Cutting Through The Crap

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Excuses



Personally I think the election of Barack Obama was because he won, rather than that John McCain lost. To the extent that the McCain supporters are blaming forces outside McCain's control, I strongly disagree.

The two main "outside" issues bemoaned by Republicans are the economic meltdown, and the "turning" of the press against John McCain. Both views, I think, are easily refuted. Behind each are the actions of John McCain himself.

It's frequently stated that McCain was leading in the polls until Lehman Brothers went under. That's simply not true on its face:

Lehman happened September 13. McCain's fall began a week earlier, as did Obama's rise. Other than right after his convention, McCain was behind pretty much the whole time, exacerbated as Sarah Palin's interviews, first with Charlie Gibson and later with Katie Couric, were broadcast.

What was in fact at work was John McCain's absurd response to the crisis, not the crisis itself. His statement that the "fundamentals" of the economy were strong, followed by his acknowledgment less than a day later that we were in a crisis was pretty revelatory of his out-of-depthitude. As was his silly attempt to explain that by "fundamentals" he meant "workers." Yeah. Walking through an assembly line, saying "How are all you fundamentals doing today?" Or something. The "straight talk" was beginning to develop wrinkles.

Following in short order was his boing-boing behavior: "suspending" his campaign while continuing campaign activity; rushing back to D.C. in a mere twenty-two hours, after first making a couple of political stops. And, most damagingly, revealing that he had neither suggestions nor influence. Taking credit when it looked like the measure had passed, placing blame when it turned out it hadn't. Had he responded in a less vacuous way, had he been less like what we'd been seeing for the last eight years, i.e. atmospherics masquerading as leadership, I think the crisis could have been an opportunity for him to have shown well. Had, of course, he any sort of in-depth understanding of economics. He had a chance to perform well, and he blew it. It didn't blow him. As it were.

[I also happen to think McCain's involvement in the Russia-Georgia conflict was pretty telling as well, even though it came and went pretty fast in the public consciousness. From his histrionic and simplistic "We are all Georgians now," to dispatching his dopplegangers Lieberman and Graham, all president-like, to the region as if on a mission of state, he looked, to me anyway, over-reaching and opportunistic. In fact, recent revelations would tend to confirm that.]

The "turning," the "unfairness" of the press is an even more laughable idea. Having bought into and actively promoted the idea of John McCain as maverick (really, what the hell is that?) and straight-talker for virtually his entire career (after getting past his major scandal), the press had finally, in the face of such mounting evidence, to acknowledge it as the canard that it was. The examples kept on coming, until reporters were forced, reluctantly, to report. What was called "piling on" poor Sarah was nothing more than doing the work to find out who she really was (since he evidently hadn't). The "bridge to nowhere" came tumbling down; her earmark antipathy was in fact a love affair; on and on. And the McCain campaign's distortions were inept and transparent: the "lipstick on a pig" deception, the ad warfare full of, mildly stated, disingenuousness. Even a press as craven and lazy as most of ours is, it turns out, has a point below which it won't go. The selection of Sarah Palin and the efforts that followed, instead of the brilliant stroke it seemed for the first five minutes, turned out to be a proxy for McCain's impulsiveness; for his substitution of scenery for seriousness.

Finally -- and I can only hope it's true -- people may have had their fill of dishonorable and distracting campaigning. William Ayers, Reverend Wright. Terrorist, socialist, communist, America-hating. Real America. Obama's message of common purpose prevailed over theirs of divisiveness. And, of course, Obama, the dreaded and derided community organizer, out-organized the hell out of them.

McCain and Palin, in the end, made their appeal almost entirely to the basest of the base; and in times like these, when it's clear we're ALL in for really bad times, it just didn't work. People sensed it's now or never. Or so one would like to believe. But McPalin's negativity did come at a price, not only to their campaign but to the cause of future coöperation.

In my local paper there was a letter to the editor after the election. The writer claimed to offer support, as an American, to the new president, while promising to do everything he could to see he was defeated in four years. Even before knowing what sort of president he'll be.

So there's that.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, technically speaking, I do believe a maverick is a lost cow.

