in mind that even 99 percent repair is not enough.

Nevertheless, at some point, I look for almost all of talk radio to support McCain to some extent--but it will not be of the genuine variety. The tenuous accords will be similar to when the Corleones made peace with Tataglia and Barzini; it will not be heart-felt support and will only mark a temporary interlude before the shooting starts again.
Is Bill Clinton out-of-control? Or is he wily like a fox?


Why was Bill Clinton out on the trail running amok?

Simple answer: after Iowa, the Clinton campaign found itself (and it remains thus) in an extremely desperate situation.

The Second Coming of JFK transformed the political landscape. The Clintons did almost everything right between 2000 and 2008 to insure the election of Hillary Clinton. They worked hard to solidify their network of admirers, contributors, and powerful friends. Hillary kept the media at arm’s-length, and they came to accept her aloofness and her inevitability as facts of life. She acquitted herself well in the Senate, earning the praise of almost every objective observer.

Following the time-tested Clinton strategy, Senator Clinton positioned herself as a moderate (centrist) Democrat. She waxed empathetic to those in need, showed herself mindful of the plain folks who wanted government to be helpful but not intrusive, and stood strong on defense during a period of international risk.

It was a perfectly executed long-term strategy.

What went wrong? Two wrinkles in the plan:

1. The war in Iraq, which Mrs. Clinton had taken great pains to support in dramatic fashion, tragically and unexpectedly, spun out of control. The "slam dunk" went terribly awry, and the scramble that ensued left the American electorate, once united in support of an aggressive projection of national strength, splintered, frustrated, and anxious to single-out politicians for blame.

Mostly, the public blamed George Bush (aka "Mr. 29 Percent"). But the majority of her political tribe is not content to blame George Bush alone for the fiasco in Iraq. Mrs. Clinton’s vote in favor of the war remains a festering wound and continues to plague her with the Democratic base. According to her plan, Iraq should have been a distant and misty-colored memory at this point in the American present. But it is not, and her remarkable challenger, mostly through good fortune, is on record as opposing the war back in 2002.

Why? Mostly because he was toiling outside of the national spotlight at the time when all the decisions were made. As an Illinois state senator representing a district in which the vast majority of his constituents were instinctively suspicious of US intentions and jealous of American largesse to foreign lands, Obama found it politically expedient to agree with the voters he represented. As he said in 2004, who knows how he might have voted if he had been in the big leagues and cast a vote that actually counted? But that much nuance is irrelevant in a front-loaded, media-driven, national campaign. Bottom line: Obama was against the war; Hillary was for it. End of story.

2. Obama himself. He is a remarkably charming candidate (perhaps a hundred-year storm), who has fortunately caught a popular wave of unfocused discontent, uninformed optimism, and naiveté.

So, what to do if you are the Clintons?

First, hope you can finesse your “Iraq problem.” Say some ugly things about the President. Cast some high-profile destructive votes in re the war. Revise history when possible. And hope your base will forgive you in hopes of backing a winner.

Second, hope that "kid" fades. Folks will see that he has no experience, right? This insurgent candidacy needs to draw an inside straight; he will make a mistake; he will tire; he will show some frustration. We will be okay. Don't worry. We're going to be okay.

But then Iowa happened. Then the polls in NH went absolutely crazy. What in the hell is happening here?

The original plan was for the Clintons to run to the middle, for Hillary to take the lead, and the campaign to hold Bill in reserve mostly, sparingly employing him to strengthen the core constituencies where he plays very well. Early on, this strategy was on display. Bill was fairly quiet and absent from the day-to-day contest. Every once in a while--like when Edwards looked like he might be a threat in Iowa back in the summer--Team Clinton would roll out Bill to remind the faithful of the glorious struggles and triumphs of the Clintonian past.

But when Hillary stumbled into third place in Iowa, and New Hampshire looked lost, and the brain trust sheepishly looked around at one another in disbelief, and the mainstream media began the drumbeat of "the fall of the House of Clinton," Bill and Hill asked for the ball.

You got to want it to win it, and they want it more. Bill and Hill stepped up and moved forward. What to do? Hit back. What to do? Take this to the people. What to do? Take on the media and the establishment and play the underdog.

Is Bill Clinton out-of-control? Or is he wily like a fox?

Here is how he is wily like fox.

Bill hit hard and fast and created a lot of questions concerning his wife's opponent. By the end of the week, he had the formerly calm, cool, and collected Barack Obama slinging mud and playing the race card. Was Bill winning any popularity contests? Absolutely not. Even some of the strongest Bill fans were running for cover. But he changed the conversation. More importantly, none of the trash talking seemed to be coming out of his wife's mouth.

The timing was also significant.

Wild Bill grabbed the headlines during a week in which Hillary had little chance of winning the South Carolina primary. What have we heard from Bill this week? Almost nothing. Hillary is back in front of the cameras smiling and promoting a positive message. Bill is in the background. But everything Bill said last week is still in play this week.

Having said that, Bill may also be out of control.

I am convinced that he cannot help himself sometimes. He must know that his propensity to focus on himself leads to an impression that his wife is running for his third term. When Bill is leading with "I," we too often see the Hillary campaign as "Ma Clinton," running to extend the reign of "Pa Clinton."

The bottom line: much of the red-faced, cranky Bill is a well-choreographed sideshow--but not all of it. This is the real Bill.
Q & A here from the Pew Forum.

Some excerpts:

Does anything that has happened so far suggest evangelicals will rally around a single Republican candidate?

It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s possible that it could. There are at least two candidates in the race besides Mike Huckabee that have, at one point or another, drawn significant evangelical support. One of them is Mitt Romney and the other is John McCain. Here is where a little history is helpful.

. . .

There has been much discussion and speculation about how evangelical voters might respond to Romney’s Mormon religion. Can we come to any conclusions yet?

Well, the polling evidence from last year very clearly indicated that Gov. Romney faced a challenge with evangelicals. And a lot of the things he’s done in his campaign, including his prominent speech in Texas about religion in American politics, clearly have been aimed at meeting that challenge. In the early going, we see some evidence that he did successfully meet that challenge. In Michigan, which is in some sense his home state, he won the evangelical vote. He has gotten significant portions of the evangelical vote in some of the other states, which suggests that he has been able to meet that challenge.

But he didn’t do very well in Iowa or South Carolina. And if one looks at the county-by-county breakdown of the vote for Romney and Huckabee in those states, counties with a lot of evangelicals gave Romney very few votes. In those states, Romney did well in counties that had relatively few evangelicals. Additionally, in Iowa, Romney did well in counties that had a lot of Catholics. So at least in those two states, there is some indication that the concerns about Romney’s Mormon religion had an effect at the ballot box.