vendredi, août 22, 2008

Obamaskeptic from the London Times

There's a lot to agree with in this editorial by Times of London American correspondent Gerald Baker.

There seems to be a growing consensus among even Obama's advisors that he needs to get specific (as specific as "life begins at conception") about what he's going to do to help working class voters and middle class voters one paycheck away from losing a house, or medical insurance, or college tuition for their kids.

Does McCain have better answers? Well, if you like trickle down economics, you'll love his financial solutions. But he does have a reputation for candor, and that can take you a long way. Voters don't seem to feel that he condescends to them.

In addition, as Baker points out, a resurgent Russia is reminding Americans that it is possible, all too possible, to revert to the scary days of military exercises and threats-possibly towards Poland, next time. The fact that George Bush and the Republicans have been as complacent as the Democrats about Putin and his gang doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot.

I think Baker gets it wrong when he says that McCain's attacks have been "fair." He should have slammed Corsi and his henchmen, and he didn't-because they do his dirty work without him having to get his mitts in the muck. The whole breastbeating "I am Superpatriot and you aren't" routine gets a little tiresome.

That being said, politics ain't tea time at Buckingham Palace.

Can Obama emerge with some equally scurrilous way of twisting the stiletto? We're beginning to see him hit back with an equally scriptable "He's got seven houses and he doesn't understand you" rant so beloved of Democrats.

It's not clear yet whether its going to work.

Will Obama sharpen his campaign and his image? Will McCain venture beyond bromides? Here's where the rubber meets the road, folks. It's going to be a fascinating two months-if we didn't have so much at stake, it would make great melodrama.

From The Times
August 22, 2008
‘Yes we can'? Make that: ‘Oops, we may not'
Barack Obama suddenly looks vulnerable. And the more the focus is on him, the less likely he is to become president
Gerard Baker

There's trouble in paradise. Cancel the coronation. Send back the commemorative medals. Put those “Yes We Can” T-shirts up on eBay. Keep the Change.
Barack Obama's historic procession to the American presidency has been rudely interrupted. The global healing he promised is in jeopardy. If you're prone to emotional breakdown, you might want to take a seat before I say this. He might not win.
How can it be, you ask? Didn't we see him just last month speaking to 200,000 adoring Germans in Berlin? Didn't he get the red carpet treatment in France - France of all places? Doesn't every British politician want to be seen clutching the hem of his garment?
All true. But as cruel geography and the selfish designs of the American Founding Fathers would have it, Europeans don't get to choose the US president. Somewhere along the way to the Obama presidency, somebody forgot to ask the American people.
And wouldn't you know it, they insist on looking this gift thoroughbred in the mouth. Who'd have thought it? You present them with the man who deigns to deliver them from their plight and they want to sit around and ask hard questions about who he is and what he believes and where he might actually take the country. The ingrates!
So we arrive this weekend at the true starting line of the US presidential race and the rituals that begin the real election campaign: the selection of the vice-presidential running-mates, and the back-to-back party nominating conventions. A year and a half after the warm-ups began, the two remaining candidates are more or less tied. Senator Obama's summer lead in the opinion polls has evaporated. John McCain, that grumpy, grisly, gnarled old Republican, that Gollum to Senator Obama's Bilbo Baggins, might, just might, actually win this thing.
What happened?
Of course, the conventional view is that it's all the work of that most terrifyingly effective piece of artillery since the invention of the howitzer, the Republican Attack Machine.
The credulous American voter, we're told, has been subjected in the last month to a televised blitzkrieg of right-wing lies about the hapless Democrat. He's not patriotic. He might be a Muslim. He might not even be American. He probably is a Muslim. There's no evidence he's ever said anything nice about Michael Phelps. He goes to the mosque on Fridays. If Obama's the leader of the free world, it won't be the Caucasian Georgia the Russians invade but the one sandwiched between Florida and South Carolina. Gullible Americans are going to fall for it, just as they fell for Stupid George W over Brilliant Al Gore and Brave John Kerry.
Forgive me for interrupting this reverie but in the real world something else is going on.
In the reality-based community the rest of us inhabit, the first thing to be said about the current state of the race is that the actual shift in the campaign's dynamics is not quite as dramatic as the pundit class would have you believe. A month ago, according to an average of polls for Real, Senator Obama had about a four-point lead over Senator McCain. This week the tally suggests the lead is about one percentage point.
The bigger change has occurred in perceptions about the race. A month ago the prevailing view among the wise was that Senator Obama would steadily increase his lead and by the time his convention concluded next week, it would be insurmountable.
But instead, it looks as though, even if he has a really good convention in Denver next week, and Hillary and Bill Clinton play the unlikely role of loyal followers, the race will still be close when the Republicans start their gathering in a week's time. Whatever happens, in other words. it looks like yet another close election.
Why is this? Why has the Democrat failed to capitalise on the mood of deep discontent within the country?
First, it's true that the negative campaigning by John McCain has hurt him somewhat. But there's nothing wrong with that. The 2008 presidential election has so far been a referendum on Senator Obama. it's perfectly reasonable for the Republicans to make the case against him, and the attacks have been fair. My account of the McCain campaign above was a caricature, of course. There's been no mention of Senator Obama's race or the silly fiction that he might be a Muslim.
The fact is that the 47-year-old Democrat, less than four years in the Senate, is still largely a blank page for American voters: a great orator and an attractive figure, but unknown and untested. The Republicans have been filling in some of the gaps and pointing out how thin his real biography is.
The second problem is that Senator Obama is having difficulty - curiously enough - with Democratic voters. Polls indicate that while Senator McCain has just about locked up the votes of those who supported other Republicans in the primary election, Senator Obama is still regarded with mistrust and dislike by large numbers of Hillary Clinton's former supporters.
For many of these working-class types, he's just a bit too cerebral, a little vague. His campaign lacks both substance and passion. While unemployment is rising, incomes are slipping fqarther behind rising inflation and house prices are falling, Senator Obama keeps talking about hope and change, keeps promising a new type of politics. These benighted Democratic voters don't really want a new type of politics. They want to know what exactly he's going to do to raise their living standards.
The irony for Senator Obama is that he has built a campaign on a pledge to put an end to cynicism in the political system, but the more he offers only vague promises of hope, the greater the danger that he increases voter cynicism about politicians in general and him in particular.
The third problem is that events have not helped the Democrats. The war in Georgia has emphasised that the world is a dangerous place, and that simply being willing to talk to your enemies, as Senator Obama sometimes seems to suggest, isn't going to keep your people safe.
The key to understanding the presidential campaign as it enters its phase of maximum intensity is this. The more the campaign is about the concerns of the American voter, especially the state of the economy but also the general anxiety about the direction of the country, the more likely they are to throw the Republicans out.
But the uncomfortable truth for the many devoted fans of Senator Obama is that the more the race is about him, the less likely he is to win it.

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