Carol Platt Liebau: January 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Status Quo Debate

Tonight, Hillary Clinton needed to stop bleeding from her own self- (and husband-) infliected wounds. Barack Obama needed ot maintain the "inspirational," above the fray quality that is becoming his hallmark.

Taken together, it made for a fairly boring, status quo debate. Nothing was lost, and very little was gained for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton tonight, which ultimately benefits Hillary. I'd also give the slight edge to Hillary, because her answers seemed a bit more comprehensive and nuanced than did Barack's, and from time to time he seemed even a bit naive and shallow, especially talking about issues like withdrawal from Iraq.

Both candidates were obviously hoping to scoop up Edwards' people, openly -- at the debate's beginning -- making bids for their favor, whether it was Obama commending him or Hillary denouncing the lobbyists.

The question about whether illegal immigrant take blacks' jobs was interesting; Barack seemed to be trying to pull a bit of a Sister Souljah, saying that job troubles in the black community weren't primarily because of illegal immigrants (no doubt he'd like to gain a bit of the Latino vote that's going for Hillary; will his support for drivers' licenses for illegals be of help to him?). Hillary Clinton took a softer line -- no doubt because she'd like to hang on to as much of the black vote as possible, and because she knows she and her husband need to mend fences.

Hillary does sound more realistic, less pie-in-the-sky when it comes particularly to the foreign policy questions. If there was an edge tonight, it would go to her.

It was interesting that there was a question for Barack about the sex and violence in the mass media. He (correctly) said that censorship isn't the answer, invoked his two young daughters, and then did everything he could not to alarm the entertainment people who were there.

But how funny is it to see the shots of the celebrities in the audience, trying to look all intellectual and serious?

And So It Begins . . .

Any Republican who has been supporting John McCain because s/he believes that he's a press darling who won't be raked over the coals like most GOP'ers are should take a look at this.

And McCain hasn't even won the nomination yet.

Rise of the Moderates?

Real Clear Politics' John McIntyre seems convinced that John McCain is the strongest general election candidate (assuming, of course, that he can hold the conservative base - a big assumption, at this point at least).

As evidence, he notes that the GOP chose in '06 to showcase moderates like Schwarzenegger and Giuliani at its convention, in an effort to send a message to moderates and Democrats that they were welcome.

Well, that's good politics, especially when one has a conservative nominee -- like George W. Bush. In a sense, Republicans could afford to showcase their leftward face because (and perhaps only because) the right flank of the party was so completely on board -- and because conservatives are realistic enough to understand that, with a liberal MSM providing the lens through which the rest of the country would view the convention, this was the best way to get good coverage.

The question now is twofold: First, given the widespread conservative mistrust (and outright dislike) of McCain, how will this year's convention look? Isn't there a good chance that a number of conservative speakers will have to be showcased endorsing McCain just to quell the concern of a largely dispirited base?

Second, if so, how's that going to play in the MSM (with a narrative that McCain's sold out to the right, perhaps?) Will the press really go easy on McCain hoping that conservatives in the GOP will be marginalized through a McCain victory? Or, more likely, will they be unable to resist the temptation to compensate for their formerly favorable coverage of the "maverick" -- especially when he's up not against a conservative, but a real, dyed-in-the-wool liberal?

As I noted last night: Get ready for some new press buzzwords in the press coverage:

Temprament: The 2008 version of 2000's "gravitas" - The purported reason McCain is unsuited to the presidency

Gender Gap: The 2008 version of "Is Bush is too conservative?" - The purported reason McCain can't win the presidency

Keating 5: The 2008 version of "Bush is stupid" - The purported reason McCain is unworthy of the presidency

It's not going to be pretty.

Clinton: She Can Control Husband

Or so she says. Is it fair to ask: Since when?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards: Extracting a Price?

John Edwards is out.

It would seem that his voters would have already made up their minds to reject Clinton, and so this development would help Obama. Then again, Edwards' "beer drinking" constituency is closer demographically to Clinton supporters than to the "wine drinkers" who support Obama.

Having beat the drums for "change" and focused most of his fire on Hillary, the Clinton people have to be terrified that Edwards will endorse Obama. And it's interesting that Edwards has been cagy about whom he will endorse.

How much would you bet that the Clinton camp has already initiated overtures? What do you think Edwards wants? Attorney General (shudder)?

First Hand At the Debate

My husband and I had the opportunity to attend tonight's debate in person. We sat in the fourth row, and had a bird's eye view of the candidates and much else.

All the candidates (especially Romney and McCain) looked terribly tired (not to mention smaller and thinner than they do on television, of course). My theory is that fatigue brings out people's faults.

Governor Romney came off as less forceful than, perhaps, his supporters would have liked to see him. But how much worse was Senator McCain. I am no McCain fan, as readers know, but no doubt like so many other Republicans, I was looking for any inkling of a reason that I could feel "less bad" about him winning the nomination, if that happens. I got none. He came across (in the words of a '70's song) as "meaner than a junkyard dog."

His persistance in insisting that Romney called for a timetable in Iraq -- when even the New York Times has called it untrue -- was remarkable, and dishonest. Worse yet was his continued digs at Romney's wealth. Whether he was telling Romney that he could "spend all his money" on attack ads, contrasting his service "for patriotism" with Romney's "for profit," or even making the observation that people had lost their jobs during Romney's career as a businessman, McCain came off as the kind of class warrior that belongs in the Democrat Party, not the Republican.

What's worrisome about the attacks is that they were as inexplicable as they were gratuitous. McCain is the clear frontrunner, and his obvious mission should have been to reach out to all Republicans and certainly not to alienate any. He failed so miserably that one has to wonder whether he can help himself. What's more, given his obvious bitterness and resentment of Romney's attack ads -- which, as Chris Wallace said on Fox News last night, have been completely issues oriented -- is he at all prepared for what Hillary will do to him? It won't be pretty. And if he gets into a debate with Senator Clinton and behaves as badly as he did tonight, she'll have the makings of another Rick Lazio moment.

Finally, two perceptions. First, John McCain is going to have a problem with female voters. This was the first debate of this year that I have watched in a crowd. Judging from their facial expressions (and what I overheard during the break and even in whispers during the debate), women seem clearly both to favor Mitt Romney and dislike John McCain. If that's true, it's going to create a gender gap that may well help Hillary Clinton if she's the nominee.

Second -- and this is my perception only, based on fleeting observation -- I'm not impressed with John McCain's behavior on a personal level. Our seats were near the staircase down which the candidates departed with their entourages after the debate. John and Cindy McCain went down with an advisor or two and Lindsay Graham. McCain went first, then Mrs. McCain. When the senator got to the landing, he stopped and turned around -- I thought to wait for Mrs. McCain. Instead, she passed by him with no interaction between them whatsoever; he was, apparently, waiting for Senator Graham. It was an odd moment.

Later, we ran into the Senator and his entourage in a stairwell. Again, he was walking ahead of Mrs. McCain up the stairs, with a staffer or two in between. At one point, he said, "Getting a nosebleed, Cindy?" in a tone that, as a wife, I would not have appreciated.

The Romneys do get along, however. During the break in the debate when McCain huddled with two males (presumably advisors), Governor Romney went straight to his wife. From their body language, it seemed obvious to me that she was advising him, and he was listening attentively. At the debate's conclusion, they went down the stairs a bit later than the McCains, he first, she following. Like Senator McCain, he paused at the landing and turned around. Unlike Senator McCain, he was waiting for his wife, and they went down the second flight of stairs together.

Again, these are just judgments based on a few seconds of observation. I came away with the distinct feeling that McCain is not a particularly nice guy, and that Romney's fault is that he's almost too nice in a somewhat patrician way, quite reminiscent of George H.W. Bush.

My prediction: If McCain wins the nomination, get ready to hear a lot about two new topics -- first, "temperament" and second, "the gender gap."

Mukasey on Waterboarding

Attorney General Mukasey went to Capitol Hill and infuriated Senate Judiciary Democrats (and liberal Republican Arlen Specter) by refusing their invitation to call waterboarding torture.

John McCain agrees with the views by Senators Kennedy and Leahy. He's willing to announce to all Al Qaeda that they needn't worry about even the threat of waterboarding should they land in U.S. custody even though the technique saved lives in the past.

Just something to think about in the run-up to Super Tuesday.

Hillary the Victim, Redux

Is this a joke? "Feminist leaders" are trying to argue that Barack Obama's "snub" of Hillary Clinton and a picture of him talking with Ted Kennedy are emblematic of raging sexism.

