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Category: Campaign 2008.13
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am a big fan of the Washington Post, which will not make me popular among my conservative brethren. Nevertheless, the Post is clearly the one great national paper that consistently places the best interest of America over ideology.

An even more damning confession: I continue to be a big fan of National Public Radio. NPR received an avalanche of criticism for reporting almost nothing but the bad news from Iraq (back when we were failing miserably). But did anyone on the Right side of the blogosphere notice that among the left-leaning journalist elite, NPR led the way in reporting the Anbar Awakening and the success of the Surge, eventually shaming the more-watched mainstream media into acknowledging the obvious--eventually.

Back to the Post, their editorial today criticizes John McCain for a "lack of civility."

The offensive McCain quote:

"Because anyone who fails to acknowledge that the surge has worked, who has consistently opposed it, consistently never sat down and had a briefing with General Petraeus, our commander there, would rather lose a war than a political campaign."

While admitting McCain is absolutely correct, the Post assails him for "falling short of [his own] standards...of respect and courtesy in the heat of political battle."


Barack Obama was absolutely and vociferously adamant that the Surge was abject folly (back when that line was politically advantageous for him). Now that it is obvious to any objective observer that his former position proved incorrect, Obama will not admit his error (when such an admission might well injure him politically).

As no one knows what lurks in the hearts of men, I will not speak to his motivations, but Mr. Obama's current obstinate denial is not the behavior of a statesman, sir; that is the conduct of a calculating poltroon.

How was that? More civil? It is definitely more nineteenth century.

Here it is bluntly: the Democrats are invested in defeat in Iraq (that is a right-wing talk radio line--but it is right on). Harry Reid said the war was lost (I hope, I hope, I hope). Let's face some facts: the successful surge is very politically inconvenient for 2008 Democrats. David Petraeus is a colossal pain in the backside for Obama boosters.

Call me crude, but I have said on numerous occasions for months and months, the key question for the future of America is this: will Democratic politicians sacrifice their political advantage over Iraq to help save the nation?

McCain merely said what we all can see.

Was it blunt? Was it a bit indelicate?

Yes--but if you don't scream it out at the top of your lungs in this current climate--who is going to hear? That is, if you don't spell it out for (and past) the Obama-adoring press corps--is anyone likely to notice this glaring inconsistency and disturbing character flaw?

Stand down Washington Post.
Last week we learned that Inflation is soaring (reportedly at the highest levels since 1981) and growth is anemic.

Hello Stagflation! You heard it first (last July).

These numbers cannot come as much of a revelation to many of us. Milk and gas are $4.00 per gallon. Coffee is $4.00 per pound. Bread is $2.00 per loaf. In truth, these official statistics from the Department of Labor merely confirm what we have known for months. Chalk up the collective surprise to the inherent human power to delude ourselves into believing what we desperately want to see.

Hello Reality. Statistics catch up to life. To paraphrase Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Stars Might Lie, but eventually the numbers come around...

The Other Big Numbers that don't seem to make sense right now: McCain versus Obama.

The ubiquitous question: why is this race so tight?

Blah-Blah Nyborg writes this week:

Oh, let's just admit it: John McCain is a long shot. He's got a heroic personal story, and being white has never hurt a presidential candidate, but on paper 2008 just doesn't look like his year. And considering what's happening off paper, it might be time to ask the question the horse-race-loving media are never supposed to ask: Is McCain a no-shot?

No argument from me. I have said basically the same thing for months (although the "white" crack is gratuitous and misleading).

But seriously folks, who in their right mind would vote for John McCain for president?

Me--but I don't count---long story.

Why is McCain hanging in there on the national polls when all political science models, recent political history, and all conventional wisdom suggest that Obama ought to be up thirty points right now?

An Aside: is this somehow connected to the question from the spring: why can't he [Obama] put her [Clinton] away?

Eventually he did. And, chances are, he eventually will.

But what is going on?

I have been thinking about upsets lately. What is the dynamic of a mind-blowing, logic-defying upset?

Most upsets don't happen. Obvious, right? Most underdogs lose. An over-matched team may hang in for a while, fight the good fight, maybe even lead during the first quarter. But, eventually, the sky collapses on them--and the blowout commences.

