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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Beldar's quick takes on the Iowa caucuses results

First take: Mike Huckabee, referring not very obliquely to Mitt Romney, in the single most brutal, deft, and insincere negative campaigning one-liner of the 2008 GOP presidential primaries:

On "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" Wednesday night, Huckabee said that voters are looking for a presidential candidate who "reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off."

"Insincere" because this is the same Mike Huckabee who insists that he's not engaged in negative campaigning. (As I write this, I'm listening to him claim on Fox News that he won because Iowa voters rejected Romney's negative ads, and that he wants to be the heir of Ronald Reagan by obeying the 11th Commandment, Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. Seriously.) Of course, all candidates do this to one degree or another, and I'm not suggesting this was a punch below the belt. But it's a wicked punch (in at least a couple of different colloquial uses of the word "wicked") from a man who claims to be very much the opposite of wicked (in any of those senses). And what should be of concern to conservatives worried about Huckabee's basic principles is that it's a very John Edwards-like (i.e., anti-capitalist, class-warfare populist) punch.

Second take: Tonight Barack Obama is a rock star, and for this night at least, everyone who wants to see in him the ghost of John F. Kennedy in 1960 doesn't have to squint too hard. Just like JFK, Obama is charismatic and utterly unqualified to be President. The former's inexperience and reckless foreign policy miscalculations very nearly brought us to a world-wide nuclear Armageddon; will the latter's result in the first radioactive mushroom cloud over an American city?

Third take: In underground bunkers somewhere inside the Beltway, cold-eyed Clintonistas are plotting revenge and marking up anti-Obama negative TV ad scripts to make them even harsher. The Democratic primary is about to become very ugly, with Edwards sniping at Hillary and Hillary clawing at Obama and Obama trying to avoid obvious mistakes.

Fourth take: Pundit Juan Williams, on Fox News, seemed genuinely moved — and genuinely amazed and surprised — that a black candidate had just won decisively in a state with a statistically insignificant minority population. "Historic" is the word he and others used. And it is. The question is, though, what lesson does one draw from it?

If Democrats were genuinely wise, they would draw from it the lesson that overt, deep-seated racism, while far from extinct in America, is no longer the defining wedge issue that Democrats have been deeply invested in for the last five decades. Some number of voters will never vote for Barack Obama because he's black, just like some number will never vote for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman, just like some number will never vote for Joe Lieberman because he's Jewish, just like some number didn't vote for George W. Bush because his accent is from Midland, Texas. But for all of these prejudices, the numbers, nationwide, are in the single-digits. They might decide a close race; they don't disqualify a candidate outright, though.

In fact, the candidate in this year's race who faces a potentially disqualifying prejudice is neither Obama nor Hillary, but Mitt Romney — because there's still a (low) double-digit percentage of Americans who are frightened or repulsed by (mostly because of ignorance about) the Church of Latter Day Saints (a/k/a Mormons). Nevertheless, many Democratis will reflexively continue to accuse Republicans of reflexive racism for at least another decade or two. (And of "liking war." And of wanting to repeal Social Security.)

Fifth take: I'm unsurprised by the GOP results, and as a Thompson supporter, I'm actually moderately encouraged by them.

Huckabee, declared the "big winner," won by a lower percentage than Obama won the Democratic primary, and by a significantly lower percentage than he (Huckabee) was polling three weeks ago. He peaked two weeks ago, and while tonight's win will effectively complete his introduction to GOP primary voters nationwide, my strong conviction is that further exposure to him will continue his slide.

Romney pulled only 1 vote in 4 after spending months and months and millions and millions in Iowa; he regained ground, but then, given his investments of time and money, it's a bad sign for his campaign that he'd lost so much in the first place.

Fred is a movie star, but not a rock star; I think he'd make the best general election candidate, and the best president, but he's far from the best primary election campaigner. His showing was good enough for him to stay in the race, and it's a race in which time is his friend. New Hampshire will continue the GOP muddle, meaning Fred makes it to the Feb. 5 multi-state primaries — when I expect McCain will take a severe beating leading him to drop out of the race, and by when I believe Huckabee's balloon will be fully burst. At that point, it will be a Romney/Guiliani/Thompson three-way fight, the outcome of which may not be clear until just before the convention, if then. Thompson, last to enter the campaign, may by then have become the consensus candidate around whom uncertain and still-nervous Republicans can finally rally.

