The Cynic and Senator Obama

This is the title of an excellent essay written by the all-world writer, Charles Pierce, in the June issue of Esquire magazine. I highly recommend you pick it up. In 2004, Pierce wrote a piece on John Kerry that almost made me like the Senator, as it came close to even humanizing the guy. On the essay on Obama, here are a few quotes I wanted to share.

There is one point in the stump speech, however, that catches the cynic up short every time. It comes near to the end, when Obama talks about cynics. Obama says that cynics believe they are smarter than everyone else. The cynic thinks he’s wrong. The cynic doesn’t think he’s wiser or more clever or more politically attuned than anyone else. It’s just that he fears that, every morning, he’ll discover that his country has done something to deface itself further, that something else he thought solid will tremble and quake and fall to ruin, that his fellow citizens will sell more of their birthright for some silver that they can forge into shackles. He has come to believe that the worst thing a citizen of the United States of America can believe is that his country will not do something simply because it’s wrong. It would be a mistake for anyone — but especially for a presidential candidate — to believe that the cynic thinks himself wise or safe or liberated. In 2008, the cynic is more modest. He considers himself merely adequate to the times.

Later on Pierce adds:

Cynicism was noble, the cynic believed. It was to be directed only at targets worthy of it and not at a candidate’s failure to provide what the elite political press could sell to a complicit nation as the proper proletarian dumb show. It was to be directed at how seriously Barack Obama has misjudged the country he so obviously wants to lead, which is not the country he talks about but the spavined America that actually exists, because that’s the country in which the American people, in a hundred different acts of omission and commission, have freely determined that they want to live. A country of stunted anger and, yes, bitter denial of all that it’s done to itself. That’s the country in which Barack Obama is running now. If he sees it from the stage when he tilts his head and looks off into the far distance, he gives no sign of it.

He talks forever about “change.” Change from what? the cynic wondered. Obama never really says. He criticizes Bush, and his people, and his policies. He runs through the litany: Iraq. Katrina. The collapse of the subprime mortgage industry. The overall economy, now barely clouding the mirror under its nose. He’s tough when he does it, and smart, and shrewd. But it ends there. Obama never addresses the era of complicity, the fact of the country’s accessorial conduct in its own murder. He just tells the country that it’s really better than all that. And the cynic’s questions are never really answered. And he talks forever about “hope.” The cynic hears it and remembers the legend of Pandora. Hope was the jewel left in the box after she’d opened it, but Pandora never noticed Hope until she’d loosed all the demons onto the world.

Why would anyone have faith in America, which is not tough but fearful, not smart but stupid, and not shrewd but willing to fall for almost anything as long it comes wrapped in a flag? Why would anyone have faith in Americans? Barack Obama says that he has that faith because of his own life, because he was able to rise to the point where he can be thought of as president of the United States. He is the country’s walking absolution. That’s his reason, the cynic thinks, but it’s not mine. There has to be confession. There has to be penance. Being Barack Obama is not enough. Not damn close to enough.

 

Pierce finishes his essay with the inner turmoil he feels and then finishes with a desperate plea.

Obama takes the stage and the hall explodes, the way all the halls have exploded in this, the last really good week he will have. All the rest of the upcoming weeks and months will be about becoming aware that the country he imagines is not the America that is, and that it hasn’t been for a very long time. And the cynic realizes at last that he is more naive than anyone else here, particularly more than the slim, smooth candidate himself, stalking the stage in his edgeless way and looking out over the crowd at something in his private distance. The cynic believes in an old, abandoned country that’s no less illusory than the redeemed one Obama is promising to this crowd. Isn’t that something? the cynic thinks. Maybe that’s enough, that single revelation, just a flicker of the lost imagination. For the last time, in the roar of the crowd, it comes back to him again. Convince me America is not an illusion. Convince me that it never was. Convince me that you’re not a pious mirage. Convince me that we’re not. Now that you brought it up, convince me.

Convince me.

Convince me.

Convince me.

 

While not all of Pierce’s sentiments are mine, he does echo a lot of my unease with Obama. Idealism is pretty much dead in my life. After 8 years of if you want to help the country in its current crisis—go out and spend like there is no tomorrow, I thirst for someone who is willing to leave the platitudes back in the primaries and instead being willing to level with us. People in some parts of the country are beginning to be more open to an honest dialogue. It’s funny how a region of the country who has been battered economically by the results of globalization can begin to pull their heads out of their asses about what another man wants to stick in his. (gay rights) It’s interesting how the real estate bubble can motivate some to contemplate how the free market isn’t the perfect model that the Larry Kudlow’s of the world want to make it. (meet our friend, government oversight)

I know telling people they need to put on a sweater and turn down their thermostat hasn’t generally been a saavy political move, but giving us absolution for our sins and offering hope and change as the antedote leaves us cynics a bit empty. It’s not like the cynic is left with much choice, though, as Pierce writes:

In the end, the Republicans settled on John McCain, who’d traded his shiny armor from 2000 for a tattered choir robe, and who was promising to run on being better at everything at which George W. Bush had been bad. The cynic had spent time with McCain almost a decade earlier, and he had liked him tremendously, and now the cynic didn’t recognize him at all.

There is still time to be convinced. For those of you that think the states Hilary Clinton has been slam-dunking Obama in that the reason is all about racism, I suggest you visit these places. I won’t claim that an unhealthy part of these voters decision-making was based on not giving the country’s top job to a black man, there was a bigger portion that chose Hilary because they wanted to go with the devil they knew. Life was pretty good for these people in the 90’s and they are nostalgic for those days, not for a product that has been promised to be new and improved. If Obama can’t be more concrete in how these people are going to be included in the change and hope tour he promises to bring to the nation, the electoral math just isn’t going to happen for him.

