Patterico's Pontifications

8/4/2008

A Punditocracy Debate I Would Like To See — Andrew Sullivan v. Paul Mirengoff (Powerline)

Filed under: General — WLS @ 1:36 pm



Posted by WLS:

Andrew Sullivan returned from a two week vacation yesterday, and very quickly had with this post up, which Dean Barnett had a little fun with here over at the Weekly Standard Blog.  A sample from Sullivan’s post:

Yes, the last couple of weeks of the campaign, even from my remote perch, were pretty uninspiring on the GOP side…. Obama’s fortnight was an objectively miraculous one: Maliki and then (almost) Bush endorsed his withdrawal timetable from Iraq (game, set and match to BO), he conducted himself with foreign leaders flawlessly, burnished his international rep, and proved the force of his soft power potential. (By the way, 200,000 in Berlin was less, it seems to me, about the celebrity of Obama than about the disaster of Bush-Cheney. Obama is the vehicle for the world’s hope for the return of the America they remember.)

You’d hardly know that the guy went from being +9 a week ago to pretty much a statistical tie now.

But this is simply in perfect tune with Sullivan’s entire analysis of the campaign so far.  Sullivan has written dozens of posts over the past few months which have the same basic point — every move or shift on a policy position by Obama reflects a brilliant strategy on his part to close the policy ground between he and McCain so that the ultimate decision facing the electorate is really one the reflects a generational choice between continuing the politics of the country that have been in place for the past 16 years,  or a new beginning of hopienss and changiness.     

Now consider this analysis of the Obama campaign strategy by Paul Mirengoff over at Powerline:

Obama pulled his remarkable upset over Hillary Clinton by running a messianic campaign and by invoking race-based sympathy when the Clintons tried to bring him down to earth. This approach was perfectly tailored to defeating Hillary. To upset the strong presumptive nominee, Obama had to (1) come off as something extra special and (2) win the black vote by huge margins. The “chosen one” theme helped accomplish the first goal; the backlash against the Clintons when they challenged that theme helped accomplish the second. Even so, Obama limped to the finish line, as the messianic theme began to wear thin and Bill Clinton stopped playing into Obama’s hands on race.

Having locked up the nomination, Obama understood that he would need to tack towards the center on substance, and he has done so with breathtaking cynicism. As to his style, however, Obama seemed to believe that no change was called for. The idea (a not entirely implausble one) was that his personal charisma coupled with some moderation on key issues would represent an unbeatable combination.

Recent events, however, have raised serious doubts on this score. Obama’s trip abroad was a good test. The candidate turned on the style and received a bump in the polls. But the backlash against the arrogance and pretentiousness of the enterprise seems to have more than offset the initial boost in popularity. Swing voters apparently aren’t looking for the messiah this year, at least they are not for someone who plays that part on tv.

Moreover, invoking race after being made fun of was plainly a bad idea. Many Democratic primary voters respond like Pavlov’s dogs to claims of victimhood, especially if race is involved. The rest of the population is inclined to weigh the merits. Since McCain has not come close to attacking Obama on racial grounds, Obama’s use of the race card fell flat.

As an outsider and an underdog, Obama could not have won the nomination running as a generic Democrat. But his best bet for winning the general election in this year’s pro-Democrat environment is to present himself as precisely that.

The calculus could hardly be more straightforward. Yet old habits sometimes die hard, especially if those habits emanate from deep within a candidate’s psyche. It’s one thing for Obama to trim on the issues; for him they don’t seem to matter much. It may be prove quite another thing for him to trim on his self image.

Sullivan is continuing to analyze Obama’s campaign tactics as if he’s still trying to persuade DEMOCRATS that he’s the best candidate to be President.  All the hopiness and changiness that they liked so much as an alternative to more Clintonianism is perfectly tailored for him to win the overwhelming support of the loyalists in the Democrat party.

But that’s not where the votes he needs to win are to be found.  His message of victimhood and “dirty politics” aren’t going to win him votes among independents, especially when the charges against McCain are baseless. 