Posted by Beldar at 11:06 PM in 2008 Election, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Beldar's quick takes on the Iowa caucuses results and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Iowa Caucus Results Explained from Jon Swift

Tracked on Jan 4, 2008 7:21:17 AM


(1) anduril made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 8:32:39 AM | Permalink

Giuliani already looks like a dead duck. Of the remainder, Romney shows no ability to pull away and will likely be weakish in the Southern primaries, where Huckleberry may find new life with his Edwards-like populism. Fred and McCain may have more life in them than appears right now, as they are also likely to do better in the South. Could be an interesting convention.

(2) ~Vortex~ made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 8:46:47 AM | Permalink

"...that a black candidate had just won decisively in a state with a statistically insignificant minority population. "Historic" is the word he and others used. And it is. The question is, though, what lesson does one draw from it?"

No lesson. Few people seem to realize that simple geography is at work here. Sen. Obama is a senator from Illinois, and even a fifth grader can recognize that Illiois is the neighboring state to Iowa, sharing several hundred miles of border. They also share similar topography, political issues (at least outside of Chicago), and agriculture. Obama is familiar to them. Coupled with the idea that, unlike the socialist ideal purported by liberals, not all Democrats (especially Iowa Dems) are faithless, hippy, sun-worshipping, nanny-staters, and it's easy to see why Obama won.
Hildebeast and Edwards are simply too unpalatable for the Midwest variety of Dembos.

(3) anduril made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 8:48:29 AM | Permalink

Jay Cost thinks Giuliani still has a shot, but that Romney is on the ropes and Fred is out:

(4) Tonight was bad for Romney. Really bad. He lost by a lot. He lost by more than anybody expected. He lost after having led for a year. He lost after a monumental effort. This loss was bigger than Clinton's. He is not his party's frontrunner. He cannot afford to lose a state he tried so hard to win. Worse for Romney - McCain had already surged ahead of him in New Hampshire prior to tonight's loss. This will not disrupt that dynamic. I would not go so far as John Ellis - but I will say that he is in really bad shape. His future in this race is bleak.

(5) Yesterday was the first official day of Rudy going "dark." He has no real plans to reemerge until January 29th. Is this a viable strategy? Honestly - I think it may be. If he wins Florida, he surges back into the race. I think Florida could hold for him, though I have real doubts. A lot of that depends on who is still in the race at that point. At the least, I think this is the best strategy that a candidate like Giuliani could pursue. A Giuliani nomination was always going to be a close call. It was always going to be a victory over a divided party. Giuliani should be happy that Huckabee has damaged Romney because Romney has money and Huckabee does not. Rudy wants February 5th to come down to Rudy versus the anti-Rudy candidate - and the less well-funded the anti-Rudy candidate, the better. But a McCain victory in New Hampshire should make Giuliani nervous - especially if it is as big as Huckabee's in Iowa. A three-way race between McCain, Rudy, and Huckabee would be harder for Rudy because he and McCain occupy much of the same ideological space. Rudy would probably like to see Huckabee hold the line in South Carolina.

(6) Fred Thompson is finished. Absolutely, positively finished. The reason? He has no more money - which is the reason all losing candidates drop out. And this defeat tonight is not going to get him any cash. The big Thompson question on my mind: if he drops out and endorses McCain, does that swing the 14% or so of South Carolinians who currently support Thompson?

(4) Stephen made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 8:51:52 AM | Permalink

I especially second your "Fourth Take". I was living in Virginia when Doug Wilder was elected Gov. That's right, Blue Staters, a red state elected the first black Governor, and it was because he was conservative.

You're probably too busy, Beldar, but I would recommend to others John McWhorter's and Shelby Steele's books. Racism is still a problem for Blacks in this country, but not the biggest problem they face, not by a long shot.

(5) Semanticleo made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 9:25:59 AM | Permalink

Are you serious?

JFK nearly got us nuked?

We can only be thankful Nixon orsomeone of GWB's
pantheon of experience wasn't in the WH during the Cuban missle crisis.

If Obama is anything like JFK, he just went skyward in my polling.

