Saturday, October 25, 2008


When I originally conceived of this blogpost, the title wasn’t supposed to have parentheses. I had planned to talk about two flat-out falsehoods. One has been voiced by liberals, the other by conservatives. I still believe the statements to be false. But the first one – the statement made by liberals – is starting to ring more and more true every day.

The statement is succinct: this election is already over. I first heard that claim during the week of the Democratic Convention, which I think we can all agree went off beautifully. Then, immediately after “Sister Sarah” was nominated (that is the term used for her by Patrick Buchanan, who seems to be her political hero), I didn’t merely hear the comment at issue … I started making it. My initial reaction to the Palin pick was that McCain had lost his mind and that Palin would mire her running mate in pathos – like the doddering old man in the old-age home who can’t find his false teeth.

Obviously, that reaction was short-lived. At her own convention, Sarah turned in a performance worthy of Hollywood. She looked great. She smiled at the right times. She read her words with just the perfect intonation. And she had a message of populism and feistiness that struck a chord with men and women alike. Suddenly, Palin/McCain was the happenin’ ticket. Obama looked like Mr. Five Minutes Ago, and Biden looked like Mr. Five Decades Ago.

The polls confirmed my fears. Palin/McCain jumped into the lead. They even took the advantage on Intrade – meaning that the folks who were putting their money where their mouths are thought that Sister Sarah and her daddy had a better than average chance of winning. Needless to say, the game was on.

But not for long, says conventional wisdom. Three things happened at around the same time. First, our nation’s economy began to unravel. Economics was always Obama’s territory, at least in the minds of voters, and once the credit market tightened, McCain would no longer be able to persuade those voters that foreign affairs were more important. Second, McCain’s first reaction to the economic meltdown was to grab a mike and declare that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. Talk about being out of touch. McCain looked positively clueless. Third, America started taking the measure of Sister Sarah – this time, not as someone who reads a speech from a teleprompter but as someone who answers a journalist’s questions. Palin’s interview with Katie Couric was two parts embarrassment and three parts hysteria. Palin couldn’t have made more of a fool of herself had she dropped her trousers and peed on the floor.

"As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state." There you have Sister Sarah’s claim to foreign policy expertise. But what may have been even more telling was that she couldn’t name a single magazine or newspaper that she read. Not one.

Day after day, America was being treated to more bad news about the economy and more absurdity on the Palin front. Obama had regained the clear lead in the polls – and on Intrade. So sure, the chorus of “it’s over” began to grow. Then came the debates. McCain looked cranky (did I mention that he couldn’t find his false teeth?), whereas Barack looked Presidential. Biden answered Gwen Ifill’s questions masterfully; Palin stated that she felt no compulsion to answer the question that was asked. According to the instant polls, the Democrats won four games to zero. A clean sweep. By the end of the last debate, you could almost hear the words “it’s over” drowning out the applause.

It has now been ten days since the final debate – and the same number of days that are left until the election. A lot can happen in ten days, right? Well, they have. McCain/Palin took the offense. They started throwing mud at Obama. Major mud. On the campaign trail, Sister Sarah had her crowd whipped up to a frenzy. “Kill him,” one person chanted. “Terrorist” chanted others. And lest you think that they were only talking about Bill Ayers, the McCain/Palin campaign began distributing leaflets in which the reader couldn’t help but get the impression that a vote for Obama was a vote for terrorism. To make matters worse, Palin (and one of her doppelgangers, a Congresswoman from Minnesota) turned the election into a battle between pro-American and anti-American forces. To Palin, small towns represent “pro-American” areas of the country. The rest of us, by implication, are enemies of the state. After all, most of us support a candidate – Barack Obama – whose views McCain has labeled “socialist” because he supports rolling back taxes to where they were at the time Bill Clinton was President.

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Joseph McCarthy had returned from the grave and is now running the GOP.

According to conventional wisdom, negative campaigning works! But not this time. With each piece of dung that McCain or Palin flings at Barack, he only surges further ahead in the polls. It didn’t help the GOP that one Republican leader after another has endorsed Barack. Or that reporters revealed that Sister Sarah, the so-called Hockey Mom (or “Joe Sixpack” candidate), has spent $150,000 on clothes since her nomination less than two months ago. Some thrifty maverick! We have witnessed the return of the pork politician who campaigned for the Bridge to Nowhere and then, later, funded the Road to Nowhere. Only in this case, the Road is adorned with the most exquisite fabrics. And the recipient of the pork isn’t all of Wassila, or Alaska, but only Sarah and her children. They look mahvellous.

