Tuesday, September 2, 2008


As the Palin cycle hits ever new heights of absurdity (Her husband wanted Alaska to secede from America! She tried to fire a librarian for refusing to ban books! Way to do your homework, McCain campaign!), I think it's worthwhile to note that John McCain has done something that any old soldier worth his salt (at least any soldier who didn't nearly flunk out of Annapolis!) ought to know to avoid: he surrendered the initiative.

The Palin pick, as it turns out, was so obviously half-baked and ill-conceived (not to mention poorly executed) that it's hard to imagine that this is the action of a sane person. But John McCain is not insane. In fact, the thinking behind picking Sarah Palin was sound, and it would undoubtedly have been a fine choice were there no further surprises--that is to say, if she were properly vetted, and that is to say had she not been picked. Pretty much everyone admits that this choice was a hail mary play to try to shake up the race. There's another term for that. It's called surrendering. The. Initiative.

Had McCain gone with Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty as a running mate he would have been better able to control the news cycle. If he wanted something of an historic pick Romney would have fit the bill, and he certainly could have helped with the electoral math. By picking someone based on his gut instinct rather than based on a knowledge of all the available factors he allowed his campaign to be hijacked. By surrendering the initiative he risks losing control of his message altogether. For someone who has staked his candidacy on his military experience he sure doesn't seem to know much about a campaign--political or otherwise--is all about.

The damnedest thing is that there was really no reason to believe that John McCain's campaign was finished. His negative ad campaign paid big dividends this summer, and although the Democrats had a good convention and Barack Obama got a nice bounce there's no reason to believe it wouldn't have subsided and that McCain wouldn't have rebounded a bit. McCain might well have exceeded expectations in the debates as Obama is less impressive in debates than in giving speeches. A strong second-in-command might have reinforced McCain's experience message. Saying something like, "the most experienced ticket in history," could have been an effective counterpoint at Obama. Instead he's done the military equivalent of sending your troops in after just a few minutes of cannon fire and before the artillery arrives. Stupid.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.