(6) Christoph made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 9:41:17 AM | Permalink

What do you think about the Dems pulling 100,000 more people to the caucuses than the Reps? I think that's huge -- and bodes very poorly for the G.O.P.

And on the record, I think McCain goes the distance or at least further than Thompson, who flames out.

(7) Boyd made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 10:26:16 AM | Permalink

I'm curious why you figure the Republican nominee will be determined just before the convention. It strikes me that the primaries will be definitive (my position) so we'll know in February or March who the nominee is, or it'll be a brokered convention (your position, last I heard) and we'll have to have a few rounds of voting to determine how things fall.

So, your opinion on this makes me scratch my head, which ain't good since that makes my hair fall out faster.

(8) alphie made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 10:35:57 AM | Permalink

JFK was "utterly unqualified to be President" but Bush is?

You Texans crack me up.

Enjoy the political wilderness for the next hundred years or so, y'all.

(9) Increase Mather made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 12:17:49 PM | Permalink

Yeah, JFK nearly got us nuked. His loss of courage during the Bay of Pigs, his inablility to follow-up the CIA invasion would never have happened under Nixon. Castro would have been gone by October, 1962.

Kennedy traded Cuba for Soviet missiles, some of which, we now know, were NEVER removed.

Read your history.

(10) Mike Myers made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 12:58:51 PM | Permalink

Beldar, you hit the troll trifecta; you managed to get Semanticleo, alphie, and christoph to comment on your post. For what it's worth, christoph referred to your post over on Patterico describing you as "God what a moron". I'll chip in my two cents and say that yours was an interesting analysis--and yes, they are indeed sharpening their knives in the Clinton scullery ready to carve up on Obama in the next five weeks. It will not be pretty. But it's going to be interesting set of primary contests.

(11) Gayle Miller made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 1:59:12 PM | Permalink

JFK was more qualified than Obama - but not by much. I was an ADULT at the time of the JFK presidency and well remember his missteps. But he had more sand in his craw than 95% of Dems today.

As to qualifications - what has HILLZILLA ever accomplished other than on the coattails of her serial-rapist husband? Has she done anything significant in the Senate other than voting FOR the Iraq War and then spending the time elapsed since then trying to backpedal.

My question continues to be: Why on earth do we place such emphasis on the significance of Iowa (0.98% of the total U.S. population) and New Hampshire (0.48% of the total U.S. population)? It's NUTS.

For Shrillery to spend the next five weeks preparing to or attempting to carve up Obama would be her total undoing. So I hope she does it. 70% of Iowa voters saw her in negative terms - any slash and burn tactics by her campaign now and she'll be recalled from her Senate seat and have her citizenship revoked - granted not a bad outcome but still . . .

(12) Bingo made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 6:46:56 PM | Permalink

Platitude alert...

"Slow and steady wins the race"

My money's still on Thompson.

(13) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 8:15:24 PM | Permalink

Dear Gayle Miller: Come now, no need to be bashful---tell us what your REAL opinion of the Clintons is...I have to disagree with you. If anyone can claw at Obama, Hillary is the one. Like Huckabee, she can say, who me, even while the kidney punching roars on. There will be numerous kamikaze pilots in the manner of Mr. Shaheen who will take on the task. Even if they go down in flames, they know there will always be a place for them in Clinton 44. She can---and will---play the "Don't pick on a woman" card. Last night wasn't fun gof the GOP. So now we see if Mitt's money and stmaina can overcome his drawbacks. Also worth noting that Beldar's notion of donating to Fred is just as relevant now as it was in December.
Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(14) Antimedia made the following comment | Jan 4, 2008 10:44:56 PM | Permalink

Last night presented the most fascinating juxtaposition of "expert" opinion that I've seen in a long time.

Hillary finished third yet she was "well positioned" to win the nomination. Thompson finished third (in a closer race), yet he was "finished". McCain finished fourth, behind Thompson, yet he was 'the big winner" of the night.

If you actually listen to what the "experts" say, you wonder why anyone calls them experts.

"alphie", you crack me up. Enjoy being wrong for the next 100 years. I hope you live that long and enjoy life to the fullest. We Texans will ensure you do it in utter and lavish freedom.

(15) alphie made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 2:07:30 AM | Permalink

No offense, Anti, but I think I'll manage that without any "help" from the six flags and countin' gang.