(By the way, the best 8 dollars I spend a year is on a subscription to Esquire. I know some here have given up on reading anything that isn’t in online. I suggest you break that vow and turn the page back. Esquire is where many of the best writers offer up an active view of life.)

60 thoughts on “The Cynic and Senator Obama

  1. 1.  Wait, you don’t want a panderer? You want someone who is willing to tell us the hard truths, yet you are still supporting the candidate who was in favor of temporarily repealing the gas tax, while being unsure of the only one who refused to tell people what they wanted to hear n that issue?

  2. 2.  It’s an intriguing piece but the “Obama never really says” mantra isn’t fear. I’ve heard him speak specifically on quite a few issues near and dear to my hear and he says all the things I’d like to hope he means sincerely. If it’s only “hope” that makes me vote for him, it’s better than the abject despair I feel at the thought of John McCain as president, a man who is so unpredictable, unknowable and occasionally so wrongheaded about things that I would have zero hope for the future if he were elected on the heels of 8 undeniably disastrous years in the Bush administration (a man McCain has lately been embracing at fundraisers, events he won’t let the press into because he doesn’t want them to see him embracing him). So if Obama isn’t experienced in every aspect of world leadership, he’s savvy enough and progressive enough for me to trust him to surround himself with great thinkers who can fill in those gaps. With McCain, again, no trust, no hope.

    Look, it’s going to be Obama vs McCain in the fall. So rather than worrying about some nagging ethereal doubts one may have about Obama, may I suggest focusing instead on the possibilities he brings vs. the much more likely disaster the other one brings, at such a dangerously critical intersection in our history?

  3. 3.  Hah, funny – I meant “isn’t fair,” not fear. There’s nothing to fair but fair itself!

  4. 4.  I agree that the gas tax deal was a complete pander, though I do feel there needs to be some oversight on the oil industry. There are a few public utilities that definitely need this type of questioning and the oil companies are one. While I didn’t agree with the gas tax, I did believe she was right in going after the oil companies, even though I know that was a pander as well.

    All this flowery rhetoric about the greatness of America kind of makes me ill. So is life of the cynic.

  5. 5.  Pierce nails it (again.) This is precisely why I haven’t been able to buy into Obama. I want to believe so badly, but after the last two stolen elections, it’s easier to believe in the cynical position. The biggest fear I have about Obama isn’t that he’ll lose to McCain, it’s that he’ll tear out the hope of the young along with the loss.

  6. 6.  States Clinton has won by at least 20% – KY, WV, AR, OK
    States Clinton has won by 10-19% – PA, RI, MA, NJ, NY, TN

    States Obama has won by at least 20% – MS, WY, VT, HI, DC, MD, VA, LA, NE, WA, AK, CO, GA, ID, IL, KS, MN, MD, SC
    States Obama has won by 10-19% – OR, NC, WI, ME, AL, DE, UT

    Hillary’s recent apparent “slam-dunking” is a result primarily of 3 things, with racism being a distant 4th:

    1) The calendar
    2) Republicans
    3) Appalachia

    2 of Clinton’s biggest wins have been in the last 3 contests, while the other two were on Super Tuesday. Obama, on the other hand, has been racking up huge wins from South Carolina to Mississippi, as well as “moderate wins” (10-19) in more than one state that doesn’t share a border with the state that elected him to the Senate (Clinton can only claim Tennessee in that category). By Republicans, I don’t specifically mean Rush Limbaugh’s “Professor Chaos” or whatever, but just that 3 of her big wins are in states that are almost certainly going to McCain in Nov, with WV starting to look that way. Obama, however, has huge wins in “true blue” states (HI, VT, IL), traditional swing-states (MN, WA, LA), “new” swing states (CO, VA, MD) and a decent collection of red states (roughly 8 to 3 or 4 over Clinton by my count).

    As for Appalachia, the problem is pretty well documented at this point, although you hit on one of the key factors – namely, working-class voters brand recognition of the Clintons and how a vote for Hillary is a vote to bring back the ’90s. But the point is, it’s not all working-class people, or all white working-class people, or all white, working-class, high school-educated voters that Obama has a problem with, it’s a specific regional problem, and one that’s not really going to affect him in November (outside of possibly preventing him from picking up VA and/or MD, where he got clocked in the western parts of the states, despite winning big overall).

  7. 7.  4. I would agree with you, if the oil companies were providing a large part of the world’s oil supply, but the fact of the matter is, most of the oil supply in the world is controlled by state-owned enterprises, and that is one of the biggest problems with supply right now. Instead of investing in new or better drilling technologies and equipment, they are distributing most of their profits to their corrupt governments. If the oil companies were allowed to drill for oil in the places where most oil is, then you would have a better point, but the fact is, they are just along for the ride.

  8. 8.  I disagree with the notion that Obama hasn’t said what he wants to change, that he hasn’t addressed the ways the country has been self-destructive and that he doesn’t have concrete ideas for change. This criticism reminds me somewhat, if I may, of the media criticizing Paul DePodesta for not explaining his rationales to them, when in fact he was explaining them over and over again and the media was just too skeptical to hear him.

    Whether Obama is a one-stop solution to make everything better and whether all his ideas can be implemented may be uncertain, but that’s true for any candidate.

    “Barack Obama is not enough” is not enough of a reason not to vote for him, unless you can show me someone who is enough.

  9. 9.  I can understand the sentiment, that Obama is speaking beautiful but empty words.

    It’s not the case that Obama doesn’t have specific plans, and hasn’t made them public. He has. I’ve listened to his recent Audiobook, and specific plans are all over his website.