But not always. There is a phenomenon we know as upsets. They do happen.

Two cases in point: Villanova-Georgetown, 1985, and NC State-U of H, 1983.

Rollie Massimino and the low-seeded Villanova Wildcats out-thought and out-fought the incredibly talented defending-champion Georgetown Hoyas to squeeze out perhaps the most shocking victory in all of American sports history in the 1985 NCAA Final. According to legend, Massimino predicted the exact number of points it would take to win the game and wrote it on the locker room chalkboard before tipoff. Villanova had a plan, and they worked it to perfection--shooting 78 percent from the field along the way. They maintained a thin lead for most of the game, and they never faltered, doubted, or faded under pressure.

If you watched that Final you may remember thinking no team (and certainly not Villanova) can maintain this level of excellence for an entire game. But they did. And Villanova prevailed--by two points (66-64).

Is John McCain Villanova? Does John McCain have a Rollie Massimino behind the scenes with a master strategy? No and No. John McCain has no plan, and he will not play brilliantly from now until the buzzer. Villanova-Georgetown offers little encouragement to Camp McCain.

However, remember the great Final Four upset of 1983. Jimmy Volvano and the Wolfpack of North Carolina State stunned a heavily favored University of Houston Cougars team, chocked full of future NBA Hall of Famers. "Phi Slamma Jamma." That was a crazy game in which the Cougars could never quite pull away, tightened up a bit down the stretch, and allowed their inexperience and their over-confidence to get the best of them. The Wolfpack hung around, hung around, and as the game devolved into chaos in the final seconds, a star NC State player shot an air ball which serendipitously landed in the hands of a role player standing in the right place at the right time, and he forcefully dunked it home to win a national championship for State by two points. SHOCKER!!!

Cue Jimmy V. racing around the court with his hands in the air looking for someone to hug.


Possible? Maybe. McCain is much more the unstructured wild man hanging in there and needing a break at crunch time. But, who knows, things at least this strange have happened.

Do you believe in miracles!?!
"If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, what a Merry Christmas it would be."
~~the Danderoo

"If the Sunni Awakening had not occurred, and the Shia Stand Down had not transpired, then the Surge, which has been successful, would not have been successful in itself, and I would have been right when I predicted that the Surge would not be successful, as I did not anticipate the other components coming together in the way that they did."
~~the Obamaroo

You think I exaggerate? Only slightly for comic effect. Here is the actual quote from the exchange with Terry Moran of ABC News:

Moran: The Surge?

You opposed the Surge, staunchly.

Would you say, based on what you see here, that you were wrong in saying that twenty thousand troops would not make a significant dent in the violence? They have…

BARACK OBAMA: Here’s what I‘ll say, I did not anticipate the convergence of not only the surge, but the Sunni Awakening, in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided they’d had enough with al Qaeda. In the Shia community the militias standing down to some degree. Had those political factors not occurred, I think my assessment would have been correct.

Moran: If you had it to do over again, knowing now what you do, would you support the Surge?

OBAMA: No because...

Moran: [incredulously] You wouldn’t?

OBAMA: What I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I disagreed with and continue to disagree with because it focused narrowly on Iraq and not these broader issues...

A Waco Farmer:
Say What?

Farmer's Note: I am linking the video of this exchange, which is available on the ABC Nightline website--but I have yet to see the transcript anywhere (I had to play the link repeatedly as I transcribed it myself). I also note that this exchange did not make the ABC web story summarizing the Moran/Obama interview. You will never hear me say "vast left-wing conspiracy," but this is the kind of coincidental lapse that makes it harder for me to convince my friends at the John Birch Society meetings that the mainstream media is really objective.
I caught a few minutes of a McCain town hall meeting on C-SPAN last night ("Road to the White House").

Obama proved himself exceedingly wise in his deft evasion of McCain's post-primary invitation to debate in ten town hall forums all across the county during the period prior to the conventions.

