Thursday, September 27, 2007


Well, we're all having a lovely chuckle over this debate postmortem by William Kristol:

Last night, for the first time this election cycle, I watched a Democratic presidential debate. It was appalling. But it was also, in a way, encouraging. Before last night, I thought it was 50-50 that the Republican nominee would win in November 2008.

Now I think it's 2 to 1. And if the Democrat is anyone but Hillary, it's 4 to 1.

You're thinking, Is he nuts? -- except for the regular readers of this blog, who know that I agree with him that it's going to be an uphill struggle for the Democrats in the presidential race.

But it's not going to be because of anything he heard last night -- the GOP message framing/character assassination machine will kick in no matter what the nominee is saying. Also, the Democrats are utterly failing to impress upon the public that the Republican candidates are, in fact, Republicans, i.e., members of the exact same party as that guy they really can't stand, George W. Bush, with many of the exact same policies.

Kristol's summary of the Democrats' message sounds like pillow talk on a National Review cruise, but he gets off one zinger at the end:

Here, judging from the debate, is what the 2008 Democratic nominee is likely to be for. Abroad: ensuring defeat in Iraq and permitting a nuclear Iran. At home: more illegal immigration, higher taxes, more government control of health care, and more aggressive prosecution of the war on smoking than of the war on terror.

"More aggressive prosecution of the war on smoking than of the war on terror" -- that's such a brilliant idiot-baiting soundbite that I expect it to be woven into Rudy Giuliani's stump speeches by the weekend. (How the hell did that smoking question get into the debate, anyway? Did some GOP strategist whisper it in Russert's ear in anticipation of using it afterward in just this way?)

The dumbest thing Kristol says is this, about Hillary Clinton:

She's out of sync with her party. That means if she stumbles once, and the magic cloak of inevitability is torn, she could be finished. Obama and Edwards will pour everything they have into winning Iowa. The Iowa Democrats are dovish. What Obama and Edwards will say, over and over--when they go up with serious paid advertising--is that Hillary voted with Bush in October 2002 on Iraq (and has never apologized) and that on September 26, 2007, Hillary voted for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment that (allegedly) lays the predicate for military action against Iran. Hillary could well lose in Iowa. Then Hillary could well lose the nomination.

Er, Bill? Obama and Edwards have been saying just what you said about the Iraq vote all year. What's it gotten them? They're no closer to catching her than they were eight or nine months ago. Hillary's been quite adroit at seeming to voters like both a "sensible" centrist and a fervent war opponent. Why is she suddenly going to lose her mojo? She'll probably find a way to rhetorically finesse that Iran vote, too. And regarding that "serious paid advertising," er, what does Kristol think Hillary is going to be doing at the same time? Using sound trucks?

Kristol anticipates Hillary's defeat because he desperately needs to believe she can't win. Democrats can't nominate someone who's saying the things Hillary is saying -- if we do, his entire belief system will collapse, specifically the part about our intransigent wild-eyed radicalism and desperate craving for unilateral disarmament and forced mass conversions to Wahhabist Islam. I'm sure he's baffled that Dennis Kucinich isn't on a glide path to the nomination. Or Ward Churchill.

I'm sorry Hillary's strategy is working, but I'm not surprised. Maybe if Kristol had ever actually spoken to a Democrat, he'd understand what's going on.


UPDATE: Kevin Drum says more or less the same thing:

...the major Dems aren't promising to get out of Iraq because they don't think it's a winning position. Even in the Democratic primaries, they don't think it's a winning position.

...they've all apparently decided that taking a fuzzy withdrawal position isn't going to hurt them too badly. They don't think advocates of total withdrawal are going to punish them enough at the polls to make a bolder position necessary. Time will tell if they're right.

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