(16) doc made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 9:24:01 AM | Permalink

Rather than pick on one politician versus the other and fall into their trap, I would urge all to use some of our energy to put pressure on them to do something about our worsening health crisis by proposing detailed and specific plans instead of sweeping ideological statements before it gets too late. Just my 2-cents.

(17) Charles made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 12:31:40 PM | Permalink

I believe that the press will show themselves in solidarity to have ignored the next president of the United States. Again, totally mindless.

(18) Friend #1 made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 4:55:44 PM | Permalink

" ...will [an Obama presidency] result in the first radioactive mushroom cloud over an American city?"

So let me get this straight. If Americans vote for Barack Obama, they run a serious risk - to paraphrase Condi Rice - of being victimized by a smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud? Are you kidding us??

Beldar, that's plain sad. You've got to back away from that one. Really.

We all remember Dick Cheney's cynical attack on John Kerry, warning Americans that if they voted Democratic, we'd all risk getting attacked again by terrorists. (Never mind that the biggest terrorist attack in American history occurred under the sleepy eyed watch of a clueless Republican president, who still hasn't caught the main perpetrator of the attack more than six years later.) That kind of scare tactic may have worked mildly in 2004 but I believe the tactic has run its course in the post-Rove political era. Voters have had enough of the kind of false, cynical manipulation that we're seeing in the GOP campaign. (McCain is doing well in N.H. but he'd better watch his knee caps!)

I suppose that from a strictly selfish standpoint, I should be delighted that the author of this blog, other right-wing bloggers, ditto-heads and Hannity wannabees are engaging in cynical and divisive attacks against Barack and the other Dems. It is increasingly obvious that swift-boat-style tactics are very likely to backfire. We now know that Romney paid a heavy price in Iowa for going negative against Huckabee, whom Romney outspent by a whopping margin of 20 to 1. (On a side note, Beldar, you mentioned that your nemesis Huckabee won by a smaller percentage than Obama over Edwards. How badly do you think Huckabee would have crushed Romney had Huckabee had anything close to Romney's campaign budget?) The more Republicans attack one another - gotta love those circular firing squads! - and believe that negativism is the way to go in their own primaries as well as the general election '08, the greater the chance for a Democratic sweep across the board. As I mentioned to Beldar in a private email, I didn't think there would be any type of "landslide" in the presidential election in 2008. However, I am seeing increasing evidence that the Dems might win the presidency and strengthen their grip on both houses of Congress.

Let me duck out for now and leave you with an interesting footnote about Fred Thompson's "campaign" for president. It is Saturday, January 5, 2008. The N.H. primaries are just several days away. Candidates are in an all-out frenzy to pick up votes wherever they can. Even Rudy Giuliani has left his Florida bunker to press the flesh in N.H.

Today Fred Thompson is in New Hampshire (for an upcoming debate) but has no scheduled public campaign appearances. Not a single one. That is absolutely incredible.

Thompson has got to be the laziest, least motivated campaigner in the history of presidential campaigns. He has no chance at winning the GOP nomination but one can only imagine how disengaged that guy would be in the Oval Office. Sorry but Thompson is just plain awful.

(19) Beldar made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 6:42:40 PM | Permalink

(For readers who may not have read my post last April predicting the 2008 nominees and results, "Friend #1" is indeed a real-life and very valued friend, a fellow lawyer here in Houston who is as thoroughly a Democratic partisan as I am a Republican one, and among my favorite people with whom to debate politics in absolute good faith and better cheer.)

Friend #1, I'm delighted to have you drop by to comment! But I'm disappointed that you didn't share your take on the Iowa results and how they bode for your favored candidate (at least from last April), who was not Sen. Obama, but rather Sen. Clinton.

Working backwards through your comments: Fred Thompson is unlikely to win New Hampshire. He's unlikely to improve his chances of winning New Hampshire by riding in a bus from town to town, shaking hands and kissing babies who can be numbered, at the end of the day, in hundreds or maybe a few thousands.

