Posts Tagged ‘palin’

Mortal kombat: Palin vs. Biden

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

If ever there was a wild-card debate, it’s this one. Everyone’s expecting Biden to mop the floor with Palin, but I’m not so sure. First of all, Biden’s prone to gaffes, and has a motormouth that may as well be powered by the Energizer bunny. The more he talks, the less Palin has to say.  Which is exactly how her handlers want it: as of a few days back, the word leaked from the McCain camp was that the debate prep for Palin was going less than stellar (astonishing as that may sound), but keep in mind that prepping for a debate is different than prepping for an interview. What’s been killing Palin are the follow-up questions that take her out of the Land of Prepared Scripting, and there’s far less opportunity for that kind of cross-ex in a debate.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the odds against her are as long as a candidate at this level has faced. There’s a reason why the McCain camp was trying to postpone this one, and it’s the same reason why moderator Gwen Ifill is being subjected to an unprecedented pre-emptive attack in the name of expectations management. There may even be scenarios where Palin cancels the debate altogether and flies back to Alaska to deal with the sudden health problem of a family member (my money would be on Trig).  But . . .  there are also scenarios where Biden comes off as an arrogant prick, and Palin as a likeable Annie Oakley, dispensing frontier justice and witticisms from her quiver of pre-fabricated (yet potentially world-class) sound-bites, thereby arresting the free-fall into which her poll #s have gone into.  Stranger things have happened in American politics, that’s for sure.  Tonight is going to be a don’t-miss-it circus.

Obama veers into Carterland

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

So Obama clearly had his work cut out for him appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show. But O’Reilly couldn’t be happier with this first part of the interview. What a #$# disaster for Obama. The clip’s at the end of this (and at this link): but on question after question Obama comes off as a waffler. If he goes into the debates like this, he’s going to get taken apart. Play by play:

First, at the beginning; Obama suddenly smiles, and it looks fake as hell. This is undoubtedly Fox News’ little touch (it’s a travesty they call themselves unbiased and fair); he didn’t know when the camera started running, but it’s not a great start.

Second, he’s asked if he thinks Iran is a threat, and he launches into a discussion of Sunni vs. Shiite. Does he think Middle America cares? He should have just said, absolutely, it’s a threat and left it at that.

Third, when he’s asked if he would use military force against Iran if necessary, he says he wouldn’t take the option off the table. A yes answer would have been a little more impressive.

Fourth, when he’s asked would he even PREPARE for the military force option against Iran he starts waffling about all those other great options:  embargos, sanctions, etc., etc., while O’Reilly jumps all over him.  Aargh.

Fifth:  the surge.  This is giving Obama all sorts of trouble, especially because he’s already said the surge has worked “beyond our wildest dreams.”  So naturally when O’Reilly says, “c’mon, admit it, you were right on the decision to go to war, and wrong on the surge, c’mon, just say it,” Obama comes off as stubborn.  There’s a far easier way out of this:  look, Bill, the surge may be working so far, but it hasn’t worked yet….and unless we follow it up with rebuilding and aid to Iraq it’s not going to work….and if we do all that, I’ll be happy to come on your show and say it works but until then how about you shut the fuck up with all your posturing, huh, Bill?

Sixth:  when they get to Pakistan, O’Reilly taunts him with “well, you wouldn’t send in the ground troops”, and Obama doesn’t disagree.  We’ve already HAD ground troops (well, special forces) in Pakistan; why assume anything at this point?

Anyway.  Point being we’ve seen all this before:  Democratic candidates/presidents coming off as being way too reluctant to use military force.  It spells electoral disaster.  And it also makes for weak presidents.

The experience question, and the Palin trade-off

Friday, September 5th, 2008 has a great article on how overblown the whole experience issue is. Put bluntly, there’s no evidence to suggest that less experienced presidents underperform more experienced presidents. This is in large part due to the nature of the Oval Office: by definition, everyone who ends up there has no idea what it’s really like, and they’re going to be playing catch-up as best they can.

Which may still leave open the question as to whether there’s an “experience threshold”: i.e., a desirable minimum of exposure to the pitfalls of high office prior to taking over the highest office of them all. While the Dems hasten to defend the magic power that serving only a few years in the Senate can apparently have (at least on Democratic candidates), I think the most telling argument in favor of Obama is the campaign he’s run:  a highly successful undertaking that beat the favored incumbent and may yet win the presidency.  While the nature of modern campaigning gets (and deserves) a lot of flack, the sheer volatility/complexity of running a national campaign has the benefit of signaling when someone’s totally unqualified, as a candidate who loses control of his campaign isn’t likely to make a good president.  (Which is one reason I think Kerry would have been a disappointment had he won in 04.)  This of course doesn’t prove that Obama would make a great president, but it does at least indicate he has the potential.

Palin is more of an enigma.  Whereas with Obama we have at least have some clue as to how he might cope with a blizzard of domestic and foreign issues/crises, with her we have none (beyond, of course, her socially conservative views).  This doesn’t mean she would make a terrible president.  Were she to shadow a President McCain for several months/years, she may yet cut a formidable figure on the world stage.  Great leaders often come from humble origins and backgrounds; there’s nothing in Palin’s biography to suggest she won’t learn if given time.

But that’s the problem:  time.  McCain is betting that he’ll have it, and he may, if all goes according to plan.  The press is agog with the notion that the Palin pick is a terrible risk to his campaign.  I don’t think it is:  she will fire up the GOP base like no one has done since Ronald Reagan, and her very lack of experience will prove to be a boon with an electorate desperate for something new.  The real risk here is that Palin may succeed quickly to the presidency, and I can’t see anyone arguing with a straight face that putting someone into that office after (let’s say) three months in the national spotlight isn’t a colossal gamble.  It’s hard to escape the notion that in picking Palin, McCain has optimized his campaign at the expense of his legacy, and the repercussions could be with us for a long time to come.

Governor Palin’s debut

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Sarah Palin’s speech last night was pretty much made to order: she scrupulously avoided all (well, most) of the really controversial stuff, and instead beat the drumbeat of family values and small town Americana. The questions that swirl around her will only intensify across the next few days, though, with the really big wild-card being whether there any other surprises in her past that the McCain campaign failed to discover.

And there may well be. But nothing that’s surfaced so far is likely to be damaging, despite the growing speculation. In fact, a lot of those “issues” in Palin’s past are likely to redound to the GOP’s favor. The “Troopergate” question, for example: Palin may have crossed the line, but the cop she was targeting was clearly completely out of control, and the details of the incident are unlikely to win her anything but electoral sympathy, regardless of what the law says. And as to the speculation on her/her daughter’s baby: do the Democrats really believe there’s serious upside to pursuing this? Based on what we know now, nothing that’s occurred in the Palin household is likely to disturb the voters of Red State America. If anything, they’ll rally around her more fervently.

And that’s likely to be the crux of the matter. Palin has virtually no chance of pulling any but the most diehard/confused of Hilary Clinton’s followers into her orbit. But she has energized the Republican base in a way that I suspect the mainstream media (and certainly the left) has yet to fully understand. There are many reasons why we’ve had only two Democratic presidents since Richard Nixon took over. One of them is the Dems’ perennial tendency to underestimate their opponents. In focusing on the Alaska governor’s experience, they run the risk of falling into the same trap.  McCain is betting that Palin will ignite the NASCAR circuits this fall, ensuring that the GOP base is mobilized and in the voting booths this November. From what I’ve seen so far, he’s probably right.  Whether this can be done without diminishing McCain’s chances of clawing enough centrist votes to win:  that’s the big question.