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First-class Intellect and Termperament

Those are the qualities, according to Charles Krauthammer, Obama has displayed, and they have trumped questions about his experience and convictions. He certainly has passed the "Reagan threshold" of 1980. Charles’ column is, in fact, "defeatist."

The general pundit consensus on Sarah this morning is that she won by not losing or losing badly. She no longer deserves to be ridiculed and all that, and she still will get the job done of energizing the base. But she did nothing to substantially change the character of the campaign, and she certainly said nothing to make Joe or Barack sweat.

The remarks of Mickey Kaus Peter links below are, as usual, astute and fair and balanced. He says Sarah helped herself but in no way hurt Obama, which was, finally, her job. He also says that Biden seemed pretty authentic, which, I will add, he also seemed in his convention speech.

David Brooks, who’s also authentic and astute in a somewhat confused way, surely exaggerates when he claims that our Sarah
achieved DEBATING PARITY with their Joe. He does well in reminding us that her debating strategy was to present her ticket and especially herself as a RADICAL ALTERNATIVE by severing all ties with the Bush administration. Mavericks never look back. To me, that strategy is a Hail Mary pass if there ever was one. Mickey and David seem to agree that our Sarah has a promising future, but that future is probably not now.

Discussions - 7 Comments

The pundits are overreaching. My impression reading a lot of material is that they equate "common American people" with "mindless consumers populist cliches". I think they can see when someone is avoiding questions and failing to answer the ones she addresses. Palin was solid for the first half hour. The moment she started forcing the debate towards energy she started to go downhill, and when they hit foreign policy she was clearly outmatched. I know Biden told a lot of lies, but a Vice Presidential candidate should have the poise and knowledge to catch them and call them out. I think you'll see an Obama bounce over the next few days. People don't want Palin second in line for the presidency.

Smart Republicans, in my opinion, should start shoring up for 2012. Keep some cash in the coffers. Start a four-year, 50-state strategy like Dean. Do a LOT of outreach to minority communities (hispanics, African-Americans, Asians); and work on slowly revising the priorities of the party in a replication of what has happened in Great Britain. Stay strong on abortion. Drop gay marriage. Be more open to climate change. Pound on the issue of free trade and a business-friendly domestic economy. Revise foreign policy to be less projection-focused.

This morning, I am more struck by this news by P.J. O'Rourke about cancer, death, indignity and God. I was amused, grieved, and moved by turns. I thought you guys might be, as well.

Perhaps I can relate to the topic above by the "First-class Intellect" aspect of the title, but I think even O'Rourke might quarrel the point. So too might the poster of the blog post. However, as I write this, that name is left off, so that I do not know who I might be offending by changing the topic in this way. I know. I should get my own blog if I am going to do things like this. Blabby, that's what I am. Yet, really, read the article and despite his language, what person who believes in God has not made the same complaint?

To the main point: I could barely stand to listen to the debate on the radio. Perhaps Sarah came off better to watch. Just by ear, her syntax was so complex, her sentences so convoluted, I tremble to read a transcript and parse her responses. I strained in sorting out her point in any given response. She was packing in too much information, as if frantically trying to find all of the prizes in a treasure hunt.

Of course, Biden was only a little better in that. The real agony in listening to him was taking in the whoppers with any tolerance. His egregious meanders were from truth and logic;if I were Palin I would have been tempted to throw my shoe at him, rather than begging to differ.

I worry that Palin's convoluted sentences, obscuring meaning, will be taken as obfuscation. Wherein she spoke in a straight and clear manner, I felt like I was hearing the Straight Talk Express well expressed. I did not always agree with Palin when she was being careful to agree with McCain's platform and policies. It's her job to carry that message. I just wish she had been more clear, more of the time.

Once again, the media (conservative and liberal) are joining forces to make sure Obama wins the game. When he has the better of the two images in a debate with McCain but Mac surely commands the facts, Obama wins because all the he had to do was get his image right. When Sarah wins the image battle (by a mile...seriously did anyone really see Biden as authentic? He's rehearsed that sob story about his family and done it 50 times, choking up in the same places...really how much do you love Obama after all?) then it she did pretty well but didn't "win"...she "held her own". I guess different standards apply to the messiah then they do the girl next door.

Kate, it was hard to watch also. Palin would just kept dodging questions. In a contemptibly obvious way. After a a few questions, you got the basic pattern: A) slight redirect, B) the openining of the canned discourse. There were times where you could just see, "Oh, she just opened another of her cans." And what was in the cans was majorly mediocre. It was McCain-speak. Did she really want to say "maverik" thirty times? The overall feel was almost as bad as Bush in the entire 2000 campaign or HRC anytime, anyplace. Yeah, I'm an intellectual and have way less tolerance for slogans than the next guy, but I'd be very surprised if the she "connected" with the American ordinaries or joe six pack or whoever.

The McCain-speak isn't convincing. This ploy of stealing Obama's change slogan isn't working. I've talked to moderate Obama-leaning evangelical friends and they just aren't convinced. Biden had his best riffs against that.

