Still: There is One HopeEvents, My Dear Boy, Events.
A column from The Wanderer, the nations oldest national Catholic weekly.
By Thomas F. Roeser
CHICAGOIn these articles it has been my fate to bring depressing news to my fellow conservativesmuch like the host who removes the punch bowl just as the party is getting to be fun. Just as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are ripping themselves to shreds
and as John McCain is tied with both of them for the presidency
I come along and remind you how almost insuperably difficult it will be to elect a Republican president. Well so be it; however you will notice I leave a tiny glimmer of possibility.
There are six reasons why electing a Republican president in 2008 will be a near-impossibility.
First, given that a Gallup poll last week found George W. Bushs disapproval rating the lowestat 69%--of any president in its 70 year history, it is clear that the American electorate is sick of the Bushes and anything to do with themwhich includes their airhead twins one of whom, Jenna, has said she will vote for Obama. Why is this so since almost alone I believe revisionist historians will incardinate George W. after we are all dead as a great president? Because living with the Bushes one way or another since 1980 is, for all of us, like eating too much chocolate: you never want a single morsel again.
It begins with the ageless preppie, George H. W. with a goofy smile like the comic Charles Nelson Reilly who makes silly mistakes, listening to a Harvard guru convince him to break his no-tax-hike pledge, acting like an errant toy soldier from a Nutcracker ballet chorus; his wife, Barbara, a patrician with a helmet of white hair who resembles all those wealthy matriarchs with eastern seaboard accents who run Spring social parties to benefit Planned Parenthood.
It includes their son Neil, the director of Silverado Savings & Loan which collapsed costing the taxpayers $1 billion for which he paid a fine of $50,000 and whose divorce from Sharon made national headlines because he admitted patronizing an escort service which led Sharon to surreptitiously snip a lock of his hair, not to impart a voodoo curse on him as he inaccurately charged but because she wanted the hair to be analyzed for drug use. Then we get to George W. whose game has always been to make a bet and let it ride: refusing to cast a veto on anything passed by Congress for five straight years, signing wasteful spending schemes and the horrendous McCain-Feingold law.
This is not to say there are not good partsindeed, extraordinarily good including that first veto which was of embryonic stem cell experimentation
and more including successful moves to conservatize the Supreme Court. But take it as an article of faith that the nation has had an overdose, thats OD, of Bushes that will last for decades to come.
Second, Iraq. After a successful invasion of Iraq ala Illinois Don Rumsfeld with a brilliantly bold, low-casualty drive to Baghdad and overthrow of the longstanding Baathist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the administration severely under-estimated the occupied Iraq insurgency and the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction which was announced in 2004 by chief UN weapons inspector David Kay who said to his great surprise no weapons of this kind were found. Claims of the surge working (which I truly believe) notwithstanding, a new record of 63% of the American people (same Gallup poll) believe the war is a mistake. Now Bush has found his Ulysses S. Grant in David Petraeus but its a question of whether its too late. Lincoln found Grant in 1864 and thanks to Grants victories was reelected that same year; whether Petraeus can subject or calm Iraq enough to allow Republicans to win even a marginal victory is uncertain.
Third, the economy. While not nearly so bad as the media say, the dollar is weak and equity markets are both volatile and bearish. But things are bound to get worse because of Democrats war on the rich. The top tax rate on estates now is zero but is scheduled to go up to 55% on January 1, 2011 and Democrats are against stopping the hike. The persona tax rate on dividends is now 15% but will rise spectacularly to 39.6% as part of the populist Democrats war on the rich; and that same war is likely to claim capital gains which will shoot up from 15% to 20%; the top rate on personal income will be hiked from 35% to 39.6%.