    Early in the campaign, he was talking about this stuff a lot, and getting creamed. Then, he switched to the loftier rhetoric with just a smattering of specifics, and he’s soared. It just works better on the campaign trail. So, you’re not going to see it stop being the driving force of the campaign – he’s very good at it, and most people want to hear it.

    However, it’s not the case that the emperor has no clothes here – it’s just, policy speeches weren’t winning the election. Really, if you’re the kind of person who isn’t too far on one side or another to already know how you’ll vote (and I don’t blame you if you are), please take the time to actually look for Obama and McCain’s policies. They don’t hide them on their websites, and there’s a lot of detail. It’s just, they don’t talk about them continuously, because that doesn’t move the needle in terms of votes.

    It’s an entirely different, and totally legitimate, complaint that serious policy details aren’t important to most voters. I don’t think you can fault a politician for recognizing this, so long as they actually answer the real questions in places that we can get to them.

  10. 10.  “Why would anyone have faith in America, which is not tough but fearful, not smart but stupid, and not shrewd but willing to fall for almost anything as long it comes wrapped in a flag? Why would anyone have faith in Americans?”

    Is this the “cynic” talking, or is this Pierce talking? And what is his reasoning for this kind of defamatory statement?

  11. 11.  I believe this is Pierce speaking. When it comes to the last 2 elections, these sentiments have been enough to get an incompetent, intellectually incurious, failure in everything he has ever done, elected.

  12. 12.  Cynicism is great if it causes you to expect results when people make promises, or to demand evidence when people make claims. Cynicism is lousy when it leads you to inaction because you distrust the ability of anyone to improve the world.

  13. 13.  Here is my point that I guess is being missed.

    I’m pointing this stuff out because he could end up losing to McCain in a year where dems dominate. He needs to be more specific and connect with Reagan dems and Hispanics. You can talk all you want about the new electoral map, but I suspect McCain will do well in the Southwest, with his former Maverick credentials and being from Arizona.

    These have been my problems with Obama for quite awhile. The major metro area and both coasts are solidly in his corner, but he has to win some swing states and just don’t see him being a lock for any of them outside of Wisconsin. Hillary won most of these swing states.

    Of the states that Ali lists as 20 percent winners for Obama during the primary (MS, WY, VT, HI, DC, MD, VA, LA, NE, WA, AK, CO, GA, ID, IL, KS, MN, MD, SC) I would guess only IL, VT, MD, and MN are locks for him. Most of the states that Obama won in the Dem primary race he will lose in the General. There are real problems here, unless he shows that he is the far superior choice to McCain in the debates. Don’t be so confident that he will do this.

    The rhetoric of cutting your taxes and never surrendering in Iraq make it impossible for me to vote for McCain, but I just worry that Obama’s lack of experience will cost him in the general. It will take young voters turning up at levels 25% more than ever before for him to make up the diff, unless he can persuade Hispanics and Reagan Dems that he is someone they believe is in their best interests.

    This is my rant.

  14. 14.  I don’t think there’ll be too much hay to make of the Housing Bubble by election time. What would Obama do (or even have done) to prevent that? Prohibit banks from loaning money to poor people? Ban derivatives?

    Markets go up and down. Nobody yet has figured out a way to make them only go up (though lots of people have figured out ways to make them only go down, which doesn’t seem fair). Arguably the greatest fundamental problem with the housing market was the government meddling with it in the first place (it wasn’t the banks’ idea to loan money to poor people).

    Also, pick on the oil companies as much as you like, but I think the line of people who want to turn them into a new version of cable television is very short. That said, I would like to see more of Maxine Waters threatening to nationalize them. Maybe she could take that show on the road, and threaten to nationalize puppy mills and bakeries. I’d buy a ticket!

  15. 15.  Check the latest polls. The RCP has Obama up an average of 5.8 in Pennsylvania, 1.3 in Ohio, and 1.6 in Wisconsin. He’s within 1.3 in Virginia and he’s very close in Michigan. Obama leads 47-38 in Iowa.

    I’m not worried about him being competitive in states Clinton won. One of things I like very much about Obama is that he’s had a 50-state strategy from the beginning.

  16. 17.  Oops, sorry, totally wrong thread. That’s my punishment for multitasking, heh.

    What everyone said!

  17. 18.  Forget the state counts and focus on the electoral counts. Obama is losing there and I don’t see where it’s getting better.

    If you like RCP, try fivethirtyeight.com and pay special attention to the electoral counts.

  18. 19.  13 There’s the rub, right? Which is worse, more of the same (McCain), or someone painted as having no experience?

    My guess is, people are going to choose the guy with less experience. The McCain as Maverick message isn’t going to last for long. Just that he’s a member of the party of Bush is enough to turn a lot of people off.

    I’d also say that if attracting white working class voters who identify more strongly with the Clintons is a problem for Obama, then when Hillary falls into line*, she and Bill ought to be out in those areas, campaigning like mad for Obama and his non-Clinton running mate.

    *I hope Hillary realizes that her legacy is at stake here. If she doesn’t fully and enthusiastically support Obama as the nominee, she is finished in the party, whether Obama wins or loses.

  19. 20.  18 Based on those maps, if either Ohio or Michigan goes to Obama (and both states are trending that way), then Obama wins. There are others where he’ll be competitive too, once Clinton is out of the race.

  20. 21.  Never underestimate a young black man who has come out of nowhere to steal the democratic ticket. Think about it. 18 months ago, this guy wasn’t really on anyone’s radar, now he’s kicking arse.

