Presidential Campaign

Presidential Campaign

'WInging It' — Maybe Not a Good Idea for Obama

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) — as our fellow blogger Dick Morris has pointed out — is lucky to have a foil in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). And when they stood onstage at South Carolina State University last week, things were looking good for him — he was calm and smiley, while she was pinched in hyper-focus.

But it was Brian Williams's question about a terrorist attack that threw off Obama and gave Clinton the edge with her powerful, punctual and of course prepared "I think a president must move as swiftly as prudent to retaliate" response. It was an excellent answer, and "prudent" is so presidential in that George H.W. Bush way. With Obama struggling to respond later to perfect his terrorism response, during a question about global warming, it was simply advantage Clinton, hands down. It's surprising, too, because it sounds like the kind of question professional campaign staff would have anticipated.

Hillary's Boo Birds, Part II

Reports of jeering aimed at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) by anti-Iraq war California Democratic Party convention-goers may have been — oh, let's say, overemphasized.

Bill Bradley (not the former presidential candidate), who writes a political blog for Pajamas Media, e-mailed me this morning his firsthand account of Hillary's speech, writing that there were only "a few scattered, very occasional catcalls," which he described as "barely noticeable."

Bradley concludes, "It would be totally impossible to put together a DiFi type ad based on that." Fair enough. Although, with a little digital remastering ...

Hillary's California Boo Birds

The Democratic presidential candidates descended upon the Republican city of San Diego this weekend to stump at the California Democratic Party state convention.

As the state's Republican Party chairman (a San Diego resident) noted, it's been more than a decade since the Dems have held a convention in San Diego, despite its being one of the most beautiful, temperate locations in California. "I suppose they finally found enough rooms among the small number of unionized hotels that labor officials allowed the party to come back to our fair city. Good for them," wrote the GOP chairman in a statement to the media.

The real news to come out of the San Diego convention — if there was any, which usually there isn't at these events — was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) getting booed by liberal activist members of the CDP for not taking a strong enough stand against the war in Iraq. The lefty bloggers were aghast that she (still) didn't apologize for her vote to authorize the war. But surely Mrs. Clinton and her savvy team knew she risked such obtuse heckling at a convention where signs reading "Out of Iraq! Don't Attack Iran!" were in full display, not just by the granola caucus but by the relatively mundane suburban types as well. 

Reflections on the First Democratic Debate

Don’t know about you, but I didn’t realize that President George W. Bush was on the ballot for the presidency in 2008. My first impression from the debate last night was the shrill, strident tone many of the candidates on the stage took towards the president in general and the war in Iraq in particular. And if I hear “If I had known then what I know now, I would never have voted for the war” one more time, I’m going to go crazy.

First, hindsight is always 20-20. The pandering and apparent soul-searching to appease the far left by former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was particularly irritating. I was struck by the lack of a coherent message of what any of the candidates would actually do if they were elected president. While all claimed to oppose the war and support “comprehensive border control,” I didn’t hear anything by way of a new plan or idea to move the country forward. Leadership in a time of war requires strength, resolve and convictions; all the Democrats on the stage sounded like they were more interested in appeasing far-left groups like rather than confronting the real dangers presented by the war on terrorism that the United States is facing.

Vintage Rudy Showing His Stripes

If Rudy Giuliani has to hide out in New York City, how is his presidential campaign going to make it through the long haul? According to the New York Daily News Rudy gets followed to every campaign stop there by parents and widows of 9/11 firefighters, who hold signs that say things like "Rudy for President? Not in My Son's Name!" and "America's Night Mayor." The group, including union members and FDNY veterans, claim Giuliani failed for years to provide adequate radios to fire departments and that it cost many of their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. As Rudy slips in the back door of the events it can't look good to attendees who walk in the front.