This obviously constitutes a gambit by Hillary supporters to draw women to her by portraying her as a pioneer fighting -- yes, you guessed it -- against the "old boys' club." Eliciting that kind of sentiment worked in her race against Rick Lazio in 2000, and it supposedly helped her after the debate preceding the New Hampshire primary. So they're trying it again.

Let's just have a reality check for a moment. Hillary Clinton is tough as nails. Are we really supposed to believe that a snub (if there was one) by Barack Obama is going to bother her at all? And do these feminists really want us to? Because the next question is this: If she (and they) can't get over the absence of a handshake from a political rival, how exactly is she going to deal with America's enemies?

In light of this stuff, it's hard to understand how Hillary's run is really advancing the cause of feminism. Presidential politics can seem ridiculous enough without this kind of silliness.

Keeping the Faith

Josh Trevino slices and dices the numbers, then concludes that there's hope for Romney.

As Trevino notes looking at the CNN exit polls, Giuliani voters' second choice is almost an even split between Romney and McCain -- so his endorsement may not mean the huge bump for McCain that might otherwise have been expected.

What I noticed looking at that graph also is that -- contrary to the assumption that Huckabee is taking conservatives from Romney -- the second choice of Huckabee voters is actually McCain! So Rudy's dropping out of the race seems to be much less trouble for Romney than if Huckabee did. (Then again, Huckabee no doubt is problem for Romney in the south next Tuesday.)

Given that Huckabee and McCain don't seem to have all that much in common (except a willingness to tolerte taxes, that is), it's interesting that Huckabee's voters would prefer McCain -- who seems uncomfortable, if not more, with the social issues that motivate many Huckabee voters. Given that they're enthusiastic about Huckabee's ability to serve as Commander-in-Chief, Huckabee voters can't be basing their second choice on simply their confidence in McCain's experience in military matters.

It doesn't seem consistent with my experience with Republicans, but no doubt the numbers are going to raise the question of whether many Huckabee voters are simply uncomfortable with the thought of a Mormon in the White House.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hillary Plays the Victim Card (Again)

At 7:30 pacific time, Hillary Clinton appeared for an interview on the Fox News Channel with Chris Wallace. She was well prepared, and did a fine job with all the questions that she expected. Then, Wallace obviously asked her something for which she hadn't prepared. Her answer was illuminating:

Wallace: There's an incident last night at the SOTU address that's getting a little attention whn you came into the hall . . . you reached out, Sen Kennedy and Sen obama were standing side by side Senator Kennedy shook your hand, Sen obama says he was looking away to talk to somebody else. Some people are saying that he snubbed you. Do you feel that you were snubbed last night?

Clinton [in a slightly martyred tone]: Well, Chris, I reached out my hand in friendship and unity, and my hand is still reaching out and I look forward to shaking his hand when I see him at the debate in California.

What was remarkable was the contrast between Clinton's performance in the questions she knew were coming, and her complete political tone-deafness when she's forced to think on her feet and go off script.

How much smarter would it have been for her to say something like,"Oh Chris, I think the world of Senator Obama, and I'm sure he didn't see me. I'll look forward to shaking his hand in California."

Instead, she couldn't resist taking the cheap and easy shot that she thought the question permitted. The problem -- as it often is when Hillary has to trust her first instinct -- is that her behavior diminishes her, rather than her target.

McCain Wins Florida

John McCain has won Florida -- where independents aren't permitted to vote in teh primary. It's an important win for him, and at this point, it looks like he's done it by a 5% margin, which is convincing.

For Romney and his supporters like me (and for those who, also like me, are not McCain fans), this one hurts. It gives McCain a serious bounce going into Super Tuesday next week. If Giuliani had stayed in the race, there was some hope for Romney that -- with Huckabee fading -- Giuliani and McCain would split the northeastern moderate vote.

But both the tone of his speech tonight and other reports suggest that Giuliani is probably going to endorse McCain later this week. That means that McCain can probably count on having most of the northeastern moderates to himself next week. Now, it will be up to the conservatives who supported Huckabee to decide whether they want to stick with their man, and leave John McCain as the party's nominee -- despite his position on taxes, immigration, campaign finance, global warming and much else. And up to Huckabee himself as to whether he wants to stay in the race and continue to siphon conservatives from Romney, hoping that the Romney double-teaming tango he and McCain have performed will result in his walzing into the #2 spot if McCain's at the top of the ticket.

Look, it's still a long way from over. Romney could bounce back and surprise everyone, especially if McCain slips and reveals some of the legendary temper and other personality problems so well known to his colleagues in the Senate. The MSM could start treating McCain like the clear frontrunner that he is, and give him a little of the brass knuckle treatment that, so far, has seemed reserved for Rudy and Romney.

It now seems fair to characterize Mitt Romney as the underdog. What will be interesting (and revealing) is whether John McCain actually starts to make real efforts to show that he could unify the Republican Party -- conservatives and all -- or whether he'll hold grudges and send the signal that he'll try to run a general election campaign that tacks to the middle, leaving a substantial portion of his base disaffected and angry.

Is it possible that Republican voters could actually agree with The New York Times about who's the best choice for their party?

Getting over it

This is guest blogger wile e coyote.

It looks as if John McCain has won the Florida GOP primary and has the inside track for the nomination.

No small number of conservative bloggers have blasted McCain. (I'm no great fan either.)

The bloggers have described his faults at great length and minute detail. Now, it's time for these bloggers to discuss what it is about McCain that has attracted at least one third of Republicans. The "free pass from the MSM" won't cut it. If the MSM were that powerful, W wouldn't have two terms in the White House.

Ideas, anbody?

The Stakes

As Bill Nicols points out in the Politico, a lot is riding for Republicans on today's Florida primary.

Obviously, the X factor is the extent to which Rudy Giuliani's diminished fortunes helps John McCain, the logical other choice for social moderates. If a lot of early voting was done when Rudy was still riding high, then a lot of people who might otherwise have voted for McCain if they were voting today may already have cast their ballots for Giuliani (which helps Romney). On the other hand, if they waited, people who would have voted for Giuliani had they voted early may switch to McCain in order to hold off Romney (which, obviously, helps McCain).

One thing is obvious: Mitt Romney has emerged as the conservative alternative in the race. Upset that he's a flip-flopper? Well, there's a strong argument that McCain is even worse.

What's more, a McCain victory is bad for conservatism either way. If he wins and has a Democratic Congress, he could well decide to govern in a way that renders conservatives irrelevant. If he's the nominee and he loses, he's probably still going to succeed in splitting the GOP -- the party that has been most hospitable to conservative ideas and the best vehicle for enacting them. Reaction to my column yesterday (linked immediately above) was astounding . . . and emails 9:1 are against McCain as the GOP nominee.

If McCain wins the nomination, anybody who wants him to win had better hope like heck that Hillary Clinton is the nominee -- although, if George Will is right, that will mean a contest between a Clinton and a George Will argues McCain is a "Clinton impersonator". Hillary represents the only chance that a decent segment of the Republican Party will even consider voting for him. If it's Barack Obama, far too many GOP'ers will simply sit on their hands -- and you can forget about the vaunted tidal wave of independents who are supposedly going to sweep McCain to victory in the general.

Monday, January 28, 2008

McCain on Endorsements

This item from Jim Geraghty deals mostly with the report by John Fund that suggested he didn't want to appoint Justices like Alito, whose politics are (supposedly) worn on their sleeve. McCain disputes it, but it's not a stretch to suspect that's what he believes. Often, moderate Republicans seem more comfortable with liberals who wear their politics on their sleeves than conservatives who do the same.

At the end of the dispatch is one noteworthy exchange:

Asked about his reaction to the New York Times endorsement, McCain said, "My reaction was, as with several other liberal papers that have endorsed me, I'm glad that they support that they support my views, but it doesn't mean I support theirs."

Of course, McCain's stealing a page from the Ronald Reagan playbook -- that's the approach that Reagan took when the John Birch Society endorsed him in his 1966 campaign for governor.

That being said, we all know that The New York Times ed board also endorsed Hillary Clinton, and hasn't morphed into accepting McCain's stated views (any more than such a statement would have been plausible coming from Pat Brown if the John Birch Society had endorsed both Ronald Reagan and him in '66). The endorsement's not coming because they support McCain's views -- it's because they suspect that he actually supports theirs (or, at least, comes as close as any Republican can).

Oh, and those who support John McCain because they think he's best positioned to reach out to independents might want to take a look at this piece by Steven Hayward about Reagan's gubernatorial victory. Here's a key point:

Reagan understood that with a Democratic voting edge of three-to-two in California, a Republican could only win by appealing to crossover voters. This required a united Republican Party more than a centrist campaign.

Anyone think that McCain is best positioned to unify the Republican Party?