    If you reckon that some dawdler like McCain and his cronies are going to pants this guy in the general election, then you are naive. I put my stock in Obama because he is the smartest guy in the room and has proven it thus far. As for the empty rhetoric, check out his website and stop being so cynical. Seriously mate, Australia has the highest proportion of atheists(about 30% of general population) of any developed country, but we have far more faith then any of you.

    The negativity just gets boorish after awhile. Pull your head in and instead of whinging about things, get off your arse and do something about it.

  21. 23.  22- Diebold is responsible for all the crappy politicians in the world, everybody knows that.

  22. 24.  I will accept being dumped on by most about my political views, but not a guy who uses arse and calls me mate. Hugh, name me a black president/prime minister of a majority white country? And the US is the most jingoistic country of any of the Western nations. You can call it racism, but I think it has more to do with people voting for who they are most comfortable with.

    Until he started embracing Bush, McCain had extremely high favorability ratings among swing voters. He is sucking at Bush’s teat because it is the only way he raise money and have any chance in competing against the money machine which is Obama. I understand it. If he didn’t have such a strident position on the war, I think McCain would be the prohibitive favorite.

    Hugh, let me state that the first line above was me just having some fun with you. I hope you don’t rack off. It’s not like anyone can claim a London on a brick of who is going to win the election.

  23. 25.  What should jingoists care about Obama’s skin color? They’d be against him because he’s against the war.

  24. 26.  Scott, no offense taken, I get your humour.
    What I was trying to say is that declared cynics such as yourself seem to underestimate this guy. He’s literally come out of left field(this is a baseball site :-after all) and taken Hillary down.

    For me, that shows some real skill and wit. He’s smart, smart in a way that he beguiles people and personally if I needed to pick someone to negotiate for me(or my country) I’d surely be happy to give him a go.

  25. 27.  24 – I think you might want to go back and recheck your baseline for the “McCain would be the prohibitive favorite” statement. I don’t know if you’ve checked out Intrade (intrade.com), but they have online markets where people put real money up for all sorts of things. One thing they’ve tracked since the last election is “2008 Presidential Election Winner (Political Party).”* While I know this type of site is an imperfect measure of specific events (individual primaries, etc.), I think it’s probably pretty good at reading the overall mood with respect to the parties.

    For all of ’05 and ’06, it was basically 50-50, but ever since the ’06 Election things have moved decisively towards a 60-40 Democrat advantage (remember, this is the odds of winning, not a projection of the vote, popular or electoral). So, in my mind, the “smart money” would still be against McCain even with a different position on the war. As significant of an issue as it is, all the other fundamentals are weighing against the GOP. Unless McCain was actually against it from the start, there’s no way it would be enough to make him the “prohibitive favorite.”

    *(Intrade seems to prevent direct linking, but from the main page go to ‘Politics>2008 Pres. Election’).

  26. 28.  I can’t say that this intrade thing tells me much about who is going to win. I’m sure this same place had Hillary as the overwhelming favorite before the election. I’m sure McCain was left for dead in the fall of 2007.

    Sure Obama should win, I expect he will win, but I think it will be really close and will turn on if he can get enough of the swing voters to go his way.
    Shaun P. brings up an important part about if he wins or not. The level that the Clinton’s campaign for him. They still have a lot of cache among voters.

  27. 29.  I think the Pierce piece is a bit schizophrenic. Is he talking about his own feelings or some mythical cynic? Quite frankly, I don’t think Mr. Pierce is qualified to speak for anyone, but himself. America doesn’t need and, I suspect, doesn’t want a knight and shining armor that will make it all better. For some reason, liberal elites can’t seem to understand that.

    I have to admit that in a year in which a Republican candidate should be a huge dark horse for the White House, I am enjoying the Hilary/Obama battle royal. Instead of seizing on a golden opportunity by nominating a more mainstream candidate, the Democrats have veered left. It looks to be a case of getting a little greedy and I think it will come back to haunt the party. Between Hilary’s huge unpopularity and Obama’s significant lack of experience, extreme liberal record as well as the implications of race, the Democratic nominee will have major hurdles to overcome. At this point and in this climate, McCain should be polling far behind both Deomcrat candidates. The fact that he is even in the same picture, not to mention close, is a very bad omen for Democrats. Incumbents and incumbent parties always come on strong (return of the prodigal voter syndrome). That combined with a favorable electoral map leaves me very confident that McCain will be elected, although I am concerned about substantial Congressional losses by the GOP.

  28. 30.  5 Maybe I give the “young” too much credit, but I don’t believe they need Obama to give them hope. Believe it or not, there is still a good segment of the population able to define their own hopes. While it is definitely nice to have an inspiring President as opposed to a dour one (think Reagan after Carter), I sincerely hope that the youth of America are not looking toward Washington for hope.

    7 Excellent point…the last think the oil industry needs is government oversight. Like them or not, oil companies are not the ones responsible for gas prices (when the price of oil was low, gas was too). You also can’t blame the free market either because one doesn’t really exist. No president can get around the influence of OPEC. All they can do is work around them. Whether that’s more drilling (which environmentalists oppose) or investment in alternatives is a matter of debate. Ironically, if Iraq does slowly develop into a quasi-democracy, and more stability can be brought to the middle east, that might do more to lower oil prices than anything. In that sense, George W. will have done more to deal with oil prices than any other president. That’s just one small way that I think this president will be vindicated by history for the war in Iraq. Not all successes are properly noted at the time.

    13 The problem with your rant is that you seem to think Hilary has the substance that Obama is lacking. Even though Obama is more liberal and less experienced, there is nothing I can think of that would be worse than Hilary being elected. This country has had 16 years of half the electorate hating the president, and that would continue under Hilary. At least with Obama and McCain that level of personal vitriol would abate. While I think Obama would not make a good president, I kind of like him. Hilary, not so much.

