Saturday, April 26, 2008

Turning Things Around

Amid a mass of bad sports analogies, the networks have all decided that a) Clinton is turning things around because b) Obama can’t “close the deal”, and yet c) Obama can’t really lose. So what is really happening here?
First, the bad sports analogies department: this has been likened to a tennis match where Obama gets to match point (NH, OH, PA) and just can’t put her away, revealing a fatal weakness in his candidacy. Boy, talk about missing the big picture, tennis analogy-wise. What we have is a three set match where they split the first two (IA, NH, SC, Super Tuesday) and then Obama got s service break in the third, with his run of victories in February, which gave him a clear lead. What Obama has failed to do is break her again, but she hasn’t broken back and we seem to be at 5-4 with him serving in North Carolina. A decisive win there and this is over. Well, in the sports analogy sense and the theoretical sense. It ain’t over until the votes are cast at the convention and the Clintons are not going away. They will fight until the last vote, using Michigan and Florida as their ultimate weapons to keep things going until the convention.
Does it matter? Can she win? The expert analysis seems to be in three similar camps:
1) She’s a long shot, but if she can win Indiana, keep NC close, then win big in Kentucky and West Virginia, her momentum (and his slide) could turn things around. Many people have doubts, but the super delegates just might consider her the better choice.
2) It’s over, Obama will be the nominee, the Clintons refuse to accept the reality. They can fight as long and hard as they want, Obama will win NC, wiping out most of her delegate and popular vote gains from PA and he will have wrapped up the delegate lead and popular vote heading for the convention and the super D’s will fall in line very quickly to end the bloodshed.
3) Even the Clintons know it’s over, the campaign is designed to destroy Obama, with Hillary really aiming at 2012. This is the theory James Clyburn espoused this week and there is some merit to it, although the Clintons probably still think they have a chance at victory, the destruction of Obama’s chances are the one thing they know they can do. After all, it’s one thing for Republicans to attack Obama with partisan ads, it’s quite another to pepper those ads with quotes from HRC and Bill, both attacking Obama and praising McCain.

I tend to lean toward number 3, but I also think there’s a fourth scenario which no one is talking about. The first thing is to keep this going as long as possible, the PA victory was big for that, bringing in money and some campaign credibility. A decent showing in NC combined with a win in Indiana and the stage is set. Let’s call this the “deus ex machina” route to the nomination – an external event makes her the obvious candidate to everyone. In a saner world, her astounding pledge in the PA debate to use our defense umbrella to respond to any attack by Iran on Israel, Saudi Arabia, or any other friendly nation in that region would have been a huge story. In our silly society, it passed by quietly. Obama gave a more reasoned, less militaristic response. Combine that with her vote on the Lieberman-Kyl amendment and you have the warrior Hillary, set to pounce on Iran. The external event is a simple one -- we attack Iran. This week saw a string of accusations, not just from the Bush administration, but from assorted military leaders, regarding Iran’s attempt to destabilize Iraq militarily. The groundwork is being laid. We know McCain is on board, and Hillary has given notice that she is ready to fight as well. When the bombs fly, Obama will be left in a terribly awkward position and HRC will emerge as the only one ready to take on McCain in the battle for Commander In Chief. This isn’t over by a long shot.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Groundhog Day

Tomorrow is the Pennsylvania primary, in case you haven’t heard. Oh, you have heard? Nice to hear you are no longer in that coma. This has become the most over-hyped political event since, well, the Ohio and Texas primaries, which were almost two whole months ago. The seven weeks of campaigning and advertising since the last time someone voted will be almost as long as the general election campaign following the two conventions. It has also been just as dirty as that will be and cost almost as much money. So where are we in this mess?
This has been the weakest showing by the Obama campaign. Unless they pull off a huge upset, they have squandered time, money, and showed a serious lack of coherence in their strategy and tactics. Maybe it was the debate that changed things. That was a crappy performance by Obama – although nowhere near as crappy as the one by the moderators – and seemed to be fueled by a reluctance to really go after Clinton, based, I assumed, on the eventuality of his nomination and the need to not offend HRC’s people. It was like a major heavyweight fight, where one boxer was in control and just was content to box and be careful rather than go for the knockout, avoiding injury and getting the win unhurt, with a bigger fight on the horizon. But after the debate, things turned really nasty, with negative speeches and negative commercials flooding the airways. Now that was true of both sides, but Clinton has nothing to lose, she is desperate and the last thing she is worrying about is uniting the party after the nomination. It is a strange choice and I can only assume that it was driven n some way by polling data showing that Obama had closed the gap and had a real shot at winning, enough of a shot that it was worth going for the knockout.
The problem with that strategy is that it is a risk combined with a stunning disregard for the history of this campaign. The risk is that Obama has really done everything he could to win PA, leaving him with no excuses at all; the money was spent, every possible tack was tried, a loss here is a real loss. As for the money, much has been made of how much Obama has spent relative to Hillary. Frankly, as long as you have enough to get out your own message, which Hillary does, there is no evidence at all that outspending your opponent on advertising helps. In fact, there have been reports of polls showing people are more annoyed by the constant advertising. What does help in PA, the last of the machine states, is having Gov. Ed Rendell and his machine on your side, as well as the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and theirs, which Hillary does. As for the history, the pattern in this state has been the same as in all the other major states she has won. She starts with a big lead in the polls, he shows up, drives the numbers down to where it looks like he might actually win, then loses by ten points. It was that way in Ohio, in California, in New Jersey, in Massachusetts, and it will be that way in PA as well. Hillary wins by ten points (dodging a hail of sniper fire on the way to the celebration), we move on to May 6th, with Indiana too close to call, and starring North Carolina as the state that Obama wins to wrap things up.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Worst Paragraph Ever Published

