Pretty clearly, the Obamacon phenomenon is on the whole not really an endorsement of Obama or anything he proposes to do, which is why most of the endorsements coming from the right cannot withstand much scrutiny. That’s the whole point: the Republican ticket is so unappealing to these people that they will vote for its defeat in full knowledge that there is little or nothing to say on behalf of the man they’re electing.He's got a point -- when I read the policy platforms of both candidates, I like more of McCain's than Obama's. But recall what I said way back in January:
[T]hings like pesonality and leadership style are relevant to voting decisions (and are tough to capture in suveys). A candidate’s policy positions are not the only thing that matter. The way in which the candidate will try to implement these policies matters too. I wouldn’t vote for a candidate who shared my precise policy positions but decided to implement them by constitutionally questionable methods, for example. Process matters just as much as substance.And this is where I disagree with Larison. The one positive trait that conservatives of all stripes have linked to Barack Obama is his first-rate temperament. A more conservative way of saying this is that Obama understands and practices prudence. This doesn't mean that he's timid -- simplu put, he reflects before he acts. Does this mean that I agree with everything Obama says and does? Hardly. I do, however, respect the way in which he arrives at his decisions. I can't say the same thing about John McCain's decision-making process.
I think the notion that mere election of Obama would represent a “soft power surge” as it were, should be tempered. It’s not that there would be no Obama effect. It’s just that it would be concentrated in places where elites are enthusiastic about him and his policies. This would mean Europe, Africa and Latin America, I suspect. Other regions — the Middle East, Russia and Asia — might be less receptive.As the race draws to a close, I see prominent commentators are starting to speculate about whether electing Obama would bring a soft power surge. Hey, now we have some real live data! Foreign Policy and Gallup have run polls in 70 countries from May to September 2008. The big findings:
Gallup Polls conducted in 70 countries from May to September 2008 reveal widespread international support for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain in the U.S. presidential election. Among these nations, representing nearly half of the world's population, 30% of citizens say they would personally rather see Obama elected president of the United States, compared with just 8% who say the same about McCain. At the same time, 62% of world citizens surveyed did not have an opinion.Looking at the interactive map, I see that my initial supposition was partly in error. I was right about Europe and Africa leaning heavily towards Obama. I was surprised to see, however, that Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia all trended towards Obama as well. On the other hand, large swathes of Latin America and South Asia are pretty indifferent to the whole election. As for McCain, there was no country in which enthusiasm for him outpaced Don't Know/Refuse to Say. He did the best in Georgia (23% to 18% over Obama, with 62% not knowing or saying). One final thought -- it's too bad that other countries (Russia, China, Brazil, Ukraine, Iraq, Israel, Indonesia) were not polled. UPDATE: Two online and unscientific global responses: one from the Economist and one at If the World Could Vote. At The National Interest, Nikolas Gvosdev points out that the global affection for Obama could be fleeting:
It would be foolhardy for the Obama team to assume that these strong ratings can easily and swiftly be translated into renewed acceptance of U.S. policies. And publics in other countries that are expecting an Obama administration would reverse or alter every last policy of the Bush administration are going to be disappointed.