    15 Again, any Democrat should be much further ahead at this point. Those razor thin margins would worry me if I was a Obama.

    19 I don’t think many people view McCain as more of the same. Democrats will try to paint him as a Bushman, but I think that strategy could backfire. Conservatives still respect Bush, so constant attacks on Bush will only push them to the polls more. That, combined with backlash from the California gay marriage ruling, could help dispel some of the apathy felt among conservatives for McCain. Also, after years of being portrayed as a Maverick who wasn’t in lock step with the Republican leadership, I don’t think Democrats can turn back the clock in three months. If the Democrats are going to run against Bush and not McCain, I think that will hurt them in the presidential election (even if it does help on the Congressional side). Interestingly, that might actually be a good strategy…consolidate gains in the Congress and then run a better candidate against an older McCain in 2012. On the other hand, electing Obama or Hilary could create another 1994.

    21 What’s boorish are you negative personal comments. I don’t think anyone is being naïve if they are concerned about the electability of Obama.

  29. 31.  30. I completely disagree about Iraq coming on line and bringing oil prices down. Regardless of what happens, it is most likely going to remain a member of OPEC, thus it’s output will be just as regulated. On top of that the equipment in Iraq is so old and dilapidated that it will take years before Iraq is again a huge producer of oil. Also, my point wasn’t about OPEC, so much as it was about the fact that state owned enterprises that control most of the world’s oil reserves are not investing sufficient funds to keep production growing, even if they wanted to. Venezuela is barely able to meet its OPEC quotas, and probably won’t be able to in the next year or two. Mexico’s oil production is sliding dramatically. Russia isn’t even a member of OPEC, but it has driven away so much international investment it has not been able up its production like it has so many times in the past when oil prices started rising. Actually, I’m kind of shocked that anyone who is even remotely concerned about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions is this troubled by high gas prices. This is the ONLY way that people were going to actually move to alternative energy and energy conservation en masse.

  30. 32.  28 – My point of referencing Intrade is that while it may or may not do of good job measuring what will happen, I think it does measure what the expectation is (again, we’re not measuring something that’s purely objective, like the weather, or batting average, the expectation affects the reality). If you look at the graphs for Clinton, Obama or McCain, you’d see exactly what the “conventional wisdom” of the time said. (Except that this isn’t just the opinion of pundits, it takes advantage of large numbers of people) In September, Obama’s chances of winning the nomination REALLY WERE just as low as the Rockies chances of making the playoffs when Mark and I went to see them last Labor Day; the fact that they ended up winning didn’t retroactively change their previous odds. I certainly don’t think the Intrade numbers are perfect by any means, but I think the trend lines are correct.

    So are you claiming that Obama is the favorite only because of the war? That the economy, the housing/credit crisis, the 7 years of Republican misrule, etc. would make McCain a huge favorite if he had just stood up to Bush on the war?

  31. 33.  31 Assuming Iraq develops some kind of stable, quasi-democratic government, I definitely think it would help the oil supply problem. For one thing, if Iraq modernizes (which would likely be a process involving American companies), it’s supply quotas would increase, even if it remains an OPEC member (in fact, I don’t even know if Iraq has a quota because of its diminshed capacity). Also, if Iraq remains friendly, it could go along way toward helping to ensure oil is priced in dollars and not euros, which is very significant. Finally, if Iraq becomes a full fledged democracy, it might rethink its OPEC status. None of these scenarios are definite, but they’d all be unlikely if Sadam was still in power.

    Your point about the inefficiency of state owned oil companies is well taken, however, particularly with regard to Venezuela.

    Also, expensive gas is definitely an eco-friendly policy, but I have a feeling most people’s eco-concerns abate when it starts to impact their financial situation.

  32. 34.  30 – “Those razor thin margins would worry me if I was a Obama.”

    You can turn it around and say that, given that Obama has been in a struggle for months, with Hillary hurling “everything including the kitchen sink” at him, the fact that McCain is ONLY even with him should worry McCain. Once Hillary officially concedes (and it will be in the next 10 days, trust me) Obama could easily see a big bounce of consolidation. If Obama goes from being “tied” in June to up 10 in September, isn’t McCain kinda screwed? (Granted if he’s still dead even then, it might be a problem)

  33. 35.  30 I knew you and I would have different views on this, william. =) Its obvious we disagree. Here are my points and then I’ll let this one lie.

    Respect or not, not all conservatives are happy with Bush, and they certainly don’t all like, or even respect, McCain.

    The Dems don’t have to paint McCain as a Bushman. He is what he is; he is not a maverick. And he is, and will continue, to do a fine job of making that point all by himself. Unless you expect him to renounce tax cuts as the cure-all for the economy, or say he wants the troops out of Iraq now, come the debates. I don’t.

    There’s only one thing that could inspire the entire conservative base to turn out in droves to vote against Obama*: putting Hillary on the ticket. Obama knows this, and that is why she will never, ever get the VP slot.

    *note I didn’t say vote for McCain – and yes, there is definitely a difference

  34. 36.  34 You could do that, but I think the more established trend is the one that suggests an embattered incumbent party should be far behind at this point in an election year. Considering that the Obama/Hilary fight is mostly among partisan Democrats to begin with, I am not sure that Hilary’s exit would creat the vacuum you suggest.

    35 I never said all conservatives are happy with Bush…just that many respect him. I also agree that not all conservatives like McCain. That’s exactly why the Democrats would be better served to simply run against McCain.

