Friday, September 12, 2008

Political Chess

Two bad decisions may decide the election: Obama picking Biden and McCain picking Palin. But they were bad decisions for very different reasons. One was a misreading of the political chess board; the other was a cynical, disastrous gambit.

Let’s take the Biden pick by Obama first. It was an unarguably a good pick on its own terms. No one is going to have a heart-attack because Joe Biden will be a heart beat from the Presidency. He is knowledgeable and he is prepared.

But Obama misread his position and was over confident. Maybe perhaps so were some of his supporters like moi (just had to stick in a little Miss Piggy French). It left McCain an opening and he took it by the “brilliant” move of picking a feisty woman who would both attract feminists and, perhaps, more importantly, energize his base.

The problem is that as we take a second look, Palin is perhaps the worse prepared choice for Vice-President in my (ergo modern) memory. For all her problems, Geraldine Ferraro was an experienced office holder at a national level. Some have talked down Harry Truman’s pick as VP by Roosevelt in 1944 (I was 7 years old) when he was forced to dump Henry Wallace who had gotten a little too far ahead of the curve. But Truman was an experienced Senator who had made headlines investigating war profiteering. Even Dan Quayle had national experience. Indeed, conspiracy theorists have ideas about just how deep his experience ran. There were connections between his Senate office and some of the Central American “freedom fighters” lionized by Reagan.

I was like many a bit perturbed by the seeming guile of the McCain campaign in choosing to let Palin make her debut on ABC in an interview with Charles Gibson who might have seemed a patsy type interviewer for her. Boy was I, and the McCain camp, wrong.

McCain had choices that were far better than the one he chose and who would have really put the Dems behind the eight ball. The two most intriguing were the traditional Tom Ridge who might have put both Pennsylvania and Ohio in the McCain column. The other, untraditional choice, was Joe Lieberman who, politically and personally, from my perspective, is a flawed vessel. But it would have been an enormous blow.

Obama’s most obvious choice was Hillary and although I wasn’t a fan of hers for the Presidency, as a resident of New York who has met her twice for at least a handshake and a minute of conversation, I can attest that this is one, smart hard-working lady who, but from my perspective, goes to often for the power guys and gals.

The irony is that the reason that Hillary was never seriously considered was the 800 pound gorilla Bill Clinton, who couldn’t be ignored. The calculation that he would add a wild card factor to the campaign by Obama and that Bill and Hillary could not stand vetting because of the Clinton Library stuff and the pardon scandals that involved Hillary’s brother was a reasonable one. In a sense, Obama studied the whole board and played Karpov. However, McCain threw caution to the win and tried a wild Kasparov gambit.

Obama’ studious study seemed to backfire by the initial thrust of McCain’s daring gambit. But, now the daring gambit may end-up like a lot of other daring gambits, as this writer so sadly knows: a blunder into checkmate.

I wonder how many moves are left?

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