One of the best things about an eventual McCain victory will simply be to read the rationalizations that Sullivan will have to trot out to explain it.

70 Responses to “A Punditocracy Debate I Would Like To See — Andrew Sullivan v. Paul Mirengoff (Powerline)”

  1. Sullivan is continuing to analyze Obama’s campaign tactics as if he’s still trying to persuade DEMOCRATS that he’s the best candidate to be President.

    Good. About 20% of the HIllary supporters need such convincing…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  2. WLS,

    Good post.

    “..close the policy ground between he and McCain..” should read “..between him and McCain..”.

    K Hays (c703c9)

  3. But that’s not where the votes he needs to win are to be found. His message of victimhood and “dirty politics” aren’t going to win him votes among independents, especially when the charges against McCain are baseless.

    Well said. Obama and his advisers are smart enough to realize this but I hope they can’t bring themselves to act on it until it’s too late.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  4. I think we already know what the manic – depressive Brit will say 24/7, if McCain pulls off a victory: as JD has so eloquently stated in the past, “you’re all racists!”

    Dmac (82935d)

  5. We already know the excuses and rationalizations that will emanate from the Left. Racists.

    JD (5f0e11)

  6. Sullivan: “objectively miraculous”

    — LMAO! I just might need to make that my new screen name.

    Icy Truth (ca1185)

  7. My guess is that Sullivan is supporting BO because BO supports gay marriage, an issue which seems to be worth about a post per day for Sullivan. Just wait until BO changes his mind on this as he has on just about everything else. Hell hath no fury….

    Keep Our Politics Clean!!!

    Say No To BO In 08!!!!

    BT (78b929)

  8. BT – Like every other issue, Baracky’s position on same sex marriage is … muddled.

    JD (5f0e11)

  9. All I can say is that I finally stopped reading Sullivan– and deleted his bookmark– when he couldn’t be bothered to take a break from tongue-bathing Obama’s genitals for two seconds to note that Tony Snow had passed.

    It’s fine to call out your own side (supposedly in Sully’s case, the conservative/Republican side) when you think they’re fundamentally wrong. Sullivan has gone so far AWOL however, he’s become delusional. He doesn’t want to fix the Republican party; he wants to eradicate it, all for what he terms the unforgivable sins of GWB and his cabinet.

    ‘Debating’ the likes of Sullivan (even if he would agree to it, which of course he wouldn’t– he’d just say he doesn’t debate ‘war criminals’) would probably be about as productive as ‘debating’ your two-year-old nephew as to why he got his lolly taken away for behaving badly.

    qdpsteve (bfa2ca)

  10. objectively

    He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  11. “A’lo — my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, now prepare to die.”

    WLS (26b1e5)

  12. There won’t be much “tongue-bathing” possible once Rev. Jackson reestablishes his relevance.

    Icy Truth (ca1185)

  13. I don’t understand why people still read or watch Sullivan when he’s on TV. As one wag quipped, he’s like Keith Olbermann with an accent.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  14. Sullivan’s entire analysis of the campaign so far

    Point of order.

    Sullivan does not “analyze”.

    Sullivan emotes.

    That’s the elemental difference between his post and Mirengoff’s.

    BC (abe920)

  15. Actually, the best explanation of Sullivan is in one word:

    mancrush

    That’s really all there is to it. Look at the language he uses in describing a guy who doesn’t seem to stand for much of anything as time goes on…other than a certainty of his own excellence.

    In that, Sullivan and BO are peas in a pod.

    Eric Blair (2708f4)

  16. My vote for John McCain is about 60% against Barack and 10% for John McCain. A good third of it is based solely on the fun I will have as the Left’s collective head explodes in their rage.

    Britt (0f32fe)

  17. I, for one, don’t care why you vote for McCain as long as you do vote for him.

    Icy Truth (ca1185)

  18. Another good thing about Sullivan is that he doesn’t allow comments on his posts. Check out the regular commenters’ contributions to other “Atlantic Voices” bloggers, eg. Ross Douthat and Megan McArdle. If you want to take a bath about now, that is. I made a mild and (I thought) polite set of comments chez Douthat a couple of weeks back, and was promptly called out as…

    …(any guesses?)…

    … a racist!