Where It Begins

There's always a lot of high-minded talk, especially among Democrats about how necessary dialogue is, and why it's important for all of us to hear out those with whom we disagree.

Well, anyone who bemoans the increasing lack of civility in our political discourse might want to check out this story. Karl Rove will no longer deliver the commencement address at Choate this year because some of the left-wing students didn't want him and were threatening to behave rudely, as others before them have done.

Certainly, young people are entitled to their personal views of anyone -- but what lesson is the school administration teaching them by giving them their way? That it's OK simply to ignore those with whom one disagrees politically -- and do everything to prevent them being heard by others?

Mind you, Karl Rove is hardly an enemy of this country in the mold of a recent celebrated speaker at Columbia. He's just a Republican with whom some Americans have political differences.

During my graduation ceremonies from Princeton, speakers included people like Patricia Schroeder. Obviously, I don't agree with her, but it never occurred to me that I could simply prevent her from speaking because I'm not likely to agree with what she's going to say.

During my graduation from Harvard, tons of law school students asked -- and received -- permission to snub the law school's dean because they thought he had been insufficiently supportive of progressive pet causes. Accordingly, they received their diploma from an associate dean and then walked right past the dean, ignoring him completely.

Here's something that well-meaning liberals who dominate faculties at prep schools, colleges and graduate schools might want to consider: Could it be that political discourse is becoming so crass because younger generations aren't being taught to observe even basic courtesies toward those with whom they disagree?

As in Academia . . .

Stuart Rothenberg rightly notes that the messiness of the Clinton-Obama nomination struggle could have an adverse impact on whoever ultimately wins the nomination.

The task that will fall either to Clinton or to Obama could be much more difficult. That's because the attacks have become personal. That, in turn, is a result of the fact that on the issues, both are essentially the same.

In contrast, on the Republican side -- where there's long been talk of how hard it will be to unify the party -- there are real policy differences between the candidates, and on key issues like abortion, taxes and other key issues. Because there's something real to disagree about, there's an argument to be made that the candidates have been able to advocate for their own elections based on their beliefs and argue against their opponents primarily on the issues . . . rather than needing to distinguish themselves or tarnish their opponents in some other way.

Remember the old saying that in academia, the internal warfare is so intense because the stakes are so low? Well, on the Dem side at least, the attacks are so personal because the candidates' positions on the issues are essentially the same.

McCain Will Sideline Conservatives<

Here is my Townhall column.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

So Much for Feminism

Kathryn Jean Lopez points out the profoundly anti-feminist implications of Hillary Clinton being overshadowed by her husband on primary night.

Then again, as I noted in a recent Townahll column, there's plenty about Hillary's behavior that's "turning back the clock" on women in politics.

More Than "The Black Candidate"

Bill Clinton is doing everything he can to paint Barack Obama as the "black candidate".

But there's an argument that, having won states as diverse as Iowa and South Carolina, Obama is a candidate with wide appeal, not restricted to the black community. And didn't Obama win just as many white males as Hillary did?

Weren't Democrats like the Clintons supposed to be all about "diversity" of all kinds? Or is that only when it doesn't threaten an office to which both of them seem to feel a certain sense of entitlement? Imagine what they'd be saying about any Republican who tried this kind of race-baiting. It's a fair bet that the press and the entire Democratic Party establishment would be in the middle of a frothing meltdown.

An Ugly Thought Strikes the Left

It occurs to Jonathan Chait that, perhaps, conservatives were right all along about the essential nature of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

That admission has been elicited because people all across the political spectrum have been disgusted by the obvious and ruthless attacks on Barack Obama coming from the Clinton camp.

But, you know, the distortions of Obama's record are really nothing worse than things Clintons have said about their other opponents -- Democrat and Republican. Here's an example of Clintonian attacks against Paul Tsongas in the 1992 election.

If the presence of a likable, charismatic, electable young African American in this year's primaries has done nothing else, at least perhaps it's had the salutary effect of demonstrating to liberals some of the Clintonian qualities that have driven the conservatives crazy over the years.

Friday, January 25, 2008

We Want a Fighter, Not a Lover

Bill Clinton had this to say about his wife:

"She and John McCain are very close. They always laugh that if they wound up being the nominees of their party, it would be the most civilized election in American history, and they're afraid they'd put the voters to sleep because they like and respect each other."

President Clinton isn't saying these things about McCain to hurt him -- although it has that effect with the Republican base, who wants to see someone who will fight hard against Hillary Clinton . . . not a candidate who will participate in a post-millenial love-in with her. Rather, President Clinton knows the country gets a collective shudder thinking of the mudfest that would surely come in a presidential campaign including a Clinton in a tight race. In effect, he's trying to reassure the public that a Hillary ticket doesn't mean a continuation of the ugly campaign being waged against Barack Obama.

Like so much Bill Clinton says, the prospect of a "civilized election" sounds just wonderful until one actually thinks about it. And from the Clintons' perspective, it would be wonderful -- just like the 1996 Clinton-Dole face-off where Bob Dole waited until it was too late before he started campaigning against Clinton with any vigor. Bill Clinton likes and respects Bob Dole, just the way Hillary does John McCain . . . no doubt never more than after he wiped the floor with Dole in the election.

Given McCain's penchant for hooking up with Democrats (like Feingold on campaign finance reform and Kennedy on immigration), it's not hard to believe he "likes and respects" Senator Clinton. The question is not only what that would mean for the country in the wake of a McCain victory -- it also raises the question as to whether it would diminish the vigor of his campaign. Bob Dole's liking for Clinton no doubt played a role in his reticence; later on, Dole even defended Clinton and his record in 1998 when the public was seething over the Monica Lewinsky affair. What is there for Clinton not to like?

On the other hand, does anyone really wonder whether Senator Clinton's purported liking and respect for Senator McCain would stop the Clinton machine from going after him? After all, in 1996, President Clinton went after Dole even when it was already obvious it wasn't necessary for a victory. Hillary Clinton is running to justify her life, and there is nothing that will restrain her from doing anything to win.

Finally, the fact that President Clinton is speaking favorably about a McCain run certainly doesn't play into the conventional wisdom that McCain would be the toughest Republican candidate. The Clintons don't usually give big, wet, sloppy kisses to the competitors they fear, do they? If you're in doubt, just ask Barack Obama.

The Perils of the Presidency

I'm not usually a big defender of Hillary Clinton's -- and this photo of her with one-time Obama backer Tony Rezko, whom she condemned in Tuesday's debate as a "slumlord" certainly makes a "hypocrisy" charge easy to make.

But the fact is that presidents (and first ladies) take tons of pictures with people they may not know terribly well. It was true when it applied to President Bush and Jack Abramoff and it's true when it comes to Hillary Clinton.

Nevertheless, photos like the Clinton/Rezko picture are an occupational hazard for any prominent politician -- and Hillary's enjoying plenty of the upside of having ocucpied the White House for eight years. This is one of the downsides.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Republican Debate

For the most part, tonight's debate was a face-off between Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney -- for whom the stakes are high in Florida. For McCain or Romney, it's a chance to secure momentum heading into Super Tuesday, and with such momentum that the Florida winner may be unstoppable. For Giuliani, it's a must-win.

Maybe it was the squabbling at the Democrat debate, or maybe there's polling showing that voters don't want to see anybody arguing, but the candidates' manners were exquisite tonight. That had the effect of favoring Mitt Romney, who often has been on the receiving end of other candidates' jabs.

If there was a winner tonight, it was Romney. His line about "General Hillary Clinton" was the only crack that elicited universal laughter and applause from the crowd. His answer to the ridiculous Tim Russert question about his self-funding was fine -- although it would have been even better had he pointed out that the strictures of McCain-Feingold makes it easier than ever for wealthy candidates like him (talk about the law of unintended consequences!). His answer to the Brian Williams religion question was handled admirably, concluding with a Reaganesque reminder that "free American people are the source of America's greatness." In a sense, the disproportionate concentration on Romney by the questioners suggests that Russert and Williams see him as the frontrunner -- and/or it seemed less fun to the moderators to hassle John McCain.

Of the three main candidates, John McCain had the toughest night. He was clearly irritated by the question about his economic qualifications, and his passion about the issue of global warming isn't going to do much to help GOP voters forget their areas of disagreement with him. His response to the question about his standing in the GOP base was a missed opportunity; why would he instead catalogue his areas of disagreement with the party (where, of course, with typical sanctimony, he made it clear that Republicans were wrong and McCain was right). (Update: Kate O'Beirne skewers with wit McCain's characterization of Joe Lieberman as one of his "favorite Democrats). The constant invocation of the people and groups that have endorsed him seemed to smack of an inside-the-beltway mentality, although his line about sending his supporter Sly Stallone to deal wtih Huckabee's Chuck Norris was funny. But the most damaging development for McCain wasn't his debate performance -- it was his endorsement by the NY Times.

