I assume that most people have seen the season 5 premiere On Demand; if you haven’t, please do so now. After watching the entire series On Demand over the course of the past four months, I now feel like an ordinary loser, having to sit around and wait for new episodes to turn up.
An important piece by Charles Peters about Obama’s work in the Illinois legislature, including working to compel both houses of the legislature into passing a law requiring videotaped confessions — the kind of civil liberties protection that it’s very difficult to get legislatures to initiate. As Hilzoy pointed out, this has often been true at the federal level as well. He’s sponsored important and generally good legislation on important but low-profile issues, as opposed to doing stuff like sponsoring idiotic and unconstitutional flag-burning legislation. When you combine this record with a stunning ability to mobilize new voters, progressive backers of Clinton against Obama should have a very uphill struggle on their hands in trying to persuade progressives to back their candidate.
As regrettable as it is that McCain is likely to be the GOP nominee, watching Rudy’s self-paradoic self-immolation will provide considerable amusement. Elsewhere, I also have to ask how Giuliani’s strategy of running token campaigns in the first two states could possibly make any sense.
Whatever you think about his politics, you have got to give it to the man: he gives good speech.
As I turned to my distraction from inane television punditry, it occurred to me that we could see not only the first African-American president but the first NHL MVP of color in 2008. Clearly, Iginla was robbed of the ’02 MVP because of the grand cosmic plan! Everything is falling into place!
Seriously, even I skipped most of the first period to watch Obama’s speech, and I concur with the emerging consensus that it was superb. And not surprisingly so — it guarantees nothing, but he has the best political skills of any major Democrat since Bill Clinton. More generally, tonight’s events push me closer to being unambiguously pro-Obama. First, I think having lost Iowa Edwards can’t actually win; the best he can do is to stay strong enough to hand the race to Clinton, which remains the least desirable outcome. And second, his ability to mobilize new voters is a huge asset, especially since he’s also more progressive than the at least one of the two other major candidates.
And, of course I have to join Becks in saluting the U.S.’s supremely rational electoral system and the wisdom of giving the first vote to the fine citizens of Iowa…
So, unlike my compatriots, I’m keeping my political endorsements mum for now (though it’s safe to say that I won’t be supporting Hillary). But I do have a film endorsement.
Tonight, I skipped out on Iowa caucus coverage and went to see There Will be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s new…masterpiece. Brilliantly shot, taut. Brutal, really. In addition, you’ve got a mind-bogglingly good performance by Daniel Day-Lewis (when you’re watching him in this role, you can’t imagine him as any other character), and a brilliant score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Wow. And, I have to say, a more exciting evening than the Iowa returns (about which I will just say: Let’s hope Huckabee flares out even faster than Dean did in 2004).
Yes yes, the film says nothing about the state of American capitalism or political affairs. But – for once at least – I’m willing to put that aside, because it’s a damn good movie.
Obama wins in Iowa–good; hopefully Edwards will finish second. Huckabee wins the GOP, with Saint McCain currently running a distant 4th with 12%, behind Frederick of Hollywood. Which I’m sure won’t stop the inevitable narrative that this is a massive victory for the Straight Talkitude Express.
With the first caucus imminent, I guess it’s time for discussion about how we would like the primary to come out. And my answer is: it depends. To preface this, I should say that I think Clinton would be a pretty good president, and I also think she would be favored against anyone except McCain (alas, this is now looking like a big exception.) I would be happier with any of the major Dems than I was with Kerry in 2004, and I didn’t dislike Kerry. Certainly, Clinton would be infinitely preferable to any Republican opponent.
But. I can’t support her for the nomination for two reasons. The first can be summed up by Tom Tomorrow; her support for the Iraq War is both (as we saw in 2004) bad politics and bad on the merits, and anyone who thinks that Iraq isn’t going to be a major issue in 2008 is fooling themselves. The second was made well by Yglesias and Rosenfeld:
Liberal Democrats should want a nominee who is, in fact, a liberal. And liberals and moderates alike have should want a nominee who’s seen as a moderate by the median voter. Clinton, however, is a moderate who people think is a liberal. This is a terrible combination of qualities from almost every point of view — except, perhaps, for the faction of her advisers whose views are probably too right-wing to be associated with the Democratic presidential nominee, unless they can latch onto the one candidate both blessed and cursed with an undeserved reputation for liberalism. Well, bully for them. But liberals should open their eyes.
Given that there are at least two good alternatives, I just can’t see supporting a centrist candidate with a reputation as a liberal, and who also seems especially likely to mobilize what may otherwise be an undermotivated GOP base.
Since between Edwards and Obama I don’t have a strong preference, I would basically support whoever in my state had the best chance of beating Clinton. In the abstract, I would marginally prefer Edwards; he’s the best on domestic policy, although his vote for the war is a political problem (one he’s at least dealt with better than Clinton.) On the other hand, Obama seems to have a better chance to win the nomination, has formidable political skills, is more liberal than he’s perceived as being (which is what you want) and also seems to be much less hated by the press than the other two Dems. (I definitely wouldn’t bet on this to continue — especially if he’s running against St. McCain’s Straight Talkitude Express — but better uncertainty that someone we know the press will relentlessly savage all things being equal.) So knowing what I know now I would support Obama, but would happily shift to choice 1A if Edwards looks good after NH.
To reiterate, on the GOP side Romney is clearly the one to root for; he’s the least appallingly bad choice as president and would also be beaten like a rented Devil Ray in the general.
But that doesn’t mean the issue of the war should slip to the backburner of voters’ consciences and therefore become less important to the presidential campaigns, as has apparently happened.
I think the more the war is an issue, the better it is for the Dems. Not only that, but by ignoring the fact that the war is still a death-producing money pit, we enable it to continue as such.
In addition to Tom, I see that Josh Marshall — who, like me, had written off McCain’s candidacy long ago — now sees McCain as the favorite. Depressingly, I think this is right. Certainly, I agree with Josh that the GOP is now an effective two-man race between McCain and Romney, and you have to think that McCain has a good shot (although I also agree that Romney really shouldn’t be written off; he will be more acceptable to a lot of conservatives than McCain.) For reasons that Matt explains here, a McCain win would be very bad for the Dems: despite his moderate reputation he’s a fiscal and cultural reactionary with nutty foreign policy views, he has the best chance of winning of any major GOP candidate, and a McCain candidacy (especially if he’s matched up against Clinton or Edwards) would result in an anti-Democratic media bloodbath comparable to 2000. I’m definitely cheering for Romney tonight…