Wednesday, January 30, 2008



After the decisive, if not overwhelming, victory of Senator John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) in Florida last night, he is clearly the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Many, probably most, of the pundits are proclaiming him the inevitable nominee. They are probably right. While Mitt Romney remains in the race and has plenty of money, he is behind in the polls in New York, Illinois, and California. It’s hard to see what could happen to put him ahead in those states. His post-Florida strategy of pandering to the right (e.g., his proclamation last night that President Bush is the reason we have been safe since 9/11) surely will not help him in those states and will only exacerbate the vulnerability of his Achilles heel, the perception (reality, really) that he is a shameless political Zelig, always able to summon up the courage to tell people precisely what they want to hear. It sure looks like John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) will be the Republican nominee, but take what I say cum grano salis. I was surprised at the complete collapse of Rudy Giuliani (R, Fox News) and was quite sure he would be in the thick of the race by this time.

One has to ask why John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) has had such an easy stroll to what looks like the nomination. The answer, if one thinks about it awhile, is not all that tough to discern. First, primogeniture has historically been the dominant force in GOP nomination battles, and it was simply McCain’s turn. Second, most GOPers know that the GOP nominee will be shellacked in the 2008 race (thanks to their man in the White House), so what could be the harm in letting the old man run? He’s not going to win anyway. This is the same sort of thinking that got Bob Dole nominated in 1996. But there is a difference between losing an election, even losing an election in a landslide, and getting annihilated as a party, a fate that the GOP may very well meet if it nominates John McCain. (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?)

I outlined the reasons that McCain’s nomination might mean curtains for the GOP. To those, I would like to add several more. First, while Iraq, despite “progress” there, will be a big issue in the 2008 race, as I said on January 25, especially with the Bush Administration slowing or stopping troop withdrawals and admitting that the security situation is “tenuous.” John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) will make sure that it remains a big issue by yammering on about how great the surge has been and how he was behind it all along. He’ll probably also hold up the great Iraq victory as an example of all the good the United States could do by using our troops to tell other countries that they better conform to our way of life, or else. This will be a sure loser for the GOP.

For example, John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?), on the campaign trail in Florida, castigated both Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney for favoring timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. (Mitt Romney, profile in courage that he is, quickly reversed course, thus abandoning one of the few reasonable GOP stances on this issue.) McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) went on to say “Never do I know of, in political history, that a leading candidate for president of the United States wants to wave the white flag and surrender to the enemy.” Thus did John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) display not only a command of the English language on a par with that of the current occupant of the White House, but an appalling ignorance of history. Just in this century, The Democratic nominee in 1972, George McGovern campaigned on a promise to get us out of Vietnam. The Republican nominee, and winner of the election, in 1952, that famous surrender monkey Dwight Eisenhower, promised to “go to Korea” to negotiate an end to the Korean War. By John McCain’s reckoning, both promises would amount to “wav(ing) the white flag of surrender." One can guess what McCain’s response would be, something like “Oh yeah? Well, while my opponents and other proponents of surrender were studying their history, I was a guest at the Hanoi Hilton!” But I digress.

Second, the economy will be a huge issue in 2008, probably the biggest issue. McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) has admitted that he “doesn’t understand” the economy and that he “doesn’t know much” about economics. Good.

Third, if John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) is the GOP nominee, the party of family values will have as its standard-bearer a man who left his wife who raised his kids while he was in a POW camp in Vietnam to marry a much younger woman who just happened to be an beer heiress who could finance his political career. Don’t think the Democrats, whose nominee will almost assuredly have been married only once, will not fail to note this…again and again and again. To those McCain fans and other GOPers who will rush to his defense by (of course) citing their imagined Promethean hero, Ronald Reagan never endured such an extended overseas stay and Nancy Davis, while not poor, was not filthy rich like Cindy McCain.

Fourth, if Hillary Clinton faces off against John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?), the problem the Democrats would have had convincing the electorate that their candidate is the anti-war candidate in light of her previous brimming enthusiasm for the Iraq war (See my 11/24/07 post, “THE DEMOCRATS COULD BLOW EVEN THIS ONE”) will have vanished. Everything is relative, and, relative to John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?), even Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld might look anti-war.

Fifth, in the still unlikely event that Barack Obama faces off against John McCain, can you imagine the contrast? Obama is young, articulate, bright, and appealing to youth. McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) is old, inarticulate, slow, and appealing to the over 70 crowd that put him over the top in Florida. One could argue that McCain’s ideas are more in line with those of the American electorate, and I would agree. However, most people no longer vote on issues; they vote on image. And Obama vs. McCain would be like Kennedy vs. Nixon in 1960 if Nixon were 25 years older with half the charisma and one-third the brains. One could argue that, while that might be true, Nixon made it close in 1960 and, were it not for the support of Kennedy by two men, LBJ and Richard J. Daley (well, maybe three if you include Sam Giancana), would have defeated Kennedy. That is also true, but Nixon was the heir to eight years of the very successful Eisenhower presidency while McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) will be the heir to eight years of the disastrous Bush presidency. Nixon was a bright, articulate man who knew the issues, kept his cool, and, on radio, was able to defeat, or at least tie, the much less experienced Kennedy in debate. McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) usually comes off as maladroit, mercurial, and stultified. In 1960, the electorate was better informed, spent time examining the issues, and voted far more on issues than on hype and less on image than today’s television addled electorate. Finally, Nixon, for all his shortcomings, was not a kook. John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?) is, or can easily be made to appear to be, a dangerous, irresponsible warmonger given to fatuous ditties such as “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.” (Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, 4/18/07).

One can understand the GOP’s fealty to primogeniture, and one can certainly understand the “What the hell, we’re going to lose anyway, so give the old guy a chance” mentality that seemingly permeates the GOP. But, after eight years of a presidency that can only be described as devastating and disastrous for the country and for their party, the GOP cannot afford, indeed, may not survive the pulverizing annihilation they will receive if they nominate John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam?).

Oh well.

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