    AMac (c822c9)

  19. A potential book for you obamatards to derive some talking points is a booked pointed out by zombie of zombietime.com, “Why America is Afriad of the Black Penis”.
    Kind of amusing how leftard NY Times columnist Bob Herbert is seeing racist phallic symbols in McCain campaign ads. The two phallic pieces are the Leaning Tower of Pisa and The Washington Monument, except it ia actually the Victory Column in Berlin.
    Lovetard666 accuses me of racism and making sexual innuendos regarding Obambi’s fans and his genitalia, but it seems to me that the left is obsessed with race and getting their jollies fantasizing about barry hussein. Hey love, would Obama;s genetic backgroubd give him an endowment based on his racial percentages? Would he be mor like whitey wannabe Mikey Jackson or first black potus with the crooked puny pork, Bubba Clinton? Olberdouche and Chrissie Matthews wish to know.

    madmax333 (0c6cfc)

  20. I, for one, don’t care why you vote for McCain as long as you do vote for him.

    You just want a new Senator…

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  21. madmax333 #19,

    Doesn’t look like you are calibrating the tone of your comments to persuade any fence-sitters.

    McCain is not an angel (or is he?) And Obama isn’t a devil (or is he?) Last I checked, this was politics. Two underwhelming candidates. It’s happened before and probably will again.

    My two cents.

    AMac (c822c9)

  22. I want Representative Jeff Flake (R – AZ District 6), the most tireless crusader against earmarks in the entire US Congress to be elevated to Senator.

    http://flake.house.gov/

    — Check it out. Every week he reports on an earmark so egregious it will elicit a hair-pulling response.

    Icy Truth (ca1185)

  23. Icy Truth,

    I like Flake but do you think he could win in an Arizona Senate race? I don’t know Arizona politics but it seems like the voters are either very left or very right. I figure Flake represents a conservative part of the State but that he might have problems in a state-wide race.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  24. I, for one, don’t care why you vote for McCain as long as you do vote for him.

    You just want a new Senator…

    Comment by Drumwaster — 8/4/2008 @ 3:21 pm

    Drumwaster wins the thread! A whole other reason to vote for McCain – we get a new senator!

    JSinAZ (cf747e)

  25. Frankly, I have forgotten the process to select a new senator once the incumbent is elected president. Is there a temporary appointment from the state govenor, or a special election? The politics of the two situations could look very, very different…

    JSinAZ (cf747e)

  26. Is there a temporary appointment from the state govenor, or a special election?

    The former, in most States, but the COTUS says that “[w]hen vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.” (Amendment XVII)

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  27. JMHO, but we should repeal the 17th Amendment.

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  28. You just want a new Senator…

    Using that logic, I should be offering people money to vote for Obama, even though our suspected felon of a Gov. would appoint Jesse Jackson Jr. to Obama’s seat…

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  29. All I can say is that I finally stopped reading Sullivan– and deleted his bookmark– when he couldn’t be bothered to take a break from tongue-bathing Obama’s genitals for two seconds to note that Tony Snow had passed.

    You lasted that long? I’m impressed.

    Anon (db8e0c)

  30. Sorry, I was being incredibly lazy, and asked instead of researched; from the Arizona constitution:

    “Section 17. There shall be a primary and general election as prescribed by law, which shall provide for nomination and election of a candidate for United States senator and for representative in congress when a vacancy occurs through resignation or any other cause.”

    .

    So there would be a general election, not an appointment. It’s hard to suppose what the mood of the electorate might be at the time the election would be held, but Jeff Flake would have a good chance among the usual AZ demographic of highly-motivatated off-year voter (think “Sun City Republican” for the archetype).

