Friday, February 23, 2007

Does anybody else think that it’s ridiculous for presidential candidates to be going at it hammer and tongs a full year before the first primary? The real and implicit vitriol between the Clinton and Obama camps this early in the process is nothing short of idiotic. At this rate, those two candidates will have dropped out from exhaustion long before the voting actually begins.

Is that why John Edwards is waiting, and watching, and generally keeping his mouth shut? If so, I would call that good strategy, and urge him to keep a low – and statesman-like – profile, for as long as possible.

What nobody seems to be looking at is the substantive qualifications of either Clinton or Obama to be president. The former has completed one term in the Senate, and is the wife of a former president. The latter is still in his first term in national office. Aside from name recognition [Clinton] and perceived charisma [Obama], what do these candidates bring to the table?

Of course, one could have asked the same questions about Bill Clinton in 1992, or George W. Bush in 2000, as well. Well, at least they had experience governing. So, maybe it’s unfair for me to question these candidates’ qualifications on such a basis. On the other hand, and as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, neither one excites me much, either as to presentation of their positions, or more importantly, their ability to be elected in a general election.

Because that’s what it’s all about, folks. Who stands the best chance of winning a general election in an electorate that clearly is in the middle of the road? If you don’t care about winning, it’s all well and good for the far left [or far right] candidates to stake out a marginal position, and then go down gloriously and virtuously in flames, because their message did not sell to the electorate. George McGovern did just that, and look how well he did in the general election – against a wartime president and during a war that was perceived as widely unpopular [McGovern won just one state, his own, and D.C.]. The comparisons between 1972 and 2008 are illuminating, to say the least. You cannot lead your party’s voters where they don’t want to go, and the majority of Democrats don’t support the position of getting back at Bush at the expense of our troops. The Republican anti-Clinton sentiment fed the impeachment proceedings; in the same vein, the anti-Bush feeling fans the fires of this "withdraw from Iraq under any circumstances" position.

To govern, you’ve got to get elected, and the Democratic candidates seem to have forgotten that small point. They seem to be marginalizing themselves by making a litmus test over the vote for war in 2003, or support for the troops on the ground. Thus, the perception is that to get the Democratic nomination, you’ve got to be vocally and vociferously anti-Bush [read anti-war, anti-war funding]. Anti-Bush is fine, but a candidate who commits to cutting support for troops on the ground is doomed to failure in the general election. After all, that candidate can’t take that position back once the nomination is secured.

The Republicans love this in-fighting between Clinton and Obama. They don’t really care which one takes the nomination, because they can cut either candidate off at the knees. And they particularly love that the Democratic candidates collectively are painting themselves into an un-winnable position, by moving farther to the left on the war issue than the electorate can tolerate.

Have the Republicans, who appear to have a better grasp of the long-term picture than the Democrats, maneuvered the Democrats into this corner? It makes some sense:

* Push Hillary, who they can beat under almost any circumstances, given her negatives.
* At the same time, get Hillary to punch herself out with Obama, who is aggressively anti-war, African-American, and inexperienced in national/foreign affairs and governance generally.
* Ignore and thus minimize the candidates who pose the biggest general election threat – Edwards, Richardson – and flog Clinton and Obama.
* MSM, the beast who must be fed, and the bloggers [son of the beast?] will go [and are going] to town just for the splashiest story.
* Chiefly because of the far-left anti-war stances the candidates are being forced into, the perception is created that Democrats are all wild-eyed lunatics who want to cut and run, and don’t support our troops [see Vietnam].
* Following the internecine primary carnage, whoever gets the nomination is already bloodied and exhausted.
* The nominee also has major baggage picked up with the positions they had to take just to win the nomination, as well as the underlying negatives [in Clinton’s case]. If Hilary is the nominee, then they pound her negatives, as well as the northeastern liberal mantle she inevitably carries. With Obama, they grind him down on his inexperience, and, subtly his color [see Harold Ford campaign
in Tennessee].

Either way, the Republicans dance to victory in November ‘08. As icing on the cake, they finally “get” a Clinton, even if Hillary isn’t really the one they wanted to “get.”

It really doesn’t matter whether the Republicans are sly enough to maneuver the Democrats into this position, or whether the Democrats are dumb enough to do it to themselves. The result would be the same: Democratic sacrifice of the presidency on the alter of the far left’s “principles.”

The Democratic leadership wants to believe the mid-term elections were a mandate for the far left. Not so. The mid-terms were a rejection of the far right in favor of centrist populism. If the far left holds sway over the Democratic presidential contest, the electorate will reject that nominee just as handily as it did the far right. Which is OK by the Republicans.

The Democratic leadership ignores these realities at its peril. We’re talking realpoltik here. To govern, you’ve got to win. To win, you’ve got to appeal to the broadest base. Given popular dissatisfaction with Republicans in general, the Democrats, as in 2004, would have to work real hard to lose this election.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This is what law students [and lawyers, regardless of age] have to go through. And for anyone who went to school in the D.C area, the punch line at the end of the piece really rings true.