“Suspend the Campaign” Is the New “Sex”

So … McCain suspended his campaign, snubbing Letterman but still appearing on Katie Couric’s cameras. Then he meets with everyone yesterday, in what many felt was “a rescue plan for McCain” rather than the country. And now he’s going to the debates [which I’m glad of, even if Nate Silver might have it right on how he’s doubling-down here] … but did he ever really suspend the campaign?

Dave Letterman is right: “This is not how a tested hero behaves.” And that’s the problem—the John McCain we’re getting to vote for in five-ish weeks is not the guy who ran in 2000 or even the guy from 2007. Of course, neither has Obama kept to his lofty ideals; this has just denigrated to your normal level campaign.


So Chris tweeted: “So McCain will go ahead and debate tonight. Snarky comments from @gfmorris in 3… 2… 1… ” I responded thusly:

  1. “John saw Sarah’s “performance” with Katie Couric and didn’t want to send her in his stead.”
  2. “It all depends on what your definition of ‘suspending the campaign’ is.”
  3. “It’s amazing that, in 2008, we’re excited about an *old white guy* going to Ole Miss. James Meredith must be proud.”

Let’s look at this dispassionately: If you came in from another planet and were shown the actions of the two candidates and were told, “One of these guys has been at the national seat of government for more than two decades, was a prisoner of war for over five years, and used to command a military organization; the other guy is a first-term member of the higher house of the national seat of government, has far less experience than his opponent, and is a quarter-century younger,” and then told that same observer the actions of McCain and Obama in the last week … wouldn’t you think that this observer would figure the panicky, impassioned responses for Obama and not McCain?

I mean, if you’d told me that, less than six weeks before the election, the economy was going to crater and either Obama or McCain would be losing their shit, I would’ve bet on Obama—and I’m an Obama supporter.

The Palin Pick

Okay, I’ve had some time to digest why I think the nomination of Sarah Palin is wrong, and I’m now ready to make the coherent argument.

Coming into the conventions, Republicans who considered themselves likely voters indicated in most polls that, on average, 87% of them were ready to vote for McCain as President. Contrast this with Obama, who had only 83% of likely Democratic voters in his pocket. The reason for Obama’s poorer showing, heading into Denver, was singular: the Hillary hangover.

Let’s consider who those likely voters that weren’t with their party’s presumptive nominees were. For the Democrats, it wasn’t the liberal base: those folks have been with Obama over Hillary for quite some time, given their varied stances on the Iraq War. [Regardless of the effect that Obama’s moderation of his stance might have on those voters, Obama voters don’t seem inclined to flee him even though he’s moved to the center a bit.] No, it was three groups in Hillary’s core that Obama wasn’t reaching: working-class folks, women voters who still wanted Hillary as President [which I get, I really do; in the reverse situation, you’d probably have some black voters who were reluctant to be behind Hillary with the taste of the promise of a President Obama still on their tongues], and older voters. Joe Biden, with his age, roots, and experience, ameliorates two of those three things. And Billary probably did their dead-level best to unite the party behind Obama in Denver; sure, there are going to be some defectors, but those folks were most likely already leaning that way before Barack ever set foot in Colorado.

For the GOP, it’s mostly voters from the base, the kind of folks who think McCain is too much a maverick and worry if he’s conservative enough. Palin might have the sheen of a moderate, corruption-fighting maverick from Alaska, but the first quotes I saw about her were from Ralph Reed and James Dobson—the very folks that were wary of McCain. Palin’s history—mainly her narrative about choosing to carry a Down’s syndrome child to term—solidly puts her in the conservative end of things. I see video clips of her shooting a gun and know that my dad is sitting in Tennessee, smiling that a pro-gun governor from the west kicks ass.

But here’s the difference in the calculus: if you make the argument that the bases aren’t going to defect to a third-party candidate [in this case, Bob Barr for the GOP], why not go to the center? Obama’s pick of Biden moves him towards the center, as Biden picks up the few hawkish Democrats and those in the center that were for the war but who’ve not liked how it’s been prosecuted [hello, right here] as well as helping Obama with the working-class gruffs who love that he rides the train home to Delaware every night, rather than living in Washington. [And I love that, too.] Palin, on the other hand, seems to be designed to do two things: 1) shore up the GOP base and 2) pick off Hillary supporters purely by being a female. Ummm … that seems like a grand miscalculation of the likelihood of centrists moving to McCain.

As I was writing this, Kari and I were trading emails about the Palin pick [amongst other things; our friendship is mostly based on these emails we trade when we need to talk things out, hehehe], and she pointed me to Andrew Sullivan’s piece on how Palin is not, in early polling, pulling the undecideds:

But among the critical undecideds, the Palin pick made only 6 percent more likely to vote for McCain; and it made 31 percent less likely to vote for him. 49 percent said it would have no impact, and 15 percent remained unsure. More to the point: among undecideds, 59 percent said Palin was unready to be president. Only 6 percent said she was. If the first criterion for any job is whether you’re ready for it, this is a pretty major indictment of the first act of McCain’s presidential leadership.

