Saturday, October 25, 2008

10 Days to Go

Some medium takes at the conclusion of Shabbat. I wanted to write them yesterday, but I ran out of time.

1. Sarah Palin -- The Gift that Keeps on Giving.

A Washington Post/ABC Poll last week reported that perceptions of Sarah Palin are increasingly negative. Read about the poll here. The Post writes

Thursday evenings, after the disclosure that the Republican National Committee used political funds to help Palin assemble a wardrobe for the campaign, 51 percent said they have a negative impression of her. Fewer, 46 percent, said they have a favorable view. That marks a stark turnaround from early September, when 59 percent of likely voters held positive opinions.

The declines in Palin's ratings have been even more substantial among the very voters Republicans aimed to woo. The percentage of white women viewing her favorably dropped 21 points since early September; among independent women, it fell 24 points.

It is too early to say whether the choice of Palin won the election for Obama – I think that it will probably increase his win by a percentage point or so, but that it will not be the critical factor.

But the real question is, will Palin have any national aspirations in the future? And will her supporters continue to be enthusiastic?

My hope is that she continues to be a national player, and that she and her supporters see her as the presumptive leader of the Republicans. For then we will have a lovely culture war in the Republican party, and among the conservative movement, for some time.

2. Charles Krauthammer -- Going Down with the Ship.

As one-by-one the conservative pundits jumped the McCain-Palin sinking ship (with the notable exception of Palin admirer, William Kristol), I started to get nervous about the pundit I love to hate, Charles Krauthammer. I can't think of a writer who has been so consistently wrong over the last decade as Krauthammer. He has cheerleaded excessive militarism, war in the Middle East, Islamaphobia, anti-Europeanism, the surge in Iraq, right wing Zionism, etc., that I thought to myself, "My God, if Krauthammer defects to Obama, maybe I should consider voting for McCain." I especially got nervous when I saw him get it right for once, about Sarah Palin.

Barukh ha-Shem, Krauthammer has remained true-to-form by endorsing McCain. Read it, if you can stomach it, here. I can now sleep at night knowing that he is not supporting Obama. As prepared as I am to be disappointed by Obama, I am not prepared to vote for somebody favored by Krauthammer.

3. Leon Wieselthier's Endorsement – Better Late than Never

The Torah teaches that even if a person repents an hour before his death, his repentance is accepted. I happen to know that it took a long time for Leon Wieselthier to come around to endorse Obama. Read about it here. This delay may seem surprising, given that his boss at the New Republic, Marty Peretz, jumped on the Obama bandwagon during the Democratic primaries (more for hatred of the Clintons than love of Obama.) But Wieselthier genuinely liked McCain (so did I), and he was – and is – apprehensive about Obama's learning curve with respect to foreign policy.

What brought him to Obama? His personal impression of Obama's character. And, that, my friends, is the real story of Obama's success. He has simply impressed a lot of people with his calm, thoughtful, and unflappable presence, while McCain, especially since he has been behind in the polls, has struck many people as angry and erratic. If you are following the election from Israel, you miss this dimension.

Wieselthier is a self-described "liberal hawk". Those of us on the left wing of the Democratic party like to dis "Scoop-Jackson-Democrats," who are practical indistinguishable from neocons when it comes to foreign policy. In Israel, they are often called, "disappointed leftists." Folks like that usually start their sentences with disclaimers, "Jerry, I also believe in a two-state solution," or "Hey, I am against the Occupation." And then comes the "but" comes… "But the Palestinians are not ready," or "But we don't have a credible partner," or, in the case of the liberal hawks over here, "But Islamic fundamentalism is an existential threat," or, "But the Geneva Convention rules shouldn't apply in a War of Terror because it is a nasty world out there."

Still, I am all for building coalitions, and if a liberal hawk like Leon wants to vote for Obama over McCain, I say, God bless him.

4. "Ma'am, We're Voting for the N-gger" in Virginia

The assumption among pundits is that white racists won't vote for Obama because he is black. That may be true for some racists, but not for all. Just like anti-semites can support Jewish candidates (not to mention Jew lawyers and Jew doctors), there is nothing unusual in a racist voting for a black man, especially if they are both Democrat.

The story below, reported by Sean Quinn of here, relates the experiences of a Obama campaign worker in Big Stone, Virginia:

Last week, Julie Hensley made one of her thousands of phone calls on behalf of Barack Obama. A woman answered. As Hensley ran through her short script, the husband impatiently broke in.

"Ma'am, we're voting for the n-gger." And hung up.

Hensley wasn't having it. "I went and made a couple other calls but chafed over this absurdity," she told us, "so I called them back, as I still had a couple questions for the wife." This time the man answered, asked pointedly who she was, and when she replied he hung up again.

We continue to hear stories like these in Appalachia. Big Stone Gap, where Barack Obama's southwesternmost field office in Virginia sits, gave us our latest version.

Quinn comes back to the story at the end of his report:

As for Hensley, her story ended with a twist. A couple hours later during a pause in her dials, her phone rang. She recognized the number. "This is going to be good," she remembers thinking, getting ready to scrap.

It was the husband. He was calling for the woman on whom he'd hung up. She then got something she didn't expect -- an apology. Calmly, Hensley told the man she'd accept his apology on one condition -- he had to tell her who he was voting for.

"Oh, I don't normally talk about it but I feel like I owe you," the man said. "I am voting for Senator Obama." He asked if Hensley would like to speak to his wife, as he'd interrupted the original call. Hensley mentioned that she had been surprised when he'd called to apologize. Apparently the husband and wife had been talking the entire couple hours since the original call. "Did she get upset with you?" Hensley asked.

"What do you think?" the man replied


Andy said...

Krauthammer had the chutzpah to begin his column with "Contrarian that I am...". As you point out, supporting McCain is very much what one would expect a warmongering chickenhawk like Krauthammer to do. If Krauthammer really wanted to surprise us, he would have endorsed Cynthia McKinney instead. ;-)

Disgruntled Goat said...

re: voting for the n****r

there's an older piece on the same website with a similar story from western pennsylvania and some commentary along the same lines as yours:

worth reading.