An Aside: what accounts for Obama's deftness? He unceremoniously and unabashedly "ducked" the straight-forward offer (technically, I think he and his staff are still considering the proposal)--and that was the last most of us heard on the subject. The mainstream media dropped the story, and John McCain could not find a way to make any hay out of Obama's refusal to meet on the field of honor.

Second Aside: although it has been widely reported that Barack Obama spurned public financing of his campaign (essentially, because he got a better offer), that dramatic disavowal of a time-honored Democratic Party (and Beltway press corps) shibboleth never rose to the level of a huge media story either. Love means never having to say you're sorry.

Third Aside: the best ironic human interest angle never reported (and almost certainly destined to be ignored through November) is that McCain really is everything that Obama purported to be during his "a change you can believe in" period. On the other hand, if a candidate loses his innocence, and the media refuse to report it, did it actually happen?

On last irony: ask the media why they lost that loving feeling for their erstwhile sweetheart, Maverick John McCain? Number One Answer: he changed.

Reset. Back to point. Why was Obama wise to avoid McCain and his offer to traverse the nation together on the same plane as his opponent meeting and greeting the people of our fair land like the statesmen of old?


Because McCain owns the format.

Watching McCain last night was truly awe-inspiring. There he was in a GM plant with a real audience. Some people liked him. Some people were obviously hostile questioners. But Johnny Mac backs down from no one. Some one wanted to hold his feet to the fire on his "flip flop" concerning off-shore drilling, he had an answer. He also said to her: "keep the microphone." He intended to answer her question and then give her a chance to follow up.

True Grit.

After she was satisfied (or at least subdued), her friend wanted to take him to task on Iraq. McCain told her he did not have time to answer that question fully, but then he proceeded to speak for the next ten minutes in rapid-fire explanation of American vital interests in Iraq yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It was a tour de force.

McCain crushes any other candidate in this venue.

Why? He has deep and thick positions on vital questions, which he can address from any number of angles.

The Bad News: McCain cannot deliver a speech to save his soul. Running for president cannot be an endless parade of town halls. Even worse, his opponent is a master stem winder. McCain looks even worse than he is (and he is dreadful) in comparison to Obama. If McCain is to win this election (which, let me remind you once again, is an outrageously unlikely proposition), he must avoid a big live televised speech to the American public (change the format of the nominating convention, if need be).

What works for McCain in terms of national media? Frankly, not much. Perhaps some quick-hitting commercials with video of his return as a POW, coming down the gangplank of his airplane smiling and hobbling, while the voice over (Tom Selleck maybe) talks about who McCain is and what he's going to do (cue some sentimental and patriotic music). Does that sound too manipulative? Maybe--but that is the only way to counter the oratorical majesty of his opponent--which, in truth, is merely a pleasant but basically irrelevant distraction from the real issues of this campaign.

McCain needs those town halls. What really works for McCain is hand-to-hand combat. If he could court the 125 million potential voters in America the way he wooed the 250,000 Republican and independent voters in New Hampshire, McCain would be the odds-on favorite for 2008. However, reality check, this is not the game.

Nevertheless, McCain needs those town halls. Why is Obama unlikely to spend any time with his opponent in this venue? The town hall not only plays to McCain's great strength, it also highlights Obama's chief stylistic weakness. While he is a brilliant writer and extraordinarily skilled at delivering his well-crafted speeches, Obama is not particularly articulate off the cuff. He can be rattled. Once off script and roughed up a bit, he may threaten to bomb Pakistan or begin scheduling face-to-face meetings with America's most wanted.

Obama reminds me of my students who sometimes claim "test anxiety." That is, "I knew all the material," they tell me, "but my mind went blank during the exam." What that means, generally, is that at some point at three in the morning they sort of remember being able to recite (for the most part) all the terms and definitions they had scribbled on a study sheet. But now that it is actually test time, and the pressure is on, they are scrambling and grasping for the answers.

Yes, believe it or not, in the American colleges of the present, there is an official diagnosis for this malady: Test Anxiety. Back when I was in school we just called it insufficient preparation. Now you can get a note from our disabilities specialist.

John McCain doesn't suffer from test anxiety. Generally, he does not need to call up something from a recent late-night cram session. McCain is thoroughly McCain. He is always on message--because he is the message.

