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  • Discussing the Elections

    Posted by Jonathan on February 6th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Transcript of an email exchange between Lex and me (edited to remove off-topic remarks):

    —————–

    Lex:
    Interesting day yesterday. I was hoping it would be a blowout for McCain and Obama so Hillary would be out and we could start getting ready for the general election. Instead, much remains open.

    Obama had a good day though, he is very much in the race. He got Hispanic votes, contra some predictions. He may yet take down Hillary. Fingers crossed.

    Jonathan:
    McCain is almost certain to be the Republican nominee. Only people who benefit from drama and controversy — the press, pollsters, political-junkie bloggers, and self-serving Republicans who insist that a Democrat would be preferable to the evil McCain — still pretend that McCain won’t be it. I wish it weren’t so but it is.

    I’m surprised that Hillary hasn’t squashed Obama by now. He has a real chance to win, it appears. Too bad. So many voters are fools who vote for platitudes. Get ready for a rough ride if he is elected. Think Spain under Zapatero.

    Lex:
    Better him than Hillary. She is cunning and dishonest and fanatical enough to do some real damage.

    Obama will be ineffective if he gets in. He is a man of the Left. But the country is only a little to the left of center in its mood. As to being commander-in-chief he may learn on the job, or he may just be weak. We will know if it happens.

    The more I think about it, the more I think he would be much better than Hillary, or rather much less terrible.

    McCain will get it, yeah. The GOP fanatics should just calm down and smell the coffee.

    The Internet breeds hysteria. Not having a TV is very helpful.

    Doing a Lenten Internet fast will also be helpful.

    Jonathan:
    Obama looks young but his thinking appears to be both shallow and rigid. I suspect he would be rolled by the Congress. I think that he too might do real damage. Any of the candidates might. None of them has significant executive experience. All of them have significant character flaws.

    My Zapatero crack wasn’t a joke. Obama radiates weakness (so does Hillary, perhaps to a lesser degree). Either one as President would invite testing by our enemies, and if they reacted badly could weaken us greatly.

    Lex:
    We are stuck with the candidates who are running this year.

    We are also stuck with a ragingly unpopular GOP president who makes a Democrat victory virtually inevitable.

    In that situation, we have Obama or Hillary, probably. Given that, looking at everything, defeating the Clintons is a national priority.

    Obama will be a bad president, barring a miracle.

    If the terrorists attack us, they attack us.

    There are no flavors I like on the menu. Better him than Hillary. Better McCain than either of them. Not complicated.

    Jonathan:
    It’ll be what it’ll be.

    I’m less certain of a Democratic victory. I’m surprised at how good McCain’s numbers on Intrade are. My reading of Intrade is that nobody has a clue. I see two likely alternatives:

    -One of the Democrats is eliminated, the remaining Dem’s numbers go to 60% and McCain plateaus at 40% (and loses).

    -One of the Democrats is eliminated and the remaining Dem and McCain both go to around 50%.

    The first scenario would falsify my theory about nobody having a clue. The second scenario would support it. If nobody has a clue, my guess is that the Republicans’ odds are better than people say they are. Look at the candidates: McCain is an ideological moderate who many Democrats could support; Obama is an open leftist; Hillary is a leftist pretending to be a moderate. When has someone as far to the Left as Obama or Hillary done well in a presidential election? It’s true that the Republicans have discredited themselves in many ways, but there is still a war and the Republicans are still broadly better on the war than the Democrats are.

     

    15 Responses to “Discussing the Elections”

    1. Marvin Says:

      I am an ABC voter, Anybody But Clinton.
      McCain is not ideal
      Romney is better,
      Huckabee is silly
      Obama is an empty suit
      But
      Clinton is a truly dangerous choice, she seeks power for herself and she doesn’t care what happens to anybody else.

    2. Steve Says:

      “When has someone as far to the Left as Obama or Hillary done well in a presidential election?”

      1976?

    3. Jonathan Says:

      Both Clinton and Obama strike me as being to the Left of Jimmy Carter. Carter hired and appointed McGovernites but was more of a moderate liberal himself.

      I agree that Hillary Clinton would be dangerous as president, but I am not confident that Obama wouldn’t be as bad. He seems honest and decent but he appears also to be frightfully naive about how the world works. And he’s old enough to know better — it’s not like he’s some sheltered college kid.

