Partisan wrangling aside, if someone would have told me at any time before a few weeks ago that we'd be at the Sunday after the Democratic National Convention and Obama would have no bounce - still at 3 points up, I'd have said they were crazy. The early verdict is that this certainly seems to have been a fairly inconsequential convention.
But I doubt that it had anything to do with the convention. I think the election has become like the Western Front in WWI. Vicious fighting but no movement. Frenzy over a demolished chateaux or a "Hill 60" (meaning all of sixty meters high - when they started) just about reduced to rubble. Hundreds of thousands of casualties to advance two miles. I'm not so sure why. Could be the dwindling undecided. Could be the exposure of Obama and McCain to the point where most everyone has his or her mind made up and the undecided are not moved by anything that might cause them to commit.
At this point, we don't know if there will even be much of a GOP convention with Gustav bearing down on the coast, but, even if there is, I'm not sure that things will be all that different in a week. It could be - could be - that a hurricane strike will - in an ironic divine commentary on the theology of Michael Moore - play into the McCain-Palin theme of a more nationalist conservatism, but that would be something outside the control of any of the players. And I really don't expect it. We are settled in for a long battle of the Somme.
But, oh the guttersniping at Sarah Palin has begun, and I fear the Obamanians are repeating the mistake they made with Hillary Clinton. It's all so non gallant. And its a sure sign that they see this thing slipping away.
She's cruel because she laughed nervously when a shock jock said bad things about her opponents because no male politician ever sat by while someone used nasty language that he himself would not use against an opponent. She's Sarah Barracuda. She's too tough for a lady.
Or she's insubstantial because she was a beauty queen or, as a co-ed, wore at t-shirt that made a joke about her breasts. I think this was about the time when Barack Obama was engaged in some less harmless (but, I think, also irrelevant) youthful indiscretions. But she's a girl and it relates to sex and it's not allowed.
Or she's just not ready. This is a bold one. The GOP nominee for Vice President has held a major political office for one year less than the Democratic nominee for President. By this standard, the Dems should have turned Obama away at the gate. How to fix that?
Oh, now wait, she's only governor of Alaska - this place where all of our oil comes from but there aren't large cities, so it doesn't count. It's like Arkansas, but with natural resources and better schools. She runs something; he votes on things when he can tear himself away from running for President. But those things - no matter how little he may know about them - are more important.
Or, no wait, it's the pre-national experience. He was a state Senator. He was, you know, like Fred Risser or Kathleen Vinehout.
Today's talking point is to make fun of Cindy McCain's claim that Alaska's proximity to Russia is relevant to Palin's foreign policy experience. Fair enough; that was a dumb comment by the Republican nominee's wife. But is it any less silly than the Democratic nominee's claim that he has foreign policy experience because he lived in Indonesia when he was six? (And, incidentally guys, when FoxNews' Steve Doocy said the same thing, he was joking. Doocy is what we call a comedian. He comes on the TV in the morning to be funny. He and his wife wrote a book called "The Mr. & Mrs. Happy Handbook," for Barack's sake!)
Someone went as far to say that she should be at home taking home of her baby - the one that she didn't abort. My guess is that Dad will do a wonderful job. God knows he isn't going to be able to work on the pipeline - actually delivering the oil we all need - while his wife is running for Vice President.
Oh, and then there is the claim that she is an inversion of feminism. This is because she came to prominence because her husband held high office. Oh, wait, no, that's not .... No, no, it's because she's pro life and the suffragettes that we celebrated this week like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Virginia Woodhull would never have been pro life and, oh, ... no, I guess that's not it either.
I know. I know. She's a Christian Dominionist because ... well ... I don't know. If you can find a shred of evidence for that in this post by a tin-foil coiffed one at the Daily Kos, e-mail me.
What's disturbing is that Jane Smiley, a good novelist, with an IQ above room temperature, apparently buys it in a post which is one of the meanest - and most sexist - things I have read in a long time. (Palin must breast feed; she can't have a nanny.) Smiley advocates that the Dems pick at Palin in order to, in her words, "bring that bitch out." Jane Smiley needs no such help.
As my old geometry teacher used to say (Publius?), let's do some remedial work on the Christian Dominionist thing. Destiny is not a term that we should be surprised to see a Christian church use because it is a religion that makes eschatological claims. It's a big word, I know, but it means that history is going somewhere. "Cell churches" are known by liberationist theologians on the left as base Christian communities and, what they really are, is an attempt - in and of itself apolitical, at least in our sense of liberal and conservative - to, depending on how you want to put it, re-create the house churches reported in Acts or replicate the small groups that are rampant in modern organizational practice.
To his credit, Tom Foley is skeptical of the claim, but, given his penchant for kicking at the more tenuous orbits of religion, suggests that the Jeremiah Wright controversy makes it relevant. Not quite. How her faith informs her politics would be. Gross distortion of her faith are not. What whoever he might be on the Daily Kos reports is neither serious nor "informed," and should not be disturbing because it is, self evidently, ignorant.
The concerns about Jeremiah Wright did not,as I wrote at the time, misrepresent his theological position. Black liberation theology has a respectable intellectual pedigree and there are aspects of it that are quite prophetic. At the end of the day, however, it is deeply flawed and rightly turns most people off. But it is not unfair to Rev. Wright to say that he preaches it or that it was a huge part of his congregation's mission. His decison to show up Obama reflected that.
That Obama, who clearly understood Wright's message (see, e.g., Dreams of My Father), placed so much emphasis on Wright makes Wright's views and how they relate to Obama's politics relevant.
Not only does this attack go well beyond what we know of Palin's church, Palin has,as far as we know, never said anything about the relationship between that church and her politics.
Finally, there is the claim that she is excited by what her nomination does for Alaska and this means she wants earmarks. But here is what she said. "Alaskans will be allowed to contribute more to our great country and they'll be allowed to do that because I -- if we're elected -- will be in a position of opening the eyes of the country to what it is that Alaska is all about and what Alaska has to offer."
Alaska and, to a lesser extent, Hawai'i are seen as American appendages. She thinks that, whatever the impact on her individually, her candidacy will help to bring her state into the American mainstream. What a witch (and, yes, even that one is being raised against her.)
Oh, and then some people don't like the fact that she shoots at moose and caribou - with apparent success. But for folks that have been so critical of Dick Cheney, this rings hollow. She won't hit her hunting buddies.
I understand the concern because here are the questions. Obama has been on his heels - hanging on - since the beginning of March. Is there anything that can change that? Can he keep it up for another two months?