Friday, October 24, 2008

Weld on Obama, Lieberman on Palin, and thou

Another should-have-been-slow Friday turned out to be anything but, and once again McCain might just as well have preferred it a little slower. To begin with there was the sordid (and quite probably sad) story of McCain Campaign volunteer in Pittsburgh, Ashley Todd from Texas, who was supposedly attacked by an Obama supporter, who allegedly carved a backwards "B" into her cheek--a story so gripping for its potential pathos that the young woman in question received personal telephone calls from both Governor Palin (first, interestingly), and later by John McCain. All fine, made-for-TV drama that could easily have raised new questions about Mr. Obama's impact on race relations... until, that is, Ms. Todd turned out on Friday morning to be an attention-hungry liar.

Within hours the news that she had recanted the entire incident was splashed all over the Mainstream Media like cheap after-shave, and right-leaning pundits like John Moody, Executive Vice President for News at Fox News, were having to explain away some pretty awkward quotes they'd made on the subject. "If Ms. Todd's allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee," Mr. Moody had scribed on his network website blog the previous evening. "But if the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain's quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."

Moody, incidentally, has brushed aside the suggestion that he should now formally declare McCain's quest for the presidency to be over, saying, "Thank goodness the reporting of the story on Fox News was more accurate than my own blog." Late-breaking word in this matter is that Ms. Todd will be criminally charged, which can't possibly be a happy ending for anybody, least of all the guy running for President who showed the poor judgment to call her on the telephone before she'd been vetted.

There was also a second day of incoming from the Palin/Wardrobe scandal, with Friday's wrinkle being that Palin's stylist was paid more--significantly more, if it comes to that--than her senior policy adviser. If there was any good news for McCain in this particular story's two-day legs, it might be that hairstylist-gate had the unanticipated effect leaving no room on the stage for the news that Palin and her husband gave Friday depositions in the Troopergate matter, or for the story that Palin, as Governor, has appointed campaign benefactors to key positions in State Government. More than 100 such appointments to state posts -- nearly 1 in 4 of the total -- have thus far been awarded to campaign contributors or their relatives during Palin's tenure, sometimes without apparent regard to qualifications.

Curiously, it seemed Friday was the day for other members of the McCain/Palin entourage to finally grow so envious of Palin's gaffe-sprinkled stage presence that they had to join in embarrassing the ticket: It was reported that, in a fit of pique that can only lead to further questions about the candidate's own temperament, John McCain's brother Joe had recently become so frustrated with a northern Virginia traffic jam that he twice called the 9-1-1 emergency switchboard to complain.

Just what Mr. McCain expected the 9-1-1 operators to do about the traffic jam is anyone's guess, but it is the second call that merits the bulk of the sober reflection, since it came after a 9-1-1 supervisor had dialed-back McCain's cell phone to warn him about abusing the emergency lines. That's right, folks: Joe McCain dialed 9-1-1 to complain about traffic, was warned that doing so constituted a crime, and then called 9-1-1 again to complain about having been warned.

Then there was the story that Joe the Plumber is contemplating a run for Congress in 2010--which embarrasses McCain only to the extent that (a) his hypothetical candidacy was running at about a 10% approval rating in the insta-poll on CNN's main page Friday afternoon and (b) it would seem that Joe is interested enough in politics to run for office, but not, somehow, interested enough to appear on a campaign stage with his principal benefactor, who spent all day Friday barnstorming Florida without him.

Perhaps a different "Joe" would embarrass his fair-haired candidate a little less? Surely that's what the campaign High Command must have thought when they dispatched Joe Lieberman to an interview with the Stamford Advocate. And what, exactly did Joe the Senator deliver? How about saying, on the record, "Thank God that Sarah Palin won't have to be President from Day One."

Under the increasingly weighty file of Republican crossover endorsements, the Friday news cycle began under the spell of Scott McClellan's unexpected coming-out for Senator Obama, and, at the opposite end of the day, found time in its busy schedule of body-blows to McCain to make room for a second-such endorsement by Republican and former Governor of Massachusetts, William Weld. And if Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis were planning to counter with an unexpected endorsement for their candidate too, then presumably they hadn't anticipated that the endorsement would be coming from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, both of whom, it was confirmed at the Friday White House press conference, voted by absentee ballot for McCain.

On the election-deathwatch front, a poll conducted by the St. Petersburg Times showed seven points' cushion for Obama in Florida, while an ABC News report indicates that early votes cast in the Sunshine State have thusfar broken for Obama by a staggering 2:1 margin. Obama is also clobbering McCain in early voting in West Virginia, a state whose polling numbers have been erratic but which was supposed to be a bastion of (soft?) support for Team Red. A new Public Policy Poll in Ohio shows Obama seven points up there, as well--which is a bit lower than Battleground's eye-popper from Thursday, but still an awfully steep hill for McCain to climb in a little over a week.

As we await the Sunday New York Times piece that is expected to portray a McCain inner circle in near-total disarray, many of the most likely indicators one might expect in such circumstances are already self-evident and affirmative. The blame game has begun in earnest, to a degree that has led one senior Republican to describe what will happen next as a circular firing-squad. As-yet unattributed quotes from deep inside Team Crankypants have ranged from "it's not a happy place right now," at one extreme, to "the cake is baked," at--well, at the same extreme, really. In Mississippi, embattled Republican Senatorial candidate Roger Wicker is running ads in which African-Americans espouse their support for Wicker and Obama, a tell-tale signal left over from Democratic candidates tying their names to Reagan in 1980, with equally ominous overtones for the fortunes of the incumbent-party candidate. Even the McCain himself recently announced that he will not be appearing inside the tent at his own election night party, but will instead speak to a handful of reporters from someplace outside the tent, his remarks to be callously and anonymously relayed to a group of tireless and mostly un-thanked volunteers via closed circuit.

Truly, our long and arduous self-inflicted torture is at last coming to an end. Neither election fraud of the sort that has been so thoroughly documented from 2000 and 2004, nor the sudden traction of a single economic message about smaller government and lower tax burdens, will seem anything but far too little, far too late, by the time this race is formally written into the history books next Tuesday. The black-box shenanigans of Republican vote-stealers will overcome a 1%- or 2% margin, but no more than that--and surely not in states whose Governors' Mansions are occupied by Democrats. The smaller government message, meanwhile, has already rung cruelly hollow with an electorate hungry for increased fiduciary oversight and a renewed commitment to economic justice. If these two gambits are all that are left for us to talk about, it's only because they are all Mr. McCain has left, period. The two most reputable of the rightward-leaning polling firms--Gallup and Rassmussen--both have McCain down by seven points as of Friday night, a deficit from which no candidate for President has ever come back, in history.

Indeed, if one requires just that little bit of extra proof as to just how far out of reach this race has gotten for John McCain, consider that Politico's "who won the day" contest was called for Barack Obama on Friday--a day in which the candidate wasn't even on the stump.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida

1 comment:

alan said...

I can't believe I'm saying this but I do feel somewhat sorry for the McCain supporter. I've made some over the top sacrifices for the left in my time, but I'd draw the line at self mutilation. (Maybe for pleasure though?)

Palin is pretty hot in those red leather power jackets, no?