Barack and Johnny will debate eventually in a tightly controlled network-anchor-dominated format in which both sides will fire broadsides at one another with probably little effect. In truth, neither one is a very good debater (Obama for the reasons listed above; McCain lacks humor and charisma). Having said that, Obama will win the visuals and the spin and most likely take the match on points.
1. Jesse's comments in re castration:

Before I saw the video, I wondered if the whole thing had not been staged. If Barack Obama can schedule alternating bi-weekly tiffs with Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al from now through Election Day, he will be well served.

After seeing the tape, I am convinced that Jackson's comments were sincere and unintended for mass distribution. Also, I doubt Reverend Jackson is selfless enough to throw himself in front of a high-speed media bus to help out Obama (or anyone, for that matter). That has never been the Jesse style. No conspiracy.

Why does this help Obama? Jackson's genuine frustration with Obama points to the potential danger an African American president presents to the civil rights industry. More specifically, Obama's tendency to go "Bill Cosby" on the seedy side of black culture offers hope for a watershed moment in American life. Just as only Nixon could have gone to China, only a "black" president can hold Black America accountable.

Analysis: advantage Obama.

2. Barack's comments in re culture and language:

He is embarrassed that Americans are so deficient in foreign language and made sport of "English only" proponents. If you watched only FOX News and listened only to conservative talk radio, you might think this was the story of the week.

It wasn't.

Not much to say about this really:

The mainstream media gave Obama a pass on this potentially controversial crack (no surprise there). Sometimes an MSM-ignored story bubbles up into the public consciousness of its own momentum (Reverend Wright, Tony Rezko, the San Francisco comments). Of course, it certainly helped in those cases to have the Clintons calling in favors and manufacturing buzz to draw attention to Obama's miscues, but those days are over. THAT LUXURY IS GONE.

This story does not seem to have legs. Perhaps this is just more evidence (about "Exhibit #426") that cultural conservatives vastly overestimated the issue of immigration et al as a hot-button concern for a critical mass of heartlanders. No doubt, assimilation and American culture are vitally important to the survival of our nation, but these rabid anti-immigrationists always seem to grab this sword by the wrong end.

Analysis: no impact.

3. Phil Gramm's comments on the economy:

Gramm observed that the country was not in a true recession but a "mental recession." He also accused Americans of becoming "a nation of whiners." Gramm: "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline."

Not that the facts matter in this case, but Gramm is right (indisputably on the first count and, in my view, fairly accurate on the second). The technical definition for a recession among economists (and Gramm, for the record, is one: PhD, Economics, 1967, UGA) is two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Again, during an election year, the facts matter much less than the perception, but last quarter the American economy achieved some anemic growth. In re the "whining," who can really argue against that? Nevertheless, Phil should have known better. Insulting the electorate is never a winning strategy.

What makes this so devastating, however, is that Obama took a screwball comment and hammered it out of the park.


"I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr. Phil. We don’t need another one when it comes to the economy – we need somebody to actually solve the economy. It’s not just a figment of your imagination, it’s not all in your head! Let’s be clear...gas and groceries... 438,000 lost jobs over the past six months...the typical family has lost a $1,000 of income in real terms since George Bush took office....

"This economic downturn is not in your head. When people are out there losing their homes and property values are declining, that’s not a figment of your imagination and it isn’t whining to ask government to step in and give families some relief!"

"I think it’s time we had a President who doesn’t deny our problems – or blame the American people for them – but takes responsibility and provides the leadership to solve them. And that’s the kind of President I intend to be. "


I remember the afternoon in March 2004 when I first heard the John F. Kerry "I voted for it before I voted against it" sound bite. I could not believe it. After I took measures to assure myself that it really happened, I thought: "We just won this election." Karl Rove reportedly had the same reaction when he heard it. It was devastating.

Am I saying that the Gramm assertion is tantamount to that infamous Kerry game-turning fumble? Not exactly. The Kerry quote came from Kerry—the candidate himself. Even worse, Kerry never could admit to himself that his comment was a gaffe.