McCain and Palin too, showed they had no idea of the issues affecting typical Americans.

nancyb

Anonymous said...

"The "turning," the "unfairness" of the press is an even more laughable idea."

But you should read what the WAPO's own ombudsman says about their coverage:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/07/AR2008110702895.html

Not really so laughable. Now, it's possible that your reason (or "excuse"?) for this will be that McCain only rates unfavorable coverage because he is, well, unfavorable. In that case, you can't see beyond your own bias to understand that there are more points of view than your own.

But maybe I already knew that.

BC

Sid Schwab said...

BC: I think you can find plenty of instances in this blog where I acknowledge there are more points of view than my own. My point, regarding the press, is that what some call unfair piling on, others (myself included) consider investigative reporting. Even people in McCain's campaign (probably the ones now eating their young) agreed Katie Couric's questions were fair. And the examples I used were factual, as usual.

Sid Schwab said...

I'd add this, BC: the article you provided was all about numbers. I don't think that necessarily tells the whole story. For example if you tally articles about, say, Batman and the Joker in the Gotham City News, it's likely the ones about Batman will be more "positive" even if they're entirely factual.

That they focused too much, like most media, on the horse-race aspects instead of substance is something I agree is a good example of how the media are disappointingly shallow and lazy. But "balance" is a hard thing to gauge. In my view, they often go too far: as in the typical example of balancing someone who says the Earth is round with someone who says it's flat. Some things don't deserve balance.

Anonymous said...

Sid, are you arguing that in spite of WAPO's own words that their coverage was fair?

Re: Palin--"One gaping hole in coverage involved Joe Biden, Obama's running mate. When Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president, reporters were booking the next flight to Alaska. Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden. They are right; it was a serious omission."

I think the gaping hole was the general ridicule afforded her when Biden was making all kinds of ridiculous statements which went unchallenged in WAPO and others.

BC

Anonymous said...

As she says, "Numbers don't tell you everything, but they give you a sense of The Post's priorities."

The point of her column is that the "tilt" was not just numbers of stories, but a general leaning toward showing Obama in a favorable light and McCain in an unfavorable light.

For instance:
"But Obama deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago. The Post did nothing on Obama's acknowledged drug use as a teenager."

I merely propose that your statement that the unfairness of the press is a laughable idea has been contradicted by the press itself.

BC

Sid Schwab said...

I don't read the Post like I read the NY TImes. There's also the Washington Times and the NY Post, both of which are right-leaning. My point was never about numbers. It was about the stuff that was reported that was true, but which was characterized as attacks by many on the right. There were some media, especially Fox news, that focused on nothing but negative Obama stuff all the time. McCain had, until this campaign, enjoyed a nearly complete pass by the media, except when they lauded his "hero" status and mavericky maverickness. I don't argue that the many of the media did not seem to favor Obama, especially when you add up (numbers) the overwhelming endorsements, even from conservative papers that had never endorsed a Democrat. What I am arguing is that the coverage of McCain and Palin was not unfair in what was said.

And I heard a lot about Rezko, Ayers, Wright, daily, from all over. What I heard practically nothing about was equivalent coverage of Palin's church, her husband's AIP membership, or McCain's past associates. It was in the lefty blogs, but nearly absent from MSM coverage.

In any case, if Republicans want to blame the loss on the usual scapegoats, instead of addressing where their party is headed, it's fine with me. Even though, personally, I like the idea of a robust opposition party -- assuming it has at least one foot in reality.

Ellen Kimball said...

Sid, you've raised some interesting points about media coverage in this election.

Mostly, this reminds me of the discussion after Nixon and Kennedy had their famous TV debate. Nixon sweated, didn't put on appropriate make-up, and lost the election.

Some of the visuals in 2008's debates are easy to point to. I realize these are surface issues, and I am an elderly lady of 69 -- but every time I saw the two men debate together, McCain looked really old, chalky, and somewhat agressive and spaced out. Obama was extremely attractive, cool, calm and collected -- an advertiser's dream, complete with compelling oratorical skills. It really was not a hard hop, skip and jump to comparing him to JFK.

But I think whomever the Republicans might have put up as their top candidate would have provided untenable media circumstances just as John McCain did.

