Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sketches on the draw


When I was a high school sophomore, I briefly (and under great duress) played for the Hanover Park junior varsity basketball team. It's the sort of thing you get sucked into when you are cursed with the genetics of tallness, and when you have an avid sports enthusiast for a dad. (I was horrible at the game -- I don't think I even lasted the season.)

Coach Wear (yes, that really was his name) used to get furious at our team because we had a propensity for generating very, uh, exciting contests -- "exciting" in the sense that the scores were always very close. "You've sure given the audience their money's worth," he would routinely grumble, whether we won or lost.

I'm getting to the point with this primary season where I understand that complaint probably better than ever. I'm fully addicted to the news, but I just want the damned thing to be over. Decisively.


I must admit that part of my support of Obama has to do with my daughter (who is half black), and my sense of responsibility for the world she is growing up in (corny, eh?). I know full well the pitfalls of investing in a candidate because of things like race or gender -- but somehow it feels much more significant to me that Thandie could actually enter grammar school during an Obama administration. (Thanks to DJA, I know I'm not the only one.)

It's very rare indeed that the kid ever watches commercial television, but yesterday I made a point of having the primaries on while we were working on a new floor puzzle. Just because something historic is happening.


It's bunk, I know.

But I have really been expecting the Bag to say something about what I'd call the "Clinton grimace" -- this wide-eyed, jokeresque expression that seems to accompany each of her wins:

[EDIT: here's another, better example:]

I don't know what it means, really, I just noticed it. Perhaps it's not unlike the Dean scream. Or perhaps it's an unconvincing attempt at genuine joy (whoops, am I being presumptuous?). In either case, when the grimace bursts through, it makes the default Hillary appear that much more manufactured, that much more of a professional "mask."

In contrast, Obama seems more consistently integrated, more sure of himself, and, well, less of a liar:

It's remarkable to me that Obama tends to maintain this serious (but approachable) demeanor even in the throes of a victory speech. He seems even-tempered and cool (in the best sense of the word). And I suspect this has something to do with a kind of humility (which I don't have to tell you is ultra-rare in politics).

The first time I wrote about Obama -- in response to his first stirrings toward a possible candidacy -- I remarked at his appearance on Sacha Cohen's Da Ali G Show, and the fact that, unlike most of the other successful, high-profile people Cohen tricked into an interview, Obama didn't for a moment seem to be put out or offended by Mr. G's inane questions about politics. Many of Cohen's other subjects, unable to even fathom that they were being pranked, would typically erupt in anger partway through a discussion, or else would get up and leave the interview entirely (which of course was part of the point). But Obama was a model of equanimity -- it was as if, despite Ali G's clearly questionable intelligence, Obama didn't need to build up his own self-esteem by belittling the ersatz interviewer, but instead genuinely wanted to help him understand whatever issue was under discussion.

Of course, I could be totally mis-remembering this (it was a while ago). Wish I could find the damned clip on YouTube.


As before, Publius has it about right:

Another significant aspect of tonight’s "draw" is that it undermines the “inexperience” argument against Obama, or part of it anyway. When people say Obama is inexperienced, they are referring either to (1) the pre-election; or (2) the post-election. With respect to the former, the fear is that he can’t hold up against the GOP machine (or that the risk is too high).

Fighting Clinton – with her universal name recognition – to a draw in a national primary directly refutes Critique #1. (Admittedly, it doesn’t really address #2, the post-election governing). In particular, people need to understand how he pulled tonight's stalemate off. The outcome wasn't the result of a single week of fawning media coverage. That helped, to be sure, but Obama has been meticulously building organizations in all of these states simultaneously for many months. He’s also brought in a ton of money to fund them – more than anyone (ever) at this point.

The bottom line is that if you can build this sort of organization with this much money this far in advance with such efficiency and foresight, then you can do the same thing in a national election. Super Tuesday is about as close to a trial November run as you can get, and Obama’s campaign has been extremely impressive on all fronts.

And then there's this piece of wisdom from Seth Godin:

ATM machines never screw up, voting machines do. A lot.

And here's MSNBC's wrapup, which I cite partly because of this question:

At some point, the question will have to be asked: When or how can he put her away?

Uh... "put her away"? It should be clear that I'm not pulling for Clinton in this campaign, but that phraseology sorta creeped me out.


Finally, here's a "movie" of Lawrence Lessig's argument for Obama (link c/o Jill).

Lessig is an intellectual hero of mine, but I must admit I can't stand his fondness for PowerPoint (or his PowerPoint style -- which is nothing like David Byrne's). Still, this piece is informative and sound.


M.Farina said...

