Time to weigh in on the national political race, two days after Iowa and two days before New Hampshire.
First, some observations on tonight's ABC News 'debate.' (Are these events anything like debates in the classic mode? Not.)
Two things to say about the Republicans. First, Mitt Romney really got beat on by the rest, except for, maybe, John McCain, who seemed to hang on the outside of the pummeling. Romney weathered the attacks well enough, but in strictly CEO style, which is to say rather than sling it back in their faces, he countered with explanations. Some of which were not half bad (I mean for a Republican), but that's hardly gonna win you votes among the Right's technocratic-phobic electoral base. And, second, Fred Thompson's really going for the Neanderthal vote. I mean, the straight Asshole ticket. The 10% of Americans who still love George W. Bush, precisely for all his macho posturing and big bully persona, have their man in Fred Thompson, that's for sure. All I can say is, what a dolt. He makes Giuliani seem highly civilized.
The Democrats–apart from being altogether more intelligent–struck a much more unified front against the Republicans, who could not really finesse their way around the Bush 43 disaster, and so chose to mostly ignore the current administration. Obama was right there, right on, mostly sounding sharp and avoiding the detailed policy explanations that had him boring people to death over the summer. I was surprised by how inarticulate Bill Richardson sounded at times, but I did appreciate his nod to the consequences of historical mistakes–some remark about the Shah of Iran and how we're still paying the price for having backed him. More of that, please.
Much has been made of Hillary's inability to escape the 'old news' problem, especially after delivering Thursday's Iowa speech conspicuously surrounded by the Clinton old guard. But what's going on in New Hampshire is fascinating. Lots of reports like this one lead me to believe that Obama has the Clinton's totally freaked out, and more to the point, unprepared for a real contest of competing ideas combined with ground organizing. They are playing two different games, and with the newer one winning, and the older one has no answer. The Republicans will be just as stuck in their political game book when it comes to contesting an Obama wave, and that is what I just can't wait to see.
What has been particularly interesting to me is how Hillary sees Obama's mastery of the emotional register somehow as his great weakness. You can't just hope for change, she keeps saying. Well, she's got it exactly wrong. A leadership that awakens the emotions are what the Dems have been missing all along, Bill Clinton's sympathetic fakery notwithstanding. It is her–ie Hillary's–greatest weakness, and calling attention to Obama's finger on the emotional pulse of a nation longing for the future–it can't get here fast enough for those who hate W–only puts her own thin emotional game on display, again and again.