What is new since Iowa is the level of general public interest in, and attention to, the 2008 presidential campaign. For those Americans who, unlike you and me, are just now "tuning in," the upcoming nationally televised debates are extremely important. Because of their likely critical effect on upcoming primaries other than New Hampshire — including the whole bunch of states holding primaries on or just before Feb. 5, in many of which Thompson's chances, and chances for rapid improvement, are quite good — preparing for those debates would be at the very top of my agenda, were Sen. Thompson to have asked my advice for how to spend his Saturday. For much the same reason, fund-raising is also extremely critical right now for all of the GOP candidates except Romney.

My friend, you're far too politically savvy to fall for the MSM meme of Fred being "lazy" simply because he's not doing what they want or expect him to do when they want or expect him to do it. And I think you might even agree with me, upon reflection, that this specific example is the single least persuasive evidence I've ever seen you offer for any criticism of any GOP politician. There's a poorly disguised regional bigotry at the heart of that MSM meme — slow-talking southerners must be slow-thinking and, well, just lazy — and although you haven't lived in Texas long enough to have picked up much of a drawl, I know that you at least don't buy into that prejudice. I hope and believe that Fred's being smart, rather than frenetic, in his prioritizing; your suggestion that he focus on retail politics isn't a smart one, for him anyway, at this stage of the campaign.

As for circular firing squads: This is nothing new, nor is it confined to one party. Much of the negative campaigning that's going on now, however, is directed to each party's "base." Independent voters aren't nearly as likely to be concerned, for example, about Huckabee or McCain attacking Romney for being inconsistent on gay rights or abortion rights. The conventional wisdom is that primary season negative campaigning mostly wears off by the general election, when those partisans who were paying attention in the primary season will be faced with the choice of either sitting out or voting for the opposition party. I think that's probably true. But to the extent there is a carry-over, it's likely because the negative campaigning pertains to a candidate's genuine Achilles heel. Not much of anything that John Edwards can say about Hillary Clinton is going to change any Republican or independent's opinion of her. But what either Edwards or Clinton say about Obama's inexperience may indeed haunt Obama if he's the eventual Democratic Party nominee. Ditto on Romney and flip-flopping.

As for my (or the GOP's) "scare-mongering": The flip side of that coin is my, and my fellow partisans', belief that Democrats systematically undervalue threats to America from abroad, which leads them to insufficiently support our military and to Kumbaya foreign policy.

A nuke from Pakistan getting into the hands of an Islamic extremist is high on my "Top 10 Threats to America" list. And your man Obama is suggesting that we send in the 101st Airborne, uninvited, in combat operations within the territory of a supposedly sovereign country who is our nominal ally in the Global War on Terrorism. I notice that you didn't bother to defend that specific proposal of his; I suspect that if pressed, you'd admit that it's a horrible, horrible idea — one that betrays a profound naïveté on foreign policy and military matters, despite all the "wise advisers" from Ivy League universities and liberal think-tanks who already surround the Obama campaign (just like those who surrounded the JFK campaign).

What you characterize as "scare-mongering" I believe to be very simple prudence; I don't apologize for it; and if there are Americans who aren't scared about the prospect of some catastrophic military/foreign policy blunder by a President Obama or a President Huckabee, it's because they're ignorant of history or anesthetized to legitimate risks. They need to be scared, and I'll do my rhetorical best to make them at least as scared as I am.

(20) Carol Herman made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 7:36:09 PM | Permalink

Oh, please.

Out of an eligibility pool of 2-million voters; 340,000 voters participated.

What's the big deal?

There's enough anger out there at the primary process, that other states have stepped up their primary dates, WHOLESALE.

California comes out on February 5th.

And, still. It's not the most popular thing to do; to go an vote in any primary election!

Yawns to Obama, too. Sorry. But Bill Clinton LOST New Hampshire in 1992.

Recovery for the flu virus, and from primary losses, are par for the course.

As to 1860, when Lincoln won the republican nomination; he entered the "teepee" in 4th place.

It seems to be the same with horses. Early starts doesn't mean that particular horse will get his (or now her) nose over the finish line.

My money's on Hillary. Oddly enough. Because Guiliani threw away his lead with the mainstream by willingingly tossing the supreme court over to the religious right. FOOLISH.

Because you don't think people pay attention. And, they do. To the BIG ISSUES.

While Bush blew it in Irak. And, Afghanistan. Nothing to brag about. Chalabi hates us. And, Iraqis just killed two American soldiers ... WITH GUNS WE GAVE THEM!

