Monday, March 03, 2008

Running on empty, part two

In contrast to previous years' campaigns, the early primaries and caucuses this year mean that we'll know very soon - in principle, at least! - who the candidates will be. What everyone will do between March and August is then anyone's guess. The Republican nominee is virtually certain now, so we'll take a look at the other side.

In spite of Hillary Clinton's early-on air of "inevitability," the Democratic discontent with seeing the Clintons return to the White House (especially given the fact that almost everyone around Clinton is a retread) proved potent. Obama has ridden his balloon upward on this discontent, to the point of seeing the nomination within reach. There's a lot of unhappiness all around at seeing American politics turn dynastic, with Bush, then Clinton, then Bush, then ... wait, stop! :)

The problem is that Obama, while he's played a smart game for several months, has been pushed too far, too fast. He's one of the most underqualified presidential candidates ever, and the air is starting to rush out of his balloon as everyone takes a closer look at his past and at his associates. After seven years of liberals and others complaining about Bush being too provincial and too much of a lightweight - complaints not without foundation - we have now the spectacle of the Democratic field being reduced early on to the two least qualified candidates, with both of them then turning to an ugly identity-politics brawl and interest-group panderfest.

Their recent exchange about leaving the NAFTA trade agreement drew swift responses from the Canadian and Mexican embassies. Embarrassingly, the Obama campaign reassured both that the rhetoric was strictly for the rubes, then publicly denied making such reassurances - leaving us to wonder just who the rubes are. Nothing like alienating allies, friends, and treaty partners! There's much stronger evidence that the Obama campaign routinely bends or breaks the truth routinely in many matters, not just this one. It's not because Obama is some evil conniver; it's because he's in way over his head. Even the shallow end of the pool isn't shallow enough for Obama, his campaign, and his followers. This is why many people are reminded, not only of George W., but of Carter and other "pure" candidates making vacuous promises of "change." Such candidates are largely a function of the hopes and ambitions that people around them project on to them - they lack, and have not had the time or circumstances to define, their own political identity.

So what about tomorrow? If Obama wins everything, he's the nominee. If Hillary wins one or more of the big states (which is likely), the convention will be brokered. At this point, the superdelegates' role will be pivotal regardless of what happens tomorrow. And that will result in an unavoidable uproar over how "democratic" the Democrats are. Neither candidate is really qualified to be president. Clinton is somewhat more viable, has run strong in the large swing states, and has a better shot at defeating McCain in November. Obama would have far less chance. If Hillary does get the nomination, she will end up fighting for it - it won't be the walk-in-the-park coronation she and her supporters were expecting.

And hopefully, this fiasco will leave the mainstream media's credibility more shredded than ever. They've obsessively peddled "narrative" (meaning credulous BS) over fact for months now, in order to get Obama the nomination. Want to see how and how much our addiction to the news media and television damages our politics? Just watch it - it's happening right in front of you.

POSTSCRIPT: Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, check out this interesting discussion on Obama and the Jewish vote. Early on, it became clear that, contrary to some nasty rumors floating around the Internet, Obama is not personally threatening to American Jews or Israel. American Jews do have legitimate larger concerns about Obama's wide-eyed inexperience and parochialism and especially some of the people around him - but so does everyone else. It's just that Jewish anxiety is different from all other anxieties and gets focused early. The evidence is that the American Jewish vote (which is about 2:1 Democratic) is largely going for Clinton.

And don't miss these thoughts from Michael Totten on Obama and the Middle East, particularly on why Obama alarms a lot of foreigners. My own experience with foreigners closely matches Totten's observations. One of Totten's guest bloggers is Lee Smith, who has this. It should be read by everyone who thinks that the American way of dealing with religion is the rest of the world's - it isn't.

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