Sunday, September 07, 2008


Well folks, the inevitable has happened. After enjoying an eight point lead in the Gallup Tracking poll only a week or so ago, Barack Obama now trails by three points. I say it was inevitable, because the media has clearly become infatuated with a different politician. Obama has lost his “celebrity” status – he’s becoming just another politician. Sarah Palin is the flavor of the week. Or is it the month? Or is it the season? I can’t definitively answer the latter two questions, but I think I could answer it if the Democrats don’t have anything in mind to change the dynamic.

My wife captured the moment quite aptly when she said that Sarah Palin has captivated a nation that is hooked on Reality TV. She’s become this year’s American Idol. And there’s no Simon Cowell to put her down.

Barack Obama won’t do it – he has trouble putting down anyone, except maybe George Bush (talk about a piƱata!). Joe Biden won’t do it – I was shocked and frankly appalled when he referred to Palin’s put down of community organizers as a “great line.” Are you kidding me? That’s our attack dog? His opponent insults thousands of hard working, low paid, public servants by claiming that they have no “actual responsibilities,” and our attack dog says “great line”?

Apparently, Hillary won’t put down the new American Idol either – at least that’s what is being reported. She was willing in the spring to tarnish Barack by making invidious comparisons between him and John McCain, but she’s not willing to take on a politician who would lock up a rape victim for aborting her fetus, ignore global warming, cut taxes for the rich, and say absolutely nothing about foreign policy?

I used the term rope-a-dope the other day to refer to a GOP strategy. I can only hope the Dems are employing it now, or perhaps they’re waiting a couple of more days for the glow of last Wednesday night to wear off. But just as likely, they are revealing the typical Democratic reluctance to take the gloves off.

This, remember, is the same political party that threw my friend Steve Novick under the bus in Oregon because they found a monotonous and uninspired professional politician to run for Senator. Novick dominated the contest, except for one thing – he couldn’t compete with all the money that the Party establishment in D.C. threw at his opponent. So Novick lost by three percent. And – surprise! – the GOP candidate seems to be ahead after the Democrat has run a lackluster general election campaign.

Going back in history a bit, this is the same political party who, in the past two decades, went down to defeat after nominating a war hero who allowed others to mock his war record (John Kerry), a successful Vice President who campaigned as a block of wood (Al Gore), and a brilliant Governor who showed not a shred of emotion when asked how he would react to hearing about his wife being raped (Michael Dukakis). Methinks the party needs a little less reason and a bit more spirit.

What follows is a passage from The Creed Room that I wrote a few years ago to illustrate the plight of the Democrats. I had hoped we would have learned our lesson by 2008, but I’m beginning to wonder if we ever will.

“Tolerance. Compassion. Reason. These are words that most Americans can rally around, regardless of their political affiliation. I still believe that liberal Americans have been the most consistent in fighting for these principles, but they haven't fought with balls …

“Lately, we've heard them hype their leaders as warriors. Don't make me laugh. Warriors are characterized above all by their courage. When they run for office, they must show the guts to act decisively and to risk their political lives on unpopular positions. Warrior politicians don't claim to be more “competent” or “smarter.” They claim that deep down, you know they're right.

“Remember that this is a country that loves guns, hates taxes, and isn't overly concerned about universal health care. How do the liberals take power in such a place? Certainly not by playing it safe and pretending to be something they're not. In order to win, liberals must inspire. And …if you want to inspire, you had better be authentic.

“… Stop being liberals in moderates' clothing. Show your balls. Maybe you won't get people to agree with you, but at least they might respect you. That would be a start.”

When a political unknown with an unimpressive record insults not only you but a group who is part of the very heart and soul of your movement (community organizers), isn’t it time to strike back? And when you do strike, isn’t it time to do so with some sharp words – words indicating passion, and not pensiveness?

What I saw this morning from Biden and Barack on the talk shows was the typical Democratic appeal to the mind. But if they hope to avoid the fate of Dukakis, Gore and Kerry, they had better appeal just as much to the viscera. I guarantee you that Sarah Palin gets that, and she hasn’t even had to deal with losing seven Presidential elections out of the last ten.

You’d think experience would be a great teacher. You’d think the “Hillraisers” would have learned from experience that Reagan was on to something when he termed the Eleventh Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Criticize a Fellow Republican.” You’d think Barack and Biden would learn that when you’re swift boated, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. And you’d think that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would realize that at a time when every party needs money for the General Election, you don’t throw huge bucks at machine politicians so that they can beat inspired insurgent candidates in PRIMARIES.

