The Cynical States of America

The Clinton campaign will no doubt be touting a new AP-Ipsos poll showing her with a 9-point lead over John McCain, especially because the same poll has McCain within two points of Barack Obama. Electability remains the primary argument that Clinton has against Obama to the superdelegates, and most polls have the general election essentially a wash, with all the candidates within a few points against one another.

But one thing I found interesting about the poll once I moved beyond the horserace numbers was how reluctant Americans were about all of the candidates. On key issues of Iraq and the economy, a majority of Americans weren’t particularly trustful of Obama, Clinton, or McCain.

On Iraq, 60 percent said they were “only a little” or “not at all” trustful of Obama to handle the situation, 59 percent felt that way about Clinton and McCain, On the economy, the numbers were a 53 percent for Obama, 50 percent for Clinton, and 59 percent for McCain.

This poll isn’t particularly positive for McCain, but I think it’s worrisome for Obama as well. One of the promises of Obama’s campaign is that he’ll get people to replace their cynicsm with hope and make changes by working together and finding common ground. In one of his many explanations for his “bitter” comments, Obama said that what he meant was people in certain communities have seen the government do nothing for them for so long, that they simply don’t believe it when a politician like him comes along promising change, so that’s why he’s having trouble with working class voters. And I must say, interviewing Democrats in primary states going back to Iowa, a recurring theme among non-Obama voters I’ve spoken to is precisely that, on some basic level, they just aren’t buying the notion that Obama can become president and simply change everything. They just don’t believe it’s possible. These numbers kind of bear out the fact that a good chunk of the electorate is going to react to any speech by a politician by thinking, “Yeah, right!” That general sentiment would seem particularly troubling for Obama, whose entire candidacy is based on promises and words, without having any tangible accomplishments to back it up with.

Wright Speaks

I just watched Jeremiah Wright’s appearence carefully on C-SPAN‘s website, and I don’t think the context improves much of anything. Wright is not only filled with hatred for the U.S. government (if not its people), but he could barely contain his contempt for the woman who was charged with reading questions from the audience, mocking her, taunting her, calling her ignorant. And for all of his talk about how nobody who is criticizing him understands the black church, it’s pretty clear that he has no understanding of why people are criticizing him.

For instance, when asked to explain his comments after 9/11 that the chickens are coming home to roost, he said it was the same thing as saying you reap what you sow, or that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. “You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back to you,” Wright said. “Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive, principles.” Of course those who were offended by the comments aren’t offended by the general concept that commiting acts of terrorism triggers a response, people were offended by the suggestion that America was “doing terrorism” in the first place. The fact that Wright sees the controversial part of his statement as the origin of the “golden rule” rather than his characterization of American actions, says all you need to know about Wright.

His defense of his “God Damn America” statement was similar– he just drew a distinction, saying God was damning the policies of the American government, not the American people.

Wright stood by Louis Farrakhan, saying he was “one of the most important voices of the 20th or 21st century.” He also suggested Farrakhan was taken out of context when he reportedly said Judaism was a “gutter religion”– said he meant zionism, and said that Farrakhan’s views were the same as the UN and Jimmy Carter. (That latter part is perhaps about the only thing Wright and I may agree on).

Wright also refused to back off from his statement that the U.S. created AIDS, suggesting the questioner read Leonard Horowitz’s book on the subject. “I believe our government is capable of doing anything,” Wright said. Talk about cynical.

Also quite telling, was Wright’s repeated assertion that, “We both know that if Sen. Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected. Politicians say what they say based on electability, based on soundbites, based on polls.”

I’ve always felt that Wright would not be a make or break issue for Obama, but it will be part of a growing narrative about Obama that will continue to harm his image as a transformational leader and haunt his candidacy. Obama’s defenders will continue to say it doesn’t matter what Wright said, Obama doesn’t agree with his comments. But the problem is that since Obama has such a thin public record, since there are few tangible accomplishments his campaign can point to as evidence of his ability to make positive changes by bringing people together through shared hope, all the American people have to go on are his speeches. But it’s hard to take a leap of faith with somebody who you don’t know very well. Therefore, when trying to determine who Obama is, this guy who within five years has risen from the obscurity of the state senate to within arm’s reach of the most powerful job in the world, his close relationships take on an added importance.

Scalia On ’60 Minutes’

If you missed it, I’d strongly urge everybody to check out Justice Scalia’s interview on “60 Minutes” here, which captures his charm and sense of humor, and his love for intellectual combat. One of my favorite parts came when he was asked how he could be such close friends with Justice Ginsburg, even though he disagrees with her so vehemently.

He said:

“I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job. You don’t want to be a judge. At least not a judge on a multi-member panel.”

I wish a lot more people could understand this distinction.

Re: McCain vs. North Carolina GOP

Since North Carolinians are open to voting for Democrats at the state level, but typically go Republican in national elections, I think the point of the ad was to link Democratic candidates for statewide office with the likely Democratic presidential standard bearer, who North Carolinians probably won’t vote for in November. While it is debatable whether this is a crude or ineffective way of going about it, the controversy has centered more on whether it was okay to run an ad tying Barack Obama to Jeremiah Wright. That’s what has the left in a tizzy, and that’s what McCain was reacting to (or, in my view, overreacting to).