An Aside: the most devastating aspect of the Kerry blunder was the he never got it. He is still defending it. If you invite Kerry on TV to talk about anything, he will eventually get around to explaining how he was perfectly in the right and anybody who cannot accept that is either evil or dumb. Kerry remains the gift that keeps on giving. My hunch is that he will be good for a few more priceless gaffes before the first Tuesday in November.

Back to point: how devastating is Gramm's comment? Pretty devastating.

It is a template. Read Obama's comments again: GOP denies your misery. You need a fighter. You need a fixer. These guys don't care, but I do. I can help. These guys won't even try.

Pretty devastating.

It is classic Democratic Party candidate boilerplate strategy--and it works. It is 1992 all over again. Similar to that election, the economy this is not great--but not the Great Depression either. But a handsome, charismatic, and glib agent of change is running against an out-of-touch older generation statesman who does not have the capacity to "feel your pain." It's the Economy, Stupid!

The good news is that it was not McCain who said it, and he disowned the remark quickly. But it is out there. Obama is smart enough to run with it, and the mainstream media is complicit enough to boom it.

In the Final Analysis: Pretty Devastating.
Can McCain win the upcoming Fall Election? Unlikely--but not impossible.

My advice to GOP die hards: deal honestly with the percentages. Take a deep breath and say to yourself three times: "Barack Obama is going to be the next president of the United States." Prepare yourself.


1. Barack Obama is taut and handsome; John McCain is weathered and shrunken. Obama is young, vibrant, and charismatic; McCain is old and faded. Obama can deliver a speech with the best of all time; McCain is haltingly inarticulate. Obama shows all the signs of true political genius; McCain is an old warhorse.

2. The Republican brand is at its nadir and inextricably linked to the most unpopular president of the electronic age. The Democrats are not stellar---but they have the distinct advantage this cycle of not being Republicans.

3. The uncertain economy (exacerbated by the ubiquitous breathless reporting thereof) has us all dazed and queasy, nervously waiting for the other shoe to finally drop.

4. The mainstream media is invested in Obama--and they will surely (most have already) turn on their former favorite Republican, McCain.

5. Even worse, McCain cannot seem to get any traction within GOP ranks. Quite frankly, it remains a mystery to me how he even won the nomination. I am quite sure that I am the only Republican I know who voted for him.

Unfortunately, this is merely a partial enumeration; the list of McCain disadvantages goes on...and on.

And, again, Obama is a remarkable candidate. He possesses an extraordinary political IQ. He has impeccable timing, as demonstrated in his stunning nomination victory---knowing when and exactly how to challenge a 500-pound gorilla, how to make hay while the sun shone, and when to hunker down and weather a pretty horrible three months at the conclusion of the primary season. He has expertly exploited every one of his advantages of character and culture. He seems to know when to ignore, when to obfuscate, when to deny, and when to renounce (think Jeremiah Wright). And he shows no sign of getting any dumber between now and November.

What about some of McCain's strengths?

John McCain has experience in government, and he is a war hero. Does that count for anything? Not really.

Americans do not elect presidents based on foreign policy. If we did, no one would even remember Bill Clinton, the youthful Arkansas governor who unseated the steadiest and most capable chief executive of the twentieth century in the midst of the most dramatic moment in American foreign relations history. America's reaction to that ultimate defining geopolitical crossroads back in 1992? A big long yawn. What we really wanted was someone who could feel our pain and not look at his watch during debates.

Americans are not particularly impressed with war heroes either. Think about 1992 again and 1996. The WWII heroics of George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole proved virtually meaningless against a Bill Clinton who had avoided military service under questionable circumstances. And what about John Kerry? Democrats thought they had pulled a fast one on the red, white, and blue crowd---but, again, politics trumped dog tags. The Vietnam veteran awarded three Purple Hearts lost to National Guardsman George W. Bush in 2004. I am afraid that the electorate is in agreement with Wesley Clark on this one, military service doesn't carry a lot of weight in the presidential sweepstakes.

Having said all that, John McCain has an outside, long-shot chance to pull off the biggest upset in the history of modern American presidential elections.


