Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fear and loathing on the campaign trail

Convention #1 done, convention #2 coming, some random political thoughts...

PhotobucketSarah Palin. Really? I dunno. Hey, I was born in Alaska, it's good to see the Far North represent, but honestly -- if a 44-year-old governor of a tiny-population state who's been in office only two years is his choice, John McCain and crew have automatically invalidated any attacks on Obama's "inexperience" for the rest of the campaign. Frankly, for a 72-year-old cancer survivor, this is a rather astonishingly glib choice to make. I have nothing against Palin (and like most of the country had barely heard of her), but her choice seems like a major pander, a "shock" pick that avoids substance in favour of quota-ism response to Hillary Clinton's supporters -- never mind that Palin and Clinton are almost diametrically opposite on every issue. Even among women Republicans I can think of several names - Elizabeth Dole, Olympia Snowe, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Christine Todd Whitman -- with more experience. Of course, most of those names are pro-choice, which the far-right wing holding McCain's leash couldn't abide. Is this a Quayle moment?

Joe Biden. I've always rather liked Joe, one of those old workhorse liberal senators who isn't ultra-flashy, but who is respected. I think he was a fantastic choice and unlike Palin, sends a message of seriousness. Years ago I read Richard Ben Cramer's great book on the 1988 campaign, "What It Takes," and Biden came across as one of the most interesting candidates that year, populist, relatively genuine and intellectually curious, combinations I always like. And God forbid, if anything happens to Obama, I easily believe Biden could be President.

PhotobucketObama's speech. Geezus pleezus, that was a lot of people. The man can deliver a speech, and this one nicely moved between his usual rousing idealism, attacks on the opposition and delivering concrete proposals. It's going to be awfully hard for McCain and crew to top this. At this point I'm optimistic (um, but I also was in 2000 and 2004, I admit). The only real way McCain and co. can win is through fear and loathing, as they sure can't win on policies. But maybe, maybe the American public is finally getting tired of slander in place of ideas. The Democratic tactic is going to be to tie Bush right around the so-called 'maverick's' neck until November, and that's a hard knot to undo. Frankly, I'm amazed at how bad McCain's campaign has been run so far. They've been schizophrenic, reactionary and snarky -- all out of the Rove playbook of course, but without the crisp discipline we saw in the last two Bush campaigns.

While I know which team I am pulling for, it is pretty remarkable that we've made it to the point where no matter what happens, we'll have a black president or a woman vice president for the very first time. I didn't see this happening for at least another 10 years. Here's what I wonder -- did the very fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney's presidency was such an unrelenting failure of ideas and governance create a climate that made choices outside the white, male box seem more plausible? Would Obama and Palin be viable choices if it weren't coming after 8 years of Bush/Cheney? What do you think?

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