Just a few days ago, I had planned to say that this was still a contest. I could have pointed out that according to the polls, the states in which Obama has a truly comfortable lead would net him somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 or 260 electoral votes – an impressive number, to be sure, but not the 269 he needs to win the election. I could have added that much can still change in the next week and a half, especially when you have Barack’s VP choice making truly dumb comments (I can’t get over his recent line suggesting that bad guys will want to “test” Barack because of his inexperience). And … I remain convinced that the Bradley Effect could well be significant. So on paper, THIS RACE IS NOT OVER. And, in fact, I am still a bit nervous.

But those nerves are in my heart. My mind tells me that it will take an upset of epic proportions for McCain to pull things out now (absent some sort of disaster befalling Barack Obama). What is the source of my confidence? It’s related to that OTHER big lie. This is the one that is told by conservatives. It goes like this: Unlike Palin, Barack lacks executive experience.

Talk about bull.

For the past 20 months, Barack Obama has been the de-facto CEO and Chairman of the Board of an enterprise that has raised and spent many hundreds of millions of dollars. His enterprise has had a large staff, and an enormous number of volunteers. It has inspired a substantial portion of this nation, and an equally impressive contingent of foreign observers. By all possible measures, this enterprise has done an incredibly good job in delivering the goods to its consumer base.

I’m referring, of course, to Barack’s role as the leader of the most impressive political campaign of recent memory. There has been a hiccup here and there, but for the most part, Barack’s troops have behaved flawlessly, and their discipline has merely reflected that of their leader. In speech after speech, and debate after debate, he has been on top of his game. Barack revealed himself to be deeply knowledgeable on virtually all areas of public policy, even holding his own against Hillary Clinton, an acknowledged master of that domain. Moreover, when he needed to deliver a big speech, he did so with an eloquence not seen on these shores since Martin Luther King. Speech giving was Barack’s domain, and in that area, Hillary couldn’t hope to compete.

All campaigns have ebbs and flows, and this one has been no different. Not surprisingly, many of Barack’s supporters have panicked on different occasions – such as when Hillary started pulling away last summer or catching up this spring, or more recently, when Palin-mania took hold. But Barack never panicked; he just went about carrying out his game plan. And that plan was to demonstrate that he was just the opposite of what this nation has come to expect of African-American Democrats who sought the Presidency. Unlike Jackson or Sharpton, Barack was a unifier, not a divider. He asked that we ignore his skin color, but not the plight of working people, black or white, who need our help. He also summoned the nation’s love for religion, ultimately revealing the bigotry and hatred of those who falsely branded him a “Muslim.” And above all else, he developed a grass roots political organization the like of which we have never seen before.

It is precisely because of Barack’s organization that I am so supremely confident about the outcome. For nearly two years, we have heard about how that organization has perfected the art of fundraising in the Internet age. Here are the figures – the campaign has raised more than $600 million since the campaign began, and more than $150 million last month alone. It seems to be the one company in this country that is actually doing well! But just as importantly, the campaign has also done a unprecedented job in assembling boots on the ground. Those volunteers have been busy registering voters, canvassing, and making sure that as many people as possible vote early. The numbers from states that permit early voting are staggering, and they strongly favor Obama.

Personally, I have already voted. I did so because on Election Day, I will be out of state, working to ensure that every vote is counted. In that regard, I am hardly alone. Thousands upon thousands of Obama supporters will be in swing states, working from the time the polls open until the time they close. This time, the nation’s Democrats will not be caught with our pants down. If McCain/Palin are going to win this, they will have to earn it. And so far, you’d have to say, the only thing they’ve earned is plenty of laughs.

I remember the first time I walked into Steve Novick’s campaign headquarters a few days before his nearly-victorious primary election. I saw the staffer who was in charge of the headquarters that day and I said, in essence, “I’ll be here through the night of the election. Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it. No exceptions.” It was easy for me to take that attitude because Steve Novick is one of my best friends. But the interesting thing is that Barack Obama has inspired that same attitude from so many of his troops. Right-wingers mock us for hero worship. But really, this isn’t about hero-worship. This is about motivation. We are motivated to finally take this country back from non-compassionate conservative rule. We are motivated to see what this country could be like with an Administration that isn’t wedded to trickle-down reasoning. We are motivated to learn how well an Obama Administration can perform, given how well an Obama campaign has been run. And we are motivated to ensure that politicians who campaign based on fear and hate will finally come to regret those tactics.