Rudy's finest moment of the debate, in fact, was in discussing the NY Times' criticisms of him. It's revealing that Russert and Williams didn't seem to realize that condemnation by the Times is, in fact, a badge of honor for any conservative. Helloooo . . . welcome to planet Earth, gentlemen.

Who's the Real Flip-Flopper?

Paul Campos makes a strong case that it's McCain:

-- On abortion rights, McCain has done a 180-degree turn, from favoring only the most minor restrictions and opposing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, to supporting an almost total ban, while advocating that the Supreme Court reverse Roe immediately.

-- McCain has transformed himself from a deficit hawk who mocked supply-side economics into someone who sounds like he's drunk deeply from the wackiest vats of supply-side Kool-Aid, to the point where he now claims raising taxes decreases revenues (a claim so wildly in conflict with the facts -- for example, federal tax revenues almost doubled in real terms after the Clinton tax increases -- that it's either a shameless lie or a product of astounding ignorance).

-- In regard to ethanol subsidies, McCain has gone from treating them as the worst sort of pork to becoming a strong supporter of a program despised by economists, but beloved of Iowa farmers and the good people at Archer Daniels Midland.

-- Six years ago, McCain sternly condemned Jerry Falwell as "an agent of intolerance." Eighteen months ago, he gave the commencement address at Falwell's university, while openly embracing one of the most noxious figures of the religious right.

These are just a few examples from a far longer list.

What's interesting is that -- in contrast to Romney -- there's reason to believe that John McCain isn't sincere about his new positions. Take his comment about the fence: "I'll build the goddamned fence if they [that's you, voters] want it."

Doesn't it remind you of Uncle Don, the children's radio talk show host who spoke in dulcet tones to his young listeners and then one day, thinking the mike had been turned off, announced, "That should hold the little bastards"?

How Wild Is This?

This Arkansas newscast covered Prude and I didn't even know about it. Here's the text story.

A Blow From The Left

William Greider of The Nation decries the prospect of another Clinton administration.

He knows about the dishonesty and the drama that the "two for one" couple will bring with them. Do the rest of the Democrats who are willing to continue the Clinton dynasty even after knowing about the machinations, the duplicity and the take no prisoners divisiveness that has long characterized Clintonian politics? And if so, why, given that there's an attractive, interesting (and perhaps more generally appealing, and therefore mroe electable) alternative in Barack Obama?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Good Enemy to Have

Anyone who doubts Mitt Romney's conservative bona fides -- or that he poses a threat to Dems in the general election -- should check out this smear job from The New York Times.

Uniquely, the article charges, Mitt Romney is "disliked" by his competitors. Well, that isn't surprising, is it, given that he presents a formidable threat to them for the nomination, is rich, handsome and has a background of achievement in the private sector -- along with a fabulous family. What's more, he's had the resources and the willingness to run negative ads, which doesn't win one any friends -- but will be a necessary quality in a viable general election candidate.

Contrast the Times' assessment of John McCain, its favorite Republican candidate:

In stark contrast to Mr. Romney, Mr. McCain seems to be universally liked and respected by the other Republican contenders, even if they disagree with him.

Before crowning McCain Miss Congeniality, the Times might want to check with some of McCain's Republican Senate colleagues. Whether the other Republican contenders want to criticize him or not, few of his Senate Republican colleagues appreciate McCain's reputation as a grandstanding showhorse, to put it charitably. Many, in fact, think he's a jerk.

It's worth noting that a significant number of McCain's Senate colleagues have endorsed his competitors. But with behavior like this, who can blame them for being reluctant? Rudy (who isn't even himself a senator) has won endorsements from Kit Bond of Missouri, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and David Vitter of Louisiana. The "disliked" Mitt Romney has won the endorsements of Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Amazing that McCain's main rivals have attracted the support of as many of his Republican colleagues as he has, isn't it? And none of the other senators (Clinton, Obama or Edwards) running for president has been exposed to criticism like this from a colleague, who -- by virtue of his status as a former colleague -- is a bit freer to discuss his real feelings about McCain.

In any case, McCain's buddies at the New York Times should realize that its wet sloppy embrace is about as helpful as the kiss of death for a candidate in the Republican primaries. As for Mitt Romney, he must be doing something right if the people at the Times are going after him.

Oh well, at least the Times reveals that Dan Schnur -- quoted speaking favorably on McCain's behalf -- is a former McCain staffer . . . unlike the "oversight" by the LA Times here when it quotes Schnur decying the fact that (McCain-loving) independents aren't eligible to vote in California's Republican primary.

A New Opportunity

For years, the Democratic Party has taken African American support for granted. Now, as this piece notes, black anger over illegal immigration is growing.

There is never any excuse for stoking ethical stereotypes or racial hatred. But there's an argument for Republicans to make that the Democrats have been working so hard to sew up the Latino vote that they've overlooked the very real strains that illegal immigration -- wherever it's from -- has imposed on black communities.

Behind the Objections

Democratic party bigwigs like John Kerry and Tom Daschle are protesting the "lies" being circulated about Barack Obama.

No doubt some of the protest springs from concern for the party's future if the Clintons succeed in securing the nomination -- or even at the presidency -- but at the cost of loosening the ties between African Americans and the Democratic Party.

But one also gets the sense that there are Democrats like Kerry and Daschle who, for reasons of their own, are enjoying the opportunity to speak up against the Clintons in a context that is much less risky than taking them on directly.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More On Thompson

As I noted yesterday here, it will be interesting to see where Fred Thompson's people go now that he is out of the race. Patrick Ruffini's poll suggests Romney will be the chief beneficiary, which makes sense since he's the other mainstream economic/foreign policy/social conservative in the race . . . but it certainly undermines Huckabee's argument that Thompson cost them a victory in South Carolina.

Thompson's decision not to endorse anyone right away could reflect discomfort with McCain's less-than-conservative positions on a number of topics . . . or, perhaps more likely, a recognition that Thompson must be on the short list as a vice-president for either Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.

In any case, it doesn't help McCain, whom Thompson endorsed in 2000.

Thompson Drops Out

Fred Thompson has withdrawn his candidacy.

It's noteworthy that he hasn't endorsed John McCain, as he did in 2000.

Rudy Yes; McCain, No

Dennis Prager sees similarities between Ronald Reagan and Rudy Giuliani. Like many (if not most) conservatives, however, he has serious reservations about John McCain.

He does point out one key area where Rudy would be significantly more trustworthy than McCain: Judges. What kind of originalist can McCain be if he thinks it's A-OK to limit free speech about politics and elected officials in the days leading up to election?

Ready or Not?

Just a brief comment on this poll -- revealing that more Americans believe the country is ready for a black President than a female one.

No doubt, it could be the "Bradley effect" -- where people overstate their support for a black candidate/president. But it could also be a common sense acknowledgement that skin color makes no difference (a black man is the same as a white man in every relevant way), but gender does (despite what feminists tell us, men and women are not the same).

Whether those gender-based differences justify voting against a female presidential candidate is another debate (I'd trust Margaret Thatcher, after all, before most of the candidates in this year's field, and my objection to Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with her gender). But there are real differences between males and females, and what this poll could reflect, for better or worse, is some discomfort with a woman serving as Commander-in-Chief.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Democratic Debate

If one wanted to be snarky, she might point out that Hillary Clinton spent Martin Luther King Day bashing -- in very personal terms -- the greatest hope yet for an African American president in American history. One might further wonder how Hillary Clinton squares her support for affirmative action with her repeated insistence that she should be president -- after all, one can hardly argue that Barack Obama is insufficiently liberal or otherwise lacks any indispensable credential to be president, other than experience (and that's not necesarily a decisive factor, as Richard Nixon and JFK could tell you).

For his part, Barack Obama was shocked, shocked! to learn that Bill and Hillary Clinton aren't "factually accurate" when they criticize their political opponents(or other times, in all fairness).

The personal attacks were sharp, remarkably so. The fact is that the exchanges probably ended up helping Barack more, because he came off as less personal than Hillary, who came across as very hard and somewhat desperate -- and risks making herself unpopular among African Americans for some time to come. That being said, he's got to worry about coming off as osmething of a crybaby when he complains about the Clintons ganging up on him.

Gotta love it, don't you? Pull up a chair, pop up the corn and enjoy watching 'em go at it.

Primarily, a Good Thing

Dick Polman observes that the Bill and Hillary double-teaming of Barack Obama appears to be working, at least for now.

He's right. If they keep it up -- with Bill traveling around pounding Barack while Hillary takes the high road -- there's every chance it'll result in Hillary winning the nomination.

