Saturday, May 31, 2008

Race for the White House- 5/31/08

I am still feeling sorta anti-formal paragraphs, as I am finding this way too tedious for some reason (and I still have to get around to that pesky final American Idol 2008 wrap-up one day), so instead I will present some of the developments in this week's Presidential politics in a very cursory form.

Sunday- Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr wins nomination of Libertarian Party on the sixth ballot. While Barr was once a bombastic conservative Republican, he has since claimed to have changed his positions on several key foreign policy and social issues to put himself more in line with libertarian thinking. While Barr and his runningmate, Wayne Allyn Root, also a former Republican, could conceivably hurt John McCain and the GOP ticket in November, depending on how many state ballots they are able to gain access to, the jury is still out that Barr will have the appeal or the campaign warchest to really do significantly better than past Libertarian candidates have. The fact that it took such a divided convention for Barr to prevail, plus the fact that many more traditional LP members have expressed signficant reservations about his candidacy, his ultimate impact may be muted.

On Monday, Barack Obama had an interesting Memorial Day, in which he made a couple of noticed gaffes at a campaign event in New Mexico. For starters, he made an awkward statement that suggested he might have had the holiday where the war dead are honored somewhat confused with Veterans' Day. But more signifcant was the fact that during his speech, he for the first time made a statement about an uncle having taken part in the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camps during World War II. The problem though was that Auschwitz, the most recognized name of the Nazi death campaign was actually liberated by troops from the Soviet Union's Red Army. The Obama campaign eventually released a statement saying that the Senator simply misspoke and that it was actually his great-uncle who had taken part in the libertation of another Nazi work campaign facility in a different country. Conservative bloggers and radio talk show hosts were given much fodder by these statements, and may still be checking into if Obama did indeed have a great-uncle who might have been in a position to have done such a thing.

Throughout the course of the week, presumed major party nominees, McCain and Barack Obama continued their war of dueling statements on several matters, but most significantly on the new line of attack for the McCain campaign that points out the fact that Obama has not visited Iraq since 2006 and before the surge began. Republicans believe they can do some political damage to Obama by talking about his willingness to meet with foreign dictators without pre-conditions while not having been willing for so long to meet with General Petraeus. McCain, who has travelled to Iraq on several occasions, even suggested that he and Obama travel to the country together in order to meet with troops, commanders, and survey the situation. The Obama campaign responded by calling that a political stunt but now are seeming to suggest that their candidate may indeed visit Iraq, without McCain, sometime this summer. Such a move indicates that McCain may have gotten the better out of the exchange this weekend. One small point for Obama may have occured when he criticized McCain for sending out a fundraising email featuring Gen. Petraeus, in uniform, shaking hands with McCain. The McCain campaign has even conceded that was a mistake. Look for the GOP campaign to also push the point that Obama happens to be the chairman of a Senate committee with oversight jurisdiction over the war in Afghanistan, but that Obama has not called a single meeting. National tracking polls this week show that McCain may have had the better one.

The big news occurred today though on a couple of fronts, as the DNC Committee on Rules and Bylaws met in Washington D.C. and dissapointed the flickering hopes of Hillary Clinton by ruling that while the full delegations of Florida and Michigan will be seated at the convention after all, delegates will only be granted half a vote. While this does change the preverbial goalposts of what is needed to clinch the nomination, and nominally helps Clinton at the moment, it is not expected to be nearly enough to deny Obama the nomination. The DNC meeting was quite disorganized and raucous at times and Clinton supporters were clearly up in arms with the final outcome. Associates of the Clinton campaign were quick to express their dismay and threatened to take the fight all the way to the floor of the Democrat National Convention this summer in Denver.

The Obama campaign and Democrat party bigwigs are clearly intersted in a greater level of unity and the formal beginning of a general election campaign though. Tomorrow, voters in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico go to the polls, and Clinton is expected to win there. However on Tuesday, the final two contests of the 2008 Presidential primary season will take place in Montana and South Dakota, and Obama is expected by most to win both states. On Tuesday evening, he is expected to informally lay claim to the Democrats' nomination and many feel that by this time next week, Hillary Clinton will be a former candidate. That could very well be the case, but based on the statements made today at the DNC meeting, such a move by the Clintons, after all the years or planning and months of active campaigning for a nomination to which they felt they were entitled, is far from a certainty. Hillary did spend some time chatting with campaign reporters and being photographed aboard her airplane this week where it has been implied that she was "feeling no pain", indicating that perhaps the Clintons are coming to terms with it being about over.

The other big news of the week involved Obama's Chicago church which was visited last Sunday by well known Chicago priest and street activist, Rev. Michael Pfleger, a longtime Obama friend and associate. In Pfleger's guest sermon, he severely mocked Hillary Clinton and implied that she was hysterial about the Obama candidacy due to racial issues, to the delight of the church audience. After the clips made their way to YouTube, Pfleger apologized to those who were offended, Clinton and McCain both strongly denounced the remarks, and Obama himself distanced himself from them. But the fact that it was more fodder regarding Obama's chuch experience clearly was seen as something that was taking too much of a political toll, as today, it became known that Obama has decided this week to resign his membership from Trinity United Church of Christ.

All of the controversies surrounding Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger pretty much has placed Obama in a no-win situation, and it is hard to see how this does not remain a part of the campaign narrative, even as he now shops for a new church. It will be interesting to see how both Obama's critics and Obama's friends react to such a move, and whether it is seen by political foes and friends alike as anything other than a move of political convenience, after having spent twenty years worshipping under Wright at the church.

Of course my statements here come from a Republican perspective, and I am not trying to claim otherwise, but I am going to point out how interesting it is to see the latest moves from the candidate who once subtly insulted people who wear lapel flag pins and made a point out of claiming he does not wear one, and how all of a sudden he is wearing one all the time now. The same candidate who has not gone to Iraq in two years and criticized John McCain for suggesting he do so, but now appears to be prepared to fold to the pressure and make a detour from the campaign trail to do so this summer, and the same candidate who said in a Democrat primary debate that he would meet without pre-conditions with the President of Iran and other controversial world leaders during his first year as President, now talking about that there would be pre-conditions after all. The list could go on and on, but the latest now certainly involves the fact that Obama claimed pretty recently he could no longer disown Rev. Wright or the church he belonged to, any more than he could his own grandmother or the black community itself, now having decided that the political heat had become great enough where he made a formal split with Wright a few weeks back, and now has left the church all-together after having suggested that Wright was but an aberration on his experience at the church and that things would be somewhat less inflammatory without him in the pulpit.

Expect the issue of Obama's judgment and firmness of resolve to continue to be a major issue of discussion in the weeks and months ahead, whether he is formally the last Democrat standing by the end of next week or not...

And I guess I kind of did the whole paragraph thing anyway....


At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course my statements here come from a Republican perspective, and I am not trying to claim otherwise, but I am going to point out how interesting it is to see the latest moves from the candidate..."

And I am going to point out how interesting it is for a Mitt Romney fan to be complaining about Barack Obama allegedly flip-flopping. Can we all say "hypocrisy?"


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