Re: Bush and Katrina

I agree with everything that Quin wrote, but I would point out that one reason conservatives came to Bush’s defense on Katrina was how over the top, ridiculous, and unfounded the attacks were coming from the left at the time. While people were still in peril in New Orleans, the tragedy had already been co-opted by the left to further their own agenda. Suddenly, Katrina was a racist hurricane, caused by Bush’s opting out of the Kyoto Treaty, compounded by the fact that helicopters were in Iraq. Amid all of this craziness, many conservatives reflexively came to the president’s defense, even though there were plenty of legitimate ways to criticize his incompetent response.

I’d also add that another thing that often isn’t recognized by conservatives is that because Bush was totally out to lunch in the immediate aftermath of the storm, he had to overcompensate later by throwing all sorts of money at the problem, without paying much attention to how it was being spent.

Great Anti-“Card Check” Ad

Last year, I wrote about how the Orwellian named “Employee Free Choice Act” would make it easier for organized labor to coerce workers into unionizing by denying employees the right to a secret ballot election. Thus far, Republicans have been able to block the measure, but this is at the top of the agenda for big labor should Democrats retake Congress and capture the White House. Go to any Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton event where the issue of unions comes up (or where there is a significant union presence in the room), and they will vow to make it law. The “card check” bill is a rather obscure issue that is really important to progressives, but that the rest of the country isn’t very aware of. The more public the debate is on this issue, the better, because it is a patently undemocratic measure that shows how in bed Democrats are with union bosses. They should not be allowed to slip this one through the goalie.

Via RedState, I find this ad from Coalition for a Democratic Workplace that does a great job of exposing the dangers of this law:

The McCain Standard

I have to say I don’t always get John McCain. Criticism of Barack Obama’s long-standing personal and spiritual relationship with anti-American pastor Jeremiah Wright is unnaceptable, and yet he calls on Obama to apologize for having anything to do with Bill Ayers, whose connections to Obama are much more tenuous. I suppose he could just be harder on the Ayers link because Ayers is an even more contemptible figure than Wright for having actually acted on his hatred for America. But I think there’s something more to it. I think McCain just has certain pressure points that prompt reactions if certain conditions are met. In the case of Ayers, what really seems to have set McCain off is when Obama compared Ayers to Tom Coburn, who McCain is close with and has profound respect for. In the case of Wright, the North Carolina ad drew McCain’s criticism because he’s out to demonstrate (as in the case of Bill Cunningham) that he is going to run a “respectful” campaign. It appears that he’ll be especially sensitive to any charges that he’s running a racial campaign against Obama. The war between McCain and the NC GOP is just a harbinger.

McCain:”I Will Be Hamas’s Worst Nightmare”

Some more from the McCain call.

On the North Carolina Jeremiah Wright/Obama ad:

“I don’t believe it is an appropriate message for the Republican Party.”

“I just think this ad is offensive to some, and I want it taken down.”

“It’s not the tenor of the campaign we want to run.”

On the Hamas endorsement of Obama:

Notes that Obama also was endorsed by Daniel Ortega, somebody whose support McCain is happy to have. He also noted Obama’s willingness to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

McCain, meanwhile, he vowed:

“I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare.”

It doesn’t surprise him that he didn’t get their endorsement.

On Maliki’s offensive in Basra:

“There’s been a pleasant turn of events,” McCain said, in that Maliki showed initiative in taking on militants in the city. “In the last several days, Iraqi military, with limited American support, took control of Basra.”

He said the Iraqi government was united by the action, and he was “generally pleased with the outcome.”

McCain Calls on Obama To Apologize For Ayers

John McCain, in a just completed call with bloggers, demanded that Barack Obama apologize for his relationship with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.

“I think not only a repudiation, but an apology for ever having anything to do with an unrepentant terrorist is due the American people,” McCain said.

McCain also said he was offended by Obama’s comments in last week’s Democratic debate for comparing Weather Underground member Ayers to Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, because Obama disagrees with Coburn’s staunch anti-abortion views.

“I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more discussion about the comparison Sen. Obama made about an unrepentant terrorist, and that’s what Mr. Ayers is, and a great American citizen who goes back to Oklahoma on the weekends to deliver babies,” McCain said. “I’m offended by a comparison to a man like Tom Coburn.”

While “Tom Coburn may be many things to people who are on the liberal side of the ledger,” McCain said, he isn’t the same as somebody who an unrepentant member of an organization that was responsible for bombings and killings.

He said the issue deserves more discussion in the media.

McCain vs. North Carolina GOP

This is John McCain on the North Carolina ad, reminding a lot of conservatives why they can’t stand him:

“They’re not listening to me because they’re out of touch with reality and the Republican Party. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and this kind of campaigning is unacceptable,” McCain told NBC’s “Today” Show.

I’ve watched the ad five times now, and I still can’t see what’s so unacceptable about it. McCain has now declared it beyond the pale for Republicans to criticize Barack Obama for his close spiritual and personal relationship with a vile, American hating, pastor.

This controversial YouTube video, in which Obama and Jeremiah Wright are juxtaposed with clips of Malcom X while Public Enemy blasts in the background, is an example of how you could use the Wright relationship in a race-baiting way that is quite unacceptable.

But just because you mention Wright and Obama in the same sentence, and they’re both black, it doesn’t make it racist. No more than if McCain were a longtime member of a church with an extremist white Christian pastor and Democrats hit him for it.