There is something slightly disturbing about Barack Obama.

It is not race. His pigment makes him unique among prior serious candidates for president, no doubt, but in the year 2008 we generally like that he is a person of bi-racial parentage.

It is not the rumor that there is a rumor that he is Muslim. Newsweek reported last week that 10 percent of persons polled mistakenly believed that Obama was Muslim. Quite frankly, that number is a relief (shockingly small). Turn it around: 90 percent of Americans do not misidentify him as a Muslim. Could 90 percent of Americans identify the vice president? Speaker of the House? Could 90 percent of Americans name the three branches of government? Remember the National Geographic poll from a few years back (merely a few months subsequent to Hurricane Katrina) in which 33 percent of the respondents could not point out Louisiana on a U.S. map. Ninety percent of Americans comprehend that Barack Hussein Obama is not Muslim! That is an amazingly promising statistic.

Neither is his exotic and unfortunate appellation much of a real problem. Of course, it is almost sinisterly comical in its blending of two American villains, but, keep in mind, we elected Dwight Eisenhower a mere seven years after the conclusion of an all-consuming war between the USA and the nation of Ike's German ancestors. In the end, what's in a name?

However, aside from all that there is something that is not quite right about Obama. His Ivy League elitism and internationalism-slash-cosmopolitanism rankles some. His America-hating, race-baiting, former pastor of twenty years leaves a bad taste. His wife's remarks concerning her national pride makes us wonder. His association with an unrepentant sixties radical and domestic terrorist is unsavory. His inconsistent position on flag pins makes us chuckle at him (not with him). His unwillingness to pay his political dues strikes some of us as a disconnection with traditional American values. Taken together, these are traits about the man that set off alarm bells. He does not seem to be one of us.

Three "P"s: Patriotism, Petraeus, and Petroleum.

Add all those things up and we have an uneasy feeling, which we struggle to articulate under some broad and nebulous idea--perhaps like "patriotism." This attempt at identification is not quite right, not quite satisfying--but it may be as close as we can get, finding ourselves limited by language--an imperfect form of communication.

But the fact that he is already delivering speeches explaining and defending his patriotism proves that he has a patriotism problem--for lack of a better word. Again, this deficiency is hard to confront directly; therefore, it is hard to extinguish.

Petraeus. This may seem contradictory in light of my thesis above: "Americans don't have much patience or capacity for foreign policy questions during a presidential election." Hit people hard with something scary like a "missile gap" or another terrorist attack and you might score a few points in the short run---but, generally, big and complicated issues like the Cold War or the War on Terror don't tickle the fancy of your standard citizen.

However, as unpopular as the war in Iraq remains with a vast majority of voters, there is a growing number of Americans who see progress in that interminable war. When pressed, these folks do not actually want to walk away from our investment in the Middle East, unwilling to give back the demonstrable and increasingly undeniable gains we've registered recently.

A growing number of Americans see General David Petraeus as the symbol of our recent upward turn of fortunes. Obama's non-relationship with Petraeus is part of his overall awkwardness (his delay in condemning the radical left for the "General Betray-us" controversy points up his lack of dexterity in this area). Obama's opponents ask why he will meet with Ahmed Ahmadinejad unconditionally---but he has never met America's great winning general. A lot is riding on Candidate Obama's visit to Iraq to meet with the Cen-Com chief in August. I don't see how Obama ever squares his anti-war stance with the image of Petraeus as a heroic man of honor, vision, and surprising success.

His lack of relationship with David Petraeus is increasingly awkward and seems unpresidential.

Petroleum. Four-dollar per gallon gasoline.

The Democrats are nearly completely beholden to environmentalists who are adamantly opposed to aggressive new drilling and refining policies as well as politically incorrect alternate fuels. A major pivot before the Fall Election is highly unlikely (although, after the last two weeks of Obama's shamelessly clever re-positioning, nothing is impossible). The Republicans, on the other hand, are in perfect position to propose a pragmatic policy of increased exploration, drilling, and refining that will strike so many of those swing voters as a perfectly reasonable response to a vital question.

Could it happen?

A Republican victory in November remains improbable---but not impossible.