One other striking finding. If McCain thought he could present Palin as a moderate, he was wrong. A whopping 69 percent view her as conservative (37 percent as very conservative), and only 13 percent see her as moderate.

From this first snap-shot (and unsettled) impression, Palin has helped McCain among Republicans, left Democrats unfazed, but moved the undecideds against him quite sharply. I totally understand why.

So, who would I have picked, were I McCain? I would have taken Joe Lieberman in a heartbeat, concerns about the conservative wing of the GOP defecting and/or staying home notwithstanding. Here’s the thing: the folks on the right-wing of the GOP are scared of Obama. They don’t like his politics, but they realize that he resonates with Americans in many of the same ways that Reagan did thirty years ago. Remember, the GOP loves Reagan [and with, I would say, fairly good reason, the failures of trickle-down economics notwithstanding; all in all, I think Reagan did a very good job]; they see Obama as someone who will do the same thing for the Democrats. Also, conservative voters know that one main reason W won in 2000 was the Nader Effect. Conservatives like holding the White House, and I think that, in the end, they would’ve held their noses and voted for McCain-Lieberman.

Why do I care? Really, it’s simple: I want the best two candidates possible. I voted for McCain in the Alabama primary because I thought he was the best of the GOP field; I’m planning on voting for Obama because I think he’s the better candidate. But just because I now find myself in the Obama camp—a weird place for me, as I’ve voted Dole, Bush, and Bush since I turned 18—doesn’t mean that I want to see the GOP roll over and play dead. I want the best thing for this country, and I think the best thing for America would be a spirited, principled discussion between the two sides. And, in the case that Obama lost, I would want McCain to have the best partner in governance on his side—and I think that’s Joe Lieberman, not Sarah Palin.

If you follow my delicious bookmarks, you’ll see that I’ve bookmarked a lot about Palin already. I’m this fired up about it because I think it’s the wrong decision. I wanted the right one, because I want the best thing for this country.

Obama and Manned Spaceflight

If I believe NPR’s David Kestenbaum—and I generally do—then Barack Obama’s views on manned spaceflight have cost him my vote. I recommend listening to the entire story, but the blurb listed on NPR.org is very telling:

Advocates of NASA’s plan to return to the moon are concerned that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has said he will raid NASA’s budget to fund education. While the issue of space exploration hasn’t gotten much attention this campaign season, it is a topic on which the candidates do differ.

Raiding NASA’s budget to fund education is like sponsoring the US Olympic Team but then not sending them to Beijing this summer. Admittedly, I’m quite biased as someone who works in manned spaceflight, but space science is one of the few endeavors that mankind has left that is, on the whole, quite positive. Sure, there are negatives—one reason NASA will continue to get funding is fear over the Chinese space program, and the International Space Station largely has justified a jobs program to keep Russian rocket scientists from going to work for Iran, North Korea, and China—but that we’ve gotten the world’s nations to push together for this quite lofty goal is impressive. That we won’t let the Chinese be a part is sad, to be sure, but that’s something that talk-with-your-enemies Obama would support, right?

When I posted about voting in Alabama’s primaries last month, I was leaning Obama. Hillary’s desperate tactics in the face of Obamamania have pushed me further in his direction. But just as I did in 2004, I’ll vote with my job, even if that’s “fucking idiotic” to some. Admittedly, part of the reason that I like both Obama and McCain is that they don’t seem to fall into the “you’re stupid because you disagree with me” argument. I’m fairly convinced that either candidate would make a good President; I hope you’ll understand why I’m likely to make the choice to vote with my job.

[I mean, I guess that, now that I’m management, my skills are portable, but … I do kinda like this shit. I mean, I did get one of NASA’s highest honors last year. 😉 ]

Why I’ll Vote for John McCain Today (But Maybe Not in November)

So Amy and I went to Birmingham last night, and as we got onto I-65 southbound, talk turned to Super Tuesday—how much we’d know in another 30 hours, etc. The unspoken question from Amy was how I’d vote, so I told her:

I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’d be okay with either of Obama or Clinton. I’ve decided to let the folks who’ve been on that side of things make the decision about who they want. On the other side, well, I don’t like John McCain, but I hate the rest of those assholes.

She went on to ask me what I didn’t like about Romney—simply put, he zigged conservative and became a fraud; I feel that he should’ve stayed moderate and run to the center, because I think the GOP is ready to elect a center candidate, and given a choice between a moderate Romney and whoever the Democrats run, I think most conservatives will hold their nose for the pro-business GOP moderate over whoever the other half runs, especially if it’s Hillary, because hell, they hate her. [Holy run-on sentences, Batman. Yeah, well, I was up late.]

It’s not so much that I like John McCain—I’ve railed against him in the past, to be sure—but I really loathe the others. And I’ve decided that I could vote for a guy like McCain, even though I didn’t agree with all of his policies.

You may not feel that way, but you’re not gonna change my mind. Not today, anyway.

