Saturday, September 6, 2008

Charles Krauthammer Swings & Misses

This political season has seen more curve balls than a well pitched baseball game. No one could have predicted all the twists and turns we’ve seen. Few if any of the pundits have foreseen even some of the twists. Few saw Obama upsetting the expected coronation of Hillary. None saw the triumph of McCain. And very few indeed foresaw McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Stepping up to the plate to give his incredible analytical skills and prognosticating abilities a swing is Charles Krauthammer. He sees a fastball coming at him - and whiffs completely when it turns out to have a 3 foot curve.

Charles Krauthammer sees McCain’s choice of Gov. Palin for V.P. as “suicidal” because, according to Krauthammer, it totally undercuts what heretofore has been McCain’s main message. That message has been that you should vote for McCain because he is far more experienced than Obama and that Obama is a dangerously na├»ve:

What's left of this line of argument, however, after John McCain picks Sarah Palin for vice president?

Palin is an admirable and formidable woman. She has energized the Republican base and single-handedly unified the Republican convention behind McCain. She performed spectacularly in her acceptance speech. Nonetheless, the choice of Palin remains deeply problematic.

It's clear that McCain picked her because he had decided that he needed a game-changer. But why? He'd closed the gap in the polls with Obama. True, that had more to do with Obama sagging than McCain gaining. But what's the difference? You win either way.

Read the entire article.

Krauthammer assumes that the choice of Palin was made from a position of perceived weakness. I disagree. As Krauthammer makes clear, McCain was not, objectively, in a position of weakness. To the contrary, this was a bold move of the kind I would expect from McCain whether he was down 10 points or up 10 points. What Sarah Palin does is completely change the dynamics of the race – and as importantly to McCain, the dynamics of the future of the Republican Party. McCain didn’t need a game-changer, he wanted one and saw the opportunity. He is not coming to the Presidency to stamp his name in the history books. He is coming to the Presidency to write the history.

And just because McCain has chosen in Palin a person with no foreign policy experience to be second on the ticket hardly means that he has ceded the experience argument. True, making the bald statement “I am more experienced than my opponent” will no longer be viable. But that argument has a poor history of working anyway. It certainly didn’t work for Jimmy Carter against Reagen and it didn’t work for George Bush Sr. against Clinton.

That said, in most of McCain’s arguments, his greater experience will be an integral part. For example, as McCain said in his speech the other day, he is the only one of he and Obama that has fought for change and the only one of the two who “has the scars to prove it.” And when McCain faces off with Obama in the debates, I expect him to hammer home his vastly greater experience. How will Obama respond – “true, but I am at least experienced as your VP pick?” That would be suicidal. There is simply no way Obama, in the debates, can claim that experience matters and start criticizing McCain's VP pick. It is a catch-22 of titanic proportions.

Charles Krauthammer is a brilliant man, but his thinking on this is linear. McCain has gone far outside of the box, hurting himself slightly, helping himself significantly, and setting the mother of all traps for Obama.

Krauthammer concludes his article, stating:

“McCain has one hope. It is suggested by the strength of Palin's performance Wednesday night. In a year of compounding ironies, the McCain candidacy could be saved, and the Palin choice vindicated, by one thing: Palin pulls an Obama.”

The situation is not that dire. I agree that if Palin actually falls flat on her face between now and the election, McCain may well be toast. That said, if she comports herself well and has no major gaffes that make her appear weak, than she need not pull off an Obama. McCain still has the experience argument to carry the ticket around the bases and across the plate.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Your analogy with sport (is baseball a sport? - only US citizen can answer this one) is excellent. After all, predictions of Krauthammer's kind have more or less the same chances to be right as in sport.

Nothing to it, in short.

Dinah Lord said...

I was so surprised that Charles was being so tone deaf about McCain's choice of Palin. He usually gets it right.

suek said...

I think he - among others - have not recognized the implications of the 80% who have answered the opinion polls with "no" on the question of whether they thought the country was going in the right direction. The polls - and the pols - thought the answers said one thing, but they were saying another.
There's been deep discontent with the direction the country has been taking, but Sarah heard what the people were _really_ saying and hit it out of the ball park!

Gary Bonner said...

Well said Dinah and Sue. As a Baby Boomer male I believe American women have a better feel for the tempo of Main Street America. Your identification with Sarah Palin demonstrates how her view resonates with everyday people.

I agree that Krauthammer struck out with bases loaded on this one. (Yes Snoopy, baseball is a sport, its America's Pastime... Google it and take in some Americana).

Krauthammer has a amazing ability to pinpoint Washington politics. What he fails to perceive is that Sarah Palin is not about the Beltway. As Wolf said, McCain has created a new paradigm that has could be a seminal moment in American history.

Wolf, you nailed it when you said that Krauthammer's thinking is too linear to absorb the new landscape. Linear thinking is becoming an epidemic in this empirically based society.

Kudos for stepping up and giving voice to a view held by many people.