Hard to say how we got involved with the Saud's. And, THEIR plans! But that's it. So much for being with the terrorists. And, every single republican is too damned scared to voice the obvious.

You think Huckleberry wins? Jimmuh Carter has a better shot. Ditto for HOwie Deen. Who would enter the race IF Hillary doesn't make it to the finish line, first.

Expect 2008 to have "independents." Can they do what Ross Perot did? He got hundreds of thousands of people to push his name onto each and every State. And, then he claimed 19%.

Bill Clinton still won in 1992.

Expect them back in the White House. So many people just want to ERASE Bush, and his "victories." Huckleberry's "win" and Obama's "win" ... makes Iowa a laughingstock.

(21) Antimedia made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 7:50:41 PM | Permalink

Can someone please explain to me why it's negative campaigning to point out the faults in an opponent's positions?

(22) Beldar made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 8:28:21 PM | Permalink

It's "negative" simply because it isn't lauding someone's virtues or the wisdom of someone's policies, but rather giving voters a reason not to vote for someone.

That said, I agree with the implicit premise of your question, Antimedia, which is that giving voters a reason not to vote for someone is often an important, useful, and proper thing to do.

Saying, "Mitt Romney is a coward who doesn't have the courage to stick with his positions" is negative and, to my way of thinking, not very useful. It's an ad hominem attack on his character, and it's too nonspecific to be either capable of objective verification or disproof. Saying, "Here is what Mitt Romney said about gay rights during his U.S. Senate campaign; compare that to what he's saying now" is absolutely fair game. The more specific the point, the better, however. Thus, I'm less persuaded by a YouTube of Romney insisting that he's going to be a bigger defender than Ted Kennedy of gay rights (in general, without discussing specific policies) than I would be if someone produced a YouTube of him saying, "I support gay marriage" in that prior campaign (which he now says he opposes, and indeed, which he opposed as governor when the Massachusetts Supreme Court tried to ram it down the public's throats by judicial fiat). I support "gay rights" — depending what "rights" we're talking about.

I think Huckabee's comment that I quoted above is pretty far down the scale toward ad hominem attacks. It implies that Romney was a corporate executioner who got rich by laying people off. Well, Romney actually has a business record that can be examined on that score; and it turns out that while he was involved in LBOs that resulted in liquidations and breakups and job losses, most of those appear to have been rational economic decisions based on the particular circumstances. And in other instances — most particularly in the case of the booming national office products business known as Staples — he's presided over business changes that clearly created high-quality jobs. But Huckabee's comment was aimed at the viewer's guts, their emotions and their prejudices. Well, okay; as I originally said, there's enough of a basis for it that I don't consider it "below the belt." I do, however, consider it "negative" — and that it makes him a hypocrite when he claims to be eschewing any negative campaigning.

(23) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jan 5, 2008 11:37:58 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: To be sure, the number of people Fred could press flesh with in these last days is relatively small---but certainly larger than the margin Hillary lost to Edwards by in Iowa. More, campaigning 18 hours a day gives a new "lead" to reporters: Thompson Spurred To New Effort etc. Such publicity might get people to look at a Fred they hadn't "seen" before, because it didn't fit the preconception. I do think Fred should be out there 18 hours a day, win, lose, or draw. More still, it opens the chance for a great moment, such as the snowball battle you showed us on 27 December. Fred should have that on the air in New Hampshire. He should also be out and about, in the hope of another such incident. To be sure, it might backfire, as it did in 1992 when GHW Bush gawked at a supermarket scanner, never having seen such a contraption before. But Fred seems to have far superior poise and ease in going out and about amongst the citizenry. He wouldn't lose by showing energy.

Negative campaigning: bah. I'd be obliged if you could give me three national campaigns in the 20th century in which:

"...I agree with the implicit premise of your question, Antimedia, which is that giving voters a reason not to vote for someone is often an important, useful, and proper thing to do."

When has the nation ever benefited by such bunkum? Even worse, such negative campaigning is expensive, pouring millions to the pockets of such vermin as Ed Rollins or Mark Penn or Carville & Matalin. Thus all too many candidates have to spend time sucking up to the rich and the PACs. Can anyone say that voters are better informed as a result of all the millions spent on such claptrap?

