Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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McCain vs. Obama.... oh, right, and Clinton too

John McCain went right after Barack Obama in his victory speech tonight. A few thoughts:

1) Matthew Yglesias beat me to the punch on this point -- it's a bit strange for McCain to critique Obama for saying the U.S. should unilaterally use force against terrorists in Pakistan on the same day the Washington Post reports that the U.S. is using unilateral force against terrorists in Pakistan.

2) On MSNBC, Howard Fineman reported that the Clinton people were delighted that McCain went after Obama. Over at TNR, Christopher Orr ponders whether this really works to Clinton's advantage: "the more McCain treats Obama as his general-election foe, the more the public (and Democratic voters) may begin to think of Obama as his general-election foe, which could be more bad news for Hillary Clinton."

I'd go one even further. If John McCain is making the same criticism of Obama as Clinton -- flowing rhetoric but no experience and weak on national security -- then Hillary Clinton becomes superfluous in this campaign. Obviously, Clinton and McCain differ on policy, but does anyone seriously think that Hillary Clinton can credibly claim to be more experienced than John McCain? Would Clinton try to argue that McCain wasn't ready to be commander-in-chief from day one? Why does Clinton need to be in the race if McCain is parroting her line of attack?

POSTSCRIPT: Mickey Kaus relates a possible anti-momentum theory that could help Clinton:
Hillary does best when Democratic voters sense she's about to get brutally knocked out of the race, as in New Hampshire. That prospect taps a well of residual sympathy for a woman who has devoted her life to politics, etc. But when Hillary is triumphant she seems arrogant and unbearable, and voters feel free to express those perceptions at the polls. It follows that Hillary will do better in the crucial states of Ohio and Texas if she loses in Wisconsin and has her back to the wall.
The problem with this logic is that.... if it were true, she would have actually won Wisconsin. Clinton's back was already against the wall after eight straight losses, and there had been a week for these losses to sink into the electorate. The cable nets delighted in discussing her massive losses in the Potomac primaries. That combined with more favorable demographics should have pushed her to victory in the Badger state -- and yet it didn't.

ANOTHER POSTSCRIPT: Jamal Simmons observes the eerie similarities between the 2008 campaign and the fictional 2006 campaign that played out on The West Wing. My only quibble -- Hillary Clinton isn't Abby Bartlett -- she's John Hoynes.

LAST POSTSCRIPT: Worst... surrogate... ever:

The most painful part is the background derisive laughter you can hear at the tail end of the clip.

posted by Dan on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM


Kaus proffering a grumpy "not so fast..." contrarian caveat?? Say it ain't so!

posted by: Phil K on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

It is a never ending miracle that the American people continue to elect 'likability' over 'experience' in almost every national election, Nixon's landslide the major exception. Mrs. Clinton's candidacy is in deep trouble: running simultaneously as a candidate of 'change' even as she campaigns stressing her 35 years of experience. If she loses Texas, what can she do but limp into the convention? If she loses both Texas and Ohio, she's toast, thanks to Bill after New Hampshire.

posted by: a Duoist on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

Kaus's quote is hilarious: "Hillary does best when Democratic voters sense she's about to get brutally knocked out of the race, as in New Hampshire."

Um...wasn't NH the only time so far she was (maybe) about to get brutally knocked out of the race and then "did best"? I mean, in CA, MA, NY, and NJ she actually seriously underperformed. So...his support for "Hillary does best" is one example? I'm all for countering conventional wisdom, but this is content free hypothesizing.

posted by: ed on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

I wouldn't be too hard on Rep. Watson. There aren't many people who could have answered Matthew's question. Besides, if we're really entering the hope-filled age of transformative politics what a candidate has done in the past shouldn't matter.

posted by: Zathras on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

Anyone running against McCain will plaster the airwaves with pictures of him with Bush. No words needed.

posted by: Lord on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

"Anyone running against McCain will plaster the airwaves with pictures of him with Bush. No words needed."

Hopefully there are enough intelligent people out there who realize McCain is no Bush and won't let those ads influence their vote.

posted by: Dan on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

You do realize that Bill Kristol originally backed McCain in 2000, right? That doesn't tell you anything?

posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

McCain differs in style from Bush, but not in substance. He might be more competent, but that would be a gamble. McCain can't even pretend to be a change candidate.

posted by: Lord on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

Funny comments. Supposing that because a few individuals dislike President Bush so much they believe everyone else does. For the record, I wish there had never been an amendment against a third term. I'd vote for GWB all over again if I could. Obama is an empty suit, Clinton is an empty pantsuit. McCain is all right with me. I know you don't care, but I do. I hope President McCain continues the "cowboy unilateralist" doctrine perfected by GWB. Mark my words, in the future we will all thank God that GWB had the cajones to act the way he did. You don't like my ideas, I don't care. I am a historian, which means I have something most commenters here don't--perspective.

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

The right hate Hillary, but not as much as the left hate Bush.

posted by: Lord on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

I believe you are right though, that the Republicans fail to see this. They seem quite content with a 30% approval rating. I guess they assume the rest just don't know him.

posted by: Lord on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

Well Obama can talk about going into Pakistan .


1 ) The US was already doing

2) Which made put pressure on Musharif and made him look bad.

Tell me what was he thinking when he made such a comment. Maybe it was that he didn't know or perhaps wasn't interested enough in the subject to find out.

That was real smart wasn't it?

posted by: Jon on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

Useless Sam Grant:
Historian? You obviously don't know much history. Do you know the history of Iraq(and that part of the world)? And where do you think the US is gonna get the money to pay for another 100 years in Iraq? Do you want to have your taxes raised to pay for it?

posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

Joe Klein's Conscience,
Despite the snide implication to the contrary, are the one who has no perspective of history. We don't need to raise taxes to pay for a war and haven't needed to raise taxes to pay for anything in the past few decades. We just print money and accumulate debt.

Ditto everything that you typed.

posted by: Joseph Sixpack on 02.19.08 at 11:40 PM [permalink]

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