Presidential Campaign

Presidential Campaign

In the Hands of the Undecideds

I spent the week in Minnesota with Republicans and spent a lot of time thinking about Republicans. Now that I am home, and 36 hours away from Sarah Palin's knockout speech, I have remembered all those voters who will decide this election just 60 days from now.

We can call them independents or swing voters, but the correct term is undecideds. I know Democrats voting for John McCain and I know Republicans voting for Barack Obama and I know independents voting for each of them as well. But anyone who has yet to be swayed by McCain or Obama will, if they ultimately vote, be charged with handing victory to one of them on Nov. 4.

The Fork-Tongued Express

Where is George Orwell when we need him? He’d love the current black-is-white, up-is-down American political world.

A draft dodger accused a war hero of not being a patriot — and won. Multimillionaires accused a just-out-of-debt, self-made man of being an elitist. The family-values right wing is applauding an unmarried pregnant teenager and her boyfriend as models of responsibility. Women are considering the possibility of electing as the first woman to the highest executive office in United States history one whose record on “women’s” issues — particularly the controversial abortion question — is contrary to the passionate views of the majority of women. (She, by the way, applauds her teenage daughter’s personal “choice” to have a baby at the same time that she opposes “choice” for women generally. And she pleads for her children’s privacy, while parading them before national television—including an infant held before late-night cameras like a prop, and her pregnant daughter and her boyfriend holding hands on a national stage before an audience proclaiming “family values.”)

Spiro Palin and the Coming Charge of the Hillary Women!

The McCain convention has ended and the theme was all white, far right. Now comes the charge of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic women who will fight for economic opportunity for all and against the civil war over abortion promised by the Republican VP, who runs in the tradition of Spiro Agnew, with a nominee using the tactics of Karl Rove, in a party with the policies of George Bush, with a vision of Republicanism that dates back to Richard Milhous Nixon.

The Republican Party that once fought to save the nation under Lincoln is enraptured by a right-wing extremist sympathetic to a group that believes Alaska should secede from the union, thrilling those who would reverse Roe v. Wade and oppose abortion even after rape and incest, who embodies the pork barrel corruption of the worst of Washington, and ridicules Catholic parishes, Protestant ministries and Jewish temples that help jobless workers because they are what she calls derisively "community organizers.”

Small Town

“I was born in a small town,” the John Cougar song goes, in one of the many songs that venerate small-town living.

Living in a small town is part of the America’s character. People like the idea of living in small towns, of knowing their neighbors, of being part of a community. Even if they live in a big city, they really want to live in a small town, so they slice their big cities into smaller neighborhoods.

Washington, D.C. is, in actuality, a pretty small town. Capitol Hill is like a college campus, the White House is its own small city, and all the departments that are sprinkled throughout the area are their own little small towns.

Welcome Home, Mr. McCain

It’s hard to believe that John McCain’s long slog up the nomination mountain has finally come to an end. Not only has he reached the summit of American politics, but he achieved it by defying all possible odds.

Most of this presidential campaign season’s ink has gone into telling another improbable tale about an audacious, mixed-race, backbench senator from the South Side of Chicago who came out of nowhere and pulled off a coup d’etat against the most powerful political team of our time. Unbelievable. Give credit where credit is due.

But the story of John McCain’s political nosedive and subsequent rise from the ashes is no less worth telling and celebrating.

Selection of Palin Looks Like a Mistake

Sarah Palin showed last night that she is an excellent political talent with a bright future in the Republican Party. She also showed that it made sense to feature her as a prime-time speaker at the convention.

What she didn’t prove, however, was that she is worthy of giving the vice presidential nominee acceptance speech, and by extension, the nomination itself (the two are stubbornly attached). Making Sarah Palin the keynote speaker of the convention would have been a sagacious decision by the McCain campaign and a gift to her future career (it worked for Barack Obama). On the other hand, actually selecting Sarah Palin as the vice president nominee seems like a foolhardy mistake (thank goodness the nomination and the office itself aren’t so stubbornly attached).

The Experience Factor and Beyond

In the Democratic primaries, and now in the general election, candidates have raised the experience factor, on their behalf and to criticize their opponents. But no one is truly prepared to be president, as Bill Clinton recently observed when he was asked about it. No candidate knows what issues he’ll face as president, and there is no comparable experience to prepare anyone for the daunting and extraordinarily powerful office.

In recent history, the case could be made that George H.W. Bush had perfect qualifications to be president — a former congressman, ambassador, CIA chief, party chairman. But he was run out of office when the economy turned bad, and never had a second term. His incompetent son George W. Bush was elected, and reelected, despite his obvious shortcomings. Now, years later, “W” has experience, and even the Republican Party is running away from him — based on his experience.

McCain's Secret Weapon

The e-mail solicitation I received from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe at 4:47 a.m. today makes it clear — after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's speech last night, the Democrats view her as a threat.

Incredibly, Plouffe claims that Gov. Palin's speech "insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process."

Palin’s Going to Be Tough for the Democrats

MINNEAPOLIS — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s debut as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate showcased a formidable challenger who is going to be tough for the Democrats to counter. Not only did she look the crowd in the eye and speak with unabashed authority, she really seemed to connect with the audience in a way only special politicians, a la Bill Clinton, can do. She is unquestionably energetic, smart, witty and appealing as a candidate. Democrats who underestimate her do so to their extreme detriment.

Palin, while new to the issues facing America, nonetheless presented a compelling case for why her background is as good, if not better, than that of Barack Obama. It was impressive in the way she was able to convince delegates that her experiences as a mother, mayor and governor of an out-of-the-way state made her actually more qualified than a senator and “community organizer.”

Peggy Noonan vs. Sarah Palin

Peggy Noonan has long been one of my favorite writers, able to see around the corner when systemic transformations were about to occur; able to tell of danger ahead like a canary in the coal mine. What has given Noonan’s writing grace and perspective in the past is an ability to see what the pack was missing. This time she was fully riding with the pack.

Her comments yesterday caught on tape that John McCain’s nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president was “ . . . bullshit” and certain to damn McCain’s run were puzzling. What I found disappointing yesterday was the self assurance in her tone of voice. She was bemoaning McCain’s pick as a “ . . . narrative” choice by which I think she means a new face come in from the country with some stories that could be weaved for public consumption. She considered Palin a novelty.