Perhaps your Friend#1 could bother to sign her name next time she comments. Otherwise, it's just the usual low bunkum and off the rack paranoias that we can swallow by the barrel at the Daily Kos and its mostly pseudonymous commenters. Let Friend#1 show us John Kerry's DOD-214, his service record, that Kerry promised to release but did only to the Boston GLOBE, before boring us with "Swift-boat" gurglings. Such pseudonymous Friends can't bear to admit that no one would have given a dam about Kerry's record if he hadn't made such a big deal about it, embellishing it with boatloads of tinsel that fell apart with a speed that is seared, seared in my memory when it was closely examined. Just as the idiotic ravings of Rather & Co. about Geo. W.'s Teaxa Air National Guard service fell apart.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(24) Antimedia made the following comment | Jan 6, 2008 12:50:49 AM | Permalink

Gregory, how would you even know about Kerry's lies about Vietnam were it not for the Swift Boat Veterans' "negative" (or as the libs call them "smears") campaign ads? The libs have even coined a new term for it - "swift boating" - which is a testament to how effectively those ads destroyed Kerry's credibility.

A lot of us Vietnam era vets already knew Kerry was a liar and a fraud, but the general public thought he was a hero and that's how he portrayed himself. The Swift vets proved he wasn't and changed the election.

By many people's definition, that's negative campaigning or even smears. By mine, it's not. If you tell the truth about a politician, even if it's "bad" news, that's not negative. It's honest. The fact that it hurts that politician's campaign is a good thing, not a bad thing.

(25) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jan 6, 2008 1:45:00 AM | Permalink

Dear Antimedia: Many thanks for your comment. If you accept the Swifters got their charges right, then that ends the matter. Many folks, not just Democrats, do not accept that the Swifters got it right. (For the record, I think the Swifter version is miles closer to the Platonic ideal of truth than Kerry's.) What fuels my exasperation is that Kerry's wound was self-inflicted. All he had to do was say, "Yes, I served in Vietnam, but that is long in the past. Let's talk about 2004 instead." Had he done this, the Swifters would likely never have made the campaign they did. I think, without being able to prove it, that had the 2004 campaign been run without mentioning either JFK's or GWB's Vietnam service, the result would have been the same: GWB would be reelected. I think the Vietnam records of both men were 99+% irrelevant to the issues at hand in 2004, which deserved a better campaign from both men.

So far as telling the truth about a politician, it may have unexpected results. It is true to say that Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, was miles better prepared than was Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America. Davis had a distinguished war record in the Mexican War; Lincoln's was comical. Davis had four years in the United States Senate, with the prospect of continuing had not the Civil War broken out. Lincoln had two years in the United States House of Representatives and eight years in the Illinois House of Representatives, with no prospects of being reelected to either---because of his pacific views on the Mexican War. Finally, Davis had been Secretary of War for four years. Make a campaign ad from this precis: who is better qualified, more experienced to be President? It is after all, the truth, isn't it? What the voter needs to know?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(26) Semanticleo made the following comment | Jan 6, 2008 11:36:55 AM | Permalink

"Mitt Romney is a coward who doesn't have the courage to stick with his positions" is negative and, to my way of thinking, not very useful. It's an ad hominem attack on his character"


As a trial lawyer, you must know that a prosecutor must use questions to nail down context and to smoke-out prevarication.

It is necessary for the process.

(27) Friend #1 made the following comment | Jan 6, 2008 11:48:35 AM | Permalink

Beldar wrote: "I'm disappointed that you didn't share your take on the Iowa results and how they bode for your favored candidate (at least from last April), who was not Sen. Obama, but rather Sen. Clinton."

Hi Beldar. I suppose I could spin Hill's performance in Iowa by pointing out that she got more votes than Huckabee, Romney or whoever placed third in the Iowa GOP balloting. (This, in a state which Bush carried in '04.) But I'm not affiliated with her campaign and I won't attempt to spin it. Hill should be disappointed with her showing in Iowa. She needs to win New Hampshire (or at least finish within several points of Obama) or the sun may begin to set on her campaign.

If Obama wins N.H., the conventional wisdon is that he will follow up with a victory in South Carolina. In that case he would be awfully difficult to stop.

