Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

George Bush's record as a student, military man, businessman and leader of the free world is one of constant failure. And the part that troubles me most is he seems content with himself. He will leave office with the country $10 trillion in debt, fighting two wars, our international reputation in shambles, our government cloaked in secrecy and suspicion that his entire presidency has been a litany of broken laws and promises, our citizens' faith in our own country ripped to shreds. Yet Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been.

I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him.

There's some idea out there that the left is, or is supposed to be, panicking about Obama. But I can hardly rouse myself to check the daily polls. It's not that I'm sanguine about Obama's chances: He may have the edge, but I always figured McCain to be criminally underestimated. He's one of the most popular, skilled politicians in the country, and he's running against a first term black guy. When it's this easy to see how a loss would look inevitable in retrospect, I refuse to count it out in predictions.

That said, over the past two months absolutely nothing of import has happened. No fundamental dynamics have changed. Obama's cash advantage didn't dissolve, the economy didn't undergo a rapid improvement, and the electorate didn't radically alter its apparent composition. We're seeing a lot of potshots and a lot of ads, but this early out, it's all meaningless. The events with the ability to impact the outcome begin coming now: VP picks, convention bumps, debates, massive ad wars, ground games, and the constant X factor of events (been awhile since we saw a bin Laden tape, for instance). And their potential to actually change the race magnifies as we near the actual election. Let's be clear: McCain may well win this thing. But he'll win it after September, not before. Sadly, in these slow months, we all become 24-hour news networks by choice, and in order to justify our obsessive attention to the horserace, we have to pretend the daily perturbations are meaningful. At least when MSNBC pretends this or that early-August press release matters, they're making a profit off the charade.


If the press is feeling let down by John McCain they should blame themselves for not paying close enough attention to the man over the years. On balance, McCain's recent moves are less a sign of desperation than they are that he is serious about winning. He has managed to make progress in the polls using these tactics.

. . . The danger for Obama is that by listening to Beltway consultants and media insiders he may make the mistake of conceding that John McCain was once a man of honor, integrity, and principle. He wasn't honorable at the Naval Academy. He wasn't honorable in his first marriage. He wasn't honorable when he voted against MLK Day, or when he got involved in the Keating Five. He wasn't honorable when he defended the Confederate Flag (as he has admitted). He's not being honorable now. So, when was he honorable?


McCain hasn’t been able to run the campaign he had envisioned. Instead, he and his staff have been given an education by events.

[t]here are lots of ways in which McCain could campaign without lying or impugning his opponent’s patriotism. Some of them might even win. If McCain’s advisors can’t think of a single one of them, that shows only their limited imaginations.

But let’s pretend, just for the sake of argument, that they are right to say that the only way to win, this year, is by taking the low road. Would that mean that they have to take it? Of course not. That means you have a choice between honor and ambition; between running a decent campaign and a sordid one; between being a candidate the country can be proud of and being a candidate who contributes to the degradation and trivialization of political discourse.

You would have no choice only if you assumed that your own ambitions were more important than your honor.


McCain can afford to play the "maverick" with his trial balloons, but he dare not follow through.

I still think McCain is going to get slaughtered. But there is little doubt it won’t be because of any superior tactics or moral high ground claimed by the Obama campaign. The Chicago politician has proved to the world that he can get down in the gutter and root around with the worst of them. And he’s doing it with the active encouragement of the liberal netroots who are so terrified of Obama being “swiftboated” by the right that they have determined that flinging feces at McCain like little monkeys in the zoo will prove to the voter their candidate’s ability to go beyond partisanship and enter the shining new world of the political assassin and hatchet man.

By declaring "I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies," John McCain should have dispelled any fantasies that unreconciled Hillary Clinton supporters may have about supporting him or sitting out the election.

But disappointment dies hard and, at the Democratic convention next week and its environs, there will undoubtedly be expressions of lingering resentment on the part of women who feel cheated of an historic breakthrough with her candidacy.


There is pressure on both Obama and this growing movement of supporters - for Obama, it's to define himself in a way to maximize volunteer support, and for the supporters, it's to know our principles and values and pressure from the bottom up to realize them.

It's a big bet.

I've long wondered why, exactly, the charge that Bush knowingly misled people in order to garner public support for the Iraq War is considered such an incendiary charge. Is it because politicians have a reputation as generally honest people who would never fib? Well, that can't be right. Is it because Bush is considered an unusually honest politician who, unlike the rest of the breed, is a straight-talker? Well, no, that’s not right either. If anything, the main problem with the "Bush lied, thousands died" critique is the reverse; not that it's unusually outrageous (the way the Swift Vets were) but that it’s extremely banal. Politicians say and do misleading things all the time and the fact that some particular policy initiative was sold, in part, through dishonest methods hardly invalidates it.

Cartoon by Pat Oliphant/Universal Press Syndicate

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