McCain Can Win

Bill Murchison

5/13/2008 12:00:03 AM - Bill Murchison

What was her name again -- the woman in the pants suit, running for president? Never mind. The business before the house is getting ready for the most rumbustious race for the presidency since the one we keep hearing about with those interminable rehashes of 1968.

John McCain versus Barack Obama. It's odd, in a sense, that we've come to this. Not since 1940, when the Republicans sent out Wendell Willkie, a utility company president, to unhorse Franklin D. Roosevelt, has a candidate so uncredentialed topped a national ticket. Even Adlai Stevenson, Robert Dole and Jimmy Carter, as relatively minor as were their qualifications for headship of the world's No. 1 nation, had held significant positions longer than the junior senator from Illinois. Even George W. Bush had!

None of which is to say the junior senator couldn't perform. It's merely that indications of such a prospect aren't compelling. He turns the crowds on, but so did Sinatra in 1940, whose presidential prospects not even the downtrodden Republicans felt like touting.

Obama has positions enough, not that his audiences care. He's for "change," for "hope," and for "bringing us together." Won't it be fun to see what kind of change and hope he has in mind if he wins, as indeed he might. Will it be the kind that brings us together? Improbable.

To "bring us together" on Iraq, he would have to pull all troops out of Iraq and bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.

To "bring us together" on federally mandated health insurance, he'd have to grant policies to the whole population, paid for with corporate tax cuts.

To "bring us together" on energy and gasoline prices, he would have to ban SUVs while leasing the whole of Alaska for oil drilling.

Voters are suckers for slogans. "Now More Than Ever." ("More" what?) "All the Way With LBJ." ("All the way" to what?) Still, Obama's Rorschachian personality -- read into his pronouncements, his exhortations, whatever you like -- sends vagueness to new heights.

It certainly makes a potential centrist of him. If he's kept his politics under wraps all this time, he could find it easier to accommodate the Reagan Democrats and perhaps even Republican libertarians whose love he has found elusive.

On the other hand, somewhere near the center -- assuming the Democratic left will permit this man to migrate in that direction -- he will meet John McCain. Neither desires to stand right there on the exact center, as best it can be plotted. Yet from just to the right of that center McCain hopes to lasso Independents and liberal Republicans who for some odd reason regard George W. Bush as a dogmatic, hard-lining philosophical critic of Attila the Hun.

Already, on global warming (so-called or not), McCain is reaching out with a proposal for the capping and trading of emissions. He has a plan for health insurance -- using tax credits, a conservative device. He isn't precisely splitting the difference with liberals. He situates his philosophy, as I say, right of center: just not so far right as to make anyone think Karl Rove is calling his shots.

In response Obama will...? Beam more? Lead the crowd in chanting, "Yes, we can!!!" ? Claim superior experience and wisdom in public life? Over John McCain, ex-POW, ex-Navy pilot, longtime congressman and senator?

Obama has the white liberals in his pocket. So, too, the black vote. Others he has to move, to sway. Can he? With what? That's the problem when you've just come flying out of the political chute with neither experience nor anything more to offer than the impression of wisdom and discernment as argument for preference.

Things could fall his way. There's all the same an excellent possibility that they won't. I can envision, actually, a certain woman beaming with utter satisfaction come November -- a woman in a pants suit, with blonde hair.