So yes, my mind tells me that because Barack Obama has been such a great executive, and because he’s about ready to harvest the fruits of his labor, he should be a massive favorite to win this election. But … there are many days left in the campaign … he is a black man in a primarily white country … and the Republicans have shown the guts to let it all hang out in attempting to win this election. So I will remain nervous, probably until election night. As far as I’m concerned, that night cannot come soon enough.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Thinks got a little hot and heavy over the weekend with the comments to my last blogpost. So let me say the following:

I can't truly say "I feel your pain." But I can relate to what it feels like to support losing teams. I am, after all, a Democrat. And a Vikings fan. And a Twins fan. And a devoted Stanford Cardinal. (And yes, I watched Stanford's defense fall apart down the stretch to F-Ucla on Saturday.) So I understand the value of venting.

This morning, do yourself a favor. Disregard my words and focus on the eloquent and moving words of Colin Powell this past weekend. I'm willing to bet that you are incapable of descending into the Rush-ian depths of blaming Powell's endorsement simply on his race. And I assume you would recognize that Powell is one of the more distinguished public servants of this past generation. So just listen to what he said about Obama. And then consider whether Obama's highest advisors are truly willing to lower their shields against the terrorists.

As it has been pointed out, I work in D.C. -- nearly at the midpoint of the Capitol and the White House. The last thing I want to see in Washington is a President who is soft on terrorism. But I don't think you'll find that in Barack Obama. Powell, obviously, doesn't either.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


With seventeen days left until the election, the GOP seems to be heading for a train wreck. John McCain, having lost all three debates according to the polls, is reduced to authorizing sleazy robo calls by the same firm that slimed him eight years ago. Apparently, his irreligious brand of uber-patriotism doesn’t require him to follow the Golden Rule. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, who still feels no need to answer the media’s questions, was campaigning in North Carolina, where she praised the audience for living in one of the “pro America areas of this great nation.” I guess that means that they won’t be supporting Barack Obama, who was publicly referred to by Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (Rep. MN) as “very anti-American.” Pity today’s GOP – they’re stuck with Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore when they would have obviously preferred Lee Atwater and Joseph McCarthy.

Yes, “my friends,” I am beginning to feel the death rattle of a campaign. Their only hope left is the Bradley Effect. Secret racists are going to have to come out of the woodwork on election day like cockroaches, especially in purple states like Virginia and Colorado, which are giving Barack his seemingly comfortable margin. It could happen. But right now, it is really looking like America is going to give Sarah Palin and the First Dude a few more years to take out their binoculars and protect us all from the Commies across the Strait.

Frankly, the probable outcome just makes sense. We seem to be at the beginning of the worst economic crunch since the Great Depression. The Republicans had been in power for more than eight years when the market crashed in 1929. Now, we’ve had nearly eight years of light and breezy Republican rule leading up to our present economic mess. Who can blame the voters for wanting to try something different, particularly given that the last Democratic President presided over the greatest stock market boom in decades?

For me, though, I don’t want to focus on one party versus another. I’d prefer to focus on a few individuals. Namely, those 20th century American statesmen who have most achieved “greatness” – or perhaps I should say, who have had “greatness thrust upon them.” What do you say we pick one from each party? I nominate Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

Roosevelt took office when the nation’s economy had hit rock bottom. Viewing that economy as the victim of benign neglect on the part of the government, FRD aggressively summoned governmental power by means that would have previously been viewed as “socialist” by most Americans. As a result, he provided the stimulus our economy needed to get back on its feet. For this, and for his subsequent command of the American military during World War II, he was elected not once, not twice, but four times.

Yes, “my friends,” Roosevelt made mistakes – serious mistakes. As a Jew, I am duty bound to remind you of his appalling conduct in preventing boats containing German Jews from finding safe haven in the United States. Despite possessing clear information about anti-Semitic atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people (my own grandmother was presented a book entitled “Hitler Terror” in February 1934), FDR callously sent these passengers back to Europe … and the ovens.