And again, all they've got against Obama's 95% of you won't have your taxes raised is "your past record," and all they've got against his health-care plan is the general charge (true, but detail it please) that it will lead to big government.

And I think the 100% abandonment of the Bush administration/Congressional GOP policies by McCain is low and again, simply not convincing. All surge-talk, and nothing about the fact that the decision to take out Saddam was right. No aggressive attacks about the Democrat blockades on Fannie Mae reform, Social Secrity reform, Obama's links with easy-loan activists, etc. Weakness before Biden's weasel lawyer talk on equal rights for gay couples, and taking him at his word that Obama won't judicially seek to enact it. (jwc is wrong on GOP dropping its opposition to judicial enforcement of gay marriage)

So McCain ain't so great, and Palin hasn't the magic to hide it. Indeed, her winning personality and story gets sucked into the orbit of McCain-speak. But, honestly, as much as I hate to be quasi-determinist, ever since Paulson belatedly told us we were on the brink of credit armagedddon this election was OVER. McCain could be Reagan, Scalia, and Lincoln all rolled into one, and he would still lose.

Carl, I don't think you can blame Palin for any of your (mostly legitimate) complaints. The constant redirection of question towards planned discourses is a feature, not a bug for those kinds of debates. Unlike Biden - who did the same thing - she was able to inject a little bit of wit. As for the mediocrity of her substantive message, that the McCain message. Palin's error was not in how she sold the message. It wasn't even her mistake.

A real problem of their "maverick" message is its hollowness. What I heard was that they were going to FIGHT WALL STREET GREED, and they were a TICKET OF MAVERICKS. There was nothing that a viewer could connect to their own lives. In the absence of connecting their outsider personas to a real substantive agenda, the maverick stuff just comes off as a pose. Palin and McCain can't distance themselves from Bush unless they can explain clearly and understandably the ways that they will take the country in a different direction from Bush. Mavericks may not look back much, but if they are vague on the future too, its not really a hail mary, its taking a knee.

JWC makes some really good points. Rebuilding the Republican grassroots is going to be a bigger challange than most conservatives realize. The organizational work for the center right has largely been a Bush/Rove operation for the last eight years. The absence of the Bush/Rove machine has by itself flipped the organizational advantage to the Democrats. While conservatives have been highly critical of Bush, they have been dependent on his oragnizaton for all the close Senate wins in 2002 and 2004.

But all the organization in the world won't help if conservatives don't face a few hard facts about ourselves and our situation. Some suggestions,

1. Do a better job of listening to the concerns of people outside the conservative base. If you think the public abandoned the Republicans because of overspending, you are not listening. And give the public the benefit of the doubt that their concerns are legitimate. If healthcare (for example) tops the list of public concerns then conservatives should put it at least near the top of their agenda.

2. We can't count on Obama being a policy flop and having the country turn Right as a result. Its not out of the question that Obama will be able to combine policy failure with political success. In some ways that is the story of FDR's first term (not the whole story of course). We can't count on an win Obama in 2008 producing a replay of 1994 in 2010. It becomes more unlikely if conservatives do not offer compelling answers to the public's worries (as oppossed to our own hobbyhorses).

3. The conservative "base" is a minority that is in demographic decline. Thats not neccesarily fatal. There are plenty of people with sympathy for conservative policies and principles who are outside of the "base" - largely for reasons of racial and ethnic identity politics. Conservatives have done a lousy job of tapping these veins of latent conservatism. Our country has alot of people who are basically cnservative but think that conservatives are the enemy. That is sad but there is also an oppurtunity there.

John McCain is just a dumb white haired old guy. I know it's harsh but very typical of the conservative base. The absence of intellectual capacity, cultural outreach and an rigid adherence to stale ideas are just the beginning. Pundits liberal and conservative are in the tank for Obama because these elites know that many people in "small minded" America are virtually stuck in the 19th century.

First class intellect, first class temperament. What a way to bring America into the 21 century!

Peter Lawler's name is on the post, now. Peter, I hope you can forgive me.

Carl Scott, thank you for telling me. Peter Schramm's post of this morning also let me know that my lack of comprehension was not my fault. Mark Steyn offers this cheery take, that the music of her song meant more than the lyrics. I hope he's right and we are wrong. The election is not over yet. I bought gasoline for $3.15 a gallon yesterday, thinking that the world is full of wonders. Today, Micheal Barone says, Chaos has already given McCain and his party a lift up three times, and then knocked them down. Is it possible that there is more chaos ahead? This is my cheery portent #3.

Pete's #3, There are plenty of people with sympathy for conservative policies and principles who are outside of the "base" - largely for reasons of racial and ethnic identity politics. Conservatives have done a lousy job of tapping these veins of latent conservatism. Our country has a lot of people who are basically conservative but think that conservatives are the enemy. That is sad, but there is also an opportunity there. I think is quite true, because I know my students have independently conservative impulses. One of these days, their principles will matter more to them than their personal label.

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