What should we expect as the campaign heats up in the final four months?
1. Follow the money. Both candidates, in a way unlike the 2008 campaign, are well-funded. Romney will probably match Obama dollar for dollar and, in fact, outraised him last month by several million. The super-PACS may prove for Romney, more than for Obama, a force-multiplier.
The significance of that money-raising parity transcends just tit-for-tit commercials, ads, and well-staffed campaign headquarters of the sort a McCain campaign simply could not afford. Obama’s forte is the open-air rally. In 2008 the more that the money poured in, the more Obama was freed to crisscross the country, doing his hope-and-change routine and warning hysterical crowds about fainting from ebullition.
But this time because both sides are roughly equally financed, Obama must continue with his record pace of private $40,000-$50,000-a-head fundraisers. This is not healthy for two reasons: one, it takes time away from his natural showmanship in the public arena (and to a lesser extent from being president); and, two, these Upper West Side and Santa Monica meet-and-greeters are at odds with the rhetoric of “fat cat bankers,” “corporate jet owners,” at some point you’ve made “enough money,” “not the time” to profit, and “spread the wealth.” Obama earns hypocrisy for shaking down capitalists whom he derides, while running the risk of hearing just that complaint from one or two upstart fat cats in his small crowds.
2. The polls. It is very important for Romney to run within 1-2 points in the polls for the next few months. That closeness forces out the real Obama—of the Chicago sort who used to sue to get opponents off the ballot or had his supporters leak rivals’ divorce records. In such a mode, it is not decorous for a president’s campaign to suggest that Romney probably committed a “felony,” or to claim that Bain Capital was a serial outsourcer in the sense that the U.S.-subsidized green industry or the space agency is not. In contrast, if Obama surges by 5 points or so, he will revert back to hope-and-change-II banalities; but, again, in a tight race we will see quite enough of the new-old, inner-Chicago Obama, a persona that he did not need to reveal from 2004-8.
3. Michelle Obama. The first lady’s poll numbers are high because she has been stateswoman-like when diverted from partisan politics since the late summer of 2008. But do we remember why she was marooned in the closing days of the 2008 race? Try “for the first time in my adult lifetime, i’m really proud,” “raise the bar,” “downright mean” country, “deign to” run, “…uniformed, uninvolved lives,” “our souls are broken”… and a host of other angry and usually incoherent denunciations.
Almost instinctively Michelle Obama reverts to the Chicago style when she goes into a partisan campaign mode. This week the frequenter of Costa del Sol, Martha’s Vineyard, and Vail, whose third-of-a-million-dollar job in Chicago was largely a political perk, was at a graduation address once again in monotonous 2008 fashion decrying “all the traditional markers of success — the fat paycheck, the fancy office, the impressive line on our resumes.” That class-warfare trope should go over well next week when she is begging still more of those with the fat paychecks and fancy offices to fork over $50,000 to make up for the lack of grassroots $10 and $20 donations. This year Michelle seems to have forgotten that the Obama strategy is not whipping up 10,000 devotees at a rally to send in $5 each to net $50,000, but rather to schmooze one Hollywood producer or Citibank navigator over foie gras to match what a stadium used to deliver.
At a political rally last week, she roared, “Multiply yourselves. … He needs you to keep making those calls, doing that hard work. Knocking on those doors. Treacherous work, right? … You know, that aren’t registered and you gotta get ‘em and shake ‘em. Find them, get them registered.”
What exactly does “treacherous” here mean? Or, for that matter, “multiply yourselves”?
If the first lady is sent out each day, I predict a repeat appearance of her anger of 2008, but in a year where there is now margin of error and she is first lady, not a partisan candidate’s wife. Do we remember her January 2012 Queen Gertrude pushback at a sympathetic biography, when she snapped that she was not “some kind of angry black woman.” The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
4. Race. Racial acrimony sadly is already rising. The more the growing irrelevance of race in society at large, the more the desperation of those careers that cannot continue without it. Rev. Wright, Obama pastor emeritus, last week was, in Alfred Rosenberg-fashion, bemoaning evil “white DNA.” I’ll pass on the NAACP convention other than to note that the media sought to accuse Romney of racism because he had the fortitude to give his plain message to an audience without pandering. Somehow skipping a sympathetic national NAACP meeting is expected, but venturing into a hostile crowd and trying to win it over with racially blind arguments to economic reason is racist. Suddenly, in the last month or so, everyone from Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, and James Earl Jones—fading careers all—to the Congressional Black Caucus have weighed in with charges of racism, and sometimes incoherently and in racialist fashion themselves. In the cases of Freeman and Rock, obsession with “white” has become a serial habit.
This is only the beginning. Expect a lot more brief suspensions at MSNBC or CNN as commentators indulge in racially polarizing smears. Eric Holder has already trumped “cowards,” “my people,” and the release of the Black Panthers with accusations that congressional inquirers were racist, as was the Arizona immigration law, as was asking for an ID to vote… as is about everything. And before October passes, “clingers,” “typical white person,” “punish our enemies,” and the quips about Skip Gates and Trayvon Martin will seem passé and mild. It is not going to be an easy thing to watch, because the no-win logic demands that voting for Obama in 2008 won racial redemption and voting against him in 2012 is proof of racism. End of story. Anything less than 45% of the white vote for Obama is proof of racism; more than 95% of the black vote for Obama is proof of sobriety and open-mindedness. Without evil white men behind the curtain with gears and pulleys, there is only disinterested judgment of the economic record that the Congressional Black Caucus and Barack Obama helped craft—one that has set back the inner city and race relations in general two decades.