So no, Roosevelt was no saint. But he became a hero to the American public, and is now generally beloved by Americans, including even Jewish Americans. Such is the benefit of lifting up a nation from its depths and allowing it once again to dream of greatness.

It’s exactly what Ronald Reagan did five decades after the Great Depression. Just think back to the White House that Reagan inherited. His predecessor, Jimmy Carter, had become an almost tragic figure. When he would address the nation about our great “malaise,” I could have sworn that we were being led by Droopy Dog. Unlike Droopy, however, Carter could hardly be an object of pity. He was just too damned sanctimonious. Watching him occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was like watching a clinical depressive blaming everyone but himself for his problems.

Carter’s Presidency was going badly enough when a group of Iranians decided to seize American hostages. Talk about Murphy’s Law! Carter appeared powerless to do anything in response to the terrorists, and Americans felt like laughing stocks. We were obviously desperate for a change. Even a former B-actor who didn’t seem especially intelligent or hard working and who resided on the far right wing of American politics came across by comparison as a breath of fresh air. And so Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected.

One of the things I’ve learned from my dear friend (and nearly the next Senator from Oregon) Steve Novick is that every Democrat needs at least one modern Republican politician to admire. (I’m sure this applies in reverse to Republicans, but I’ll let them speak for themselves on that score.) For Novick, that beloved Republican is Richard Milhous Nixon. For me, it has become Ronald Reagan.

Readers of this blog have read enough of my praise for Reagan in previous posts, so I’ll try not to be too redundant. Suffice it to say, for present purposes, that Reagan shrewdly took advantage of the fact that this nation was ready for bolder, more assertive leadership and implemented a vision combining an aggressive foreign policy with a commitment to laissez-faire economics. We disagree fundamentally on domestic policy, but I cannot deny that he was effective in carrying out the policies that he promised to advocate when campaigning for the office of President. And as for his foreign policy record, is there any doubt that Reagan behaved brilliantly in putting the God-forsaken Cold War out of its misery?

Believe me, “my friends,” I haven’t always been a fan. When they named our local airport after the Gipper, I winced. With the passage of time, though, I came to appreciate Reagan for his honesty, his clarity of vision, and for achieving some very tangible and profound results. As conservative Republicans go, he’s clearly my favorite. And so, when I hear his fellow travelers refer to the man as “great,” I acknowledge the truth of their statement. Similarly, when I heard the Clintons bash Barack this past winter for giving the Gipper his due, I was indignant. No modern politician who hopes to unify this nation, and God knows that we have to do something about our presently polarized state, can ignore altogether the genius of Ronald Reagan. That would be as crazy as ignoring the genius of FDR.

Well, “my friends,” you wouldn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to know where I’m going with this. We have now come to yet another fork in the road in American history. Nobody yet should be talking about The Great Depression II, but our economy has clearly reached crisis proportions. Forget the fact that we’ve lost a zillion dollars in paper assets during the past several weeks. The fact remains that we live in a society where people have become addicted to living beyond their means and where our workforce is no longer the world’s envy when it comes to education and training. We’re also fighting a seemingly endless two-front war with a military that is stretched like an old rubber band. Not surprisingly, comparisons made between the modern U.S. and the Roman Empire at the time of Nero are becoming more and more frequent.

That’s right, “my friends,” the soup we’re in is pretty thick – just like it was in 1932 and 1980. It’s obviously time for a brand spanking new approach, and a new political party to spearhead that approach. But more to the point, it’s time for the American public to get behind the leader who has the stones to step up and take the reigns. Many right wingers would lament the fact that America allowed FDR to create one alphabet soup government agency after another, but history has looked kindly on the economic policies of Mr. Roosevelt. Similarly, many of my fellow liberals wish that we had fought Reagan tooth and nail when he came to power. But even though I disagree with so much of what he did, I have to admit that it was the GOP’s turn in 1980 to grab the national wheel and taker her around for a spin. Call it democracy. Call it faith in experimentation. Call it the right of every American to see what would happen if we took government off the people’s back.

