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2008 Archives

Week of 2.10.08


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March 6, 2008, 4:30 P.M.

Early in the Republican primary race, John McCain and the other candidates saw a need to pander to the extreme right wing of the party in order to gain their partyís nomination. This presented a particular problem for John McCain because he did not have a history of support from that dark corner of the political fringe known as the religious right. So, like any serious candidate for the presidency, McCain did what he felt he had to do and accepted gladly the endorsement of one of the few nuts willing to offer him one. That nut was televangelist John Hagee. Josh Marshall has a good video on the Hagee endorsement (and some good clips of Hagee blaming Hurricane Katrina on gays and defining the Roman Catholic Church as ďthe great whore,Ē to name a few). I should point out, for the purpose of attribution, that Josh also refers to Hagee as a nut. I use the term also because I see it not as a simple characterization, but as a fact. That guy is missing some chips.

McCain, I think, took the Hagee endorsement because he felt he had to in order to have any chance of getting nominated. Hagee, however, was a very bad choice and McCain almost instantly sought to put a little distance between himself and Hageeís more extreme positions. He still accepted the endorsement because he thought he needed it. After the initial scrutiny, McCain skated with his endorsement and earned some cred with a small contingent of the lunatic fringe.

Of course, this points up a direct comparison to Barack Obamaís recent repudiation of an enforsement from Louis Farrakhan. His action in this case was swift and decisive. Obama did not make his decision after a long period of contemplation or consideration. It was visceral and instant.

Obama probably alienated some portion of his base by distancing himself from Farrakhan and his ilk. He did it, however, as a matter of principle; a rare and refreshing trait for a candidate. McCain acepted Hageeís endorsement because he needed some conservative credibility, but he blew a chance to show some of the character and integrity which he claims as a principal credential. This is a character issue and Obama wins the high ground in this early test.

Iíll leave the question of why this isnít hurting McCain in the media right now to a later time, but I certainly agree with Josh Marshall when he observes that McCain seems to have gotten a pass, but that Obama took some heat for refusing the endorsement. Go figure.

March 5, 2008, 11:15 A.M.

[Ed. note: written 3/3/08, posted 3/5/08]

The big news, according to the big news agencies (like CNN) this week seems to be whether or not news organizations and the mainstream media are being hard enough on Barack Obama. Coincidentally, thatís the same question Hillary Clinton also seems to be asking.

I donít know if we are asking difficult enough questions, but I have a problem with the way the media is covering a particular candidate being the issue in their coverage. Once again, the media is spending more time covering itself than the candidate. The Clinton camp will certainly agree because while the ďmainstream mediaĒ are asking themselves tough questions about whether or not their questions are tough enough, Hillary is losing her voice (literally and figuratively) from vociferously attacking Obama on the substance of his message. She is asking good questions, but no one is listening. The result is a more aggressive, almost desperate push to paint Obama as a charismatic candidate, dynamic speaker and snake oil salesman, all in one. She is trying desperately to refine her message, to define her plan and to contrast her detailed plans with Obamaís broad brush outlines. All the while, voters, and increasingly, party stalwarts, are falling into step behind the new pied piper. All the while, the media are wondering if they are being hard enough on one candidate or another.

I donít know if we are probing deeply enough into the plans, goals and strategies of any of the candidates. They are all being sold to us like toothpaste and hair products. Donít ask whatís in it, just how good it makes you feel.

Hillary, meanwhile, seems to be begging someone to listen to her message and accept her plan. I donít know how much scrutiny she really wants, however, and by asking that we take a closer look at Obama, she may be drawing more attention to herself than she really wants at this stage of the race. The more she cries out, however, the more desperate she seems.

There really is cause for the Clinton camp to be concerned, but the ship has not sunk yet. True, she is counting heavily on Texas, and to a lesser extent, Ohio, to buoy her campaign, but she is close enough in delegates (and leads in superdelegates) that she is not at a huge disadvantage if it comes to a floor fight at the convention. I would not count the Clintons out if it comes to that, as I have said before.

I do think it is over for Hillary if she loses both Ohio and Texas. Rhode Island is very symbolic for Hillary, but itís small delegate count will not have a real mathematical impact on the outcome.

Obama had better be listening to the questions being asked about the details of his plans and platform. Iím certain that, no matter what the outcome of the primary, the loser will have a lot to say about the party platform in the general election. If Hillary loses, she will still be a force to be reckoned with at the convention, and I hope that it she is not the nominee, she will have a major role to play in the next administration.

I say this simply because, whether she is the nominee or not, she has focused on the construction of a detailed plan for change. She does not, however, share the big picture vision of Obama. Dare I say, they complement each other in this regard. Whoever wins this nomination will be well served to not let the other stray far from the fold. Before the big media shifts its gaze from the mirror to the window, each might consider the potential value of the other in a future administration. Itís certainly a question someone is going to ask before this thing is settled.


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