But what then? Polman observes that independents are likely "rolling their eyes" about the strategy. African Americans appear to be even less pleased with it. And even voters who wouldn't otherwise be inclined to vote for Obama probably aren't savoring the spectacle of Bill and Hillary beating up on a young, attractive, family-oriented African American, even if he is pretty far left and also inexperienced.

So the strategy may work well enough to win Hillary the nomination, but then what?

The Shape of Things to Come?

Here is the Rasmussen Report for Florida, showing Romney with 25%, Giuliani and McCain with 19% and 20% respectively.

Could Florida be the shape of things to come? In recent days, Huckabee has fallen four percentage points from 17% to 13%, while Romney has gained seven. Both McCain and Giuliani have gained one.

The importance of Florida both to Giuliani and McCain can't be overstated. Giuliani needs to do well -- to win, really -- in order to stay viable heading into the big Super Tuesday contests, especially when he's trailed Ron Paul (yes, Ron Paul!) in South Carolina. John McCain needs to show he can win among Republicans, without relying on the votes of independents (although, if there's one argument for McCain being the nominee in the general, it's that he does seem to draw the votes of independents). Mike Huckabee, too, has something to prove -- that is, that his campaign isn't effectively over after his second place finish in South Carolina.

Mitt Romney, with a seven point gain, looks strong. He's the only candidate who has attempted to reach out to every element of the Reagan conservative coalition, and given the distaste many conservatives feel for McCain (remember the same old litany of anti-Bush tax cut, campaign finance and immigration), and the disfavor with which many pro-lifers view Giuliani, it strikes me as entirely possible that a lot of social conservatives who are giving up on Huckabee might view Romney as the next best alternative.

The Huckabee people are probably right in arguing that Thompson cost them a victory in South Carolina. What will be interesting, however, is to see where Thompson's people go if he pulls out (as now seems likely). To the extent that Huckabee's fifteen minutes are drawing rapidly to a close, strategic Thompson people won't want to go there.

Thompson may well endorse McCain, as he did in 2000. But what will be interesting is to see how much impact that has, given the widespread conservative dislike for John McCain.

If Romney wins Florida, and does so convincingly, it will be a clear sign that he's emerging as the consensus choice of Republicans.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Unpresidential, But Not Unsurprising

Some Democrats are upset about Bill Clinton's attacks on Barack Obama, deeming them unseemly for a former president.

Well, indeed. Clearly, the Clinton camp is willing to run the risk of tarnishing the Clinton "brand" in the long run in order to win the short-term political gain that could result in Hillary's clinching the nomination.

But Democrats like Teddy Kennedy are hardly the kind of people who are worried about unseemly behavior in general on the part of the ex-president -- at least judging from what they were willing to tolerate during his term (with scandals ranging from Lewinsky to Marc Rich).

What they're really worried about is that President Clinton's scorching attacks on Barack Obama will result in disenchanting some African Americans enough that they might be willing to give the GOP a second look -- a phenomenon that would spell disaster for the Democratic Party as a whole. That's not only why Teddy Kennedy is giving Bill Clinton an earful . . . it's why I'd bet there's a good chance he'll endorse Barack Obama, grasping such a move's resonance for blacks.

And they're right to be worried. The Clintons are hardly known for their willingness to subordinat their own ambitions to the best interests of the Democratic Party (or of anyone but themselves).

CBN Interview

Here is the video from the CBN interview I taped about Prude when I was in Washington, D.C. last week.

Amusingly, I'm actually wearing my friend's black fleece shirt, because I showed up to the studio in a green jacket. Well, CBN has a "green screen," so if I hadn't changed, it would have looked like I was a little, disembodied head over an invisible or nonexistent body. That would have given a whole new, literal meaning to the term "talking head," wouldn't it?!

All of us need at least one friend to whom they can turn and demand the shirt off her back. I'm lucky to have had mine with me that day, and we simply "swapped tops" until the interview was over.

Hillary's Preemptive Abortion Attack

Steve Chapman notes rightly that public sentiment against abortion has continued to grow -- especially among young people.

Given all this, it's noteworthy that Hillary Clinton would try to attack Barack Obama on the grounds that he's insufficiently zealous about abortion rights. In fact, that's hardly the case, as this Newsweek piece notes; , the "evidence" Clinton amasses suggests not that Illinois Democrats were weak pro-choicers -- rather, that they knew how damagingly anti-life they would look to normal voters if they voted against certain bills rather than just "present."

Obama has a bullet-proof defense against the charge that he's insufficiently pro-choice, of course. His opposition to the Infants Born Alive bill in Illinois, which would have protected babies who survived induced labor abortions, seems about as pro-abortion as one could get.

It's doubtful, though, that Obama will go touting the vote, given that even Barbara Boxer had no problem with a federal bill that was similar in wording (and which passed the Senate 98-0). It would hardly impress his cadre of young voters (or most other Americans, for that matter) if it trickled into the mainstream. Hillary Clinton knows that normal Americans are nowhere near as pro-choice as the Dem base, of course, which is why she's tried to have it both ways a bit over the past few years -- it was part of her "general election" strategy.

Given all this, it might seem somewhat amazing that she's the one criticizing him for being insufficiently pro-choice. But here's why she may be doing it. Obviously, it's essential for a Democrat to hold the influential pro-choice part of his or her base -- being a pro-life Democrat would come off as well as say, being an atheist Republican (see this for an example of how completely pro-choice politicians have to toe the line). Given that abortion issues generally seem to lack salience in this election cycle for ordinary voters, Hillary's efforts to "find common ground" with pro-lifers isn't as likely to be helpful to her in the general either as she hoped, or as Barack's (and his wife's) full-throated support for abortion rights could be in a primary that turned out to be much tougher than Hillary expected.

Don't they say that the best defense is a good offense?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

McCain Wins

John McCain has won the South Carolina primary, as almost everyone knows by now.

Michael Medved says that his victory shows the impotence of talk radio -- which should stop going after McCain and Huckabee. Mark Steyn says McCain's the man to beat.

There's no denying it was a good night for McCain in a state with a heavy military/veteran's vote. But this nominating race is far from over; Romney still leads in delegates, and Rudy still has an opening on Super Tuesday. So what is the point in talk radio simply shutting up and supporting McCain -- particularly when he's shown talk radio (and, by extension, its listeners) little but contempt over the years? If it does turn out that a lot of Republicans simply have to swallow hard and vote for a candidate who is distinctly unappealing to them, why, exactly, should they start having to quash their misgivings with so much yet to come? After all, if there's anything we've learned from McCain's resurrection, it's that nothing's over 'til it's over.

Finally, Jonah Goldberg advises McCain to make a speech that, in essence, reaches out to the conservatives who are so disenchanted with him. As a conservative myself, I'd like that fine. But one of the few reasons I could force myself to become reconciled to a McCain candidacy is if it became apparent that he was the GOP's best chance to beat Hillary or Barack. Assuming there are others who think like me, why does it make sense for McCain to compromise his most attractive feature (his "winnability") by making pledges that could be used against him in a general election, all in the service of trying to win over people who will, pretty much, find it impossible to become "fired up" about his candidacy no matter what he does? In other words, why does it make sense to force McCain to run to the right at this late date -- especially when we all know he doesn't really want to, and that cuddly overtures to the right wing wouldn't just come off as pandering (incompatible with the famous "straight talk" image) but they'd also just give fodder for Democratic attack ads?

Reaching Out to Republicans

It had seemed clear to me, with his favorable remarks about Ronald Reagan that Barack Obama is trying to woo Republicans and independents.

Now, the memo his campaign sent out about Nevada makes that approach even more explicit, boasting that "our campaign has built an amazing grassroots network and has brought thousands of Independents and disillusioned Republicans into the Democratic Party."

It's a smart strategy, really, given Democrats' fears that Hillary Clinton is too divisive a figure to win. The question is whether Barack will be able to hold onto the support of the alleged "Independents and disillusioned Republicans" when and if the media starts reporting on his policies and positions, which have been significantly to the left of even Hillary Clinton, who's hardly a moderate.

Conservative Litmus-Testing?

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol offers Republican voters something of a reality check. In "Waiting for Reagan," he decries the complaints about the alleged non-conservatism of our leading presidential contenders.

I'd argue that the "astonishing vigor" with which bloggers, talk radio show hosts and others have heaped "opprobrium" on their disfavored candidates is little more than a function of the undetermined state of the race. Because there is no "heir apparent" or prohibitive favorite (unusual for Republican presidential nominating contests), people understand that the race is up for grabs and that their opinion could actually have an impact. What's more, whoever wins the nomination will have a significant influence on the way that Republican principles (and, perhaps, conservative ones) are defined in the future -- so the stakes are large. Hence the heat surrounding some of the debates.

