Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Echos of 2004

On its surface, it is hard to imagine a bigger contrast between the 2004 and 2008 elections. In 2004 the Democrats ran a stiff white guy with a military background against a Republican incumbent with questionable military credentials. This time the Democrats have a dynamic black candidate with little experience in anything and the Republicans have an aging military hero. So why does the left sound so much like it did four years ago?

In 2004 the expectation was that John Kerry would beat President Bush decisively in the debates. After all, Kerry had been on the Harvard debate team and Bush was reputed (unfairly) to have the lowest IQ of any president. When Bush held his own the left cried foul. Bush must have had some sort of receiver and Karl Rove must have been telling him what to say. They spent a lot of effort looking at pictures of Bush's back, convinced that they saw the outline of a receiver.

There was nothing to this. Disinterested observers noted that the "lump" changed locations and shapes. Bush was sweating in the hot lights and the lining of his coat stuck to his shirt causing unusual folds. Further, an examination of their military records showed that Bush had a slightly higher IQ than Kerry.

In 2008, at the presidential forum in Saddleback, John McCain did better than silver-tongued Barack Obama. The format was that one candidate would go first while the other waited in a "cone of silence". Obama went first. McCain did so well that Obama supporters immediately announced that McCain must not have been in the cone of silence. As it turned out, McCain was actually in a motorcade during the first 20 minutes. His campaign insists that he was not listening to Obama's answers and his staff was not feeding him answers. Obama supporters are calling McCain a lier.

The Obama campaign should hush these complaints. They make Obama seem petty.

In 2004, the first claim by the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth was that John Kerry lied about spending Christmas in Cambodia. More than once Kerry had claimed moral authority because he heard President Nixon say that no US troops were in Cambodia while Kerry himself was delivering a CIA agent to Cambodia.

Kerry's Christmas story fell apart in several places. Kerry claimed that Nixon made this speech on Christmas but the only Christmas that Kerry spent in Viet Nam was 1968 and Nixon was inaugurated in 1969. A biograghy based on Kerry's own diary placed him elsewhere on Christmas. While the US did move into Cambodia, it was not until after Kerry's three month tour was over.

During the forum, McCain told a story about a guard who showed him some kindness and drew a cross in the dirt with his foot as explaination. Within hours the left was insisting that this never happened and that McCain stole the anecdote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The only proof that they could offer was that McCain didn't tell this story until years after it happened.

This is probably revenge for Christmas in Cambodia. The left woul love to tarnish McCain's record as Kerry's was tarnished. This is a poor place to start. They have no proof. The simple act of a guard scratching a cross in the dirt is universal enough that it could easily have happened to both men. This isn't even the only cross-related story to come from Viet Nam.

The most worrysome echo of 2004 for the left must be Obama's performance in the polls. When Obama took the nomination, pundits on the left announced that his poll numbers would only rise from there. Later, when they refused to go up, the pundits showed how a slight lead in the popular vote could translate to an electoral landslide.

In fact, Obama never got higher that 49% and his numbers have been dropping consistently in every poll. He is still ahead in the Electoral College but his numbers are behind Kerry's at this date. As an example, Kerry was ahead in both Ohio and Florida in mid-August but Obama is behind in both states. In 2004, Bush took both states.

Add in the Bradley Effect (the tendency of black candidates to generate higher poll numbers than they get on election day) and Obama might already be behind.

This might be the biggest resemblance to 2004 when the Democrats nominated a candidate who couldn't lose and lost anyway.

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