    You may not think McCain is a Maverick, but he has the reputation. Like or not, that goes along away in defining someone’s makeup. Having said that, I think McCain’s stance on Iraq very much makes him a Maverick. The easy thing to do would be to profess a withdrawal policy with absolutely no specifics. Instead, he has taken what I think is the correct, albeit politically dangerous approach of being stridently behind a no-surrender effort.

    I think Obama and Hilary alone are liberal enough to drive Conservatives to vote, even if they are not inspired by McCain. The heavy attention given to the CA ruling on gay marriage will also be a factor (a vote for Obama/Hilary is a vote for liberal court nominees). Of course, a combined ticket would be like manna from the heavens.

  35. 37.  Perception is what politics are all about.

    McCain is disliked by republicans for not being conservative enough, even though if you take out a couple of votes against tax cuts and campaign finance reform and his record is very conservative.

    Obama has positioned himself as someone who will be less partisan, even though his history and voting record make it seem next to impossible for that to happen.

    Hillary has a record of working with more republican senators than practically any democrat over the past 6 years, but is seen as big fat liberal by many.

    This is the perception. It sticks, unless a negative ad or negative event can change the thought-process.

    The idea that the Clinton’s have thrown the kitchen sink at Obama is ludicrous. They couldn’t do that because they knew that they would need him on board if they won, as they didn’t want to alienate black voters. Republicans won’t have that guideline to follow.

    Until Hillary made the idiotic statement about RFK’s assassination, I don’t think anything that was offered up by her was below the belt. Obama has been on the national scene for 3 years. Only Jimmy Carter was more of an unknown and he had run the state of Georgia for one term. Obama will get scrutiny that he never has even considered when the Republicans start going after him. I sincerely hope he holds up, as I don’t want another 4 years of a failed policy in Iraq and for McCain to get choose the another supreme court justice or 2.

  36. 38.  13 – One other point I wanted to respond to earlier was about my list of states. I wasn’t trying to say that Obama was going to win all of the states, even the ones he won huge in, but that the sheer number does two things: it increases the chances that he wins a few of them and it forces McCain to play defense in many more places. Take Georgia for example. It’s a fairly expensive place to campaign in, and with Obama’s strong showing and the recent candidacy of local Bob Barr, it means that even if Obama doesn’t win there, simply making it competitive could force McCain and the GOP to spend millions of dollars to protect a state in the South.

    Virginia and Maryland are also key. Dems have been making been gains in VA in the last few years (Jim Webb, etc.) and if Obama wins either or both, he’ll be in great shape even if he loses Ohio AND Florida (but not PA; currently the polling shows PA for Obama, FL for McCain by about the same amount and Ohio about even.) Even states like Idaho (rapidly strengthening Dems), WY and AK (where the entire GOP Congressional delegation is under various corruption investigations) could prove minor victories, where smaller numbers of people can swing the state more significantly.

    Just for fun, I’m going to rank the states Obama won big in order of his likelihood of carrying it in November. Enjoy!

    IL, HI, DC, VT, MN, WA, LA, CO, VA, MD, SC, GA, AK, ID, WY, (MT), MS, (SD), KS, NE

    (I included the two states voting Tue that I think Obama will win big, for reference, but that’s just a guess)

  37. 39.  37 – If the last few years have proved anything, it’s that Karl Rove is not the genius that many claimed him to be. To be clear, I put the kitchen sink comment in quotes not because I thought it was facetious, but because it was more or less a direct quote of the Clinton campaign. I agree that there are things that the Republicans will try to throw at Obama that Clinton couldn’t. But by the same token, many of the issues that they would have wanted to use have been significantly defused by the attacks of Clinton and her surrogates. Specifically looking at Rev. Wright, how are the Republicans going to use him as an issue in the fall? The media is already tired of the story, so they aren’t going to trump it up for a third (or fourth, I’ve lost count) time just because McCain wants them to. (On a side note, it did force McCain to finally get rid of guys like Hagee who were at least as bad, if not worse, than Wright, which could have seriously bitten him in the ass in the fall)

    Also, keep in mind just how much Obama has already accomplished. You can sing the praises (or horrors) of the GOP attack machine all you want, but they still haven’t been able to take down the Clintons (remember when people thought the NY Senate campaign would be competitive? I sure do.) But Obama rope-a-doped her into wasting all her money in 2007 and cleaned her clock in a little over 5 months (Oct-Feb). So, for all the scare-mongering of “if you think Clinton is bad, wait until the GOP gets into it,” I’m going to wait until I actually see it. And I’m not holding my breath.

  38. 40.  I agree with many of your points here, Ali. Here is the thing that I don’t feel most dems have a good read on. The primary season is mainly voted on by people who are farther to the left than the general populace. Hillary ran to the center early on, as she thought she would win and it would help her in the general. It bit her in her ample ass.

    Obama is the wet dream for almost every liberal I know (or read here on the board). I think that is cool and I understand it, but keep in mind, most states don’t have anyone as liberal as Obama as a senator, so to vote for him for president is going to be an iffy proposition, despite it seeming to be the perfect season for a democrat to win. Hillary couldn’t really paint Obama as being too liberal, because she knew the primary (and especially caucus) voters were as liberal, if not more. Here is the main thing McCain and his minions will stress. Do you want to elect the most liberal president in US history?

  39. 41.  40 – “Do you want to elect the most liberal president in US history?”

    If McCain were the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan, or even Teddy Roosevelt, he might be able to use that argument to overcome the fundamentals. But the Republicans are losing to the Democrats on EVERY ISSUE right now, including the war, security, the economy, etc. And regardless of that one measure that had his voting record as the “most liberal” in the Senate, the reality is far from that. He might be more liberal than Clinton, but that alone isn’t disqualifying this time around.