Well … Americans have the same right to see what would happen if, after a period of unbridled capitalism run amuck, we insert some powerful governmental controls. I’m convinced that Barack Obama will do just that, while never forgetting that this is NOT a socialist country. To me, anyone who labels Barack as a creature of the far left is either ignorant or engaging in demagoguery. Barack is a center-left politician who is about to assume control over a country that is center-right at a time when a leftward swing is not only inevitable but necessary. His ability to lead effectively is largely a function of whether the opposition party attempts to rally around him (the way the Democrats rallied around George W. Bush during the first year and a half after 9/11) or whether they attempt to thwart him. We’ve grown accustomed to the latter treatment during the decades after Reagan left office, and the result has been a do-nothing Congress and a government mired in gridlock. But can we really afford more gridlock? Does anyone seriously think that the world economy would benefit from a Calvin Coolidge-type approach coming from Washington? It’s a scary prospect.

Roosevelt and Reagan were men of Teflon. Given the conditions under which they took office and their clear accomplishments after they assumed command, nothing their opponents threw at them ever seemed to stick, or at least not for long. That explains FDR’s four Presidential wins and Reagan’s ability to win 49 states in 1984. John McCain and his McCarthyesque running mate are beginning to realize that Barack Obama has some of the same Teflon qualities. But can he retain that Teflon if he is elected?

I’ll freely admit that, as a politician, Barack has been damned lucky. He ran for U.S. Senate against a Republican who was forced to quit due to scandal. That Republican was replaced by a carpetbagger whose mouth seemed to run about ten times faster than his brain. Moreover, now that Barack is running for President, he finds himself opposing a party with an approval rating of less than epsilon and a candidate who has neutralized his one advantage (greater experience in government) by nominating a neophyte for Veep who apparently can’t identify a single newspaper or magazine that she reads. No question, Barack has received his share of fortunate breaks.

Still, “my friends,” this man hasn’t merely had greatness thrust upon him. From where I’m sitting, he owes his accomplishments primarily to what he has achieved. It has now been more than twenty months since Barack kicked off his campaign on a cold February day in Springfield, Illinois. During these past 600+ days, he has spent virtually the entire time under the nation’s microscope. And from what I can tell, he made only one stupid mistake ; he referred to Pennsylvania’s Reagan Democrats as “bitter.” That’s one boo-boo. One fumble. One bogey. In more than twenty months.

So Barack has been incredibly steady and disciplined. But he hasn’t merely grinded par after par. He’s made plenty of birdies, and more than a few eagles. His speech after winning in Iowa was brilliant. His speech after losing in New Hampshire was even better. He went on to deliver other brilliant speeches – one about race effectively shut down the Jeremiah Wright red herring, and another was at the Convention, where he cleverly toned down his oratory and provided a few more details about his agenda. But Barack is more than just a modern-day Demosthenes. Let’s not forget the incredible organization that he has put together. This organization could conceivably effectively neutralize the Bradley Effect: even though more rednecks will vote against the “Negra” man than they are willing to admit to pollsters, the pollsters may also be underestimating the number of new voters whom the Obama organization will be bringing to the polls. Barack’s organization has also done a masterful job at fundraising, destroying the famed Clinton machine in the winter and breezing by the Republicans this fall.

Barack’s greatest accomplishment may be the way he has effectively navigated between the Scylla and Charybdis of modern American race relations. If he came across as a tad more subdued or understated, he’d be branded as another passive “Democratic Loser,” like Dukakis or Mondale. But if he dared come out firing with too much heat, he’d be viewed as another “angry black man.” Hell, he’s already been called “uppity” by a Congressman despite having behaved like a perfect gentleman.

Just imagine how white America would view Barack if he had acted with half the petulance or arrogance that McCain brought to the debates. Fortunately, we haven’t had to worry about that; even conservative pundits have acknowledged that Barack has consistently displayed perfect pitch in his demeanor. In the end, it is that demeanor – Barack’s seemingly steady hand – that will likely trump all the other factors in these perilous times to earn Barack the Presidency.

That’s right, “my friends,” Barack has come across as cool as Eastwood. As cool as Reagan. As cool as Tiger. How’s that for EQ. Not bad for the first African-American President in the history of the Harvard Law Review.

So let’s say that the odds-makers are correct and Barack wins a comfortable victory. Or let’s say that even cynics like me are correct and that, despite a significantly underestimated Bradley Effect, Barack wins a squeaker. What then? Will he become a President made of Teflon? Or one, like “Still-President Bush,” made of Velcro?

