Posted by Damozel | So it seems that Kristol---who was arguing just a few months ago that Bush could still be a winner!---is now actually a bit cast down, thanks to the Dems' success in taking away Dennis Hastert's seat from the Republicans.
This Democratic pickup suggests that, for now, we’re in an electoral environment more like 2006 than 2004. Foster’s eight-percentage-point improvement on John Kerry’s 2004 performance in the district mirrors the general shift in the electorate from 2004, when Bush won and the Republicans held Congress, to 2006, when the Democrats took over Congress and ran on average about eight points ahead of the G.O.P. Most surveys have shown the Democrats retaining that sizable advantage over the last 16 months. Saturday’s special election would appear to confirm these polls.
This isn’t encouraging for G.O.P. prospects in 2008. Nor is this: It’s rare for a party to win a third consecutive term in the White House. The only time it’s been done since World War II was in 1988. Then the incumbent, Ronald Reagan, had a job approval rating on Election Day in the high 50s. George Bush looks likely to remain stuck in the 30s. Factor in the prospect of a recession (the bad housing and job market reports at the end of last week were politically chilling) and the fact that a large majority already thinks the country’s going in the wrong direction. Add to the mix a huge turnout so far in the Democratic presidential primaries, far above that for the Republican contests, even when both parties still had competitive races. (New York Times)
Here are Kristol's ground-breaking recommendations to John McCain, who probably wouldn't have thought of any of them himself. And Kristol, like many right-wingers, still hasn't noticed that Obama is far less progressive in every respect than Hillary Clinton ("more liberal and inexperienced than any willing presidential candidate in modern times"), possibly because he's noticed that Obama is a person of color and all neocons know that persons of color are always more liberal than white people.
Kristol's first recommendation to McCain: Highlight the vulnerabilities of Clinton and Obama.
[B]oth have taken positions appropriate for the Democratic primaries — for a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, against making it easier for telecommunications companies to cooperate with the government in spying on terrorists, for tax hikes and against a ban on partial-birth abortion — that should cause difficulties in a general election. (New York Times) But wait---I thought that the whole premise of "McCain's daunting task was that '"the country's going in the wrong direction," and that a lot of pesky Democrats are getting out to vote, while Republicans lurk morosely at home? But "highlighting the vulnerabilities" of the opposition is a really sound idea. McCain should definitely do that. If he "hammers away" at their vulnerabilities, Kristol urges, he could be like Gerald Ford, "the Republican nominee in similarly inauspicious circumstances" in 1976, but "hammered away all fall at Jimmy Carter's inexperience and liberalism" and almost closed the gap. (New York Times) In other words, if McCain is really aggressive, he might almost not lose the general election.
Kristol's second recommendation to McCain: highlight his good points.
2. He can highlight his "amazing story of personal courage, a record of independence and accomplishment as a senator, and courage and foresight with respect to the most important foreign policy decision of the last couple of years — the surge in Iraq."(New York Times) Yes, he should definitely do that. Sadly, with the economy in the tank, a lot of selfish bastards are not going to be quite as keen on spending a lot more money on Iraq, but he should definitely go with that one. "If any Republican can defend conservative principles and policies, at once acknowledging Bush’s failures while pivoting to present his own biography and agenda to the voters, McCain can."
Yes, if any Republican can. That's the question, isn't it? Can any Republican defend conservative principles and policies after we've seen how they play out in practice?
Kristol's third recommendation to McCain: develop a domestic policy modeled on Sam's Club.
3. Did I mention the economy? McCain will just have to take the risk of giving "country-club Republicans heartburn," Kristol suggests; country club Republicans don't like to shop at Sam's Club. He could "also criticize corporate boards that have rewarded C.E.O.’s lavishly as they’ve managed their companies into the ground." (New York Times) That's a good one too. Criticizing them doesn't cost Republicans a cent, as long as McCain doesn't try to do anything about them, and Obama and Hillary probably won't have thought of that one.
So yeah, throw those middle class Republicans a bone, John McCain!
But what about the promise to stay on in Iraq for a HUNDRED YEARS because IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO, even if we impoverish ourselves by so doing? He could "explain forthrightly that we’ll have to stay in Iraq for quite a while, even if this means challenging the American people to spurn the feel-good promises of irresponsible Democrats." And he could mock the narcissism of the Obama supporters, who think they’re the ones we’ve been waiting for — by pointing out that their contemporaries serving in the armed forces are the ones making real sacrifices on our behalf." (New York Times)
Yeah, I don't think the 'stay in Iraq for quite a while' explanation is going to go down well, however forthrightly it's made. But I don't mind if he "mocks the narcissism" of Obama's supporters. I do it myself. (New York Times)
Kristol's fourth recommendation to McCain: make 'a bold vice presidential choice.'
Yeah, McCain probably hasn't thought of that one either. "He could pick a hawkish and principled Democrat like Joe Lieberman," suggests Kristol. "He could reach beyond the usual bevy of elected officials by tapping either David Petraeus or Raymond Odierno — the two generals who together, in an amazing demonstration of leadership and competence, turned the war in Iraq around last year. He could persuade the most impressive conservative in American public life, Clarence Thomas, to join the ticket." (New York Times)
I love it that Kristol thinks Justice Thomas is "the most impressive conservative in American public life.".... Hey, maybe he's right!
Oddly, Kristol doesn't think that the current fight between Hillary and Obama will hurt either one much. "That battle is personal, not ideological — and, Republican hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, Democrats will unite behind Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, or behind a ticket with the two of them."(New York Times) Really? I'm glad to hear it. That's not what the Democrats I know are saying. The Democratic race is currently as polarized as Bush/Gore or Bush/Kerry. And many of them would argue that it IS ideological.
So there you are: William Kristol's helpful hints for John McCain?
Will McCain take them? I hope so; Kristol has been wrong about nearly everything he's said for the past eight or nine years. Yes, even the 'surge.' First, since the war itself was a mistake, the 'surge' was only ever going to be a way to make it less of a disastrous mistake. Second, because I don't believe the 'success,' however relative, can be maintained over the long term without the expenditure of resources we don't have and shouldn't be spending in Iraq if we did.
So yes, let's hope McCain takes Kristol's advice. Who knows; if everything goes exactly as Kristol imagines, he---like Bush and the surge---might yet be the same kind of winner as Bush and the Iraq War!
MEMEORANDUM is here.
OTHER BN-POLITICS POSTS