    4. Ginny Says:

      The revival atmosphere (the swooning crowd, the sighs, the intensity) invoked by the self-serving platitudes of Obama disturbed me – but then I come from people who don’t hug let alone swoon and are moved by a totally different kind of history and vision. My reaction may not mean much. (After all, Bush did project the values I value and 65% of America has clearly said that’s no sale with them.)

      Still, watching the passionate women behind him bothered me. This is definitely not the relation I want between the American public & its president: big brother, protector, whatever. Of course, Thompson, who said things like, well, that’s not going to be solved in four years or even eight if I were re-elected isn’t in the running. Of course, he was right. But we don’t always want to hear it. If I were Israel, I would be afraid of Obama. And I figure yes, we’re more likely to get hit. But, then, with all that emotion backing Obama or all that old history moving around in the back of Hillary’s mind – well, if we get hit I suspect we will very quickly long for the interpretations of law by Ashcroft.

    5. Zenpundit Says:

      In foreign policy Obama is a naif. The best that can be said is that he seems aware that he’s not an expert and has indicated that he might listen to a range of views and actually consider some of them. The bad news is that his initial instinct is to listen to guys like Tony Lake..

      Hillary’s record is of surrounding herself with a cult-like staff of groveling acolytes and accepting outside advice only when a disaster she’s created is causing her PR trouble; then she does a U-turn while screwing her own allies.

      I’ll set myself on fire before I’d vote for Clinton.

    6. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Well, you are all correct that it is a dismal prospect. I cannot decide who would be the worse President, Hillbilly or Hussein. But lives are at stake, and I fear either one of them would be a disaster. Nor, do I know who would be easier to beat, especially given that McCain will be the GOP nominee. And, the CW is that the Dem will win no matter what.

      Of course, the CW is always wrong:

      The Boston Globe has decided to recap the perfect 19-0 championship season five days before the game is played. The title of the book “19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots.”

      Links don’t work, it is no longer up on Amazon.

      John Hinderaker:

      It’s hard to tell sometimes whether he [Obama] actually thinks he is saying something coherent, or whether he is delivering a parody of a gasbag politician.

    7. MD Says:

      So, I was thinking about this whole Obama thing.I was walking down a street in my inner-ring Chicago suburb this past fall and I ran into a bunch of teenagers (I am told they were dressed in the fashion of something called emo? Good grief, am I really old enough to talk this way?) talking amongst themselves.

      “The Republicans always win.”
      “Yeah, they always win elections.”

      And from their seventeen or sixteen year old vantage point, I’m sure it seems that way. Twenty year olds serving in Iraq were how old in 2001? How odd the world must seem to someone that age.

      Ok, so Obama probably resonates for lots of reasons – he is of a different and younger generation, he is genuinely charismatic, he doesn’t seem angry or bitter (a big one there, I think), he may speak in complete generics, but his biggest supporters probably understand that his politics are their politics, so there is substance enough behind his generics for them. What am I trying to say with all of this?

      Oh, yeah. Anyone but Clinton.

      McCain it shall be, I suppose. The anti-business schtick is gonna grate big time, though….

    8. Jonathan Says:

      MD, I think you are right that a lot of Obama’s appeal is due to his not seeming angry or bitter. One of the reasons I despise the Clintons is their willful divisiveness: they stoke group angers to increase their own political leverage. I think it’s clear that many people, including Democrats, dislike the Clintons for this reason. And now the Democrats have a competitive alternative. Too bad McCain is such a flawed character himself. A candidate who combined Obama’s temperament and McCain’s positions on issues would be a shoe-in. (Not that I think McCain is right on most issues, but I think that his positions are probably acceptable to a plurality of voters.)

    9. Jay Manifold Says:

      I’m just trying to avoid Candidate Derangement Syndrome. McCain is about as market-friendly as Nixon. Clinton and Obama are ’60s Democrats without the historical (until Mondale in ’84) commitment to free trade. Any of them, if elected, will do everything they can to unwittingly return us to the unremitting, godawful chaos of the ’70s, which a majority of the electorate is now too young to remember.

      So if they’re all about equally bad domestically, the best we can hope for is congressional gridlock to hold back the worst of their initiatives. My decision therefore defaults to how they would handle foreign affairs. I would rank them McCain-Clinton-Obama, with Obama much worse than either of the other two. He is by far the most pleasant, personable candidate — and I would expect another 9/11 to be a virtual certainty if he is elected, one with a wretchedly ineffectual initial response, followed by escalation to megadeaths, here and elsewhere.

