Sunday, May 25, 2008


As I canvassed several middle class neighborhoods of Portland early this week, I tried to convince myself that the election that REALLY mattered was for U.S. Senate. But in truth, I couldn’t help but keep an eye out for another election. And what I noticed was an awful lot of street signs that said “Obama” on them, many fewer that said “Hillary,” and none at all that mentioned “McCain.” It was difficult not to wonder if, outside of country clubs and Orange County, there are any Republicans left in the urban areas of the West.

In the end, Obama took nearly 110,000 votes in Multnomah County, as compared to 55,000 for Clinton and 26,000 for McCain. In Lane County, which contains Eugene, McCain received as many votes as Clinton (roughly 26,000), but Obama received 17,000 more. Even if you include all the rural parts of Oregon, Obama ended up with substantially more votes, in a hotly contested primary, than McCain received running virtually unopposed. This is a pattern we’ve been seeing in so many states, and it has to be giving the GOP leadership fits. In places like Oregon, even if McCain were to win 50% of the Clinton votes, he would still lose by a significant margin. And remember, we’re not just talking blue states; Oregon was considered a purple state in the last Presidential election cycle.

For me, it is getting increasingly difficult to believe that McCain will win a single state that Gore won in 2000, and it feels increasingly likely that Obama can win at least some of the Western and Midwestern states that Gore lost. Hell, Obama would only have to win Colorado (in which he is favored) plus the Gore states to win the nomination. Despite the relentless, racist pounding that he has taken over the Reverend Wright situation in the past couple of months, Obama is currently either ahead in the polls, or at least figures to be competitive, in Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Nevada, and Missouri. Yet he could lose ALL of those states and still win the election, if he merely held on to Colorado and the Gore states. So how exactly is McCain going to win this thing?

Certainly not by trusting his instincts. That’s become apparent in the way he’s handled the debate over Jim Webb’s GI bill, which is intended to provide education benefits to the veterans who have served our nation so valiantly in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here’s the way has described the bill’s features:

“[Education benefits] would be available to any member, active or reserve, who has served at least three months on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The level of benefits would be tied to length of service. … Maximum benefits, earned for 36 months' active duty, would cover tuition for up to four years at a level to match tuition at the most expensive in-state public school. The average across states is about $1900 a month… [The bill] also would pay a monthly stipend to cover living expenses. The stipend would reflect local housing costs near school and would be set to equal military Basic Allowance for Housing for married enlisted in grade E-5. … [Further, the bill] would encourage private colleges to make their schools affordable to veterans. Schools that agree to pay half of their tuition in excess of the most costly state schools would see the government cover the remaining half. Thus academically qualified veterans could attend some of the best schools in the country.”

Webb’s bill comes at a time when our army has (a) failed to provide our soldiers with state of the art equipment to protect themselves from insurgent attacks, (b) required our troops to extend their tours of duty well beyond any reasonable standards of modern military practice, and (c) provided almost laughable medical care to those who are able to survive their tours of duty and return to the states. You can therefore imagine why Webb and others might want to extend generous educational opportunities to the heroes who choose to leave the military and attend college.

Not surprisingly, Barack Obama supports the Webb Bill. And, also unsurprisingly, he challenged John McCain to explain exactly why he opposes it. Obama began his comments, the way he always does when he speaks of John McCain – by pointing out his respect for McCain, who Obama often touts as one of his heroes. “But I can't understand,” Obama continued, why he's lining up with the President to oppose this bill … There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them."

That certainly sounds reasonable to me. And I suspect it sounds reasonable to the majority of those who live in every state that Gore covered, plus Colorado (not to mention Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, etc.). John McCain could have confined his response to explaining that if we encourage veterans to go to college, we might deplete our officer corps, and we need to encourage soldiers to stay in the military as long as possible because our military is so strapped for talent. That answer would have frustrated America to hear, but at least it sounds like a substantive response. But here’s how McCain responded: "I will not accept from Sen. Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did."

That’s right, folks. The same McCain who supported Bush (who never served in Vietnam) over Kerry (who won medals for his service in Vietnam) is now telling Obama that non-veterans have no right to fight for benefits to veterans. It’s the old ad hominem attack. “I’m a veteran. You’re not. I have standing to talk. You don’t. That’s all there is to say.”

