Monday, June 16, 2008

Pretty Dirty Already

My apologies for not blogging more lately. I have been finishing up another book--one about castaways on deserted islands--which has placed my head in far climes and centuries. What part of me that remained in New Jersey has been dealing with the aftereffects of the severe storms which have devastated much of the county I live in, with trees falling on houses (we lost a phone line to a huge limb), power outages, and my daughter being unexpectedly out of school.
In my mental absence, the general election has been shaping up to be a nicely dirty one. Despite the fact that polls have the two candidates running neck and neck, I agree with the Politico article which quotes historians as saying that Barack Obama should beat McCain overwhelmingly. However, as we know, upsets are part of American political history--see Thomas Dewey, running against the very unpopular president Harry Truman--and anything can happen. Thus far, the dirtiest part of the campaign has focused on Michelle Obama; supposedly a tape will soon surface which will show her using the word "whitey" in an envenomed speech at her and Barack's old Chicago church.
This is most unlikely, but is clever dirty politics--as I always say, dirty tricks only work when one is playing to pre-existing prejudices in the hearts of people, and there is a great deal of pre-existing prejudice against black women who are perceived as powerful. To combat this and other smears (that he is a Muslim, that he refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, etc) Obama's campaign has started a website which categorically denies them. This isn't likely to have much effect on prejudiced hearts, but it is a sign that those around the Democratic contender know that he must fight back hard and not let the attacks acrue.
Anyway, after only a week of campaigning, a campaign which was supposed to be clean and dignified is pretty dirty already....
A word today about Tim Russert, of NBC's "Meet the Press," who died suddenly on Friday. Russert is someone I always listened to, even when I didn't agree with him, because I felt he had insight into the workings of Washington politics, so his early death comes as a shock. He and I are exact contemporaries and attended the same undergraduate school, John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, during the tumultuous late '60s. Our politics there differed--I was far more radical in my response to seminal events like the killing of four students at Kent State University (only a few miles away from John Carroll) in 1969--but he was always an intelligent and essentially moderate and good-humored presence. It'll be hard to be commenting on a presidential campaign without hearing Russert commenting on it as well....

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let The Wild Rumpus Begin!

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has finally clinched it for the Democrats, after the longest priimary season in history, after twenty debates with his opponent Hillary Clinton, after raising more money than any presidential candidate in history--and it's about time. Primary fatigue has set in in the last month with almost everyone I've spoken to, Democrat or Republican, who feel that it is now time for the two parties to turn their attention to each other.
Obama still has some house-cleaning to do re Hillary Clinton, who is now letting it be known that she will accept a vice-presidential nod. It is not often two such bitter rivals make up in this fashion. JFK and LBJ did it in 1960, although LBJ told a woman friend at the Democratic convention that “One out of every four Presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only chance I got.” (One hopes this is not Hillary's calculation.) To me, anyway, it would seem foolish of Obama to place Hillary in this role, even if there are some fairly decent political reasons for doing so.
Almost lost in all of this so far is the fact that Barack Obama is now the first African-American major party nominee for president in American history. Once he shakes the first woman ever to get close to that job, this fact will become more and more important and will work in his favor, hopefully galvanizing Democrats to come out and vote in record numbers (which they have been doing so far in the primaries). Barack Obama will need these record numbers. Despite the dismal record of the current Administration, he is far from a shoo-in--in fact, part of Hillary's refusal to quit is that she understands that sheis definitely the better candidate against John McCain. Obama will be open to charges of inexperience, of being soft on terror, of being unable to even pick the right church to attend. Race will become an issue, although you won't see John McCain himself bringing it up.
However, Obama has a lot going for him as well. McCain is much older, allied with the Bush fiasco in Iraq--despite his current attempts to scamper away from it--and not well-loved by large portions of his own party. It may indeed be, as Barack Obama has been saying since February of 2007 and said again last night in St. Paul, time for a change. It is certainly at last time for a general election rumpus the likes of which we have never seen before. Let it begin.....