And although the apparent disorder (and sometimes, discord) can be unsettling for Republicans -- who are usually somewhat staid and orderly about these matters -- the controversy may actually be a sign of health in the conservative movement. It's a sign that principles matter to our voters, and so do the candidates' ideas.

Contrast the arguments over John McCain vs. Mitt Romney vs. Mike Huckabee with the Democrat argument over Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama. Ours is about ideas -- who has the vision to carry on the conservative movement -- while theirs is about identity and politics, i.e. gender vs. race and who can win. It's noteworthy that one doesn't hear Hillary and Barack supporters arguing over who is more "liberal," or who best can carry on the tradition of Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

Nor does Kristol's valid point that all the GOP frontrunners are people of substance mean that all are equally conservative. John McCain's 82% rating from the ACU may not have all that much meaning -- it depends on which votes have been factored in. And it's worth pointing out that McCain's assault on the First Amendment (with campaign finance "reform"), America's borders (with his immigration bill), and his votes against tax cuts are not exactly the indicia of pure conservatism. What's more, it's asking a lot of conservatives that they support McCain, when so often he's shown little more than a dismissive, contemptuous attitude toward them.

With Huckabee, the problem isn't so much his conservative credentials (although lovers of small government can't find all that much to love in his Arkansas record). In my view, it's been his willingness to employ sectarian Christianity for political purposes.

Obviously, there's no Reagan in this field. But as I argued here some time ago, "The larger point, for those lost in Reagan nostalgia, is that they simply have to get over it. If there were a Ronald Reagan in every presidential field, he wouldn't be the giant that he is. We were lucky to have one of him in a lifetime -- is there anyone who realistically expects to get one every election cycle?"

Friday, January 18, 2008

What I Was Up To

Coverage of the panel on which I participated is here (last item) and here.

It was a pleasure to meet the reknowned Kathryn Jean Lopez in person -- and, of course, an honor to share the panel with Elayne Bennett, President and Founder of Best Friends and the delightful Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation, and author of Now and Not Yet. Her book is nominally about 20 and 30-something single women, but it's beautifully written and loaded with real insights that are meaningful, invaluable even, for anyone who has ever had the discomforting sense that something in his or her life is not quite what s/he had hoped and/or planned for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Romney "Finds His Voice"

Just a brief and hurried post from D.C. . . .

The importance of Mitt Romney's win can't be overestimated. Despite the wishful thinking of his supporters, anything less than the "blue ribbon" would have sent a worrisome message that even with vast sums spent on his behalf, he was somehow unable to connect with voters. Clearly, that wasn't the case -- and Romney's win was significant, among different stripes of Republicans and even independents. (Those who support John McCain because of the theory that he will attract independents to the Republican ticket should be aware of the fact that the huge independent turnout that would have possibly helped McCain come closer to Romney never materialized, and that's even without a contested race on the Democratic side).

What was also important was what Romney did with his victory. His demeanor was easier, more informal and frankly, more likable than anything we've seen in the campaign. He spoke in shirtsleeves, and from the heart -- seeming less like a brilliant, wealthy technocrat and more like a normal guy who was just delighted with having won. This Romney is a guy who could connect with people.

Finally, issue templates matter. I'm willing to bet that the upcoming election is going to turn more on the economy than on Iraq. That's because things are turning around in Iraq, so the Democrats aren't going to want to talk about it. It's also because a female nominee like Clinton realizes that her weak point might be appearing like a credible Commander-in-Chief, and an inexperienced nominee like Barack realizes that his inexperience is more glariest -- and scariest -- in the foreign policy arena. To the extent that some in the press lean left, they, too, will be more anxious to cover the "faltering Bush economy" than the increasing success in Iraq.

When the economy is the issue, Romney is the guy. What's more, he's from outside the Beltway and equipped to talk about the future. To the extent McCain has a message, it's that "I was right about the surge." He was, and he's a great American. But what's he going to do in the future? After all, as no one knew better than Ronald Reagan, elections are about the future, and not about hte past.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Light Blogging

Sorry for the light blogging today -- and it will continue through the week.

I am off to D.C. tomorrow to participate in a panel relating to the topic of my book -- you'll be reading more about it later. I've also got a couple of television interviews about Prude, and I'm going to visit with some old friends and do a little business.

I'll be back late Friday night and back to blogging sometime on Saturday; in the meantime, enjoy the other content.

Hold the good thought that Romney takes Michigan tomorrow. There's reason for optimism, and anyone who cares about conservatism in principle and holding together the Reagan coalition as a political strategy has plenty of reasons to keep his or her fingers crossed for a Romney victory.

No "Straight Talk" on Taxes

Robert Novak writes:

Two days before his decisive victory in New Hampshire, John McCain was asked by Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press": "Do you believe that voting against the Bush tax cuts was a mistake?" Sen. McCain replied quickly, "Of course not." He next said I was wrong when I wrote, "McCain has admitted to me that those tax votes were a mistake." In fact, what he actually told me amounted to admitting error.

Pieces like this warn of a less-than-attractive trait of McCain's -- an absolute inability to admit being wrong about anything, any time. There's been much discussion among Democrats and pundits about Bush's purported refusal to admit mistakes; certainly McCain has the same trait in spades. The difference? Bush's "mistakes" were policies that didn't accord with liberal orthodoxy. McCain's are policies that are heresy to conservatives.

No doubt conservatives -- and Republicans of most stripes -- would find President Bush's brand of "stubbornness" much less wearing over time.

Hillary "Turns Back the Clock"

My Townhall column discusses the ways in which Hillary's behavior over the past week will damage other women who someday want to run for the nation's highest office.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Parting "Gift" from the Clintons?

While the Republican Party has had its own problems -- some are uncomfortable with Romney's religion, or McCain's temperament and issue positions, or some of Giuliani's stands on social issues, or Huckabee's economic and foreign policy positions -- the Democrats are having trouble of their own, not that the MSM will be eager to cover it from that angle.

The controversy among African-Americans about whether the Clintons are using racially-charged language in Hillary's campaign against Barack Obama could be a real problem for the Dems in the fall, to the extent that it embitters black voters. Especially, that is, if (say) Hillary successfully beat out Barack for the nomination, declined to name him VP, and the Republicans put a prominent GOP'er like Condoleezza Rice, Ken Blackwell or Michael Steele on the ticket as VP.

Wouldn't it be something if the Clintons' parting "gift" to the Democratic Party was helping Republicans loosen the stranglehold it's had on the African-American vote for too long?

An intriguing possibility, albeit an unlikely one.

So Much for "Straight Talk"

John McCain now says he's "optimistic" about restoring "Detroit's supremacy in the automotive world" -- quite a change from his assertion in the recent debate that some jobs have left Michigan that aren't coming back.

Oh, and he also says he wants to "stop this bitter partisanship." I'm all for it, as long as it doesn't mean that Republicans adopt Democrat priorities -- or that Republicans like McCain attack their friends, but make nice with Teddy Kennedy on immigration or Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform.

Huckabee's Appeal to Factions

Mike Huckabee is trying to drum up political support by telling evangelicals that his candidacy represents their chance to lead the Republican Party.

This is a good strategy for Huckabee. By identifying himself with evangelicals, he wins a powerful, energized, diligent constituency full of first rate human beings.

But his appeal is dangerous for the Republican Party as a whole. I stand second to no one in my respect for evangelical/Christian conservatives. But it's no secret that there are many stripes of Republicans, many of whom would be uncomfortable remaining in a party that is led by a man who has marketed himself as the champion of just one segment of the party -- i.e., of Christian conservatives. (The same objection would obtain if Rudy Giuliani tried to appeal to pro-choice conservatives to vote for him so that they could come to power, or if McCain did the same with moderate New England Republicans).

Successful candidates have to unify a party, not promote themselves as the stalking horse of one faction of it. And the factions to which the appeals are directed have to remember that it's better to be a respected, vital constituency inside a successful party that equipped through electoral victory to enact an agenda than to "rule" a smaller, impotent party that can't win elections.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Another Woman Backs Obama

Now it's not just Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano endorsing Obama -- Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill also has climbed aboard the Obama bandwagon.

Interesting, because McCaskill ran as a supposed moderate, that she's endorsing the farthest left candidate in the entire Democrat field, with the possible exception of John Edwards.

Projection Lives

Hillary Clinton accuses the Obama camp of being "divisive."

In related news, John McCain said Mike Huckabee was a Republican in Name Only (well, not actually, but you get the point).

The Man to Beat?