    JSinAZ (cf747e)

  31. Thanks, JS.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  32. Speculations, speculations, speculations. When does it end. A point of order. The reason why Obama’s numbers on the polls went down was not that people were not proud of him as seeming presidential. It was because all the while he was away, John McCain and his team were involved in negative campaigning. Because they were afraid the trip would make him look good and detract attention from McCain, they had to do everything to stop that. Negative campaigning, as bad and as distasteful they seem, they work and the republicans know it. And since they have nothing more to offer except to attack and condemn, they use it maximally. My advice to Obama is that he should stop playing Mr Nice Guy with these people. It’s time he takes the battle back to their gates. Offense is the best defense. He must not wait to be attacked so as to defend himself. He must go on the attack. He must not continue to allow the Reps to make this campaign about him, as though he was the sitting President who is responsible for how bad things have gotten. He should make this campaign about George Bush. About 80% of Americans think the economy is doing badly. And just about that number think Bush has not done well. That is what this year’s election is about. It’s about change from the status quo. He should continue to make the case that McCain is a continuation of Bush’s failed leadership. He must seize the opportunity created by the depression people feel and turn it into his campaign. If he is able to continue the attack on Bush, and link McCain to it, he would put the Reps in a defensive mode and nobody wins in a defensive mode.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  33. It was because all the while he was away, John McCain and his team were involved in negative campaigning.

    Then why did the numbers top out after he got back, and only then start dropping like a dead pigeon?

    My advice to Obama is that he should stop playing Mr Nice Guy with these people. It’s time he takes the battle back to their gates. Offense is the best defense.

    Absolutely! Obama needs to be as offensive as possible.

    If he is able to continue the attack on Bush

    Here’s an idea. Why not, y’know, actually address the issues being brought up by the guy who is actually running for office, instead of focusing on the guy who has already beaten the best you have to offer – twice! – and making the entire Democratic Congress his prison bitch over Iraq for the past two years?

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  34. The reason why Obama’s numbers on the polls went down was not that people were not proud of him as seeming presidential. It was because all the while he was away, John McCain and his team were involved in negative campaigning.

    Fortunately for Obama, this will be McCain’s only negative advertizing of the campaign.

    My advice to Obama is that he should stop playing Mr Nice Guy with these people.

    I suppose when Obama spent the summer saying McCain was a continuation of “the failed policies of George Bush” and implied McCain was going to use in racist tactics a month ago, that was an example of him being Mr. Nice Guy.

    Anon (db8e0c)

  35. It takes either a lot of ignorance of McCain or a lot of gall to claim that McCain is a continuation of Bush.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  36. Fortunately, the Dems have plenty of both!

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  37. #35
    Well welcome to politics. It gets ugly.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  38. You know, it’s like the Democrats are engaging in reverse psychology. To hear the left’s description of McCain, I almost forget all the stuff he’s done to p*ss Republicans off over the years.

    Anon (db8e0c)

  39. Well welcome to politics. It gets ugly.

    Quite possibly the most clueless thing you’ve disgorged. Certainly in the top two.

    Hint: he wasn’t being complimentary.

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  40. It was because all the while he was away, John McCain and his team were involved in negative campaigning.

    And what do you call baselessly attacking McCain as a fearmongering racist? Is that Hope or Change?

    Pablo (99243e)

  41. #39
    Drumwaster, why don’t you go and take your pills and sleep for a week or something. You are turning into an annoying little twit!

    love2008 (1b037c)

  42. You are turning into an annoying little twit!

    Hey, you’re the one who said it, little guy…

    Are you ever going to answer any questions?

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  43. #40
    Who attacked first Pablo?

    love2008 (1b037c)

  44. #35
    It takes either a lot of ignorance of McCain or a lot of gall to claim that McCain is a continuation of Bush.
    And BTW, how is John McCain not a continuation of George Bush? What is the real difference here? Or are you now trying to throw Bush under the bus? The Straight Talk Express, bus?

    love2008 (1b037c)

  45. love2008, so which of the two applies to you? Ignorance or gall?

    McCain has a long history of taking different ideological and policy positions on scores of issues than George W. Bush.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  46. And BTW, how is John McCain not a continuation of George Bush? What is the real difference here?

