Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08 — Rick Moran @ 1:12 pm

More than any other presidential candidate in recent years, forces beyond John McCain’s control will determine whether or not he is the next president of the United States.

With an astonishing 81% of the American people believing that the United States is on the wrong track, it seems incredible he is even in the race much less leading in some polls. With that many voters convinced that a change of direction is necessary, they usually don’t cast their ballot for the candidate representing the party of the president in power.

But thanks to a healthy assist from the Democrats who seem intent in tearing themselves apart, McCain’s lofty numbers have given the GOP hope that all is not lost and that perhaps their nominee can squeak past either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the fall.

There’s only one problem with that scenario - actually two problems - that haunt the nightmares of McCain and his staff; the fact that John McCain’s success or failure will depend on both the War in Iraq and the economy not going south between now and the election.

I can’t recall a candidate being held hostage to events to this extent. On some level, a candidate is always at the mercy of what is going on in the world. But either Democratic candidate will almost certainly have an advantage when it comes to both the state of the economy and the lack of progress in bringing our troops home from Iraq. Only dramatic improvements - not anticipated or likely - would alter that dynamic.

The economy may begin to recover in the final quarter this year if the housing crisis bottoms out and the credit crunch eases. Whether it will be noticeable enough to aid McCain is an open question. The key here is that any recession be short and mild. A spike in unemployment above 6% along with a crash in consumer confidence might doom McCain’s candidacy - as would a sudden turn for the worse in the battlefield situation in Iraq.

Iran seems to hold the whip hand in Iraq at the moment. Their militias, their “special groups,” and whatever hold they have on Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army will determine the level of violence in Iraq for the foreseeable future. If the Iranian government believes it can influence the American election by ratcheting up the violence - and is disposed to do so - then there isn’t a whole helluva lot McCain can do about it.

And that brings us to the wildcard in this campaign season - the one real unknown that no one can guess how it will play out if it comes to pass.

A pre-emptive attack by the Bush Administration on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure or on some other target relating to their interference in Iraq prior to the election will raise screams of protest from the left and no doubt force the Democratic candidate into a posture of firm opposition to such a military operation. And given McCain’s rhetoric in the past, it would conversely force him to be a strong supporter of such action.

This is a given. The question is, what would the American voter think of such an attack? Polls conducted late last year were mixed but a bare majority would support such a strike if diplomacy and sanctions failed to deter the Iranians from building a bomb. Of course, the American people will generally back the President if he decides to use force anywhere. But would that support translate into votes for McCain if Bush decides to bomb?

It is a huge unknown. Personally, I believe any threat to attack Iran before the election to be receding and is now not very likely. But circumstances may change - especially relating to Iran’s continued support for the perpetrators of violence in Iraq. If the situation becomes intolerable, a limited strike against specific targets in Iran like the Qods Force or factories manufacturing IED’s might be in the offing.

So McCain is not only beholden to news on the economic front and Iraq, he is also somewhat at the mercy of the Bush Administration and any action they may deem necessary to protect our troops from violence encouraged by the Iranian government.

This is a very weak position for a candidate to find himself despite McCain’s current robust numbers vis a vis the Democrats. We’re liable to see those poll numbers yo-yo between now and election day as the public’s perceptions whipsaw between hope and despair on the economic and war fronts.

In a rather mean-spirited article on McCain in The New Yorker, John Heilerman nevertheless correctly diagnoses some other problems for the candidate that begs the question “Is John McCain Bob Dole?”

Yet for all the hosannas being sung to him these days, and for all the waves of fear and trembling rippling through the Democratic masses, the truth is that McCain is a candidate of pronounced and glaring weaknesses. A candidate whose capacity to raise enough money to beat back the tidal wave of Democratic moola is seriously in doubt. A candidate unwilling or unable to animate the GOP base. A candidate whose operation has never recovered from the turmoil of last summer, still skeletal and ragtag and technologically antediluvian. (“Fund-raising on the Web? You don’t say. You can raise money through those tubes?”) Whose cadre of confidantes contains so many lobbyists that the Straight Talk Express often has the vibe of a rolling K Street clubhouse. Whose awkward positioning issues-wise was captured brilliantly by Pat Buchanan: “The jobs are never coming back, the illegals are never going home, but we’re going to have a lot more wars.” A candidate one senior moment—or one balky teleprompter—away from being transformed from a grizzled warrior into Grandpa Simpson. A candidate, that is, who poses an existential question for Democrats: If you can’t beat a guy like this in a year like this, with a vastly unpopular Republican war still ongoing and a Republican recession looming, what precisely is the point of you?

John McCain has many fine qualities both as a person and a candidate. There is no doubt he is as qualified to be president as either of the Democrats. He is the first Republican candidate in a long time who actually receives decent press coverage on occasion (New York Times and a few others excepted). And the Democrats are in the midst of the bloodiest primary campaign either party has seen since the Democratic contest of 1968.

But as Heilerman points out, McCain has some enormous disadvantages as well. And it doesn’t help that the Republican candidate for president is being held hostage by events over which he has no control and which may prove to be the undoing of his campaign.


  1. truth is stranger than fiction… amen! but oh wise swami what is a conservative supposed to do? i’ll be damned if i can suffer through the likes of another carter (to think that that baboon (can’t use monekey anymore) has any pull in his party tells one how destructive and ignorant the libs can be. makes no sense to sit on our quiet little arses and let what will be, be? but isn’t that the conservative mantra?
    “E pur si muove!”

    Comment by jambrowski — 4/14/2008 @ 1:47 pm

  2. Wish I had someone to vote for that I believed in, but McCain will have to do compared to the alternatives - hill and obama.

    Comment by Drewsmom — 4/15/2008 @ 5:17 am

  3. Good post, Rick. How DID we end up with McCain as the nominee?

    Comment by Michael B. — 4/15/2008 @ 11:30 am

  4. Drewsmom:

    I am totally on the same page as yourself.

    Michael B.

    I wonder what was going on in the back rooms of the RNC? That’s how I think McCain got where he is now. McCain should be ok with the social conservatives being they all had a lot of bones to pick with Rudy and Mitt (those Beast Coasters just can’t help themselves)— the people who will have the biggest problem with McCain are the libertarian thinking Republicans. His age can be an issue, but I don’t think anyone wants to be accused of age-ism, so it’s not talked about so much—plus McCain’s mamma is 96 and still going strong from what I last heard–good genes???
    The Iran issue is something else. I don’t think Bush will instigate anything on his own. But if the merry mullahs (I got that one from you Rick) start crap (as if they haven’t been all along) then the ddo-doo might fly.
    Another thing I’ve thought about is let’s say in 2012 or whenever and the next generation (my generation) who weren’t of age during Vietnam or never served in the military just because we had other things in mind–is that going to be a detriment against them running for POTUS? Actually I would like feedback on this question.

    Comment by Dave Carl — 4/15/2008 @ 2:55 pm

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