Pundits like Dick Morris sing paens to McCain's supposed electoral strengths:

His record taps into a latent populism that attracts Republicans, Democrats and Independents. His battle against big tobacco, efforts to address global warming, opposition to torture during interrogations and fight to reform corporate governance and to protect investors and pensioners appeal to voters of all stripes.

Hm. No doubt the press and those of more moderate/liberal persuasions like McCain. He presents the MSM "dream" of a moderate Republican changing the face of the GOP, and reaching out to the supposedly deliberative, middle-of-the-road, ever-so-choosy independents.

The question that a McCain candidacy might well answer once and for all is whether a person who is essentially an independent can bring over enough swing voters to compensate for the dispirited, lackluster response that would certainly come from the conservative base of his own party -- which McCain has enjoyed mistreating for years.

Certainly, McCain would have some luck in a race with Hillary Clinton, just because she is so viscerally disliked by so man Americans, Republican and Democrat alike. Against Clinton, there is indeed a chance that many who otherwise have no use for McCain would hold their noses and vote for him. But against Barack Obama -- who, for now at least, many Republicans seem to like personally -- the story could be a little different. Think how the media could frame the narrative: Past vs. future, a living reminder of a divisive time in our history (Vietnam) vs. making history (with an African-American president), a grumpy, abrasive old Republican vs. a likable, cool Democrat.

And if anyone out there thinks that McCain would continue to get a free ride from the MSM when he goes up against a Democrat, think again. Fairly or unfairly, we'd start hearing a lot about his age, his health and history of melanoma and prostate cancer, his involvement with the Keating Five, his temperament -- even, perhaps unfairly, speculation that his legendary temper is a result of psychological trauma.

Once the press got done with him, independents wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole. And conservatives already, largely, despise his stands on policy issues and his dismissive behavior of them, even though they appreciate his service in Vietnam and persistance on Iraq-related issues.

Friday, January 11, 2008

McCain's Real Record

Mark Levin lays it out for you right here.

It's a must-read. How can anyone consider McCain a conservative? He's really a Scoop Jackson Democrat -- and it's a testament to how far left the Democratic Party has gone (or the fact that McCain is from what has traditionally been a red state) that McCain isn't registered with the D's.

The Problem with McCain

From The Corner at National Review online:


Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

For a long time, Democrats like the Clintons have been willing to exploit African American outrage and condone seeing everything through a racially tinged lens -- which meant, for example, that it was okay to describe as "racists" those who criticized politicians who happened to be black or who opposed policies like affirmative action.

Now the Clintons are paying the price.

Makes No Difference At All

Some alumni of the Reagan years have endorsed John McCain.

To me, this is interesting but hardly compelling. Everyone acknowledges that John McCain is solid on defense and good on controlling government spending. To the extent that McCain's views on immigration are in line with the 1986 amnesty, well, most Republicans would agree that if Ronald Reagan made a mistake, that's the one.

What's more, it's hard to figure out what Reagan would make of John McCain's eagerness to embrace elite media while shunning conservative talk radio; his open contempt for those who disagree with him, especially when they're conservatives; his support for campaign finance "reform" that muzzles individuals and entities 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election; his opposition to the Bush tax cuts (after all, Reagan clearly believed that cutting taxes was more important than budget-balancing); his support for the "Gang of 14," which implicitly means that McCain thinks the filibuster of judicial nominees is constitutional (hardly an originalist position); and his penchant for "straight talk" that too often is laced with pessimism and anger.

Reagan alumni are entitled to their views, as is everyone else, but no one -- no one -- can speak for the Gipper.

Female Dem Gov Goes for Obama

Janet Napolitano, Democratic governor of Arizona, is endorsing Barack Obama.

As this piece notes, that may help Obama if he's the nominee, given that Arizona isn't as reliably red as it used to be.

But what's also worth pointing out is that the fact she's a woman makes her endorsement of Obama more damaging to Hillary than it might otherwise be, given Hillary's decision to play up the gender factor and her supposed unique ability to draw female voters to the polls.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Santorum on Romney

Former senator Rick Santorum roundly denounced John McCain today on Hugh Hewitt's radio show.

Santorum is, perhaps, more outspoken and courageous than many of his former Senate colleagues -- but his opinion is hardly unique. It's pretty hard to overestimate the depth of the dislike for McCain, at least on the Republican side of the aisle.

Earlier this evening, McCain assured voters that when it came to spending, he wasn't "Miss Congeniality." Actually, he's not "Miss Congeniality" in any case.

Competition for Streisand

Barbra Streisand's got competition when it comes to political analysis. Check this out for a laugh -- Roseanne Barr denounces "Barak" Obama, Oprah Winfrey (in part because she supported Governor"Swartzengger") and the American people, whom she calls "stupid."

It's good for a laugh.

Thompson Wins

Finally, Fred Thompson delivers a strong performance, although I fear it's too little, too late. He was funny and showed a real ability to go after Mike Huckabee and others without seeming ugly or negative.

Mitt Romney had a good debate, as well. His responses about the economy and the Republican coalition were strong, as was the thrust at Ron Paul "reading from Ahmadinejad's press release." Nicely done.

John McCain made no campaign-threatening mistakes, although Rudy was right to call him on his inaccurate claim that he was the only one on-stage who had supported the surge, and the contrast between his supposed "straight talk" about surrendering Michigan jobs and Romney's determination and optimism about keeping them was telling. McCain can try to talk up the economy, but the fact is that he just doesn't come across as a sunshiny guy. And one more thing -- too bad, when he gets off on his spending cut credentials that no one asks him about other big spending plans he might have, implied in his adherence to the cause of global warming. In his post-debate interview, he denied that he had changed anything in his approach to illegal immigration -- although his enthusiasm for border security first is a remarkable volte-face, and he seems completely ignorant of the impact of his support for his "z visa" brainchild. Clueless . . .

Rudy was fine, but there were few standout moments.

Mike Huckabee stood up pretty well to many of the attacks against him. His response to the inquiry about wives submitting to their husbands was a strong one, and will endear him to evangelicals, but the facts posed in the questions itself was probably enough to turn off most others. Along with McCain, he's the guy who must most hate any discussion of illegal immigration. And he totally muffed the Chris Wallace question about taxes. Assuring listeners that he spent the taxes he raised well is hardly the way to endear oneself to Republican voters.

Ron Paul? Gotta love him. He's the Republican Dennis Kucinich.

A Question for Tonight's Debate

Is the filibuster of judicial nominees constitutional?

It would be interesting to hear the response from proud "Gang of 14" member John McCain.

Glad We Didn't Do What They Said

When one listens to Democrat candidates inveigh on foreign policy, here's something to keep in mind: the security of Anbar province is being handed to Iraqis in the spring.

Can anyone imagine how different everything would look if the Democrats had succeeded in forcing a defeat in Iraq?

Kerry Endorses Obama

Here's the story.

Is anyone, anywhere surprised by this? John Kerry stayed on the sidelines just long enough to make sure that an Obama endorsement wouldn't be thrown away (i.e. that Hillary wouldn't steamroll right to the nomination).

He sure wasn't going to endorse Clinton unless he had to -- because everyone knows both Clintons were keeping their fingers crossed in 2004 that Kerry would lose. Had he won, he'd be running for re-election now, and Hillary would have been effectively sidelined.

As for Edwards, not only does Kerry know he's got no realistic shot at the nomination, but there are still some scars from the wounds that the two highly opportunistic senators inflicted on each other during the '04 campaign and in the aftermath.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Tracks of Her Tears

Maureen Dowd turns Hillary every which way but loose.

It's hard for me to believe that anyone would actually vote on whom they want to lead the country simply because she showed that she has real human emotions -- especially when she hasn't cried publicly about the soldiers dying in wars, her husband betraying her, or about anything other than the prospect of losing her best chance to run the country.

What's difficult to fathom is the depth of the narcissism that's required to continue to slog on and on and on with every thought, action and vote calculated only to help one ascend to the seat of power. How much personal independence and freedom of action and "selfhood" has Hillary been willing to sacrifice just to be in the position to grasp the reins of power? How much empty space must there be inside for someone to be so patently desperate to win?

To me, there's something a little scary about someone who clearly doesn't just want the presidency, but who needs it so badly that nothing she does or says can be trusted to be genuine or authentic, even her tears . . . except when they're mourning the seeming loss -- not of America's aspirations -- but of hers.

No Time for Leaving

Commentators like this one amaze me in their eagerness to push Mitt Romney out of the race based on his second place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

What they don't seem to grasp (or maybe they do, all too well) is that a Romney departure will mean that a traditional, social and economic conservative -- who is pro-life (unlike Giuliani) and neither a tax-raising populist (like Huckabee) or an effectively open borders, tax-cut-opposing, campaign finance legislating proponent (like McCain) -- will have no one to vote for.