These are wrong moves in a recession climate but you cant convince Democrats or much of the media of that. And Democrats aver, Americans have become increasingly convinced that globalization harms ordinary workers. This flies in the face of Bushsand McCainssupport of free trade. The knock `em-dead recession long heralded as coming `round the bend by liberals, hasnt hit us with full fury yet. True, as economist Brian Wesbury has said, when you add up all the components of GDPconsumption, business investment, home building, trade and governmentyou get a big goose-egg (0%) since weakness in housing and government offset gains in the others. But inventories rebounded strongly in the last quarter. Yet this helps no Republican as the mythology maintains we are in a recession.
Fourth, voting evidence. While 25% of the Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania told exit pollsters they would either vote for McCain or not vote at all if Obama were nominated, 27% of Republican primary voters in that state went to the polls to vote Democratic though there was a Republican primary extant, open only to registered Republicans. Rush Limbaugh claims they followed his urging to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to stir the Democratic pot but who knows? . Moreover while it didnt count since McCain is the presumptive GOP nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvanians cast their votes anyhow for either Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul which is more voters than separated Clinton and Obama. Not a good sign especially since John Kerry beat Bush in Pennsylvania by 144,000 in 2004. In Pennsylvania, there are now a million more registered Democrats than Republicans which figures dont include independents who couldnt vote in either primary but who, polls have shown, have been moving to Democrats in the state steadily since 2006.
Fifth the rise in new Democratic contributor-fundraising across the country
an index into political health. Even before her victory in Pennsylvania when Hillary was crucially low on funds, she was topping McCain in new donations 2.4 to l. Obama beats McCain 3 to l.
Sixth, social conservatives meaning authenticist pro-life Catholics to evangelical Protestants have always been on board to support Republican presidential candidates since Ronald Reaganbut they are lagging due to coolness for McCain. Last month at a key, unpublicized meeting in New Orleans, several dozen leaders met and fought against each other like tigers. Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense fund attacked the group for not supporting Mike Huckabee. Paul Weyrich, a legendary leader, incapacitated since a freak accident left him with a spinal injury that led to both his legs being amputated, told the group in a low whisper amplified by a microphone that he had supported Mitt Romney, not Huckabee but friends, before all of you and before almighty God, I want to say I was wrong.
Earlier Focus on the Family founder James Dobson had said on his radio program, I cannot under any circumstances support John McCain. Newt Gingrich had tried to rally support from them after he made a public confession of his concupiscence on Dobsons radio program but there were too many doubts, especially about Gingrichs administrative failings as Speaker. Mitt Romney whose key backer was Matt DeMoss spent the limit to woo the social conservative leadersincluding sending each of them an expensive office chair to which was pinned a note: Youll always have a seat at my table. He strove vainly for their support but they remembered that as governor of Massachusetts just a few short years earlier he fought against everything they sought. He was denied backing. Fred Thompsons attitude was that of a leisurely senior citizen; Ron Paul, though pro-life, was too iconoclastic, too cranky, too libertarian. His reforms were too draconian; for example, most wondered how the health of the public would get safeguarded with Pauls crusade to repeal the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906 which would upend the FDA. Then McCain appeared before the group and struck outretelling a hoary tale on how his prison guard in North Vietnam drew the sign of the cross in dirt at McCains feet and then brushed it away. If it was supposed to electrify the group, it didnt. And since then pro-life religious groups have been AWOL in McCains campaign.
Hark! Is That The Cavalrys Hooves We Hear?
However I was the one who told you Harold Macmillans events, my dear boy, events story about how unpredictable occurrences can win or lose elections, was I not? There was no Republican candidate more in trouble, more bereft and more slated for the dustbin than McCain just a little over a year ago and he rose from the ashes to get the nomination. And no more shining forerunner of inevitable presidential victory than Barack Obama. McCains story first. Events-my-dear-boy affected them both: McCain for the good, Obama for the worse.
His liabilities seemed insurmountable. He is 71 years old going on 72 who would be the oldest president at time of election, one with past serious health concerns (a malignant melanoma diagnosed in 2000), who would be the first president not to be born in this country but in the Canal Zone where his father was stationed (and which a congressional resolution was passed to assure his legality). Despite his hero status as a prisoner of war, he had committed numerous political offenses against his party, for one seeking the presidency. He had allowed personal pique to color his relationship with the president of his own party stemming from his loss of the nomination to Bush in 2000. He challenged Bush and his conservative Republican Senate colleagues on numerous issues including authorship of the McCain-Feingold Act.