Dare I write this, but the beauty of the Iowa Democratic Caucus - which I generally dislike because of its position on the calendar, as opposed to its unorthodox methodology - is that it forces many voters to reveal their second choices. This can be very helpful in assessing whether a particular candidate may have "deep" (and not just apparent broad) support from the base in a general election. What we learned this year in Iowa is that Hillary Clinton is apparently not the second choice of many Party regulars. Personally, I support Hill but am fine with Obama or Edwards as the nominee. But not everyone who supports Obama or Edwards is particularly comfortable with Hillary as the nominee. At least not at this point.

Beldar wrote: "There's a poorly disguised regional bigotry at the heart of that MSM meme — slow-talking southerners must be slow-thinking and, well, just lazy — and although you haven't lived in Texas long enough to have picked up much of a drawl, I know that you at least don't buy into that prejudice."

I don't buy into that prejudice and I don't really buy into your premise. I think that Thompson supporters who are disappointed with their candidate's dismal performance are spinning as best they can. The MSM (which, would or would not include Fixed Noise in this instance? I seem to have misplaced my book of uber-right code language ...) did not portray Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton or Al Gore as lazy. No one is painting Mike Huckabee as lazy. In fact I think the MSM has gone out of its way to portray Huckabee as a feisty preacher who built his campaign momentum on "shoe leather" and not money.

Fred Thompson is not a go-getter. He's just not. He stumbled badly coming out of the campaign gate and he failed to relentlessly pursue the Christian evangelicals who DESPERATELY wanted someone to lead them. He also squandered a lot of money which Huckabee proved wasn't necessary for winning Iowa.

Let me also add this: If Fred Thompson truly spent all day yesterday preparing for last night's debate - while his rivals spent all day yesterday actively campaigning because they didn't NEED to prepare for another one of these endless debates - then we've got to wonder whether Thompson is mentally (and not merely physically)up to the task of running for president.

Was Dick Nixon right about Thompson? I say no, the "dumb as hell" comment was a mean-spirited assessment of a young and eager Tennessee Republican, who in the end proved to be a competent (if somewhat shady) investigator during the Watergate scandal.

BTW, until and unless Obama wins the Democratic nomination, I don't see much point in chasing down and defending every purported stray comment that he makes about Pakistan or anyplace else. Save John McCain, there is no serious GOP contender who has any better foreign policy experience than Obama. And if Obama does win the nomination, I'm sure he'll be paired with an experienced public servant alongside him on the ticket. (Bill Nelson or Evan Bayh, perhaps?)

Barack Obama is a smart man but he is not an arrogant man. From what I gather, he listens to others and is unafraid to re-assess his position when necessary. Strictly from the standpoints of intelligence and humility, Obama stands in stark contrast to the current occupant of the Oval Office. I think we can all agree on that.

(28) Antimedia made the following comment | Jan 6, 2008 8:59:02 PM | Permalink

No, "Friend #1", we all cannot agree on that. I'd love to find one Bush hater that could explain how the man they are convinced is so dumb has been so successful in getting Congress to bend to his will.

Gregory, I would have seen nothing wrong with Jefferson Davis running such an ad. In fact, I'd be shocked if something along those lines wasn't pointed out at the time.

Most living Americans are so ignorant of our history that they think this is the first Congress to ever have been so despised and that negative campaigning is a recent invention. That is such a naive point of view that it's laughable.

(29) Milhouse made the following comment | Jan 7, 2008 10:29:28 PM | Permalink

Gregory Koster wrote:

To be sure, it might backfire, as it did in 1992 when GHW Bush gawked at a supermarket scanner, never having seen such a contraption before.
No such thing happened.

(30) Friend #1 made the following comment | Jan 8, 2008 8:14:44 AM | Permalink

"No, "Friend #1", we all cannot agree on that. I'd love to find one Bush hater that could explain how the man they are convinced is so dumb has been so successful in getting Congress to bend to his will."

Dems do not yet have a veto-proof majority in Congress.

Let's please not confuse an (apparent) ability to do simple math with the intellectual prowess one should rightfully expect in a POTUS.

BTW, John McCain's debate line about Mitt Romney being the candidate of "change" was absolutely priceless! Watching Republicans attack Republicans is too much fun to describe. :-)

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