We watched the debates with Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Guiliani, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul. I believe any of those would have also been caught in the maelstrom of his own personal ideas, which clearly do not represent the mainstream.

Once McCain was chosen, the haphazard and ludicrous choice of Governor Sarah Palin helped to sink the party even more.

The September economic meltdown served to focus on one of the McCain albatrosses: lack of economic knowledge, and there was also advancing age, chronic illness, apparent personal defects such as leaving a woman who had stood by him, etc.

George W. Bush's presidency was a stolen abomination. In truth, the last eight years have been insufferable for most of us Americans. Can we blame THAT on the media and all the right-wing mouthpieces who have gained a foothold in communications since the 1970s?

Let's hope the next four years -- and possibly eight years -- will be a time for excitement, hope, and renewal.

Anonymous said...

I'm not blaming any body for McCain's loss. Obama was the better candidate. McCain has a goofy laugh. Sid made a comment that I think was wrong, though he won't admit that he was wrong. Heck--the WaPo admitted Sid was wrong.

I backed Romney while he was there. He actually had done things--built a huge business, ran a real state.

I will point out that McCain's divorce came when he came back from Viet Nam. Living around a lot of Navy, I can tell you that spouses returning from regular duty--6 months at sea--make their way to divorce. FWIW. You may choose to see McCain as evil, since he ran against your guy. Up to you.

As long as Sid continues to pound his chest over his victory, and continue to catalog his hatred for McCain and Palin, I just want to point out that I never had a real problem with Barack Obama. I am still concerned with the cult of personality you all have formed around him. You like him--that's fine. But you need to admit that he is very inexperienced--no matter how long and hard he has thought about the world's problems. And he is much less the post-partisan candidate he professes to be than a steely-eyed Democrat seeking the office.

But he's the president and I wish him great success. Four years' worth.

BC

Sid Schwab said...

I would not describe my writing as "pounding my chest." I'm glad as hell Obama won. I think the country needs a deep and broad thinker for a change. That he uses words that are actually a part of the English language is a bonus.

Cult of personality? Can you say "Ronald Reagan?"

I do admit he's inexperienced by some definitions. I've also said I value judgment over experience. In that, he's shown himself to be superior to Bush (no big stretch) and to McCain. I'll settle for that and keep watching.

My "hatred" for McCain and Palin is about the way they campaigned: divisive, anti-intellectual, us vs them. Destructive, not inclusive. It not only failed, but left behind a reservoir of ill-will that will only impede solutions. And if you persist in seeing my media comment in the way you do, despite my explanations, then we'll continue to talk across each other. (Although I think there were acknowledgments from both of us in the last comments.)

Here's an article that expresses much of what I believe about the election and the state of the Republican party.

Anonymous said...

Well, the Reagan cult has grown up in modern days, and I think reflects his actual accomplishments. The Obama cult has been with us from the beginning (which means 4 years) and is about ho well he speaks.

Here's an example of this:
http://cjonline.com/stories/110908/loc_353922770.shtml

A national holiday for Obama before he even takes office? Many Republicans find this creepy.
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-stein8feb08,0,3418234.column

BC

Sid Schwab said...

Well, the Reagan cult has grown up in modern days, and I think reflects his actual accomplishments

A fair point. I think some of the over-the-top response to Obama is fueled by a sense of relief -- in me, it's palpable -- that the years of embarrassment and frustration when considering our current president may be over.

When I think of Ronald Reagan, I think of a guy who launched his campaign in the south on "states rights," ie code for racial issues; of a guy who reversed every one of Jimmy Carter's energy initiatives, to our present detriment; a guy who left office having begun the cascade of intolerable deficits; a guy who got us "walking tall again" by invading a tiny island; and a guy who benefitted from timing: the fall of the Soviet Union having occurred on his watch, serendipitously. When I travelled in the Soviet Union in the 60s, as a language student, college freshman, I was struck by the degree to which their society was a facade. Crumbling buildings, cars (what few of them there were) defunct on the side of the road, empty stores. The military race no doubt helped, but the system was doomed from the start.

Anyhow, I think this is all I have to say in this thread.