The rationale for a Romney candidacy remains strong. What's more, he's the only candidate on either side who has any real world business experience. If Michigan goes south, it may be time for some hard decisions. 'Til then, there's no reason for anyone to hurry out of what looks to be a protracted and hard-fought nomination battle.

The Race Is On

The Nevada SEIU has endorsed Barack Obama. This isn't great news for Hillary, who'd like to rack another couple of wins into her column ASAP in order to convince everyone that Iowa was nothing but a blip.

Depending on what happens in Nevada and South Carolina, we will see whether Iowa truly unleashed the genie by convincing Democratic voters nationwide that Barack Obama could win (thereby causing ongoing trouble for Clinton) or whether it was an upset by a relatively untried candidate among an electorate that's farther left (and often quirkier) than the electorate as a whole.

It will be interesting to see how Hillary Clinton goes from here. It's amazing that -- only when the going got tough -- did she start taking questions from voters and interacting with the press. Take note, humble voters and press corps: If she's elected, she has no incentive to deal with you at all. You're worth something to her as long as she needs you for her own ends.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Funniest Line of the Night

Kathryn Jean Lopez wants to know,"which is it, lady?" Read the post pointing out yet one more Clintonian contradiction.

BTW, some of the folks at the Corner agree that McCain's five-point lead is hardly overwhelming.

McCain's Victory Speech

Mary Katharine Ham noted that it dragged a bit.

True enough, but what was interesting was what it revealed about McCain's strategy going forward. He was clearly striving for "statemanlike" over partisan, and it strikes me that the speech was designed to try to show that he'd be a solid opponent for Barack Obama in the general election. In other words, he seemed to be trying to give the impression that Barack isn't the only guy who can seem idealistic, unity-minded and above the fray.

What will be interesting is whether any of McCain's statements going forward seem to acknowledge the reality that he's got a party base to unify, if he turns out to be the nominee. So far, he's acknowledged not a single mistake in the entire litany of conservative-offending legislation he's headlined, from McCain-Feingold campaign finance to McCain-Kennedy immigration "reform." But then again, that's the famous McCain sanctimony -- one of several reasons he's pretty well disliked by most of his Senate colleagues (at least on the GOP side). Just as anybody who's hated the Bush spending record shouldn't be thinking about supporting Huckabee, anyone who's ever criticized the President for his supposed rigidity and refusal to admit mistakes shouldn't even be giving a second thought to McCain.

Could McCain conceivably be thinking about trying simply to win the nomination without overtly appealing to traditional conservatives at all (aside from his admirable consistency on winning the war on terror), relying in large part on what he assumes would be their distaste for Clinton or Obama, and instead dashing straight to the independents who have long been considered his strength?

And the Race Goes On

Apparently, all the obituaries for Hillary Clinton's political career -- and the Clinton dynasty generally -- were premature, at best. It will be a close night for her and Barack Obama. If there's a silver lining here, it guarantees that the Democrats won't be unifying behind a candidate anytime soon, and that both top contenders are going to be bloodied in the hunt for the nomination (Barack, because Hillary will go after him, and Hillary, because going after Barack will make her less popular than ever among Democrats and Americans generally).

As for the Republican side, it's a long way from over. What matters, I believe, is the ultimate margin of John McCain's victory. If Mitt Romney holds it to five points or less, he may well be able to pull it out in Michigan and go on with some momentum to Super Tuesday. He goes on to become the social conservative's alternative to Huckabee in South Carolina, having already shown that he can win among Michigan's Republican and independent field. On the other hand, if it turns out to be an 8 or 9 point loss, McCain may well claim to have the momentum going into Michigan -- where, as in New Hampshire, independents may vote in a Republican primary.

A loss in Michigan would be hard on Mitt, mostly because people could decide he doesn't have what it takes to win, and start to panic. If that would happen, it would be up to Rudy to prevent the ugly, ugly specter of a McCain-Huckabee showdown. The problem, of course, is that McCain and Giuliani could, in such a situation, split the moderate vote, allowing Huckabee to clean up.

That's why it's important for conservatives not to panic and figure they've got to resign themselves to either McCain or Huckabee at this point. As Rush Limbaugh has pointed out, this thing is far from over simply because two states that aren't representative of the conservative base of the Republican Party have spoken. Two seconds -- especially if New Hampshire is within a respectable margin -- isn't a bad place to be, along with a win in Wyoming; in fact, it's worth noting that Romney is the one candidate who has shown that he's palatable to those in states with Republican/independent voters who are very, very different.

What is important is avoiding a scenario where Republicans are forced to choose between a candidate who's a tax raiser, sentence commuter and a "compassionate conservative" on steroids vs. a candidate who's worked to limit free speech, opposed tax cuts, supported effective amnesty for illegals, etc., etc. That would cripple the conservative movement and endanger the Reagan coalition that has served America well.

As Winston Churchill once said, it's not the beginning of the end. If anything, it's just the end of the beginning.

Dems Out of Ballots

Drudge reports that the Democrats have run out of ballots, indicating the turnout on their side is huge.

That's not good news for John McCain, who's counting on Independents (who can vote in either primary) to sweep him to victory. As for whether the increased Democrat turnout bodes ill for Republicans in the fall, it's just too early to say.

After all, as even the Clintons note, Barack Obama has so far received very little vetting from the national press. It will be interesting to see if public opinion changes at all once Barack starts getting some scrutiny. So far, of course, he's had to do little besides present himself a viable, attractive alternative to a divisive, controversial and widely-disliked First Lady who's tried to run as an incumbent.

But soon, all that may change.

Romney's In to Win

Hugh Hewitt, a self-confessed Romney supporter with a "soft spot for Rudy" argues convincingly that, in effect, a second-place finish for Romney in New Hampshire isn't the beginning of the end -- it's the end of the beginning.

For anyone who's tempted to write Romney off too soon, it's worth asking oneself if there's any other candidate in the race who could unite Republicans as effectively. Is there any other candidate -- in either party -- with a similar history of accomplishment in both the private or the public sector, or are the rest of them pretty much creatures of government, albeit some more impressive than others? Is there any other candidate (except, perhaps, Rudy) who could compete against Obama's youthful charm and formidable intellect? Is there any other candidate with the resources to combat the Democrats' formidable fundraising advantage?

That latter point is one worth making. And don't forget: Unlike the Dem candidate, whoever it turns out to be, Romney is spending money that he himself earned through his own labor. He's willing to put his money where his mouth is . . . and he's able to, in order to run a 50-state campaign. To me, that's impressive.

Hillary Weeps

Here's the video from yesterday.

At this point, Hillary can't catch a break. But the fact is that she's running for Commander-in-Chief. It hurt Edmund Muskie to cry, Patricia Schroeder shouldn't have cried -- and Hillary Clinton darn well shouldn't be crying . . . especially if she wants to be taken seriously as the first female with a real chance to be President.

How sad that she's so desperate to win that she's willing to jettison her pride and let the tears show in a last-ditch attempt to humanize herself.

But Margaret Thatcher didn't cry, no matter how tough the going got. Iron Ladies, quite simply, do not cry.

Not Handling Adversity Well

Bill Clinton gets petulant when he or his wife face adversity as this clip demonstrates. And yes, of course, it's all about him and Ken Starr.

In fact, the Clintons' judgment gets impaired. They must be nuts to get into a discussion of Martin Luther King with Barack Obama.

Prude Goes Irish!

There's a story about Prude today in The Irish Independent.

Monday, January 07, 2008

"Romney Rallying"

That's Bob Novak's assessment.

Interestingly, the piece also mentions that his opponents "personally dislike" Romney. That mirrors my perception in Saturday night's post-debate post that the other candidates seem to dislike the former Massachusetts governor.

Is it jealousy of his intelligence, wealth, good looks and happy home life? Resentment of the negative ads Romney's run? A sense that he's just "too perfect"?

No Surprises, Please

If Mike Huckabee wants to play with the big boys, it's time to stop "pulling a Clinton." Please, governor, release the records.

Romney "Goes on Attack"?

This NY Sun story reports that Mitt Romney went "on the attack" against Mike Huckabee last night.

To the extent it was a strategy, it worked. First, my sense is that Mitt Romney has a little bit of a "goody two shoes" problem with some voters. His willingness to get in there and mix it up, live and on camera, demonstrated to potential voters that he can be a fighter -- and that's lucky, because whoever the nominee is, he's going to need to be willing and able to climb in the ring against some hefty odds.

Second, as I noted last night, Mike Huckabee's response didn't work. He seemed evasive and then peevish. And that's not going to work in the heat and glare of a presidential election, as Republicans know.