      It is not at all obvious to me, however, that Obama can get the nomination. There are only 3 high-population states left to hold Democratic primaries, and Clinton is heavily favored in the biggest one and is slightly favored in the other two. I expect Latino votes, plus perhaps some superdelegates, to secure the nomination for her, and most black voters to subsequently either stay home on election day or vote for McCain. It will be very, very difficult for her to win in the fall.

      All this bothers me, in addition, because of the significant structural weakness we will continue to bear in the absence of Democratic buy-in to the war on terror, which we simply aren’t going to get until there’s a Democratic President. I do not say that they will be an outright fifth column, but I can only wonder how much unity we can trade away, and how much silliness we can tolerate, in the face of an existential threat.

    10. LotharBot Says:

      Jay Manifold brings up a point I hadn’t considered: if Hillary is the nominee, how many blacks will feel “betrayed” by the Democratic party and end up staying home? It wouldn’t take many to swing the election.

      Romney’s semi-endorsement of McCain has the potential to really change the tone of the race. Will conservatives agree with Romney’s logic, that “in this time of war, I simply cannot … be a part of aiding a surrender to terror” and that a vote for McCain is better than a vote for either of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys?

    11. jeff Says:

      One point that cannot be ignored about Obama is identified in Shelby Steele’s book “White Guilt”. There are people voting for Obama that have no real idea what he stands for, but just think it’s “time” to have a black president. If we have to have a black president, can I nominate JC Watts?

      Personally, I never vote skin color. I read Obama’s policies, and saw how he treated his constituents (abandoned them as soon as he could, just ask the people in the futures business in Chicago). His policies are out of touch with 21st Century America. I think a French intellectual dreamed them up in a cafe around 1930.

      Obama would be a dangerous president for the US. He could put into place structures that would take years and years to dismantle. Think FDR-except FDR was for a strong defense, and probably wouldn’t take a lot of guff from the terrorists either.

      Clinton would be a policy wonk. She too could harm America with social structures.

      McCain, while not inspiring economically at least has people around him that you feel like you can trust. Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Phil Gramm are not exactly middle of the roaders.

      Even if you are a staunch conservative that listens to talk radio and takes their advice, you have to get out of your chair and vote McCain. He is the least damaging in the long run.

    12. Jonathan Says:

      People vote for candidates for all kinds of reasons. Lots of women support Hillary Clinton mainly because she’s a woman. Obama seems to satisfy multiple needs in voters who want a candidate who makes them feel good or who in their view would be a social or spiritual as well as political leader.

      One nice feature of our long campaign season is that it forces candidates to discuss the substance of their positions. It will be interesting, if Obama is the Democratic nominee, to see what he says when he is finally pinned down on issues. In reading his statements about issues I often get the sense that he does most of his studying the night before the test. Maybe this is a false impression, maybe not. We’ll see.

    13. Tyouth Says:

      “Even if you are a staunch conservative that listens to talk radio and takes their advice, you have to get out of your chair and vote McCain. He is the least damaging in the long run.”

      I disagree. McCain is or has been wrong on First Amendment, Second Amendment, right to life, immigration, and economic issues. PLUS he seems to be neither emotionally or intellectually of the first rank. Re. SCOTUS appointments: will he appoint a justice who will not support his views on the issues mentioned above? Everything we know about the willful guy suggests he would not make an appointment that would disagree with his views.

      But wait, theres more. The most damaging thing that a victorious McCain does is to modify the paradigm of a successful Republican candidate; a new standard will have been developed by this unprincipled “main chancer”. His success will take the republican party to the left along with the rest of the country for a long time, perhaps forever.

      If Clinton or Obama won then the move to the left would happen more quickly and emphatically than it would with McCain. I imagine that the results might be quickly felt by the population at large, possibly in time for the 2012 election to bring in a more conservative administration to fix what has been broken.

      I admit I’m still mulling it over but….

    14. Tatyana Says:

      I talked to Mark Steyn very briefly earlier, and he remarked that the success of the McCain candidacy is “ominous.”
      [from CPAC reports]

    15. Jay Manifold Says:

      McCain is or has been wrong on First Amendment, Second Amendment, right to life, immigration, and economic issues …
      But wait, theres more. The most damaging thing that a victorious McCain does is to modify the paradigm of a successful Republican candidate; a new standard will have been developed by this unprincipled “main chancer”. His success will take the republican party to the left along with the rest of the country for a long time, perhaps forever.

      The current President’s father did all of this 20 years ago.