It’s hard for a left-leaning child of the sixties to spend a Sunday with the pro-Bush, pro-war, cut-taxes-and-end-all-regulation-of-everything, governments-should-enforce-morality family down south. Leave Hollywood, drive south, cross the county line into Orange Country and things change. Orange Country is the polar opposite of Hollywood. Even if it was the birthday party for the nine-year-old, politics do come up now and then, as much as you’d rather they didn’t.
But it’s okay. You get the condescending verbal pats on the head – you’re the weird uncle who chose to live between the Sunset Strip and Chinese Theater, up in Hollywood where everyone is just strange. The idea seems to be that living in close proximity to both Paris Hilton and Gore Vidal has left you damaged – a little addled, and certainly not to be taken seriously. You accept being the lovable eccentric – the comic relief, actually. It beats arguing whether Obama is an angry black separatist out to get the White Man and a Muslim terrorist in disguise, who never ran anything anyway, or whether Hillary Clinton is a communist who wants us all only to see an underpaid Gulag state doctor when we get sick, no matter how much money we have, or whether John McCain would make a great president because, even if he doesn’t know much and is a little strange, he was a prisoner of war for six years, so he actually knows how things work in this world.
What would be the point in arguing? No one is going to change his or her mind. Things are locked in, and the birthday party was fine. The kids are great – and they certainly do not consider such matters.
And it would be hard to defend the Democrats. Hillary Clinton had given a defiant interview to the Washington Post – she seems to be saying that she will stay in the race right through the convention in August, and there she will take her fight to the credentials committee to have the delegates from the non-sanctioned Michigan and Florida primaries seated. No one should be disenfranchised, no matter what the rules were! What about their voices? And we have to win those states! You’ll make the folks in Michigan and Florida very, very angry. Are you going to ignore them? Do you want to hand Michigan and Florida to McCain?
That’s pretty much all she has, and it may well cause chaos, but that is the plan.
The news on the drive down was that Obama was now saying that she can run as long as she wants. Others, like Senator Leahy, have said she should quit – she cannot win the nomination unless she figures out a way to change the rules or tear down the man who won the most states, the most votes – or do both. That will create so much anger that the idealistic young will walk, and so will the African-American bloc, and the intellectual wing of the party – but she’ll have the nomination, and McCain will have the presidency. She used the Leahy comment to raise money – see, everyone is picking on me and they don’t want your vote to count.
So Obama is now saying this – “My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants … [s]he is a fierce and formidable opponent, and she obviously believes she would make the best nominee and the best president…”
That’s clever – he seems to know that if things go as they have been going he’ll still be nicely ahead of her by the time the convention rolls around. Then he can say, sure, take the delegates from the non-sanctioned Michigan and Florida primaries, those we all agreed wouldn’t count. He’ll still be ahead. His comment is, then, more than a bit of a condescending verbal pat on the head – she looks small and mean, and “fierce and formidable” were not meant as a compliment. That’s exactly what he’s running against – being “fierce and formidable” is just so much posturing, and making it the core of why you should lead is silly. Being “fierce and formidable” solves nothing – see George W. Bush. He just drops her in there with Bush, and McCain.
And he knows which way things are going as the Wall Street Journal was reporting this:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is expected to endorse Sen. Obama Monday, according to a Democrat familiar with her plans. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s seven Democratic House members are poised to endorse Sen. Obama as a group – just one has so far – before that state’s May 6 primary, several Democrats say.
Still she does have her followers, like this reader at Talking Points Meno:
Many Clinton supporters find the current attempts to muscle her out of the race despicable. Maybe now is the time for Obama to take one for the team and accept her offer of the VP slot. It is the position he is better qualified for, would end a situation that is supposedly hurting the party, and would put him in a better position to run next time. Clinton has no “next time,” so it makes more sense for Obama to be the one to step aside.
If the convention is held too late in the election cycle for the presidential nominee to campaign effectively, perhaps the date of the convention needs to be changed. The solution cannot be for viable candidates to set aside their ambitions long before a nominee has been clearly chosen.
She may, indeed, call for Obama to take one for the team. After all, Richard Mellon Scaife, the man who financed the campaign that once accused her of murder, now says he has a “very favorable” impression of Senator Clinton. But Obama said he didn’t want to muscle her out. That would be despicable. He just patted her on the head. That wasn’t very nice, actually. It did the job.
Then there was the John Heilemann piece in New York Magazine, mostly about how Barack Obama botched his chance to get an endorsement from John Edwards, which also included this:
Democrats are right to fear that [Hillary] Clinton may find it irresistible to turn her campaign into an exercise in nothing less (and little more) than political manslaughter against Obama. They’re especially right to be worried that she may want to fight on all summer, all the way to the Denver convention – especially with Clinton now talking openly about a floor fight over seating the disputed Florida and Michigan delegations.
Some senior members of Clinton’s campaign have no intention of sticking around if Obama is substantially ahead come June; as much as they’re devoted to their boss, they want nothing to do with a black-bag operation designed to destroy her rival, no matter what the cost. But these same people are also deeply convinced – beyond spin, beyond talking points, to their core – that Obama would be doomed against McCain. And Clinton believes this, too, which is one important reason why she persists despite odds that grow longer each passing day.
Now that’s interesting – her staff disgusted with her, willing to quit if she pulls out all stops to destroy Obama, but convinced Obama would lose to McCain. The Democrats are an odd lot – it always comes down to going with the creepy person, who will probably lose, or certainly losing with the person everyone thinks is right. Democrats have turned losing into a fine art.