Obviously McCain left out the word “Whippersnapper,” at the end of the quotation, but it was all but implied. His comments sound like the words of a crusty old fool who is devoid of arguments, so he resorts to trying to pull rank. “I’m older than you, so I’m right.” “I spent more time here than you, so I’m right.” “I’ve worked in this office longer than you, so I’m right.” “I’ve devoted more volunteer hours to this organization than you, so I’m right.” I’ve heard this type of argument over and over again in my life, usually from the most mediocre of minds. It is typically another way of saying “I don’t have a response, but screw you, I still feel I’m right.” The problem is that in politics, we can’t even read that much into these comments, because McCain might be opposing the bill simply because he is pandering yet again to the hard right. After all, that’s pretty much what McCain has done lately. It’s a sad slide from where he was in 2000, but that’ the grim reality of his candidacy.

This GI bill story emerged during the same week when McCain had to sever his ties to two pastors whose support he had actively courted. One of those pastors said some unbelievably offensive things about Islam (not fanatic Islam, but Islam period). The other suggested that Hitler was an agent of God sent to hunt down the Jews, and thereby usher in the state of Israel -- which, from what I understand, is supposed to be the springboard for Christ’s hegemony over the entire planet.

Pretty sickening stuff, don’t you think? It’s at least as offensive as anything Jeremiah Wright said. McCain could have used this moment to explain why we have to stop blaming politicians for everything that has been said by those with whom they associate, and especially by the ministers they have come to like for whatever reason. But no. McCain merely invoked a distinction – Reverend Wright was Obama’s pastor for twenty years, so Obama should pay for Wright’s mistakes, whereas McCain need not be accountable for the other pastors’ problems because his relationship with them wasn’t nearly as extensive.

The more that I think about McCain’s little two-step here, the more it makes me chuckle. It’s almost like he’s saying “Obama is a sincere Christian who had an authentic, long-lasting relationship with his pastor, so he’s responsible for what the pastor says; but I’m just a phony who courted these religious buffoons for political purposes, so I shouldn’t be responsible when their idiocy is brought to light.” That can’t be McCain’s point, can it?

Just how desperate is this former-maverick to win votes that he could buy one glass house after another and then throw stones at Obama? Apparently, as the representative of the “Party of Family Values,” he feels that it is necessary to go mano-a-mano against Obama in the morality/spirituality department. OK. Well let’s just see how this plays out. From all we can see in the public domain, Obama is a church going man who continues to live in a loving, monogamous relationship with his first wife. Does McCain have a similar commitment to religious values? That’s harder to tell. “Senator Hothead,” as he is called, is said to have dropped F-bombs at more than one of his fellow senators. Also, if you can believe published reports, he committed adultery before finally leaving his ex-wife so that he could marry a much younger woman -- an heiress to a beer fortune who he later referred to as a “trollop” and a “cunt.” As for McCain’s interest in religion, we know that he calls himself a “Christian,” but I am not aware of whether he has regularly attended church and, if so, what his pastor has said about Jews, Muslims and other issues.

Given the extent to which Americans admire church goers who stick with their spouses through thick and thin, avoid cheating on them, and confine words like “cunt” to women other than their wives, exactly why is McCain playing attack-politics with Obama and his pastor? I could legitimately have asked that question before Hagee’s comments came to light. That McCain is continuing to attack Barack even after Hagee’s insanity has been revealed is an example of almost laughable chutzpah.

Finally, as for the “experience” issue, let me remind everyone that both Obama and McCain are running to be chief executive of our nation. The most direct experience they have for the job is that both have run political campaigns, which employ large numbers of people. From all reports, Obama has put together a truly great political organization. McCain, on the other hand, is presiding over an organization that, by all accounts, is in disarray. If he can’t run a campaign, how can we expect him to run a country?

In short, not being Joe Namath, I’m unwilling to guarantee a victory for Obama in November. But at this point, such a victory appears highly likely.

--Obama has the better organization (A+ versus C-),

--Obama has the better temperament (Mr. Cool versus Senator Hothead),

-- Obama seems to be far more intelligent (a former President of the Harvard Law Review who has figured out how to out-think Hillary Clinton in his first year on the national stage versus a guy who nearly dropped out of the Naval Academy, claims to know little about economics, and is constantly forgetting basic facts about his “strong suit,” foreign policy),

--Obama’s message resonates far better with the nation’s thirst for “change,” which is stronger than its desire for “experience” (Hillary is experienced, and hardly a “McSame,” but Obama kicked her but nonetheless), and

--Obama holds views that are closer to the mainstream (at least they are closer than the views McCain purports to have today, now that he spent the last year and a half locked in Vulcan Mind Melds with one troglodyte too many).

