Quote of the Week
"If he cannot win all four [March 4] states, it may indicate what some have called 'buyer's remorse.'"—Hillary Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson, getting good and ready to spin the Rhode Island primary.
The Week in Brief
– A national ad campaign was launched, by Defense of Democracies, against Congressional resistance to telecom immunity. Democratic board members of the think tank quit in protest.
– John McCain and Barack Obama had their first tete-a-tete over Iraq.
– Ron Paul looked headed for a landslide re-election victory, as did Dennis Kucinich.
More to the Point
What do they do next? Now that we're down to three candidates with a shot at being president, my mind is drifting, naturally, to what happens when they lose. We all have our ways of staying optimistic. Here are some scattered thoughts on what would happen to each of these candidates if they clinch the nomination and then blow the general election. The stakes are higher for either Democrat than they are for McCain.
– Barack Obama. The first name you'll hear will be "McGovern," as Obama is linked to that other anti-war senator who blew up the frontrunner's bus, built an anti-war coalition to win the primaries, and trodded, unelectably, into the general election. It would be an unfair comparison, but if Obama loses it will be because he's been painted as an unpatriotic surrendercrat. Obama's allies will argue that the election was lost when the GOP failed to nominate Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, but Democrats won't forgive a candidate who lost in their most favorable climate since 1992 or 1976. Obama can win re-election as long as he wants or he can retreat to Illinois to run for governor. A lot could change by 2016, but the Democrats will feel they rolled the dice and lost on him once before: Never again.
– Hillary Clinton. That's it: Game over. The dynasty's will have been Romanov'd and only the most foolish, sycophantic Clintonites—let's call them the "Lanny Davis Democrats"—will suggest Clinton, who'll be 64 in 2012, can run again for the presidency. The first polls about the next presidential race show Obama the top choice of about 50 percent of Democrats, with whoever Clinton selected as a running mate far behind, maybe tied with John Edwards. Clinton will explain the loss much like Obama did, arguing the thing was over when St. John McCain took the nomination. Slowly, surely, she and her husband try and find another way to build a legacy. She takes the Ted Kennedy path and becomes a liberal icon of the Senate, invulnerable to a serious re-election challenge (the next won't come until 2012), able to spend two more decades in the body cutting deals and introducing legislation without being scrutinized for her ambition.
– John McCain. We've seen this movie before, when it starred Bob Dole. The day he stops being the GOP nominee, he becomes Elder Statesman John McCain. The only question becomes whether he'd run again for Senate. He'd be 73 in 2010, which is basically senatorial middle age, and only two years older than Barry Goldwater was when he won his last term. But candidates who lose the presidency are usually weakened at home, and McCain would have to decide whether he wants to face a strong challenge from Janet Napolitano. (Polls last year showed her beating him in a Senate match-up.) The state party will want him to stay (even though he'll surely get an anti-immigration primary challenge), and McCain might relish the chance to stay in Washington for the rest of the new president's term, trying to keep him/her "honest" or foreign policy. Or he might pass the torch to Jeff Flake and spend his remaining years basking in the media glow that left him for those months he was threatening to deny the Democrats the White House. In either case, if Mitt Romney runs in 2012 McCain will take some time to kick his ass up and down the country again, in the role of someone else's surrogate.
Oh, and what happens to the country in any of these scenarios? Either Democrat will bring in at least 20 percent of what was promised during the campaign, certainly health care reform, probably tax reform, probably not serious trade renegotiations, and certainly not a serious foreign policy change. (The anti-war movement shrinks back to its pre-Bush, "U.S. out of the Balkans" size.) Little of it works and the Republicans start to come back in the midterm election. President McCain brings on a battle on the Right that makes the thrashings of the Bush era look like REM sleep. I don't think an Obama loss or a Clinton loss sets back the cause of black and female national candidates very far: That bell isn't getting un-rung. A female candidate in 2012 or 2016 is more likely than a black candidate simply because the bench is deeper.
Below the Fold
– Daniel Larison asks why Barack Obama's cross-party support doesn't show up when you pit him against John McCain.
– George Will bids farewell to WFB.
– Steve Hayes has Cheney-inspired advice on how to beat Obama.
– Julian Sanchez does some long-overdue demolition of Newt Gingrich's wiretapping propaganda.
For this week's Politics and Prog I looked around for 1)a martial theme and 2)a band I have not yet used. Thank you, The Pretty Things and some amateur YouTube auteurism!