We have an ugly summer ahead of us.
5. October surprise. This is an old charge against every incumbent, but we all know presidents facing reelection or impeachment can time foreign adventures at opportune times. Nixon went to high-defense alert during Watergate. Bill Clinton wagged the dog against terrorist targets during Monicagate. We never quite knew what both Carter was trying to do with Iran as his polls in the last two weeks slumped or what he accused the Reagan campaign of trying to do. The first siege of Fallujah was called off in 2004—only to be renewed after the election. Obama has already tipped his hand on Russia, with assurances that after the election he will do things he will not do now. And so on. I would expect a real chance for a preemptive strike against Iran, or perhaps even a few UN-approved lead-from-behind bombings in Syria—but only if Obama were 5 points or more behind in the polls and Putin gave him permission. The Right would rally to American soldiers under fire and the national interest, and, as we saw with renditions, preventative detentions, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, predators, and military tribunals, the Left worries only about supposedly anti-constitutional protocols and the use of military force as clubs to bash conservative presidents. The Left would complain about a strike on Iran about as much as they did an open Guantanamo or a 2,000+ Predator assassination tally—as former Bush (“torturer in chief”) critic Harold Koh would write yet another State Department legal brief reminding us that bombing the hell out of an opponent was not really a military operation. Bottom line: watch U.S. naval and air deployments in late September.
California A.D. 476 update:
After five years, I quit riding my rural tri-weekly rides and will confine them to the Sierra, as 14 days ago I was attacked and bitten by dogs on a major rural avenue—no licenses, no vaccinations, no leashes, and presumed owners had no English and no apparent worries over their unleashed pets—and am waiting patiently for the animal control officers to tell me the biters are still tied up and still healthy and that I don’t have to go through rabies shots. Time to accept these landscapes of my half-century remembrance are forever changed.
While driving back from postmodern Palo Alto on this week’s trip, I zoomed over Pacheco Pass and heard these two tragedies on radio as I entered our premodern Valley. I had been listening to Bay Area accounts of Joe Biden warning the NAACP about voter ID laws, the supposedly new poll tax, when more familiar valley radio news came on.
You see, in our environs the issue is not that residents should have to show driver’s licenses to vote, but rather whether they need to have licenses at all to drive—with tragically fatal results for anyone on foot or in a wheelchair unfortunate enough to be caught in their reckless paths. Here are two items I heard last Thursday; both show the indifference to driver’s licenses in the new California (emphases below added):
Alleged hit-and-run driver faces charges including murder.
By Eddie Jimenez – The Fresno Bee
Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2012 | 07:11 AM
The hit-and-run driver who allegedly killed a construction worker on Highway 99 in Fresno early Wednesday is suspected of being intoxicated and was driving with a suspended license because of a prior DUI conviction, according to Fresno County jail booking records.
Alyssa Marie Villanueva, 26, of Fresno is accused of driving her car into a closed area to pass slower traffic about 2 a.m. as a construction crew was resurfacing a stretch of the northbound lanes of the highway near Clinton Avenue, the California Highway Patrol said.
Regan Johnson, 24, of Reedley died in the crash, the Fresno County Coroner’s Office said.
Johnson’s hit-and-run death has her co-workers mourning the loss of a young woman who was “a good employee and nice person,” the company’s owner said…
Villanueva was arrested late Wednesday morning after Fresno police received an anonymous call about a car matching the description of the one involved in the crash. Police and CHP officers found the car at an apartment complex on Ashlan Avenue just east of Valentine Avenue, less than a mile from the hit-and-run scene. CHP officer Sean Duncan said Villanueva lives at the complex.
He said she was driving alone in the 2007 dark gray Nissan Altima at the time of the crash.
Villanueva faces charges of murder, driving while intoxicated causing death, hit and run, and driving with a suspended license because of a prior DUI conviction, according to jail booking records.
Her bail is just over $1 million.
Her stepfather, Antonio Rios, 40, of Fresno, is accused of draping a cover over the car to try and conceal it, Duncan said. Rios was booked at the jail for the formal charge, resisting a police officer. He was later released.
Johnson, a traffic control specialist, was moving cones when she was hit, Telfer said. She was a seasonal worker for Windsor Fuel Co., which had contracted with Caltrans for the highway project. Windsor is a division of Telfer’s company, based in Martinez in the Bay Area.
Johnson had worked for Windsor for the past two years, Telfer said. Her supervisor, Trevor Dormire, knew Johnson and her family, and hired her.
“It’s particularly tragic for him,” Telfer said…
By Jim Guy – The Fresno Bee
Thursday, Jul. 12, 2012 | 07:35 AM
A Cutler man faces charges of misdemeanor manslaughter after a fatal collision involving his SUV and a wheelchair in Orosi on Tuesday, the California Highway Patrol said.
The collision happened about 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of Highway 63 and Miller Avenue. The CHP said the 86-year-old victim was crossing Highway 63 from west to east in the wheelchair as Julio Dominguez, 52, of Cutler was northbound on the highway at a speed of 35 mph in a Jeep Cherokee. Dominguez apparently did not see the wheelchair until his 8-year-old grandson shouted, “Watch out!”
The CHP said Dominguez panicked and stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake and slammed into the wheelchair, throwing the victim, a resident of Orosi. The victim was taken to Community Regional Medical Center, where he died. The CHP said that Dominguez was also cited for driving without a license.
Animae eorum et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace …
And God help us all as the world out here struggles with a new uncertain age.