The Morning After

We've recently obtained limited internet access at our house, and by "limited" I mean "28.8 kps dial-up" access. We're hoping that Woodberry's IT wizards can get us broadband in the relatively near future, but right now we're still deciding between dealing with incredibly slow load times (which I'm doing this morning) or hauling our laptops off to either campus, the Orange public library, or the wi-fi hot spot at the coffee shop in town.

We're also without TV, as we have been since 1999, which means that I've been learning about the various political events of the last week almost exclusively through the (often very slow) internet, along with occasional glimpses at the Washington Post's print edition (which is for sale at the coffee shop).  What have I learned about the upcoming election from all this?

1) Obama is a seriously good strategist. He plans ahead. The choice of giving his acceptance speech at Invesco Field has been ridiculed by some as grandstanding--literally, I suppose--but given that 38 million people tuned in on TV to watch, it's clear that there was more than enough interest in what he had to say to justify the move outdoors. Moreover, those millions tuning in saw a crowd of thousands jubilantly cheering Obama, which had to make the viewers feel as though Obama has the juice to win in November--exactly what he was hoping to show the greater audience.

2) I like Biden even as I fear him. Joe is a bright guy who does stupid things--in D&D terms, high Intelligence/low Wisdom. He's incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, which shores up one of Obama's perceived weaknesses, and his Scranton roots may give the Democrats a welcome boost in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. On the other hand, he does have a tendency to say baffling things at times--his comments on Delaware's 7-11s requiring an Indian accent to go in, for example--and the press is always eager for more gaffes. His plagiarism of Neil Kinnock back in '88 is not defensible, but it's worth noting that when he'd used Kinnock's framing device in previous speeches, Biden was careful to give credit; unfortunately, he failed to do so when he used Kinnock's device in a debate. Still plagiarism, but negligent, rather than fraudulent. On the other hand, I love Biden because he's able to admit his faults and laugh at himself. Some years ago he was speaking to the Judiciary Committee when an aide handed him a piece of paper with some important information; Biden read it, laughed, said, "Apparently I don't know what the hell I'm talking about," and sat down.

3) The choice of Biden is mainly one for governing. Though he offers a bit of help in PA and a bit of gravitas for a young candidate, Biden's not that big an asset during the campaign. Mostly, he just serves to show that Obama has judgment enough to pick an able substitute to take over for him in a crisis.  In an Obama administration, however, Biden will be of great use, offering his broad and deep knowledge of the international scene to a president who'll need all the help he can get.  He's a long-term, rather than short-term, asset.

4) The Sarah Palin choice is strategically baffling.  I get the point that her conservative credentials shore up the base, and McCain certainly needed to keep the GOP's conservatives from voting for Bob Barr or staying home in November. What I don't get is how she fits into the overall strategy.  McCain has already destroyed one tactic he'd been using by announcing his own vulnerability to it; when he declared that he didn't know how many houses he had (and that he had staff to keep track of that sort of thing), he lost his ability to paint Obama as an elitist who's out of touch with the American people.  He still had the not-insignificant advantage of experience, however; even if you don't think Obama is INexperienced, you might still vote for McCain because he has MORE experience than Obama. Moreover, the McCain campaigns attacks on Obama's inexperience have been constant, even to the point of making ads with a clip from the Democratic debates where Biden said he didn't think Obama was ready to be president yet. If that's the strategy you're using, why on earth would you unexpectedly toss aside your strategic advantage by naming a running mate with even less experience than Obama? Palin was elected governor only in 2006; before that she was the mayor of a town with under 9000 people. Obama has been in the Senate since 2004 and for seven years prior to that he was an Illinois state senator, representing many thousands more people than Palin. I think Obama's perfectly qualified and I'll give Palin the benefit of the doubt, but I cannot understand why the McCain campaign would pick a running mate who actually hampers McCain's strategy.

5) Palin's scary in several ways unrelated to experience. She's on record in one gubernatorial debate as supporting the teaching of creationism in public schools, which is a definite red flag for me, absolutist about the Establishment Clause that I am. She's also anti-abortion, though I'll give her full credit for sticking by her anti-abortion guns; in April, she gave birth to her fifth child, knowing from prenatal testing that he would have Down's syndrome. I'm glad she was able to make that choice herself and I feel sure that she'll give her son all the love she's got. As a matter of governance, however, Palin's opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest gives me some concern; I haven't yet found out her stance on contraception, but if she's not at least in favor of the morning-after pill for rape victims, I'm officially worried.

Oh, and in 1999, she was apparently backing the candidacy of Pat Buchanan, which is in itself enough to call her judgment into question.

6) Old Man River. Ignoring the very real human and property costs and focusing only on the trivial political side of things, I'll just say that RNC officials have got to be a little nervous at the way Hurricane Gustav is developing in the Gulf, particularly now that we're at the anniversary of Katrina's battering of New Orleans. The last thing the GOP needs during its celebration at the Mississippi's headwaters is for the news to be full of footage from the river's mouth, especially if it involves levees failing, streets flooding, and refugees being plucked from rooftops in an eerily familiar manner... and even more especially if it's happening while George W. Bush is speaking.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 30, 2008 7:24 AM.

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