He was a major supporter of liberal immigration reform which angered conservatives and was defeated. He had even considered leaving the Republican party as a senator. His temper outbursts were seen as a souvenir of emotional instability endured through five years of largely solitary confinements and beatings. His running for president was seen by pundits as a quixotic venture. He started out as a favorite but when his enemies gathered to rain blows upon him his standing dwindled to seeming insignificance.
A low level of support in single-digits led McCain to drop out of the Iowa straw poll. The road back was tough. He became convinced he had to repair his bridges. He appeared at Jerry Falwells university as a commencement speaker notwithstanding that he had claimed Falwell was an agent of intolerancea commencement at which some students carried placards protesting McCain does not speak for me. Conservatives booed him. The co-chair of his Florida campaign was picked up by cops on July 11, 2007 for soliciting a prostitute.
Worse, there was flagrant campaign over-spending. Campaign managers and consultants battled. With all the issue troubles
immigration, disconnects with conservatives
his earlier brushes with Bush
campaign contributions evaporated. In August. 2007 nine members of his campaign staff resigned because he couldnt find funds to pay them. McCain said we have to live off the land with few paid staffers, relying on free news media exclusively. He was facing seven opponents, most of whom had better finances: Romney, Giuliani, Thompson notably.
Then, in December, came an event, Macmillans description of how an occurrence can change things. It was the Dec. 28 assassination of former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto. Why in the world should that be a sizable event for McCain? Because it put the focus-bead on experience. .
Among all the Republican hopefuls, only McCain appeared to sound knowledgeable about strategy the U.S. should pursue in that crisis. The Sleepy Eye of the electorate (Eugene McCarthys phrase made to this writer) opened and took note of the fact that McCain appeared supremely knowledgeable, as the only lawmaker with extensive foreign experience. He had met often with Bhutto and also with Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. Slowly McCains credibility started to return. Not at first. He came in fourth place in the Iowa caucuses of January, 2008 but unlike Romney had not staked a win there. Romney had spent three times more than Huckabee who finished first and seven times more than McCain. After the lousy fourth place finish, pundits almost unanimously told him to withdraw. McCain blew up. The hell with this, he told one pundit. Im going to New Hampshire where voters dont let people like you tell them how to vote! In New Hampshire he swung out hard at Bush for fouling up Iraq but backed him on the surge and vowed never to preside over a U.S. military defeat.
Few other Republican candidates came close to backing the surge, fearing that if it failed they would suffer. Not McCain. He extolled a new name in the military, General David Petraeus. Punching hard at the thought of winning in Iraq with honor, his national polling now showed him at 21% approval among the Republican candidates. He went to New Hampshire and won 37% to Romneys 32% amid cries Mac is back! His national rank improved to 34% among the GOP candidates, a 21-point rise. Facing Romney in Michigan, the state of Romneys birth, he did remarkably well, placing second to a native son 30% to 39% On to South Carolina where he met a barrage of mailers sent to all members of the media alleging that while a captive in Vietnam, McCain passed military secrets to the North Vietnamese to save his neck. The mailings backfired and McCain won with 33% to Huckabees second place 30%.
Now radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh told his 20 million listeners that the nomination of McCain would destroy the Republican party and Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, said McCain has done more to hurt the Republican party than any elected official I know of. Conservative newspaper columnist and TV talking head Ann Coulter (she of the knee-length long blonde tresses) said that if McCain were nominated, she would back Hillary Clinton. Now McCain faltered under the blows, finishing third in Nevada, with only 13% of the vote, finishing behind Romney and Ron Paul. The battle then moved to Florida where pundits said it would be a test for McCain among hard-core conservative Republican voters.
