Friday, May 9, 2008

Mess with the Bull

Since the late ‘70s when my parents moved my brother and I from the Bronx to their native country, my mother and late father were closely involved in local politics. I routinely heard them passionately discuss the cynicism, the hypocrisy, the strange bedfellows and alliances, but most importantly the foul nature of politics itself. (And once I was old enough I joined in on these conversations, as well, for baseball and politics are the great pastimes of the homeland and my parents loved both.) Taking in all of these conversations and watching local events unfold, this is the lesson I’ve taken most to heart: politics is dirty, so be an inspiring statesman once in office, but on the road there break every arm you need to, ‘cause they won’t think twice about breaking yours.

This has been on my mind quite a bit lately; since I am an Obama supporter who fears his candidate may in fact make the critical mistake of taking the supposed high road and waging a mostly positive campaign that, in the end, will have us uttering these dreaded two words: President McCain. [shudder]

Remember how the Democrats decided that for their 2004 convention they would “go positive” because that’s what, allegedly, the American people wanted to hear? The Republicans, on the other hand, came to New York, used the tragedy of September 11th, as both a literal and figurative backdrop for cheap political gain, and hit the Dems hard and nasty. We all know how that election turned out.
But fast forward four years and within the ranks of the Democratic Party itself. Take the Clintons, for example. Everyone knows they play for keeps. They know it’s a dirty business and that it’s the only way to win elections. (Nice guys don’t win playing nice; Jimmy Carter being the lone exception.) They don’t even care about the potential for forever alienating their most loyal constituency, African-Americans, with this kind of race-baiting:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said. As evidence, [Sen.] Clinton cited an Associated Press article that she said "found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

Nice. Classy dame. Say what you will but she knows what the deal is. And that’s the only reason I would feel comfortable with her as the Dem nominee: she probably wouldn’t win, but at the end of the campaign, Sen. McCain would be one of the most blood-soaked president-elects in the history of the United States . I don’t get a feel for that same level of offense for Sen. Obama. We don’t need a more charismatic John Kerry, what we need is a brawler. He can revert to high-mindedness and fair play once the address on his business card reads 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Meanwhile, Sen. McCain, a paragon of virtue if I ever saw one, has been lumping Sen. Obama in with the likes of Hamas, publicly on the The Daily Show and semi-privately by way of his campaign literature mailings:
Barack Obama's foreign policy plans have even won him praise from Hamas leaders. Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Hamas Prime Minister said, ‘We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election. He has a vision to change America.’
We need change in America, but not the kind of change that wins kind words from Hamas, surrenders in Iraq and will hold unconditional talks with Iranian President Ahmadinejad
.”

To which the senator from Illinois responded:

For him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination.”

This got the McCain camp whining and accusing Obama of using “the age card”. Yeah, well, so what? You think the race and ‘Hussein’ cards won’t be vigorously flashed in the upcoming months left in this race? More of this kind of defense and, more importantly, a pointed offense is what Obama needs to give himself a fighting chance. The audacity of hope only gets you so far.

Which is why I’m worried. But I need not be. Yes, Clinton is waiting or fabricating another ‘gotcha’ moment for Obama, as her above statement indicates. But she’s on the ropes and hopefully she’s done her worst damage to him already (feeding Rev. Wright to the media). And McCain is easily beatable. Yes, easily beatable. He has one thing, and one thing only in his favor: that in the end, regardless of multiple defining criteria, a majority of the American people may favor an old white man over a young black man. Period. If that can be neutralized or diminished somehow, the laundry list of his crucial blunders, ineptitude-bearing gaffes, galling hypocrisies, flat out lies, and two, yes, hate-mongering, paranoid pastors he has yet to disown, make him a very easy target.
But this is if, and let me reiterate, IF Obama steps up and hammers him like a candy starved, red-headed stepchild going after a piñata. Otherwise…

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