But please note that a vote for McCain here in Alabama’s primary from me is not an assent to voting for the man in November. There will be a number of factors that factor into that for me:

  1. How the two nominees feel about science in general, and especially NASA and open government through open technology. I’m passionate about both. [I know that Obama has a very good record with the latter, but I’m not very sure about his support of space exploration, and well … that is my damn job. I do have to vote with my wallet, people. I am your tax dollars at work!]
  2. Plans regarding health care and fiscal responsibility. I think McCain’s tack towards preserving Bush’s tax cuts is a Super Tuesday sop to the GOP base, and I don’t know that he’ll keep it as a plank. I fully expect Irascible John to return and for him to tell the party to fuck off and support him or stay home. Honestly, I think John McCain would rather lose the Presidency by being who he is than win and compromise himself too much. I could be completely wrong about that, though. I’ll eat my words if I am. But I’m generally in favor of the Democrats’ plans for health care, because I’m ready to try another system at this point. Where we are is broken.
  3. Statements about foreign policy. Look, I don’t think anyone other than Dick Cheney is happy with how things are going with American foreign policy today, and while it’s a shit sandwich, we gotta choke it down, people. Promises to bring troops home or keep them there for a century are just rhetoric to me. I’m more concerned with the general approaches to the problems than in specific solutions trotted out in the campaigns, because again … it’s rhetoric to get elected. I’m really undecided on how I feel about each of the three contenders—I like some of what each has to say, and I dislike some of what each has to say. [I must say, McCain’s approach to torture and the like is a strong point with me. Of course, I expect him to be against all that, given his background. And if not, I expect every POW that was in the Hanoi Hilton with him to absolutely ream him out over it in a way that only John Kerry could appreciate. And I know a couple guys who’d be at the head of that fuckin’ line, y’all.]

Functionally, I’m willing to let the center-left folks pick their nominee, and I want to vote on the right to go for the guy I think is most center-right. But John, just because you’ll get my vote today doesn’t mean you’ll get it in nine months.

[The first person to mention Ron Paul is gonna get me really pissed off.]

Why I’ll Vote for John McCain Today (But Maybe Not in November)

So Amy and I went to Birmingham last night, and as we got onto I-65 southbound, talk turned to Super Tuesday—how much we’d know in another 30 hours, etc. The unspoken question from Amy was how I’d vote, so I told her:

I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’d be okay with either of Obama or Clinton. I’ve decided to let the folks who’ve been on that side of things make the decision about who they want. On the other side, well, I don’t like John McCain, but I hate the rest of those assholes.

She went on to ask me what I didn’t like about Romney—simply put, he zigged conservative and became a fraud; I feel that he should’ve stayed moderate and run to the center, because I think the GOP is ready to elect a center candidate, and given a choice between a moderate Romney and whoever the Democrats run, I think most conservatives will hold their nose for the pro-business GOP moderate over whoever the other half runs, especially if it’s Hillary, because hell, they hate her. [Holy run-on sentences, Batman. Yeah, well, I was up late.]

It’s not so much that I like John McCain—I’ve railed against him in the past, to be sure—but I really loathe the others. And I’ve decided that I could vote for a guy like McCain, even though I didn’t agree with all of his policies.

You may not feel that way, but you’re not gonna change my mind. Not today, anyway.

But please note that a vote for McCain here in Alabama’s primary from me is not an assent to voting for the man in November. There will be a number of factors that factor into that for me:

  1. How the two nominees feel about science in general, and especially NASA and open government through open technology. I’m passionate about both. [I know that Obama has a very good record with the latter, but I’m not very sure about his support of space exploration, and well … that is my damn job. I do have to vote with my wallet, people. I am your tax dollars at work!]
  2. Plans regarding health care and fiscal responsibility. I think McCain’s tack towards preserving Bush’s tax cuts is a Super Tuesday sop to the GOP base, and I don’t know that he’ll keep it as a plank. I fully expect Irascible John to return and for him to tell the party to fuck off and support him or stay home. Honestly, I think John McCain would rather lose the Presidency by being who he is than win and compromise himself too much. I could be completely wrong about that, though. I’ll eat my words if I am. But I’m generally in favor of the Democrats’ plans for health care, because I’m ready to try another system at this point. Where we are is broken.
  3. Statements about foreign policy. Look, I don’t think anyone other than Dick Cheney is happy with how things are going with American foreign policy today, and while it’s a shit sandwich, we gotta choke it down, people. Promises to bring troops home or keep them there for a century are just rhetoric to me. I’m more concerned with the general approaches to the problems than in specific solutions trotted out in the campaigns, because again … it’s rhetoric to get elected. I’m really undecided on how I feel about each of the three contenders—I like some of what each has to say, and I dislike some of what each has to say. [I must say, McCain’s approach to torture and the like is a strong point with me. Of course, I expect him to be against all that, given his background. And if not, I expect every POW that was in the Hanoi Hilton with him to absolutely ream him out over it in a way that only John Kerry could appreciate. And I know a couple guys who’d be at the head of that fuckin’ line, y’all.]

Functionally, I’m willing to let the center-left folks pick their nominee, and I want to vote on the right to go for the guy I think is most center-right. But John, just because you’ll get my vote today doesn’t mean you’ll get it in nine months.

[The first person to mention Ron Paul is gonna get me really pissed off.]