By the spring, the McCain campaign had reportedly sent scouts to Alaska to start vetting Palin as a possible running mate. A week or so before McCain named her, however, sources close to the campaign say, McCain was intent on naming his fellow-senator Joe Lieberman, an independent, who left the Democratic Party in 2006. David Keene, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, who is close to a number of McCain’s top aides, told me that “McCain and Lindsey Graham”—the South Carolina senator, who has been McCain’s closest campaign companion—“really wanted Joe.” But Keene believed that “McCain was scared off” in the final days, after warnings from his advisers that choosing Lieberman would ignite a contentious floor fight at the Convention, as social conservatives revolted against Lieberman for being, among other things, pro-choice. “They took it away from him,” a longtime friend of McCain—who asked not to be identified, since the campaign has declined to discuss its selection process—said of the advisers. “He was furious. He was pissed. It wasn’t what he wanted.” Another friend disputed this, characterizing McCain’s mood as one of “understanding resignation.” With just days to go before the Convention, the choices were slim. Karl Rove favored McCain’s former rival Mitt Romney, but enough animus lingered from the primaries that McCain rejected the pairing. “I told Romney not to wait by the phone, because ‘he doesn’t like you,’ ” Keene, who favored the choice, said. “With John McCain, all politics is personal.” Other possible choices—such as former Representative Rob Portman, of Ohio, or Governor Tim Pawlenty, of Minnesota—seemed too conventional. They did not transmit McCain’s core message that he was a “maverick.” Finally, McCain’s top aides, including Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis, converged on Palin. Ed Rogers, the chairman of B.G.R., a well-connected, largely Republican lobbying firm, said, “Her criteria kept popping out. She was a governor—that’s good. The shorter the Washington résumé the better. A female is better still. And then there was her story.” He admitted, “There was concern that she was a novice.” In addition to Schmidt and Davis, Charles R. Black, Jr., the lobbyist and political operative who is McCain’s chief campaign adviser, reportedly favored Palin. Keene said, “I’m told that Charlie Black told McCain, ‘If you pick anyone else, you’re going to lose. But if you pick Palin you may win.’ ” (Black did not return calls for comment.) Meanwhile, McCain’s longtime friend said, “Kristol was out there shaking the pom-poms.”I actually think Black's assessment was correct, but surely someone as obsessed with honor as John McCain might have cared just a little bit about post-election governing, no? *One meme that I've seen forming in the past month is that Palin has done fine except for the Katie Couric interview, and that was only because Couric asked follow-up questions. With all due respect, that's a load of bull. Her interviews with Gibson and Hannity were almost as bad as her Couric interactions. Her debate performance wore thin after the first 15 minutes. She's committed a variety of smaller gaffes at her campaign rallies. Between her convention speech and her Saturday Night Live appearance, almost every Palin action that a camera has recorded has not treated her favorably. She's been listed as a key reason for a string of conservative editorial board endorsements of Obama. This cannot be chalked up to a few miscues. Palin's campaign performance has been an abject disaster.
To me, the crux of the matter is that McCain can’t get out of the habits that served him very well when he was a Senator building a glowing national reputation largely by talking directly to elite members of the political press. If you watched the previous two presidential debates, plus the VP debate, plus about half of the Democratic primary debates, plus the prime time speeches at the Democratic National Convention, and you’ve seen a dozen Obama surrogates yakking on cable a dozen times each just since Lehman Brothers went under then it gets kind of boring to watch Obama stay calm and repeat his talking points on the key issues. But the debate is targeted at folks who haven’t watched all that stuff. And a lot of McCain’s best moments will have gone way over the heads of most people. For example, he alluded at one point to a desire to allow more imports of sugar ethanol. Now if you’re familiar with the details of the ethanol debate, you’ll know that McCain’s stance on this is correct on the merits. And you’ll also know that Obama is a big support of corn ethanol both because they grow corn in downstate Illinois and because they made a big push for the Iowa Caucuses. McCain, by contrast, has a long and principled record on corn ethanol that’s hurt him in Iowa. This isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it is a nice illustration of some of McCain’s key campaign themes. And yet he didn’t try to explain it at all. Similarly, he’s had a knack for besting Obama on national security issues nobody cares about, like the relationship of US-Colombia trade deals to the US-Venezuela proxy conflict playing out in the Colombian jungle. People figure that Obama seems like a smart guy, and if something important happens involving a guerilla group nobody’s heard of fighting a president nobody’s heard of in a country nobody cares about, that Obama’s up to the task of coming up with a good idea — meanwhile, McCain has no education policy.UPDATE: Props to John Podhoretz, who also made this point. On a related point, Patrick Healy points out that Obama excels at getting otherwise disciplined politicians to lash out.