But Rudy snapped at a voter in a New Hampshire town hall meeting this week as well. When one questioner suggested that the war on terror had led to an erosion of civil rights, Giuliani told him he had "an extremely exaggerated presentation of things and you didn't point out the other fact — and that is that we haven't been attacked, and that we've been safe." Marty Capodice, 64, said in reply, "So no rights?" And according to the Daily News, "That's hardly no rights!" was Giuliani's loud response.

The Democratic Presidential Minstrel Show

Watching the unusual and strange early Democratic presidential debate last night at my alma mater, South Carolina State University, where I was student body president for two consecutive years, it seems that MSNBC would have us believe that in 90 minutes eight candidates could tell us everything we need to know about the issues of foreign policy, domestic policy, moral striving and civility. With a few more debates to be televised, the network implies that we can find comfort in which candidate we will support.

Let me get this straight: eight candidates and hour and a half … that’s just over 10 minutes each! Obviously the questioner there was somewhat intimidated by frontrunners Clinton and Obama and allowed them to repeatedly exceed their time limits while the others were kept in check. What kind of nation are we when we base our decisions about a presidential
candidate on theater at its best and worst? Television debates are just Hollywood-style productions that showcase only personality, charisma and whatever other shallowness to which this country is endeared.

Rudy Is Right

Rudy Giuliani hit the nail on the head with his comment that if the Democrats win in 2008, we will be running up the white flag and going over to defense in the war on terror. The prompt and acerbic replies from the usually well-mannered Democratic field of candidates shows how close to the mark his barb was.

The fact is that the Democrats, led by former president Bill Clinton, have always seen terrorism as a criminal justice problem rather than a war. Unwilling to commit troops except at 35,000 feet in jet aircraft (preferably stealth), the Clinton administration and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger illustrated how risk-averse and conflict-avoiding an administration could become.

Picking Winners and Losers Tonight

Tonight America will get its first real look at the major contenders for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. Far from being too early or irrelevant, I believe the stakes tonight are high for those at the top and bottom of the draw.

For starters, both Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) have the most to gain and the most to lose. For Clinton, long dogged by high disapproval ratings, she can utilize her time on the stage tonight to present a more likable and personable candidate than many have seen thus far. A likable Clinton will help put distance between herself and Obama as the frontrunner at this stage. Yet Clinton also runs the risk of being attacked by some of the lesser-known and lower-polling candidates — attacks that she should be careful not to respond to in a shrill manner that could reinforce negative impressions held about her. She’ll have a delicate tightrope to walk, indeed.

No Momentum for Mitt

With all his money, good looks, high-ranking Republican friends like the Bushes, and even a seemingly storybook marriage to a popular and well-liked beauty, it is still hard for Mitt Romney to stand out from — let alone pull ahead of — the bizarre 2008 GOP presidential field. It's not that everybody loves Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain or any of the others. At this point there is just no momentum for Mitt.

One of the problems is Romney's lack of identity with any signature issue. He could have made it healthcare, after helping usher in a groundbreaking, bipartisan healthcare reform in Massachusetts, but he chose not to. He can't make abortion his thing, or opposing gay marriage for that matter; there are only a few primary voters who truly believe his precarious, even
if religious, conversions on both of these thorny social issues.

Dick Morris Is Wrong. Rudy Strikes Out.

A little fear-politics, a little 9/11 exploitation, from the guy whose best-bud choice for Homeland Security boss is rushing out of town, one step ahead of the sheriff, with Rudy's letter of recommendation in hand.

Sound familiar? Fear-politics? Exploitation of 9/11? A whiff of scandal? Will Rudy change his middle initial to W?

McCain has already locked up the Bush 43.5 mantle. Lot of good it's doing him. So Rudy plays the Bush 43.75 card. They never learn.

There are glorious temptations to return the low blow in kind to Rudy. But the game is early and our standards are higher than his. We will stick to the knitting.

Rudy is the guy who before 9/11 allowed the New York City communications system to fall so far behind it was a disaster on 9/11.