Sunday, November 16, 2008

Festivus grievances: the McCain campaign edition

By Rick Morris

With a tip of the hat to the excellent Cleveland sports blog Waiting for Next Year for the idea, I’ve compiled some Festivus grievances for the McCain campaign. Festivus, for those of you sadly not up on all things Seinfeld, was a holiday that Frank Costanza invented as an antidote to the commercialism of Christmas. It involves letting those around you know the various ways in which they have disappointed you. So, without any further ado, let’s “celebrate” those who took a bad hand in terms of the political climate and shredded what was left of it!

^ THE IMBECILES WHO RAN THE CAMPAIGN: What better place to start than at the top of the machinery? Steve Schmidt, who preened like a third-world junta leader atop the McCain campaign, was chief among the Karl Rove wannabes who deployed their idiotic tactics one presidential campaign too late. One of Schmidty’s grand ideas was to try to win every news cycle, which led to the full-court press on the infamous “lipstick on the pig” flap, which came right before the global financial crisis in September. Hey, nothing says we’re the campaign with the ideas for tomorrow like beating a dead pig just to try to gain cynical momentary advantage, right? Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that these Rove worshippers tried to copy the “51% strategy” in a horribly unfriendly climate – but completely neglected the Rove “ground game” that helped put George Bush over the top in a number of key states! Use the bad strategy, don’t use the effective organizational tactics. Oooooohkay. Then, when these jerks ran the ship square into the iceberg, they turned their wrath on Sarah Palin – on background, of course, because those who maligned her are gutless cowards. I completely endorse the efforts of those at RedState in their “Operation Leper” campaign, which is dedicated to blackballing those pathetic operatives who have tried to knife the governor to save their own hide. The fact that Nicolle Wallace felt it necessary to make a groveling performance on national television praising Mrs. Palin was very satisfying indeed and it proves that the insiders realize that there is a price to be paid for backstabbing the potential next Republican presidential nominee.

^ THE NOMINEE HIMSELF: John McCain is a hero, as has been stated in this space previously. And it’s true that only a candidate with his track record of independence from standard Republican policies could have been competitive in a climate so fouled by George W. Bush. But the fact is that his basic political philosophies, while conservative more often that not, are sufficiently untethered to a coherent worldview to keep him from being able to enunciate clear positions at critical times. The way that he flopped like a fish out of water when the financial crisis hit comes to mind and it’s no accident that the polls showed he and Barack Obama as ships passing permanently in the night at that very moment. From the ridiculous “campaign suspension” to the Tourette’s-like spewing into microphones about various half-baked solutions to his inability to lead the House Republicans towards a solution to the bailout when he put his entire campaign’s credibility on the line, McCain did much to underachieve even in a bad political year for his party. The only time he ever had the advantage over Obama was when he put Sarah Palin on the ticket and yet McCain still stayed quiet for days after the election as the backstabbers he employed tried to destroy her future. To an extent, McCain has had to deal with more political frustration than most relatively successful pols ever do, inasmuch as he inherited a terrible atmosphere this year from Bush, when he surely would have done much better than Bush eight years ago and beat Al Gore like a drum. But this doesn’t excuse at all his complete inability to harness his various strengths and make a compelling case to the American public. His debate performances against Obama repeatedly failed to make the case about why his opponent should have been unacceptable to the nation. In the end, McCain’s performance left plenty of what-ifs for the aftermath.

^ THE MAN BEQUEATHING THE PARTY: Let there be no doubt. George W. Bush helped elect Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker, Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader and now Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. It’s been amusing to see longtime Bush enablers like neocon Hugh Hewitt mention that the president didn’t want to waste any political capital defending himself from absurd attacks, as though his unilateral surrender in the court of public opinion was somehow heroic instead of a betrayal of everyone who voted for him. Somewhere along the way, the contempt for the polls that Dick Cheney showed, as the first vice president in modern times who would not be running for the top job someday, morphed into a White House-wide “That’s OK, history will vindicate us like it did Harry Truman” cult of mass delusion. Bush had plenty of failures (such as four years of a bloody stalemate in Iraq, Katrina, an orgy of federal spending), but worst of all, he couldn’t communicate his successes (protection of the homeland and improving the federal judiciary) and the areas where the public would be correct to rally around him. His abdication of presidential leadership in the face of the coordinated attacks on him was unpresidential in the extreme and self-defeating, because he gave the American people no reason to doubt the growing consensus that he is one of the worst presidents in (at least recent) history. As such, he fueled the bitter anti-Republican climate, helped kneecap his would-be successor and left himself in the unenviable position of only being able to look better in the eyes of history if subsequent presidents see horrific terrorist attacks on American soil. I wouldn’t go looking for any “Reappraising the Bush Legacy” specials on the History Channel anytime soon if I were him.

No comments: