Anxiety from the White House to the Campaign Trail

From the White House to the campaign trail there’s a lot of anxiety going on. Senator Clinton and her staff keep up a barrage of reasons to legitimize her continued candidacy. Senator McCain gives one uninspiring speech after another, animated only when tossing insults in Barack Obama’s direction, telling ‘his friends’ he will never surrender in Iraq, or delivering one liners with a maniacal grin and a giggle. The administration on the other hand is busily trying to exert damage control and contain the uproar caused by Scott McClellan’s book about his tour as presidential press secretary.

Common to all these anxious moments is a growing sense of how badly the American people have been and continue to be treated. If Hillary is able to say she has more popular votes, and McCain can claim superior national security credentials, and the president and his cohort can swear that author Scott McClellan just isn’t the Scottie they all knew and loved, the ensuing credibility gap requires an enormous leap of faith even among true believers. At the core of all these assertions is a continuing effort to dissemble, twist, distort and, in the end, trash the truth. Unfortunately, by the time that realization bubbles up in the collective American mind unspeakable damage to the country’s institutions has been done.

In a way it’s kind of fun to tweak some of the devious rationales the various camps put out in support of their positions. For example, Terry McAuliffe and other Clinton supporters insist all the Michigan and Florida votes should be counted without the “uncommitted” Michigan votes being awarded to Obama, meaning Hillary would get to cash in on all her 328,309 votes along with the accompanying delegates while the  238,168 “uncommitted” votes would presumably belong to no-one.

Since, however, only her name was on the Michigan ballot perhaps the “uncommitted” votes could be subtracted from Hillary’s total leaving her with 90,141 votes. And in Florida perhaps John Edwards could ask that his votes be awarded to Obama. What difference such ‘solutions’ might make is un-clear and probably wouldn’t be terribly fair, but how fair is the count-all-votes mantra absent campaigning and ballot representation? In all honesty, at this point there isn’t any particularly fair way to dispose of this problem. Certainly Michigan and Florida delegations should be seated at the Convention but not represent a decisive factor in the selection of a nominee.

Depending on one’s sense of humor the tortured logic of today’s political machinations can be a rewarding source of amusement, in a kind of deadly way. With Hillary trotting out Karl Rove’s electoral map to prove that she’s the best candidate, McCain’s ludicrous attempts to campaign as a change candidate and all the president’s men running around expressing shock that Scott could say such awful things about the administration, it’s a fertile comedic field – – although one that produces more smirks than actual laughter.

The question, once the primary process ends, is what the electorate will take away from the spin with which it has been deluged. Can McCain convince voters that his recipe of tax cuts, spending restraints and what he refers to as “market forces” will bring the country back into economic balance? Can his ‘clean-guy’ maverick image be sustained in light of his lobbyist-laden staff, most especially advisor Phil Gramm, former Senator cum banking-interest lobbyist? The blurring of the line between banks and investment houses that Gramm promoted played a major role in the sub-prime mortgage debacle and could turn out to be a ruinous association given the distress of so many threatened homeowners.

And how will the McClellan book impact an already disaffected population with respect to the war in Iraq? Will those who voted to give the president war powers be excused for not being more inquisitive at the time and not demanding greater accountability regarding the conduct of the war, both in terms of dollars and lives?

The coming election will test the willing suspension of disbelief in which partisans have allowed a corrupt and incompetent government to survive its critics. It isn’t easy to turn away from long-held beliefs and party affiliations, but this time around there is ample cause for voters to go to the polls and rally against the politics of privilege and deception.