05 February 2008

Tuesday Stupor

No one should assume that my comments about Senator McCain's conservative enemies amount to a defense of McCain. To clarify matters, I should emphasize that McCain's conduct in recent days has been pretty disturbing, from his "canine" performance (in Chris Matthews's word) at the last debate to his jaw-dropping stand-up routine in Massachusetts yesterday to his berserk overreaction to Romney's remarks on Bob Dole. I've only read McCain's most recent comments, but people who saw him talk say he was apoplectic and his plain hatred of Romney was unmistakable. He looks like he's losing it at times. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder even as he closes on victory. Given that he's a consistent warmongerer, his attitude is extremely worrisome. I'd like to feel certain that he'll lose the general election, but the American mind is hard to read this year.

In any event, his march to victory goes on, hand in hand with Huckabee. After what happened in West Virginia, there's no more room for doubt that Huckabee and McCain are in cahoots to destroy Romney. The Arkansan seems to be enjoying a surge tonight. It should have been predictable, because its his turn to benefit from revulsion at the fratricidal spectacle of Romney vs. McCain. I doubt that it worries McCain. Look at Huckabee's numbers outside the South and you wouldn't worry, either. He is not a national candidate, but he's made a stronger case than ever for becoming McCain's running mate. A McCain-Huckabee ticket would have broad appeal, apart from the talk-radio airwaves, and would represent the Republicans' best chance against Clinton, Obama or Clinton-Obama. If McCain were not to tap Huckabee for the second spot, it would be a surprise as much as a blunder, but the front-runner may feel that he needs someone acceptable to radio. My own view is that he'd win the independent vote if he told all the talkers to go to hell.

I'm stalling for a moment, waiting for California to close. I don't know if the networks will project right away, but I hope to have something to close with. While I wait, let me note again the vehemence of Senator Clinton's defenders, their outrage at the alleged upstart who dares dispute her destiny. Romney's comments on Bob Dole seem equally applicable to Clinton. Far more so than McCain, her campaign is driven by a feeling that, just as 1996 was Dole's turn, 2008 is Hillary's. This sense of entitlement exaggerates her achievements in the minds of her supporters so that her experience somehow looms larger than Senator Obama's. Of course, the Clintonites still count the First Lady years as proof that Clinton knows how the White House works, as I read somewhere. Something still seems profoundly un-American about that, and that sensibility inclines me toward Obama, if only for the sake of arguments.

The argument goes on. California is too close to call as I sign off.

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