    1. John McCain made a point of attacking the budget deficits we were running up and that George Bush approved.

    2. John McCain attacked the way we were fighting the war early on (enough that even people on the right were annoyed at it at one time–him and Rumsfeld didn’t get along).

    3. Less of a social/religious conservative.

    4. Wants to close against Gitmo, against waterboarding.

    Anon (db8e0c)

  47. Who attacked first Pablo?

    A better question: Who lied first? Oh, wait. Only one of them has done that.

    Pablo (99243e)

  48. lovie – Baracky attacked/lied first. McCain responded in kind.

    JD (5f0e11)

  49. #45
    I choose both. You are ignorant that you have a serious gall problem that is making you so angry, sad and miserable. There.
    But,
    I think I have the solution for you. Yeah. Thank me later.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  50. You mean to really tell me Pablo that Obama attacked first? Ok. Prove it. If anything, Obama has always been on the receiving end of McCain’s and the Reps’ attacks. In fact so much that I was beginning to think he was playing the good guy to a fault. And when did he lie? Over what?

    love2008 (1b037c)

  51. You mean to really tell me Pablo that Obama attacked first? Ok. Prove it. If anything, Obama has always been on the receiving end of McCain’s and the Reps’ attacks.

    Again, he has spent months saying that McCain is “a continuation of the failed policies of George Bush” and he said McCain was going to make use of race a month before McCain aired these two ads over the past week.

    Anon (db8e0c)

  52. If anything, Obama has always been on the receiving end of McCain’s and the Reps’ attacks.

    Only since he claimed to be the front runner, and who else should the Republicans “attack” (read: “point out what the Democrat actually says or does”)?McCain has spent the last several years attacking the President and his own party; it’s about time that he attacked someone else…

    Are you trying to argue that Obama should be treated with kid gloves?

    So much for that ‘David killing the bear or lion’ metaphor, huh?

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  53. Anon, you also forgot the Gang of 14 in re judicial confirmations…

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  54. “This is the choice you will face in November,” Obama said. “You can vote for John McCain, [Crowd yells “NO!”] and see a continuation of Bush economic policies, more tax cuts to the wealthy, more corporate tax breaks, more tax breaks going to companies that are shipping jobs overseas, more mountains of debt, and little to no relief for families that are struggling with the rising cost of everything from health care, to gasoline to a college education. But I don’t think that is the future we want.” -Barack Obama, June 10, 2008

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/language_tips/auvideo/2008-06/10/content_6749932.htm

    Anon (db8e0c)

  55. FactCheck.Org is hitting Obama today for their false statements about McCain advocating “tax breaks for big oil” companies.

    The Obama ad puts the number at $4 billion. And the ad links the oil breaks to campaign contributions from oil executives.

    The facts are that the tax breaks mentioned in the Obama ad is the result of a decrease in the corporate tax rate — its not something targeted at the oil industry. And it has nothing to do with campaign contributions.

    By the way, Obama was ripped by Hillary back in April over his having collected more than $260,000 in contributions from oil execs and their families.

    WLS (26b1e5)

  56. “Don’t expect it to actually help struggling families,” he continued. “Because Senator McCain’s solution to the housing crisis seems like a lot like George Bush’s solution to the housing crisis, which is to sit by and hope it passes by while families are facing foreclosure and watching their home values decline.” -Barack Obama, April 9, 2008

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/04/10/obama-levels-new-attacks-on-mccain/

    Anon (db8e0c)

  57. Meanwhile, everyone ignores that Obama is in the pocket of corporate agribusiness giant, Archer Daniels Midland. Whose profits on ethanol production benefit from the silly, even counterproductive, energy policies of the Democrats.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  58. You mean to really tell me Pablo that Obama attacked first? Ok. Prove it.

    OK, let’s start with “John McCain says he wants to be at war for 100 years.”

    Go here. Scroll down to “About That 100-year “War” Then feel free to offer a rebuttal in which McCain had attacked Obama previously. And the double or nothing prize comes when you find where McCain has flat out lied about what Obama has said or done, as Obama has demonstrated a pattern of doing to McCain.

