Column for 19 October, 2008

“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?”

                                                                                                            –Ecclesiastes 8:7


George W. Bush has cost John McCain the presidency twice now.  In 2000, it was with a Karl Rove smear campaign, including a nasty whisper in South Carolina insinuating that McCain had fathered an African-American child out of wedlock.  In 2008, Bush’s toxic unpopularity has become a giant anchor, dragging McCain (and pretty much the entire Republic Party) down to defeat.  In a way, I can sympathize with McCain’s plight.  Of all the GOP candidates for president, he least deserves to be smeared as a tool of Bush.  Until he decided to run for president again, McCain was a fairly outspoken critic of the Administration, while Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney did everything short of having Bush legally adopt them.  As recently as 2004, McCain apparently seriously considered becoming John Kerry’s running mate.  Of course, McCain knew that the rapidly dwindling Republican base would dominate the primaries and for them, Bush was God’s anointed president.  So he had to swallow his pride and (literally) embrace a man who, I think it is safe to say, he despises, maybe even more than he despises Barack Obama.  And now McCain is poised to take a historic whupping from Obama, the candidate who is as lucky as McCain is unlucky.  For all the Right Wing’s grousing about Obama as a rock star they disparage as the “Obamessiah,” the freshman Senator has actually run a methodical, tightly-focused campaign with a truly astonishing grassroots ground game that has him poised to win not just all of the battleground states, but also historically Republican strongholds like Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana.  In fact, I would say that you can predict how election night will go based on just the first two of those states; if Obama carries Virginia, he wins. If he carries North Carolina, he wins in a landslide.  My prediction is that he’ll get around 300 electoral votes, shy of a landslide, and a popular vote margin of three to five percentage points.  I’ll go further and predict that between November 4 and January 20, we will see an orgy of pardons the like of which has never even been imagined before, as Bush pardons everyone from Dick Cheney down to the guy who empties the wastepaper basket in the Oval Office.  In fact, if Bush actually resigned on January 19 so that Cheney could pardon him, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.  Expect the kind of exit that will make the Clintons’ last days look positively dignified by comparison as Bush issues executive orders classifying as top secret anything he has ever read, had read to him, look at, dreamt about or thought about in the last eight years.  Some sort of status of forces agreement with Iraq will be signed as an “executive agreement,” not subject to Senate ratification, which obligates America to continue to occupy that country for the next 1,500 years.  Any endangered species will be added to the Axis of Evil and oil drilling will commence on Mount Rushmore.  Beyond that, expect the Republic Party to spend the next four years going through the sort of soul-searching navel-gazing usually reserved for Democrats.  Already, the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus has been laying the foundations for the Great Excuse: McCain wasn’t a “real” conservative, the Liberal Media brainwashed America, ACORN stole the election, Obama used his secret mind-control powers.  I can easily see a scenario where the GOP guarantees Obama’s re-election in 2012 by nominating a Goldwater-style “choice not an echo” far Right Wing candidate, maybe even Sarah Palin.  The major factions that make up the party—theocrats, plutocrats, and neocons—will be at each others’ throats, with the neocons losing because nearly all of the population now agrees that permanent global war was probably not a good idea.  The theocrats (motto: “Jesus loves me and hates you”) may finally decide they’ve had enough and form their own, doomed marginal party, thus depriving the plutocrats of their best argument (“Jesus loves me and hates the capital gains tax”).  This seems less likely to me, since the theocrats control the grassroots of the party and would thus be hard to dislodge and they are more likely to displace the plutocrats, who have become somewhat unpopular due to the ongoing Bush Depression.  I will go further and predict that every single one of the Republicans who spent the last eight years arguing that George W. Bush should have powers like unto a pharaoh, will spend the next four years arguing that Barack Obama is a dangerous, power-mad dictator.  The rump Republican faction in Congress will wage guerilla warfare, attempting to bring Capitol Hill to a standstill, especially if Democrats manage to get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (60 votes).  Obama will prove to be more of a centrist than his most ardent followers hope and Republicans fear.  His options in Iraq will be severely limited by a desire to avoid a Saigon moment, with helicopters evacuating American personnel from our gold-plated embassy as Baghdad collapses all around them.  His options at home will be limited by the ongoing financial meltdown and the staggering cost of Bush’s Wall Street welfare bailout that seems to be worse by the day.  Take all of this crystal-ball gazing with a grain of salt; I am the guy who predicted the big Tom Harkin landslide of 1988, after all.  On the other hand, I’ve said for some time now that I pity the person who has to put his hand on the Bible come inauguration day.  In the final analysis, John McCain may be the lucky one after all.

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 4:10 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. 1. I don’t think McCain despises Obama at all. In fact I think he’s treated him far more decently than any recent Republican nominee has treated his Democratic rival.

    2. Yes, it’s a given that the right-wing spin of this defeat will be that McCain wasn’t conservative enough, and yes, that will likely mean a more conservative candidate in 2012, though I think Palin now has about as much chance of winning that nomination as Quayle did in 1996 and beyond.

    3. I think you’re right about Obama likely proving to be more of a centrist than his critics and supporters believe, but I’m still dubious about the prospect of a “Saigon moment” in Iraq. I don’t completely believe that the surge has bought any kind of stable long-term success in Iraq, but I do think there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic (as apparently even Obama now is), and it’s important to point out (again) that the evacuation of Saigon was precipitated by a conventional army occupying a capital, not by insurgents or terrorists suddenly “winning.” The two situations are very different. I think Obama’s unnatural good luck may very well spare him the tough decision on Iraq that everyone once expected the next president to have to make. It will be far from the democratic and peaceful Shangrila in the Middle East that this foolish administration once prophesied, but neither will it be (I predict) the hopeless vortex of doom that the worst critics prophesied either.

  2. I will agree that McCain has been far more genteel with Obama than I would have imagined, though some of this may be a fear of being labelled a racist. His body language during the debates, though, made it look pretty clear to me that he holds “that one” in utter contempt. Of course, McCain seems to be contemptuous of all his opponents, so I don’t know that he is singling Obama out. As for Obama’s luck holding out in Iraq, let us hope so.

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