    Hillary lost because she didn’t understand the system, or just chose not to care. Whether or not Mark Penn actually thought that the CA Dem primary was winner-take-all (as has been reported), that general tendancy is what killed her campaign more than anything else. Obama has basically gotten to where has has now by 3 main electoral facts:

    1) Iowa
    2) South Carolina
    3) February (after the 5th)

    Hillary didn’t even both to contest the states that Obama ran up his big lead in. (LA, NE, the Potomac Primaries, HI and WI, where Obama was a combined +84) You can make different arguments as to why Obama won the first two states, but the reason that Hillary can’t win now is because of the 150 pledged-delegate lead. If she had a chance of finishing the primary season only 10 or 20 pledged delegates behind, she might have been able to persuade the supers to make her the nominee; the problem isn’t having the supers “overturn the will of the people” in any narrow mathematical sense, but that as the pledged delegate margin grows larger, the willingness of the Democratic Party and voters to accept a reversal of that result goes down considerably.

    (I can provide several links to various sources underlining the fundamentals if anyone seriously disagrees with my assessment).

  40. 42.  39 The Senate campaign against Hilary wasn’t competitive because Guiliani backed out due to health reasons. After that, there wasn’t a snow balls chance in hell of defeating her. I also don’t get the idea that Obama has cleaned Hilary’s clock. The race between the two is very close. In fact, if Michigan and Florida were included, it could be another story altogether.

    I agree with 37 that Obama’s record will become much more scrutinized in a general election. Not only will Rev. Wright issues be exploited more (I don’t think that story has run it’s course yet, especially after the latest flap), but Obama’s very liberal voting record will be heavily vetted. Hilary has had her hands tied quite a bit. I have a feeling she deeply regrets treating Obama with kid gloves early in the campaign.

  41. 43.  41 I think you are missing a fundamental point: Conservatives are going to line-up to vote against both Clinton and Obama…McCain doesn’t have to be popular. That is where the Democrats missed a golden opportunity.

    Also, if the Democrats are so far ahead of Republicans on most issues (which I agree is probably true), why does Obama trail McCain on so many as the link below suggests? By not going mainstream (which is closer to conservative than liberal), the Democrats have fumbled a golden opportunity. That’s why I fully expect another 4 years of a Republican executive with a Democrat controlled Congress.

    http://tinyurl.com/6e4wxc

  42. 44.  42 – He cleaned her clock in the sense that he went from being perceived (correctly so at the time) as having very little chance to being the presumptive nominee in a very short time, while facing down (mostly) a single candidate with a huge brand name. McCain, while making a similar jump in terms of the odds, did so against a fragmented field of flawed candidates. If you don’t think that the Democratic Primary was the “Choice Between Two (or Three) Good Candiates” and the Republican the “Choice To See Who’s Least Unlikable,” (at least in terms of the perceptions of the respective parties’ voters) I suggest you check some of the turnout numbers, especially from when both campaigns were competitive. Turnout is also the big X-Factor going in, but with Democrats seeing gains of between 50% and 1000% (in ID) over 2004, I think it’s more likely than not that turnout alone decides the election.

    43 – My claim is that Obama is going to see something similar to the “dead cat bounce” once the Democratic Primary is actually resolved (which it clearly isn’t right now). Obviously it’s just a prediction right now, but not one I’m pulling completely out of thin air. (See the post from just this morning by Andrew Sullivan linked below, who is granted a conservative with a strong pro-Obama streak, but I’ve heard this idea aired for a few months now) As I said above, if McCain is STILL even with Obama nationally by the end of Sep, Obama is in trouble, but I personally don’t think that’s going to happen. There’s been a pretty strong trend that, the more people see and hear Obama, the more they like him. And while it’s possible that the media will continue to give McCain a pass for flip-flopping, and call him a maverick for voting with Bush 95% of the time, there’s no way they can fellate him any MORE than they already have. It’s all downside risk as far as the media goes.

    http://tinyurl.com/3oyptz

  43. 46.  44 Primary turnout levels are always larger for the party out of power, even when the incumbent isn’t running. What’s more, while the candidate might be more likable within their own party, that isn’t always how you get elected. The same passion from liberals to turnout for Obama/Clinton could turn against the Democrats when more mainstream voters are asked to decide in a general election.

    I guess we’ll just have to disagree on the meaning of the polls at this early stage. I do, however, find it amusing that you think the media has been taking it easy on McCain. I think Mrs. Clinton might make the same argument regarding Obama.

  44. 47.  46 – That’s OK, I find it equally amusing that you think that the media HASN’T been extremely favorable to McCain. (See: Rev. Wright v. Rev. Hagee, just for one recent example) I’m not saying that the press has been horrible to Obama, or hasn’t been favorable, just that they’ve definitely been more favorable to McCain, especially when you look at more than just the last few months, and at levels that will be difficult for them to increase between now and November.

  45. 48.  42 “I agree with 37 that Obama’s record will become much more scrutinized in a general election.” And thus he’ll be exposed as a far left liberal? (That’s a phrase, by the way, that has no meaning AFAIC. No such thing among anyone with power in the Democratic party. Or has Obama been coming out in favor of a 70% tax bracket on the wealthiest income earners, and the complete legalization and regulation of all currently illegal drugs?)the power hierarchy. Radical conservatives? Well, there’s the Pres and the VP and at least 15 Republican Senators and about 30 Republican Reps and . . .)

    And yet McCain’s record – particularly his shift to the far right, where Bush (20% approval rating) and Cheney (10% approval rating or less) live – will go unscrutinized?

    I’m not buying that one.

    43 I’d also say that the far right pull of Bush, Cheney and Co have completely shifted the landscape. The mainstream center is not where it was in, say, the 90s. If it was, Social Security would be privatized by now, and half of the federal agencies the GOP loves to hate would be shells of themselves, or gone altogether.