The question I've been asking myself since Tuesday is, "What if Obama doesn't win the primary? Can I vote for Hillary and feel good about it?"

To make matters worse, the Republicans seem to be strengthening their position with McCain. As a moderate conservative who has had his differences with the Bush administration, he could continue to gain ground and find support across party lines.

You're right Andrew, this is history.

Andrew Durkin... said...

Yeah, it's hard to know where this is going (and I bet the networks and advertisers are having a field day dragging it out).

On the democratic side, it seems that if Clinton wins, there would be a lot of pressure to put Obama on the ticket. (This scenario doesn't work so well in reverse, as far as I can tell.) That's mildly comforting, but I suspect it would also leave the bid a little more vulnerable (because there would be some of the same internal tensions that stymied Kerry and Edwards in 04). Things would be much stronger if the democratic team was a pairing of forces that genuinely wanted to work together, not one that was "forced" together.

The other thing that makes me nervous is this whole "superdelegates" business. My understanding is that Clinton has the advantage there (not surprising, cuz she's a part of the traditional party system, and so are they).

On the GOP side -- especially now that Romney is out of the race -- I think you're right that there is a certain amount of "falling in line" behind McCain (if this photo is any indication). I can remember earlier McCain candidacies where his brand of conservatism proved seductive to a lot of young people -- I'm just hoping he doesn't break into that demographic this go-round. I'm also hoping that the evangelicals and the wackos like Limbaugh continue to shoot the party in the foot by rejecting McCain -- cuz he really needs them to win nationally.

Thanks for your comment!

M.Farina said...

When we imagine the order of the final Democratic Party ticket, can we assume it'll be Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama? Either way, it seems a strong (from our very blue state perspective)pairing - but I wonder if, after this increasingly heated battle, the winner will snub the loser and pick a populist like Edwards...?
Nah, that would be rude!?

Kris Tiner said...

As far as a potential Obama v. McCain matchup in November, I think their back-to-back "victory" speeches on Tues. night made it pretty clear who's gonna win in the charisma dept. (here's a convenient summary).

I have a hard time voting Dem OR Repub, but Andrew I'm with you here on Barack. His speeches in the last couple of weeks have been just stunning. And it's not because he's having anything much to do with policy (which is the typical Dem problem, right? over-explaining everything on stage re: Kerry, etc. - Obama's record speaks for itself where it counts, as Lessig points out) - but because he's telling it straight, saying what he means...

Tues. night when he said "WE are the ones we have been waiting for..." I got goosebumps. Never heard a politician talk like that in MY lifetime...

Andrew Durkin... said...

Tues. night when he said "WE are the ones we have been waiting for..."

Daphne and I did a double take at that point in the speech... how much more powerful than Clinton's much-publicized (and under-scrutinized -- after all, wasn't it an admission of past fakery?) NH line -- "Over the last week, I have listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice" -- which, at this point, feels like it was uttered months ago.

godoggo said...

Consider me disillusioned by the way he's been positioning himself to HC's right on domestic stuff. I voted for him, and I'm still rooting for him, but...

And I do try to resist the instinct that drives us to bask in the charisma of stars. I don't always succeed (there's really no other explanation for my love of Patti Smith's music, for instance), but I try.

Andrew Durkin... said...

"the way he's been positioning himself to HC's right on domestic stuff"

Can you say more?

"And I do try to resist the instinct that drives us to bask in the charisma of stars."

Actually, I don't really get the "Obama rockstar" thing -- for me that's not the appeal at all. It's just that with any mainstream candidate, my bullshit detector is usually off the charts (cuz that's typically how most people get to be mainstream candidates in this country -- they master the art of bullshit). But with Obama, I just don't hear those same alarm bells going off.

Is that a guarantee that the guy is not coasting on his "looks" or his "charisma" or "star status" or whatever? Not necessarily. And given that we've been fucked by our leaders in so many ways over time, I think you're right to be suspicious. But what if, at long last, somebody good actually got through the system? And what if McCain is counting on Democratic cynicism to knock Obama out of the race (b/c clearly he'd prefer to run against Clinton)?

godoggo said...

"Can you say more?"
Here's a couple of Krugman articles:
Played for a Sucker.
Mandates and Mudslinging

godoggo said...

Hmm, can't seem to open those in a window on the damn Mac, so...

Andrew Durkin... said...

Thanks for the links. There is some solid criticism in there, but to me it doesn't add up to a scenario in which Obama is positioning himself to the right of HRC on domestic issues as a whole -- especially if you factor in other things, like the environment, or positions on intellectual property and technology... or the kinds of relationships with lobbyists that might make one's campaign promises moot anyway.