I can’t yet answer that question. But the future of this nation for decades may hinge on that answer. Can we really afford to have another four to eight years of partisan pugilism and Potomac paralysis? We need to lead the world, and not with our cries about responding to imaginary weapons of mass destruction but with our responses to very real weapons of economic and environmental degradation. Are we going to cede that leadership role to Europe? Or Asia? Or do we plan once again to be a player on the international stage? If so, we need a heck of a lot of unity here at home – the same kind of unity that we had during Roosevelt’s war against the Nazis or Reagan’s war against the Russians.

Barack doesn’t appear to be the man of vision that Reagan was. Nor do I see from him the passion of, say, a Martin Luther King. But what I do see is an incredible IQ to match his incredible EQ. And, more specifically, I see his ability and willingness to assemble the best and brightest advisors available on a range of issues, mine their collective wisdom to identify sound positions, and then artfully sell those positions to the public.

Such qualities, “my friends,” are precisely what we will need in our next leader.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Sundown tonight concluded the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, and from all appearances, I was fully partaking in the festivities. At 2:00 this afternoon, I gave a talk about Moses the Heretic during the break between the Musaf and Afternoon services, and this allowed me to talk at length about justice, peace and truth. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about slime.

You see, not long after my talk was over, I skipped the Afternoon service and headed home to join my wife. She spent most of the day dealing with the consequences of a blockage to our sewer line. By four o’clock, it was my turn. The basement was disgusting. Then again, I should have recognized the dreck. It was very reminiscent of the crap that I’ve heard over the airwaves recently from John McCain and his minions.

I don’t have much time to post before I head out for a wedding in California. So let me cut to the chase. The McCain campaign’s efforts to link Barack Obama with a known terrorist aren’t just slimy, they’re pathetic. From what I can tell, William Ayers was a terrorist when Barack was eight years old, but by the time Barack came to know the man (and not especially well at that), Ayers was a professor. And he has since come to be awarded for his citizenship by the city of Chicago.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim, and he isn’t a Jew. He’s a Christian. As such, he associates himself with a religious tradition that, perhaps more visibly than any other faith, extols the possibility of redemption. Well, I don’t know about you, but the life of William Ayers sure seems like a classic case of redemption to me. It would have been odd for Obama, as a Christian, to refuse to treat the man with respect given the extent to which Ayers appears to have given up violence in exchange for scholarship and charity.

Let’s assume that I’m wrong, though. Let’s assume that Bill Ayers’ association with Barack Obama truly was a legitimate issue – the kind of issue that should make us question Barack’s qualifications for President. That certainly seems to be the position of Sarah Palin. If that’s the case, then why didn’t John McCain have the stones to raise the Ayers issue during the recent debate? Not once did he mention the name Ayers. Nor did he mention any of Barack’s other associations with unpatriotic individuals. McCain left that to the rants of his lieutenants, and the fascistic types who attend their rallies and spew unspeakable comments. During the debate, McCain was all substance.

I guess it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. Perhaps because McCain was all substance, Barack was too, and the general consensus is that Barack either tied or won. Some say he won handily. But frankly, even a tie for Barack wasn’t exactly what McCain needed. He needs a game changer. He won’t find one on the issues. So, as I discussed in my last blog, he’s apparently resorting to slime … though only in situations where Barack isn’t given a chance to defend himself.

Are you watching this, America? It sure looks to me like the implosion of a once-beloved politician. My only question is whether members of his party – not just journalists, but other politicians – will start to say enough is enough. Do you want irony? It was Joe Lieberman, McCain’s dear friend, who finally (and thankfully, from my perspective) blew the whistle on William Jefferson Clinton from the Democratic side of the aisle. Now, we need a Lieberman-like figure on the GOP side to call out McCain for his chicken-shit brand of slime. If that doesn’t happen, the voters won’t just blame McCain/Palin. They’ll blame ALL the Republicans, and if that happens, the dreaded 60 votes in the Senate may not be out of the question.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


It has been a little while since I attempted to handicap the Presidential race in this blog. Most recently, I had effectively declared the race a toss up, after having predicted an Obama victory for months. The fact is that Barack ran a lackluster campaign during most of this summer, and even though he came up with a pair of Kings when he put on a convention in Denver, McCain answered with a pair of Aces when he introduced Sarah Barracuda in St. Paul. At that point, this game was as close to 50/50 as it gets.

But then … we’ve seen one GOP disaster after another. And Barack? He hasn’t had to do anything but watch and get out of the way.