On the other side of the ledger, I would admit that McCain should be able to win more votes based on racism than Obama can win based on ageism. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be enough to counterbalance all of the above factors. As they say in boxing, McCain might indeed have a “puncher’s chance” to win the election, but that’s about it. If this election goes the distance – meaning if no mega-scandal should knock out either of the combatants – Obama is almost certainly going to win on points.


YoungMan said...


Even though Portland is 3000 miles away geographically from your home in Bethesda, it is politically like you walking through the underpass to the otherside of your beloved Beltway. As a Westerner, and as someone who used to date a Portlander, I know a lot more about these things than you, just like a knew more about Chick Hearn.

So walking through "middle class" suburbs in Portland to confirm the inevitability of Obama is akin to a walk through the million dollar plus homes of the Berkeley Hills, where you arent going to find many Obama signs either. Further, Orange County, California is hardly the Republican monolith of 30 years ago either.

Dan, you would be far more credible if you werent such a self-parody as an elitist lifetime government bureaucrat who has never made a private sector penny who believes that disagreement is merely a function of "lack of education"; you should stick to things that you know something about, and West Coast demographics are not one of them.

1) The Webb bill has some merit. However, the alternative veterans bill is much more practical insofar as it increases re-elistment bonuses for the valuable men and women who choose to stay which McCain supports. It not as cut and dried as you think or the Obama/Plouffe talking points memo which you reflexively parrot like an automaton would have one believe.

I'm sure the Spiro solution would be something like " the government knows how to spendbetter than the private citizens who earned the money, let's raise marginal tax rates to 50%+ and lets have both bills".

2) Wright married "I'm not proud" Michelle, baptized the kids, and was Obama's spiritual adviser, and screamed "God Damn America" on 9/16/2001. Obama and "I'm not proud" Michelle stayed in that church 20 years. Hagee's comments were ridiculous, but the relationship between McCain and Hagee doesn't even come close to Obama-Wright. Even you either had the sense to leave the synagogue (or were kicked out) when you got into the fight with the rabbi. Not even close.

2a) Michelle is fair game; she inserted herself into the campaign as a partisan campaigner for her husband. Doesn't she remind you of someone? Lay off my wife? HAR-DE-HAR-HAR. I can attack you, but if you attack me, it's divisive? Bolshevik logic.

3) I live in Denver most of the time. In October 2004, there were 3x-4x the # of Kerry lawn signs and bumper stickers as there were Bush. Guess who won the state. There arent many signs for either of them now.

Dan, I know you had a hard week with Steve's loss. But the fact that you never left Multnomah County combined with your last post just proves to me that all the trip did was to reinforce your wishful delusions about November. The electoral math just doesnt work for Obama.

Daniel Spiro said...


I can see you missed the main point of my post. Barack's secret weapon is John McCain. He's become a veritable advertisement for the Democratic Party.

"My friends, remember the old Maverick who used to be even-handed and independent-minded? Well, meet the new John. An Administration lackey, and proud of it! (Who needs a hug?) As for my boys, the veterans, they don't need no stinkin' college! By God, I love 'em too much to send 'em to college. Hell, when I was in college, all I did was party. It was a waste of time. I'd rather have 'em in Iraq ... year ... after ... year ... after year ..."

YoungMan said...


If that's your point, it was worth missing, if you only had made it. That's hardly what McCain thinks or his reasoning with respect to Iraq or his opposition to the Webb bill. The opposition to the Webb bill is reasonably based in the fact that it would disincentivize the most highly trained military cadres to re-enlist. And, yes young whippersnapper, the military is something that I and Senator McCain know far more about that you or Senator Obama could ever dream of. Again, too reflexive of you; does Moulitsas program your brain hourly?

I wish that we lived on the liberals' Big Rock Candy Mountain (listen to your Woody Guthrie) and we could give everybody everything...the legitimate complaint that I have had with the last four-six years is that the Congress has spent money as if LBJ broke into Joe Kennedy's vault of Crown Royal. But given the choice, it is only wise, from a national security perspective, to keep your best soldiers and sailors, just as in business you keep your best producers.

But, Dan, as one who has never made a private sector penny, what would you know about business (not to mention the military)???????

Daniel Spiro said...


I'm off to LA to try to make a "private sector penny" selling fiction. It's a hard way to earn that penny, believe me. Practicing law for the public sector (or the private sector, for that matter) is much easier.