Friday, January 23, 2004

What happened to hope? 

speakingcorpse writes:

I've of course been thinking--if that is the word--a lot about the
sounds and images being projected on my television that are supposed to
represent events in the campaign. But it's hard to think one's way
through all of this. I don't know what to think. Two things keep
returning to my mind, however: one is that there are several good
candidates, and Kerry and Edwards may be very good, and it was stupid of
me to write them off. Two is that what has happened to Dean since
losing Iowa--and I really did not think this until this evening, after I
watched the "meltdown" tape 10 times--is really not his fault. I really
don't think the tape was that bad, at all. It sounds bad on the radio,
but when you watch it, it's quite clear that nothing all that crazy is
going on. Obviously, Dean fucked up. But the important lesson to be
learned from this is one that Atrios has been repeating insistently:
that the media are going to gang up on the frontrunner or the eventual
nominee, if not exactly in the same way, then at least in ways that are
eventually destructive. For Clark and Kerry, this will mean, at some
point, relentless attacks about their "inconsistencies" on the war
issue--this was already happening tonight, actually.

I don't know what to hope for anymore. Dawkins's points about Kerry's
credibility and his gravitas and his military record are obviously very
important. The Iowans responded to this, and in the fall, if he's got
Rand Beers talking about Bush's failed counter-terrorism policy, he
would be able to make a strong case to frightened Americans that he is
the right person to carry on the "war on terror." But: the media will
attack him for voting for the war resolution, and he has not shown
himself to be much more adept than Dean at playing along with the media
(I cannot forget his response to Saddam's capture, and I do not want to
think about what he will do when Osama's torso is discovered in a
dumpster in Karachi next August.)

Dean clearly rubs a lot of people the wrong way--that's why he blew it
in Iowa. (But, again, I don't think the meltdown speech is symptomatic
of what turned off Iowa voters to him.) His out-of-town shock troops
seem to have come across as pretty foolish. Dean also lacks all of the
foreign-policy military gravitas of Kerry and Clark, and that may be the
most important thing. Still, he has already been put on the rack by the
media--and if he can survive (which of course is the condition of anyone
supporting him anyway) he will be very strong. Furthermore, he and his
wife just put on a superb performance in the presence of the repulsive
feigned incredulousness of Diane Sawyer. (She pretended throughout the
interview that she thought Judy Dean's devotion to her medical practice
was either a cover for drug-dealing or just an elaborate fantasy.) Judy
Dean was really great--not to sound like a duped fool, but she really
actually helped me understand Dean himself. She is a huge asset for
Dean because she is obviously in love with him and is also obviously a
very normal person who responds to sluts like Sawyer with confused
bemusement but is not threatened by them. But all such considerations
regarding Dean may now be moot.

As for Clark, I don't know what to say. I haven't seen him speak
enough. (I missed tonight's debate.) I'm not sure that Clark offers
anything that Kerry does not (I'm not convinced that he was any more
principled on the war than Kerry); and he lacks Kerry's impressive
experience and liberal credentials. I can very easily see the media
latching onto the "something strange about Clark" meme--he switched
parties, he's ambitious, he flip-flopped (perhaps) on the war, etc. He
may be much more vulnerable to "Gore-ing" than a lot of his supporters
seem to suspect.

All of which is to say: what about Edwards?! He may have something the
others don't: I can imagine the media shit not sticking to him--he
seems that easy going. But Edwards lacks what Kerry and Clark offer in
the national security/presidential-gravitas area. I do think that if
any one of these guys gets the nomination, he'd be a formidable opponent
for Bush--and whoever survives will have to have learned how to play the
game pretty well.


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