You’d think. Then again, just as nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter, nobody ever got rich betting on the Democrats to communicate with those voters either. They have two months left to go against their instincts and fight for hearts more than minds.

Let’s put it this way, sports fans. It’s late in a close game, and the Democrats have the ball. But I’m afraid the Republicans have the lead. If that sounds like a toss up, it’s because it is.


YoungMan said...

Sounds like they need a Steve Earle or Johnny Cougar song. Oh, I'm sorry that's beneath you in the beltway ghetto (btw a ghetto, as I'm sure you'd agree, is not a place of poverty but is a place of isolation whether enforced or hermetic).

I agree. Joey (who you know I like viscerally) seem to pull his punches today.


Daniel Spiro said...


It might be OK for the Dems to let Palin fever dim ... for a few days. But they don't have a few weeks.

As for this "ghetto" crap, the nation is fairly polarized geographically, so in the sense that you're using the term, the whole nation is ghettoized.

YoungMan said...

Oy kvetch.


YoungMan said...


I do trash you when you deserve it. But you did say something that was so visceral (or perhaps aortal) that you failed in all your brilliance to grasp it.

"You’d think. Then again, just as nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter, nobody ever got rich betting on the Democrats to communicate with those voters either. They have two months left to go against their instincts and fight for hearts more than minds._

Lenin was intelligent. Stalin was intelligent. God forbid, Hitler was intelligent.

Churchill, Roosevelt and Reagan saved our world because they appealed to our hearts as well as our minds. Obama doesn't know how. Maybe Hillary does though, I'll agree she's borderline Nixonian. Even Joey does.

McCain ain't great at the mind thing, but he's a mensch. Sarah is too...and I'll make Joey an honorary one.

Barack never will be. I heard him against O'Reilly. He's good. But heart>mind every time.

You get it. Your candidate doen't and neither does your party. Thst's why Muskie or Humphrey could have possibly beaten Nixon in '72, and why Hillary on either the top or bottom of this ticket might have made it no contest.

Barry's no mensch. He's an exotic McGovern with oratory (and frankly beating Alan Keyes because Ryan had p***** instincts ain't much.

Again if W. didn't try to be DeLay, he'd have no chance; Ford only lost to Carter because of Nixon (and maybe thank god Ford lost cause there would have been no Reagan). I actually worry that the winning presidential party in '08 (no matter who it is) will be in the wilderness for a long time. (remember Johnson '64 Dan, careful what you wish for).

I believe in McCain because he was Machiavellian enough to do what he may have had to to win. Barry's no different. I hope for the sake of the Country that neither of them will pander to the extremes when they goven. But with Pelosi and Reid, I fear a Johnsonian disater if Obama wins.


Daniel Spiro said...


I don't know why you refuse to call Obama a mensch. I think he is one. And I think he would make an excellent President.

What I don't think is that he is an ideal campaigner.

He has put together a fabulous organization in terms of geting out the vote, but whoever is responsible for putting him "on message" or doing his ads is really screwing up.

I still can't get over Biden saying that the community organizing line -- which offended the hell out of me, and I've never been a community organizer -- is a "great line." That probably won't get much press, but to me, it was as close as we've seen to John Kerry responding to the Swift Boat ads.

Man it's difficult to be a Democrat some time ... but at least it's allowed me to get some books published.

YoungMan said...

I take back the mensch comment

I just saw 2 of his 3 O'Reilly segments.

He handled himself well and I give him the respect he is due for living up to his previous commitment and holding his ground in a hostile environment. You and I can appreciate a performance like that (even though we disagree with one or the other of the interlocutors), I don't think many can or will.

I still find him badly wrong on the issues as I, and most Americans are coming to do as they have come to understand his positions.


Daniel Spiro said...


I'd like you to consider this -- America wouldn't be a functioning Democracy if it didn't allow for the Presidencies of both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

I have come to admire Reagan as a politician even though I disagree with his positions on the issues. That's because I like the fact that he is a man of integrity and vision who was straight with the country about who he is and what direction he wants to take us, and wasn't afraid to take unpopular positions.

Barack isn't Reagan. He has other virtues. But the point is that conservatives need to be able to embrace Barack for those virtues, just as liberals who are true patriots need to be able to embrace Reagan for his. Ironically, one of the things that pissed me off most that Hillary did was take Barack on for praising Reagan. I now refer to Reagan as one of my "political role models." Barack, for all his faults -- and he does have some big ones -- is another such role model.

YoungMan said...

I understand and respect your point, but it also allows for a Mc-Palin presidency as well. Barack is not inevitable thank God.