Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Week on the Campaign Trail

A week of fascinating political news has just passed us by. To review:
-Hillary Clinton won the West Virginia primary by a margin of 41 points.
-John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama.
-Bush made a genuinely stupid comment about appeasement, and McCain and Obama got into a heated debate about foreign policy, largely leaving Hillary Clinton out of the limelight.
-Mike Huckabee made a genuinely stupid joke about Barack Obama getting shot.
-Barack Obama made a couple of stupid but entertaining geographical gaffes. Back to fourth grade for you, sir.

I've written about the Edwards endorsement a couple of times already-- you can read my posts here and here. There's not much left to say about that except that the only real place I think it's going to be significant is in the delegates and superdelegates that will go to Obama as a result. But the number isn't huge, so it won't be a deal maker or breaker. It's symbolically significant, though, because Edwards is yet another well-known national Democrat who is backing Obama. And I don't think Edwards would have endorsed him if he wasn't certain he was going to be the nominee. It was almost a declaration of victory for Obama, more than anything else.
There's not too much to say on the Clinton victory. It doesn't have much real significance for her, I'm sorry to say. She's pretty much lost the nomination no matter which way you swing it. I'm sorry that it's ending this way for Clinton, but I think it is over. She'd probably have to win all the remaining primaries, and maybe even get Florida or Michigan back in order to get the nomination. Right now she's just losing money and making herself look worse. Her constant push for the Florida and Michigan delegates to be counted is pretty hypocritical and tacky, which really only gives her rival points for class. It is with great sorrow that I say: Get out of the race, Hillary. Go back to the Senate and do good there.
That comment that Bush made in his speech before the Israeli Knesset was a really, really bad idea. Of course, pretty much anything that Bush says is liable to be attacked, and he's generally a liability for the Republicans and fairly helpful to the Democrats, who just go attack him instead of each other for a change. On the other hand, it did spark an interesting exchange on foreign policy between Barack Obama and John McCain. At least temporarily, foreign policy as an issue is back at the forefront of the campaign, having taken a back seat to the economy for a while. And foreign policy is very clearly McCain's forte, so this might wind up being good for him if he is careful with what he says and expresses and defends himself clearly and articulately.
I will take a side note here on one particular aspect of this exchange between McCain and Obama. McCain said Obama was "reckless"; Obama said McCain offered "bombast, exaggerations and fear-mongering." First of all, I think that all (or most) politicians are full of bombast and exaggerations. It's how the game works. And I readily acknowledge that the Republicans have been primarily using a strategy of fear-mongering. And it works. Again, it's the way the game is played. It's this comment about recklessness I'd like to focus on. And I think that they are both reckless on foreign policy in different ways. Obama is smart but naive, of which the latter is inherently reckless. He seems to me less likely to take real threats as seriously as they should be taken, and I am not convinced that he would know what to do besides be a national cheerleader in a crisis. McCain, on the other hand, has a well-deserved reputation as a hawk. He would probably be more inclined to overassert U.S. military capabilities. Not acknowledging the present challenges of our overextended military (and military budget) and a willingness to "go it" in combat alone is also inherently reckless. For this reason above all, both Obama and McCain scare me a great deal.
The joke made by Mike Huckabee was both inherently and politically stupid. It was, however, meant as a joke (albeit a very bad one) and he has apologized several times, so I don't think it's really a big deal. Likewise the stupid geographical gaffes Obama made were not a terribly big deal, but it is surprising that they haven't gotten more play in the media. As several of my friends have pointed out, if President Bush or John McCain said something like that, it would be all over the place as evidence that that individual was stupid and unfit to lead. That's the media for you, though, I suppose. Selectively picking and choosing what to focus on. And there was a lot to talk about this week. Stay tuned- more news to come.
This Tuesday, May 20-- Kentucky and Oregon primaries. Projection: Obama wins Oregon by a landslide; Clinton takes Kentucky but by a much smaller margin. Basically probably a Indiana-North Carolina situation again.

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