    Take your time.

    Pablo (99243e)

  59. Negative campaigning works and the GOP knows that a lot. They are using it to try to define Barack Obama and to sow seeds of doubt about him. “He is a celebrity, like Paris and Britney but can he lead?” Doubts. “He is a young man who lacks experience…but he is smart..” Doubts. Though they never mention which experience he lacks. No one has the experience to be President except the one that has really been President. This is where both candidates agree. And no experience is ever enough to prepare anyone for the job of President. Ask Bill Clinton or George Bush. What it takes is a heart willing to serve and a mind willing to work. It also takes God’s help and wisdom.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  60. love2008, already ignoring that you have had your clock cleaned on who started negative campaigning, I see.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  61. What does a campaign do if not telling people that they should vote for one guy over the other and support it with some argument? That can only mean extolling your guy’s virtues while playing up the other guy’s negatives. It is what it is.

    Lying is different, though. Or at least it should be.

    Pablo (99243e)

  62. #59 what a crock of spit. If you want a black man with more qualifications to be Potus and with great life experience, consider even various actors such as Bill Cosby who tells the black community what they don’t want to hear. God in the guise of recently badly injured 71 year old Morgan Freeman would do a far better job than Obama with his 143 days of national experience in the collegial kiss each other’s asses Senate.
    If you want political creatures of color and wisdom, try Justice Thomas or Thomas Sowell or even Alan Keyes. Heck, even Jesse Jackson has more experience and would do a better job than Obambi. So, he’s a shyster, as are many politicians.

    madmax333 (0c6cfc)

  63. Negative campaigning works and the GOP knows that a lot. They are using it to try to define Barack Obama and to sow seeds of doubt about him. “He is a celebrity, like Paris and Britney but can he lead?” Doubts. “He is a young man who lacks experience…but he is smart..” Doubts.

    Yeah, probably, but again Obama isn’t in much of a position to complain about it.

    Though they never mention which experience he lacks.

    I don’t think they have to spell it out, but that would be a fairly extensive commercial.

    What it takes is a heart willing to serve and a mind willing to work. It also takes God’s help and wisdom.

    Love2008, sorry, I honestly can’t figure out if you’re just messing around with this.

    Anon (db8e0c)

  64. You mean to really tell me Pablo that Obama attacked first? Ok. Prove it.

    BTW, my comment at #47 didn’t suggest that Obama attacked first (even though he did) It says that Obama lied about McCain, which he did and continues to do, which I think is a far more important point.

    Pablo (99243e)

  65. #60
    Hey! Thought I gave you something to keep you busy.

    love2008 (0c8c2c)

  66. #23 – DRJ

    I like Flake but do you think he could win in an Arizona Senate race?

    — Sorry for the delay. I was busy knocking “love” around like a tether-ball in the “Obama One” thread. I do think that Flake can win. For one thing, despite my state’s light purple political shading there are no serious potential challengers from the Dem side; for another, the man has no serious negatives — he’s Mitt Romney without the air of flip-flopping dis-ingenuousness.

    Icy Truth (3aa3c0)

  67. Methinks Michelle may be fixin’ to get a good hate on.

    Proudly.

    Ed (59b337)

  68. I’m torn – #59 and #32 should be too big to be merely flamebait, but this stuff by love2008 about it being “God’s will” that Barack Obama becomes President is too much – is this all an act or not?

    Anon (db8e0c)

  69. Wow, that Sullivan thing (if it’s not rude to get back to the original post at this point) is amazing! I never realized that even Obama’s *supporters* refer to him as “B.O.” Maybe it’s my advancing age, but I can’t read that without hearing that anti-perspirant commercial from the 60s where the announcer sings in a giant fog horn tone, “Beeee Ooooooooooooooh!”

    I used to use it to make fun of my sisters, but it would be a blast to see it in a campaign ad.

    Of course, whoever did it would get crucified. But it would be fun while it lasted.

    Don (e00c73)

  70. The America I remember didn’t have Obama in it.

    David Ehrenstein (21c975)


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