Rush Limbaugh was still firing his guns saying McCain was joined at the hip with Democratic liberals. The battle there was bloody. Meet the Press host Tim Russert reminded McCain he had said earlier I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues.
Romney outspent McCain 3 to 1 on television and Limbaugh was joined in his attack on McCain by radio talk show host Laura Ingraham who said I am concerned about the mental stability of the McCain campaignan obvious jibe at a rumor that years of incarceration had damaged McCains mind. Mark Levin, the talk show host known as the Great One started to call him Senator McLame. But McCain won the primary while being outspent 3 to 1, with 36% of the vote, Romney with 31% and Rudy Giuliani at 15%. That victory led to a flood of endorsements. McCain then won Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma.
He was greeted tepidly when he spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington and delicately amended his tune on immigration, saying he would make his first priority protection of the borders. He was told he had it unofficially wrapped up but not so. He lost the Kansas convention to Huckabee and lost Louisiana to Huckabee by one percentage point, won the Washington state caucuses. Without stopping to catch a breath he won Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia primary votes. On Feb. 14 Romney officially endorsed him. Huckabee stayed in but McCain beat him in Wisconsin. Now conservative talk show host Michael Medved who had supported Romney said Limbaugh, Ingraham and Levin, by engaging in candidate shilling (by which he meant using their roles as commentators to negate or hustle votes for favorites) and name-calling, had dishonored the talk show host profession. (First time I heard it called a profession but as extolling his talents as being on loan from God and declaring he has mastered certain issues with the same intimacy that he knows every inch of my gloriously naked body earns Limbaugh $20 million a year, never mind).
But the hammer blows werent over yet. The New York Times talked to two former associates of McCain who said that they had become convinced a romantic relationship had existed between their boss and a female lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, that McCain had acknowledged behaving inappropriately; as result they said they became disillusioned with the senator. Both were later identified as having been let go during the lapse in campaign fund-raising and one, John Weaver, who switched from Republican to Democrat, was seemingly working to destroy all he had built-up since he had been fired. None other than Lanny Davis, a former Bill Clinton staffer, stepped up to defend McCains role with the female lobbyist, although Davis will not vote for McCain. Immediately former talk show host critics Limbaugh and Ingraham rallied to his defense. He officially clinched the nomination on March 4 with sweeping victories in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont. President Bush then endorsed him at the White House. Now the man who was given up for dead a year earlier in presidential match-ups not only was the presumptive nominee but in an admittedly terrible year for Republicans has virtually tied Obama and Hillary Clinton in November match-ups. One event which occurred while the Sleepy Eye was awake and watching determined the difference.
Obama: Object of Hate by His Ex-Pastor.
McCain has had an invaluable breather as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama attempt to beat the tar out of each other for the Democratic nomination. In one of the most notable events Obama, the front-runner, attempted to defend his ex-pastor for using his pulpit to curse the United States and thunder any number of unacceptable things. Obama unwisely sought to deflect the imprecations but said he could no more disown Jeremiah Wright than he could the entire black community or his white grandma: an unfortunate statement that seemingly linked the entire African-American electorate with Wright
and may not have endeared him further to grandma, who knows?
Then last week Wright moved from being a supporter of Obama to an outright critic. Insiders in the black churches say that when Obama dis-invited Wright to give the invocation at his announcement, Wright was irredeemably angered. Last week he took to the road for TV interviews and two speeches (National Press Club and NAACP convention). In the speeches he mocked Obama, praised Louis Farrakhan, defended the view that Zionism is racism, repeated his view that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus to cause the genocide of racial minorities.
Now Obama campaign HAS disowned Wright. The effects are not over yet. Suffice it to say the man who will negotiate with all our foreign enemies
the president of Iran, Castro, the head of North Korea
has struck out dealing effectively with his own pastor. Jeremiah Wright is behaving like McCains ex-aide John Weaver to destroy what he cannot participate in.
Thus does unanticipated events make enthralled students of us all.