September 25, 2008


'Change' election turns out conventional (JOHN F. HARRIS & JIM VANDEHEI, 9/25/08, Politico)

Recall the early promise of 2008: There would be two candidates who spent the past several years expressing disdain for the stale partisanship of Washington and the stupid pet tricks that characterize presidential campaigns. There was an electorate supposedly hungering not for a change of leaders but a change in the fundamental ways in which politicians compete and debate ideas and solve problems.

For the first time in over 30 years there would be a campaign with no one named Bush or Clinton on the ticket. New personalities would drive new coalitions, as some liberals embraced John McCain’s independent-mindedness and spontaneity and some conservatives responded to Obama's earnest appeals to transcend old ideological and cultural divides.

New personalities and new coalitions, in turn, would create a new map—as the whole nation would be in play rather than a targeted set of battleground states.

Well, forget it: Six weeks before Election Day, a day before the first scheduled debate, the forces of innovation and authenticity are being routed by the forces of conventionality and cliché.'d do well to recall that the last two times we had match-ups with so little difference between two candidates with such modest ideas were Ford v. Carter and Bush v. Dukakis, which rendered one-termers in both cases. In the absence of distinct governing philosophies and/or political agendas both presidents found themselves prey to congresses that felt unfettered by the Executive. Considering that Maverick and the Unicorn Rider are both creatures of the legislature either is likely to be an even more trivial figure than those unillustrious predecessors. Add in the age and health of a President McCain and the big political question may be: Jeb or Sarah in '12?

Nominees in Need of Ideas (Michael Gerson, September 24, 2008, Washington Post)

A sitting president normally must accept the boring constraints of real-world choices. Campaigns can inhabit the utopia of their own ambitions.

But it is President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, by proposing the massive government purchase of bad debt, who have assumed the mantle of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is John McCain and Barack Obama who are playing the role of Roosevelt's more timid, forgotten foils, "Martin, Barton and Fish." Having last week criticized the role of the Federal Reserve in bailouts -- demonstrating a tin ear of elephantine proportions -- McCain now calls for a bipartisan oversight board to review the government's rescue attempt.

Mankind perishes. The world grows dark. McCain calls for a review board.

Obama has been no better, responding with his usual mix of caution and blame. Having delayed the announcement of his own proposal to better gauge the political reception of Paulson's approach, Obama now helpfully adds that it "can't just be a plan for Wall Street, it has to be a plan for Main Street" -- stepping up to the crisis with his own emergency cliche plan.

The weakness of these reactions is disturbing in itself. It also symbolizes a larger reality. The 2008 presidential campaign has become notable for its vacuity and exceptional for lacking the exceptional.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2008 7:51 AM
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