  46. 49.  48 Shaun, no offense, but you must be so far left, you left the country (H/T RR). There are very few conservatives at all in govt. Bush is not one. This country has been massively shifting to the left for a long, long time. This is not some reactionary process due to Bush’s “conservative” policies. Quite the opposite. Bush ran as a liberal, and that’s what we got. “Compassionate conservatism” means that he’s to the “right” on certain “values” or morality issues (which, he in fact has little actual control over affecting the country but gets him elected nonetheless–e.g., gay marriage) but wants to govern from the left, where govt largesse the rule, not the exception. Across the board, spending on social programs has ballooned.

    Hell, look at this last farm bill. Bush said he vetoed it because “it’s not the right time” to subsidize farmers with record profits and high food prices. IOW, he implied that the govt propping up sectors of our economy is often a good idea, just not this time. Yeah, Shaun, that sounds straight out of Hayek or Milton Friedman.

    So I guess it comes down to one’s definition of conservatism. But just because someone wears the GOP jersey, don’t confuse that with being a conservative. Don’t confuse Captain Amnesty with one, either. He set the Constitution afire with McCain-Feingold, so we can expect more of the same.

  47. 50.  BTW, for all the Obama lovers, google:
    obama gaffes

    Good thing he’s not a Republican, or this would be all over the news. The guy makes more gaffes than Bush. But the left has the MSM locked up, so never fear.

  48. 51.  Ah the evil ‘liberal’ MSM…oh, we lefties always look back and giggle about a story about this one White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Now I know no one has ever heard of her, but it turns out she gave President Clinton a BJ!!! Luckily for us, the MSM was in our pocket and the story never got out. Whew!!

    Remember that election where the Dem from Tennessee got more votes and lost?? Gosh, he had all sorts of experience in the senate and had lots of speeches that could be picked apart and taken out of context by cable news guys, but, again, luckily we own them—otherwise some random speech where he basically was talking about all of the legislation that paved the way for the internet could have been twisted to make him seem like a big fat liar!!

    Yes sir, 25 years with nary a negative comment on a democrat broadcasted over the hundreds of TV channels and thousands of radio networks—the liberal media cabal at work!!

  49. 52.  49 Next you’ll tell me that Cheney isn’t a conservative either.

    Let’s make a deal. I won’t call Bush a conservative if you get your real conservatives o publicly admit that liberals aren’t dirty pinko hippie communists. (Or is that terrorist sympathizers now? I always forget.)

    51 chris, you forgot about that crazy joke; you know, the one where Gore invented the Internet. The MSM – controlled by the liberals, of course – never let that one get around either!

  50. 53.  I almost forgot, President Dean had this one weird moment early in his 2004 campaign where he screamed like a deranged hillbilly…if we liberals didn’t have our boot on the necks of the MSM, they might have played that clip 1,243,623 times and made him seem edgy and unstable, like, you know John McCain. Luckily for us we control everything the American public sees, hears and reads and catastrophe was averted and we’ll have four more years of President Dean.

  51. 54.  52 I was alluding to the ‘internet invention’ meme, apparently much too subtly.

    Just a question:

    1) If the MSM is really controlled by the left, and…
    2) The MSM is so influential in forming the opinions of tens of millions of Americans, and …
    3) Less educated persons are particularly susceptible to its siren song…
    4) Why do less educated persons vote for the GOP more frequently than they do for the media-controlling Liberals??

  52. 55.  54 Actually, Chris, the uneducated/less educated vote for the Dems by a huge margin. I can look up the data, if need be.

    Not sure if I agree with premise 2 or 3, regardless.

  53. 56.  The group of folks who didn’t graduate high school is a Democrat stronghold with few exceptions:

    Kerry 58%
    Bush 42

    Gore 55
    Bush 43

    Clinton 75
    Dole 18

    Clinton 62
    Bush 28

    Dukakis 44
    Bush 56

    Mondale 50
    Reagan 49

    Carter 67
    Reagan 31

    source: sda.berkeley.edu

  54. 58.  56 How many people were in that study?? A CNN exit poll of just under 14,000 people had the followng data from the 2004 election:

    Not a High School Graduate: 49 Bush/50 Kerry

    College Graduate: 49/49

    No College Degree: Bush 53/ Kerry 47.

  55. 59.  Well, the Berkeley data are based on the General Social Surveys that have been conducted for nearly four decades from the Roper Center at UConn (the most recent iterations have been conducted by guys from Harvard and UChicago via the Roper Ctr.).

    Or you can choose to believe the TV channel’s researchers are better qualified, whoever they are. BTW, according to the WAPO, “interviewing for the 2004 exit polls was the most inaccurate of any in the past five presidential elections…” So I wouldn’t count on CNN’s data much.

    Regardless, just think about it for a minute. For whom do poor people vote? And what might be correlated with poverty? Lack of education? Doesn’t take poll data to connect those dots.

  56. 60.  59 I wasn’t holding up the CNN poll as some sort of shining example of accuracy, I was merely pointing out a contrary view. In fact, I’m pretty sure that there are probably dozens of polls that could cite the stats any way either of us would like.

    Surely you don’t trust the poll coming out of Berkeley (Ground Zero for ‘pointed-headed liberalism ‘) do you??

    Regardless, just think about it for a minute. For whom do poor people vote? And what might be correlated with poverty? Lack of education? Doesn’t take poll data to connect those dots. Well, that was kind of my original point, why do poor voters vote for the GOP when the mean old liberals control the entire media universe?? (In my best Hillary Mode…) By poor voters, I mean poor White voters all across the South.

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