For a guy like me with savings in the Market, it is sad to think that the only way your candidate can open some ground in the polls is for you (and others like you) to lose lots of money. That may, however, be the reality. When McCain declared the “fundamentals” of the economy sound at the same time that things were clearly beginning to fall apart, he revealed himself as being totally worthless when it comes to economics. Don’t get me wrong – I can sympathize. Econ was my first major in college, and though I finished the coursework and even developed a pretty good grasp of microeconomics, the macroeconomic principles were always lost on me. So I’m not so much putting down McCain, as pointing out that at a time like this, no candidate can afford to be exposed as ignorant about what could be the most critical area of the next Presidency.

The truth is that the fundamentals of the economy are anything but sound. And McCain’s excuse for making the statement – that he was talking about the American workforce – is as lame as it gets, for it suggests that he doesn’t know the first thing about economic terminology. That’s right – it suggests that he knows even less than I do about macroeconomics, which would be pathetic.

Still, when I reflect more deeply on the situation, I wonder if the “fundamentals” comment was really what tipped this election. Even had McCain not decided to channel his inner Bush (“Brownie’s doing a heck of a job”) when it comes to the economy, he would still be in a major mess. He has already admitted that he doesn’t understand economics. He hardly seems like an especially quick study. And his decisions to suspend the campaign one day, and drop out of a crucial swing-state a week later, make him look positively panicked. It’s gotten to the point where even Charles Krauthammer – yes, arguably the most conservative columnist who writes for a mainstream newspaper – has praised Barack Obama as being the steady one of the two. As Krauthammer said in yesterday’s Washington Post, after skewering McCain relentlessly, “Obama has “got both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament. That will likely be enough to make him president.”

Yes, Virginia – that wasn’t written by E.J. Dionne or Eugene Robinson, that was Charles By God Krauthammer. Now, finally, maybe it really is time for McCain to panic.

OK, fine, his troops might say. But what is there exactly to do? McCain is boring in the debates – steady, to be sure, but boring. It will be difficult to use those appearances as vehicles to change the game. What about the secret weapon – the Barracuda? Maybe she can get the job done, right? Well, maybe not. What Charles Gibson hasn’t done to knock her down a few notches, Katie Couric has. And what Couric couldn’t do to twist the knife, that was left to the brilliant Tina Fey. By the time that troika finished with the Barracuda, she was little more than a minnow. And a minnow isn’t nearly powerful enough to take on the extremely impressive debating skills of Joe Biden.

Believe me, folks, Biden was the best debater of all the Democratic candidates in this election cycle. And perhaps that’s why Barack selected him. He may well have developed quite an admiration for the man as being the kind of debater that Barack only wishes he could be.

Mainstream media pundits desperate for a close election may be grasping at something, anything, to keep this race close for the next month, and thereby boost their ratings. But trying to sell the idea that Palin fought Biden to a draw just won’t cut it. Biden may not have knocked Sarah out (and kudos to her for that), but this was no close decision. Give her the first couple of rounds, and give him the last ten. That’s an eight point victory, fight fans. Not a contest.

So then, what’s an old war horse to do? There’s a month left, and seemingly no hope. All the “fundamentals” of this election cycle seem to be tilting blue. Does this mean it’s all over?

What do you think, sports fans? Do you think McCain and Palin are going to go down quietly? We’re not talking about the party of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. We’re talking about the party of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. And they’ve got the ultimate trump card: Barack’s skin color. Heck, it’s not just his skin color. It’s his name, his quasi-Muslim background, and his associations with radical whites and America-hating blacks. The job during the next month will be to turn Barack H. Obama, constitutional law professor, into B. Hussein Osama, radical of the religious-left.

That may indeed be John McCain’s best shot. My question is whether he wants to take it. Remember, folks, this is the Politician-Formerly-Known-As-John-McCain. At one point, he was quite literally the “Prince” of politics. Might it be possible that he will be willing to sling only so much mud? Might it be possible that, in the end, while he may not opt for the high road, he at least might avoid the seventh circle of hell?

I don’t know the answer to that question. But after one McCain/Palin screw up after another … after another … in the month of September, that might be the only question left to answer in October. Actually, no. There is one more question – if McCain does go for the gutter and spend the next month there, might he actually win?

I can’t answer that one either. But I haven’t forgotten the trump card. I’m sure Barack hasn’t either.