Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back and blogging.

I'm back from my seafaring sojourn. I returned last week, was buried by a backlog of stuff in the non-digital world, and have yet to dig out. That, combined with a preference to cling to the experience by posting photos and stories of the voyage to a journal/blog, conspired to keep me from venturing back into the political arena. I think this is what Ryan Sager referred to as the problem with "hot-tub libertarians."

But with the Dem convention underway and the Labor Day starting gun for the electoral stretch run about to fire, it is time to get back into the starting block. Bear with me. It may take a week or so to get up to speed.

First, apologies to Steven Taylor, who took the time to respond with a comment on my last post, and was rewarded by spending two weeks in comment moderation purgatory.

So - What have I missed over the last three weeks? As near as I can tell, just this:
  1. According to both the right and left McCain bested Obama in the Rick Warren Saddleback Forum.
  2. McCain has narrowed the gap and has tied Obama in national polls.
  3. The left was shocked! shocked! to learn that McCain is rich, and does not know how many houses he and his wife own.
  4. Obama selected Joe Biden as his VP delegate.
Of these, only the first and last are meaningful. The polls mean exactly squat until we get past both conventions, and the McCain "How many houses?" nonsense is just that. It won't change a single vote.

The first point is interesting, because it is a different result than I expected in a head to head meeting. Granted - McCain had a "home field advantage" in this forum, but this was really about the candidates meeting, exceeding or falling short of expectations. I have maintained throughout that Obama would chew McCain up and spit him out in the upcoming debates. With that assessment I neglected to factor in the "expectations" game. Obama is such an extraordinary and electrifying orator that expectations for him in a live debate or interview are exceedingly high. And he consistently falls short of those lofty expectations in those venues. McCain is such a god-awful public speaker that expectations for him in a debate or interview are exceeding low. And he consistently surprises and exceeds those low expectations. That is what happened at Saddleback. Is this a dynamic we are likely to see repeated throughout the campaign? Is it a Kerry/Bush redux? Others have reached such a conclusion.

Joe Biden is great pick for VP. I mean, you got a mainstream Irish-American Roman Catholic who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. What's not to like? All kidding aside, I do like Biden. In my January 2007 stack rank, Biden and Obama were my top two Democratic Party choices. Hagel was my first Republican pick and top pick overall. If, as some have speculated, Hagel becomes SECDEF in an Obama administration, three of my top four picks in that post would be part of the Obama administration. If if were not for the Divided vs. Unified Government problem, I would find it to be a pretty compelling ticket.

Biden will help give Obama credibility and he will be a very effective campaigner for Obama. However, the choice does leave McCain an opportunity to make a play for disgruntled Clinton supporters by selecting a woman for VP. There are plenty of good choices, Whitman, Fiorina, Hutchison, or my favorite - Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It would be a smart move, but I doubt he will take my advice this time.

The first night of the Dem convention is in the books. The Ted Kennedy tribute and speech at the convention was memorable and moving - a political warrior's last stand. You don't have to like his politics to admire his gutsy upbeat performance, made poignant by the knowledge that he is staring into the abyss.

On an ocean passage, you get a lot of time to catch up on your reading. I read three books, finally finishing David Mayhew's "Divided we Govern" (No - really - see picture above). Originally published in the mid-nineties with a second edition in 2005 - this book was, to a large degree, the seminal work that debunked the notion that the federal government functions more effectively with single party control. Watching the ubiquitous blue "Change" signs waving at the convention last night, I was reminded of another Mayhew theme in the book. He explores the notion that a primary pre-requisite for the periodic legislative "surges" we have seen throughout our history is a pervasive "public mood" demanding "change". Is the Obama support an indicator of one these periodic "public moods"? Fodder for a future post.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.


Ted said...


How will Sarah Palin do in a debate with Biden?

How many men watching will be aware that Biden is in the room?

mw said...

Excellent points. She should acquit herself well. Plus she would give Biden an excellent opportunity to generate another foot in mouth Bidenism.

Repack Rider said...

Throw "Saddleback" out. McCain was clearly prepped on the questions, actually answering one before it was asked, and the host lied about McCain being in a sealed environment.

And of course, when busted, his people didn't DENY that he had the questions in advance, they were shocked, I tell you, that anyone would question the word of a former POW.

A non-denial if there ever was one.

Obama graduated in the TOP 1% of his Harvard class, and McCain in the BOTTOM 1% of his USNA class, and he would never have been admitted if he had not sprung from the loins of two admirals. Obama, on the other hand, earned his admission to Harvard academically. How much more does anyone need to know?

mw said...

Mr. Rider,
Thanks for the comment. Regarding foreknowledge of the questions, it appears that both candidates were given a preview of the questions. I did not watch the event, but it sure sounds like Obama was not as prepared as he should have or could have been.

This kind of reaction by Obama supporters strikes me as kind of - what is the word??? - oh yeah - whiney.

Regarding Obama's academic achievements - no question. He is a much much better student and a far more credentialed scholar than McCain. I'd put Obama right up there with Jimmy Carter in that regard.

Ted said...

Theme song for the Sarah Palin VP intro at RNC next week:


Anonymous said...

Well, you've finally resurfaced! I suppose I need to remind you that this blog is supposed to be advocating divided government. Your liberal bias has overshadowed the blog's main purpose. A truly divided government guy would be heavily pushing Great Grandpa right now. But I suppose that after 8 years of having a huge pile of elephant manure being dumped on our collective lawns, we need a change in direction. If Obama can reverse even half of what the Dumb Ass did, it will balance out within a few years.

Have you managed to get a round of golf in since you've been back?