Kevin Drum, who had supported Clinton but changed his mind, comments:
A couple of weeks ago I would have written this off as delusional. Of course Barack Obama can win against John McCain. And I still believe that.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the Jeremiah Wright controversy has shaken my confidence a bit. This has nothing to do with the substance of the thing, which I think has been wildly overblown, but by the conservative reaction to it. Go scan The Corner and you’ll find Mark Steyn and Victor Davis Hanson and the rest of the gang still in an absolute lather over Wright. Ditto for other conservative sites.
They have no intention of allowing this to die, and I have no doubt that it will resurface with a vengeance in every last swing state this fall. When Obama continues to fail to denounce Wright thoroughly enough – and believe me, no denunciation will ever be enough with this crowd – then eventually the crossover Republicans who were singing Obama’s praises after Super Tuesday will, sadly but inevitably, use this as an excuse to switch their support to McCain. Can’t vote for a guy who doesn’t have the balls to disown an outraged black guy in a dashiki, after all. Ditto for a lot of political moderates who have fallen under the Obama spell but are really more anti-Hillary than they ever were pro-Obama.
You find The Corner, from the National Review, much as he describes it. But he thinks the Clinton scorched-earth policy perhaps won’t work, but perhaps she does have a point:
The polls taken after Obama’s race speech showed, gratifyingly, no reduction in his support, suggesting that a sleaze campaign will have a harder time working against Obama than it did against John Kerry. Still, it’s out there, and it’s pretty clearly part of the game plan for the fall campaign. I think Hillary’s folks are wrong to believe that Obama is doomed, but I’m not sure I think they’re delusional any more. There’s every sign that we have an ugly campaign ahead of us.
Matthew Yglesias just doesn’t like the threats:
One thing to note about Hillary Clinton’s Florida and Michigan strategy is the utter selfishness of it. Her best shot at getting her way on this issue is to keep observing, in a meta kind of way, that if the DNC disses Florida and Michigan by not seating their delegates, that this could hurt Democratic fortunes in Florida and Michigan in November.
But he sees some simple solutions:
One, if Clinton dropped out and endorsed Obama, the delegates could be seated no problem.
Two, 50-50 delegations could be seated without controversy, again removing the concern about MI and FL lacking representation.
Three, leaders of the Democratic Party from all factions could reiterate that everybody knew the rules going in and the voters of Michigan and Florida have nobody to blame but their own state party leaders for creating this situation.
But like everyone else, he knows none of that is likely:
… instead Clinton has chosen path four of deliberately setting up a train wreck, hoping that by credibly committing to the idea that she’s happy to sink the party’s fortunes in FL and MI if she doesn’t get her way, she can thereby get her way.
Basically, it’s the same old kind of threats you saw with her big dollar fundraisers – either the Democratic Party needs to serve the narrow needs of the Clinton family, or else the Clinton family will do their best to hobble the party. It’s not a very appealing kind of message and I have a hard time imagining it’ll work in the end.
We shall see. All of this is something you’d rather not discuss with the family down in Orange County – they’d smile that Republican smile. You know the one – the smile that is meant to let you know they understand you’re a fool hanging out with fools, but might grow up one day and vote Republican.
Josh Marshall, who runs Talking Points Memo, also discusses that Clinton interview in the Washington Post, saying the key quote from this is this – “I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong. I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next ten contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don’t resolve it, we’ll resolve it at the convention – that’s what credentials committees are for.”
Marshall has this to say:
So she’s promising to remain in the race at least until June 3rd when the final contests are held in Montana and South Dakota and until Florida and Michigan are “resolved.” Now, that can have no other meaning than resolved on terms the Clinton campaign finds acceptable. It can’t mean anything else since, of course, at least officially, for the Democratic National Committee, it is resolved. The penalty was the resolution.
That’s logical. The Florida and Michigan matter actually was resolved long ago, and everyone agreed. And she did get some unfair wiggle-room:
The Obama campaign has always been willing to “resolve” the matter by splitting those states’ delegates down the middle. But of course that’s something the Clinton campaign can never accept since splitting them down the middle is the same as not counting them at all. It leaves both campaigns right where they started, i.e., with him ahead and her behind.
That leaves two real possibilities: seat the non-sanctioned January primary delegates, or hold the primaries again, a revote.
But, as a well-connected reporter, he says he doesn’t know many people who’ve ever thought possibility one was going to happen:
And the consensus seems to be that the time window on possibility two has closed (though it’s not completely clear to me why it couldn’t be reopened if everyone agreed they wanted to do it.) So that really does sound like she’s saying she wants to take this to the credentials committee at the convention at the end of August, regardless of the outcome of the next ten primaries and caucuses.
It’s a stalemate:
Since neither side now seems to think revotes are likely and the Obama campaign and the DNC will never agree to seat the delegates from the non-sanctioned primaries, Sen. Clinton seems to be saying pretty clearly that she plans on taking her campaign all the way to Denver.
By saying she’ll continue through the remaining ten contests, regardless of the outcome, and implicitly, I take it, regardless of any superdelegate declarations over the next two months, Sen. Clinton is saying it’s no longer about pledged delegates, or superdelegates or popular votes. It’s about Florida and Michigan. Period.
The folks in Orange County don’t need to know all this. Democrats create disasters for themselves. It’s some sort of organic brain damage perhaps. Maybe the family is right about the weird uncle from Hollywood.
The go-to guy for thoughtful analysis of all these ins and out of the psychology of those who run for office, Andrew Sullivan, has decided to take a break. He will offer no further comments for a few weeks – five weeks before the Pennsylvania primary – as we have “recently entered a bit of a surreally vote-free period where we are all in danger of disappearing up a succession of other people’s posteriors and our own.”
It may be best to say no more. That might be a good line to use with the family.