Normally, I focus on political activity here, but this morning’s Los Angeles Times sports section contained a paragraph so linguistically pathetic that I had to show it to those of you unable to bask in its ineptitude.
It appeared as the fourth paragraph in the primary article, written by Mike Bresnahan, which dealt with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team which, when the season started, was considered to be in major trouble, with a star who was demanding a trade, and unlikely to make the playoffs. Last night the Lakers, culminating a great season, clinched the best record in the Western Conference, giving them home court advantage throughout the Conference playoffs, which figure to be extremely contentious. For those of you who value the English language, I suggest that at this moment you make sure you are seated comfortably, are not eating, and are not handling sharp objects. I now quote:

“It was only a step, to be sure, but it was tangible and touchable in a season that started with so little of either.”

I know, it is actually just a sentence, but it was set off as a paragraph so that the reader could appreciate it in its aesthetic solitude, undiminished by any following comments. Let’s look at it in more detail. Yes, the step of clinching the best record was both tangible and touchable. Not just tangible, mind you, but also touchable. The first definition of tangible at is “capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.” So the best we can say for this is that it is ridiculously redundant. That is what jumped out at me when I first read it. Of course, that is merely the beginning of the illiteracy here, since the step of winning the conference is not remotely touchable. Now there are definitions of tangible which are figurative, referring to the reality of something rather than its corporeal nature, so we can only guess that Bresnahan decided to add touchable just to make sure it made no sense.
Speaking of making no sense, how about that last phrase? Yes, it was a season which “started with so little of either” – say what? The only words that could refer to are “tangible and touchable”. Yes, Bresnahan is telling us the NBA season started with very little tangibility (and we also couldn’t touch it.). I’ve searched for a definition of tangible under which that might make some kind of sense. The best I could come up with was “definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.” So I guess he’s saying the Lakers season prospects were deemed to be vague and indefinite, but I have to work to get to that one and we’re still left with “so little of either”, which, one must assume, refers to our limited ability to touch the Lakers season back in November. This was no doubt a tragedy of sorts for those who enjoy fondling the schedule of sports teams.
Mr. Bresnahan is a professional writer – we know this because he gets paid for it – and his editor, also paid, is a professional editor. That two men in the profession of writing could both write and fail to correct this is mind-boggling.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oh Just Shut Up

Last night, Bill Clinton, for reasons known only to Bill Clinton, decided to attack the press and defend Hillary by saying that Hillary’s Bosnia lie was a “misstatement” that she made “once, late at night” then “immediately corrected”. Of course, she made it several times, all during the day, and didn’t immediately correct anything -- but truth and Bill Clinton are pretty much complete strangers. The best part of it all was his excusing the “misstatement” by saying she’s 60 years old and “when some of you are 60, you’ll have trouble remembering things late at night, too”. Really, he said that. The former Whoremaster-In-Chief is clearly losing it. Maybe he just hasn’t had any nookie lately. Maybe he’s having his own senior moments. Maybe he just thinks he can say anything and no one will care. But if that isn’t the stupidest thing anyone has ever said, I’d like to hear the winner. That’s it, point out that your wife is a)old, b)vulnerable to foggy thinking because she is old, and c) really shaky late at night. No wonder he thinks it would be a good race between her and John McCain – she would be the kid in that battle and they could each take CAT scans to see whose brain activity is soundest.
Apparently, when word of this got back to Hillary, the former First Enabler called her husband and told him to shut up. This morning he attacked the press some more and put his foot further in his big lying mouth. I just don’t get the appeal of these corrupt scum. They did everything they could to destroy the Democratic party in the nineties and if given a chance, will finish the job over the next four years. For the sake of the party and the country, the Clintons must be stopped. Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the party – I pray they do and end the madness.

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