The past 14 days have transformed this election. The financial crisis has catapulted Obama into the lead both nationally and in key states. We have been saying for six months that the political environment has favored the Democrats significantly, but it took a near global financial meltdown for things to finally reach the tipping point. The economic situation has virtually ended John McCain's presidential aspirations and no amount of tactical maneuvering in the final 29 days is likely to change that equation.Intrade now gives Obama a 68% chance of winning. Nate Silver now gives Obama an 88% chance of winning. Conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks are now conceding that Obama will win. So, my questions to readers:
Perhaps, however, rather than trying to postpone the debate, McCain is instead seeking to increase its importance. Surely the drama of the past 30 hours has made it an even more captivating event, probably leading to increased viewership. Moreover, with the subject matter likely to be expanded to include the economy, and the candidates having had less time to prepare, the entire exercise becomes less predictable, with gaffes more likely to occur, but also the potential for "clutch" performances.I don't think McCain intended to do this -- that would require long-term thinking and based one what he's said in the past two weeks I don't think McCain's time horizon extends past 12 hours on anything right now. What matters is that McCain's actions have undoubtedly upped the ante tonight. I'll definitely be live-blogging the debate -- so be sure to show up! Have an interesting day! UPDATE: Slate suggests other McCain gambits that we might see. My fave -- "Sells Alaska to Russia for $700 billion." More seriously, I'm wondering if McCain will attempt the Albright Maneuver. When Madeleine Albright was U.N. Ambassador, she would sometmes atten NSC meetings by satellite. This had the psychological effect of increasing her leverage at the meetings, because she was a giant talking head on a big screen. I would not be surprised if sometime in the next few hours the McCain campaign offers the following to the Commission on Presidential Debates -- "I'm not going to Oxford, MS, but I'll appear via satellite from my Senate office because I'm working so hard on this bailout." Wouldn't that be the ultimate brinksmanship play? ANOTHER UPDATE: No Albright Maneuver:
Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon. Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement, especially those of taxpayers and homeowners.
I have no doubt this will play in Michigan -- but the ad has a different effect on your humble blogger:
If McCain wins, he'll face a Democratic congress that's beyond furious. Losing is one thing, but after eight years of George Bush and Karl Rove, losing a vicious campaign like this one will cause Dems to go berserk. They won't even return McCain's phone calls, let alone work with him on legislation. It'll be four years of all-out war. And what if Obama wins? The last time a Democrat won after a resurgence of the culture war right, we got eight years of madness, climaxing in an impeachment spectacle unlike anything we'd seen in a century. If it happens again, with the lunatic brigade newly empowered and shrieking for blood, Obama will be another Clinton and we'll be in for another eight years of near psychotic dementia. Am I exaggerating? Sure. Am I exaggerating a lot? I don't think so. McCain, in his overwhelming desire for office, is unloosing forces that are likely to make the country only barely governable no matter who wins.Meh. Kevin might be right. In this Feiler Faster Principle age, however, Labor Day memes can get washed away pretty damn quickly. What matters is whether these tactics actually work -- and no, a post-convention bounce does not count as working. If this stuff works in November, then Kevin might have a point. I have my doubts, however. Question to readers: is Kevin exaggeraing a lot or a little?
The campaign controversy of the moment seems to be whether McCain has been telling lies about his opponent, with the additional accusation from the opposing camp that he is also engaged in race-baiting. Of course, he is telling lies, and he isn't engaged in race-baiting, but in this bizarre election cycle you can be sure that he will be rewarded or at least forgiven for the former and then punished for something that he isn't doing.Daniel Larison
That's pretty savvy analysis, if you ask me. More generally, I think the notion that mere election of Obama would represent a "soft power surge" as it were, should be tempered. It's not that there would be no Obama effect. It's just that it would be concentrated in places where elites are enthusiastic about him and his policies. This would mean Europe, Africa and Latin America, I suspect. Other regions -- the Middle East, Russia and Asia -- might be less receptive. [What about McCain?--ed. He would certainly get an enthusiastic reception in East Asia, and given his trade policies I expect Latin America and any country that wanted an FTA with the United States would be keen on him. He would play less well in Europe, Russia and the Middle East.] UPDATE: Oh, there's also this from Greene and Delap: "The idea that some might consider him a "Muslim apostate," as Edward Luttwak controversially proposed in The New York Times, has been notably absent from Arabic op-ed pages."
Most Arab columnists writing about Obama have concluded that the exigencies of American politics undermine any efforts by politicians to change the country's foreign policy in the region. "With every American election, Arabs investigate the potential presidents, while forgetting that every American president who enters the White House will be governed by American interests and by the information that is presented to him," Alhomayed wrote. "Our problems have been left to us to deal with, and we are the biggest losers."
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.