- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Helpful battle

“I think the primary battle has actually been quite helpful for the Democrats. It has exposed weaknesses in both campaigns that might not have been identified until October. This has given both an opportunity to strengthen themselves,” Jay Cost writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“Consider a few examples. We have learned that the Clinton organization was plagued by pro-Clinton myopia. Operating under the assumption that she could not lose, it failed to do everything it could to ensure victory. This included small things like mismanaging Bill, to big things like leaving caucus states unorganized. If Clinton had won Iowa and New Hampshire, knocking Obama out, it might not have discovered its myopia until it was too late. Learning in October that its basic assumptions were fundamentally flawed would have been disastrous,” Mr. Cost said.

“The Obama campaign has learned several important lessons about ‘elitism.’ It has learned that Republicans are quite attracted to this idea. This is a good thing. Now it knows how the Republicans will come after him. Furthermore, thanks to last week’s debate, it also knows it must have a better response ready for the GOP.

“Suppose Obama had won Texas and Ohio, knocking Hillary out. Flash forward to the fall debates, when Obama is asked about William Ayers. Not having the benefit of having been asked in April, he gives a tepid answer like the one he actually gave last week. This time, his debate opponent is not Hillary Clinton, whose spouse pardoned members of the Weather Underground, but John McCain, who was in the Hanoi Hilton when they were engaging in terrorism. Obama would have been in much more jeopardy.

“The problem is not that the campaign has gone on this long. Rather, it is that there is no obvious terminal point. There will be a point at which the benefits to the campaign are outweighed by the costs. I do not think we are there yet, but we are getting close. The trouble is that there is nothing to stop the race when that point is reached.”

By the numbers

“The Democratic primary campaign — divisive, bitter and seemingly endless — has made many Republicans optimistic about their party’s prospects for retaining the White House this November,” Ross Douthat writes at theatlantic.com.

“But the numbers still seem to tell a different story — and not just secondary indicators like the enormous gap between McCain’s fundraising and the dollars his Democratic rivals are raking in, or the underlying economic realities that will make this a tough year for the GOP no matter what. The polls themselves aren’t running McCain’s way, or at least not to the extent that would justify the current wave of conservative optimism about November,” Mr. Douthat said.

“Now of course no poll taken in April can tell us all that much about a vote that’s held in November: Elections that look close can turn into routs and vice versa, and huge polling margins can vanish in the blink of an eye. (Ask Michael Dukakis how well his 17-point margin from early-summer 1988 held up in the end.) But by all rights, this ought to be a peak time for McCain’s numbers — not the peak, necessarily, but certainly a high point. …

“Yet even with all this going for him, McCain’s poll numbers are bumping up against the same 45 percent ceiling that they’ve been hitting since December. If the election were held today — a pretty good day for McCain, all things considered — he’d probably lose to Obama, and might lose to Clinton as well. That doesn’t mean he will lose, by any stretch, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for November.”

Wishful thinking

“He came. He spoke. He confounded,” Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn writes.

“In the run-up to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to America, the assurance was that the Bishop of Rome would take the president of the United States to the papal woodshed. One of the more wishful versions appeared in The Washington Post, whose author confidently asserted that ‘Pope Benedict XVI will show how much his worldview differs from President Bush’s when he denounces the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq before the U.N. General Assembly.’

“As it happened, Benedict said nothing remotely close to denouncing the ‘occupation of Iraq.’ One reason, perhaps, is his knowledge that a U.S. withdrawal before there is an Iraqi government in place that can defend its people is a prescription for a bloodbath,” Mr. McGurn said.

“That doesn’t mean that Pope Benedict doesn’t have his disagreements with President Bush. As a cardinal, Benedict was on record as opposing America’s entry into Iraq, and on this trip he alluded to his belief that the proper way to resolve conflicts is via international organizations such as the United Nations. The differences are real. But they do not override the great respect these two leaders have for each other, on full display this past week.”

Hillary vs. Bill

Chelsea Clinton said yesterday that her mother would be a better president than her father because Hillary Rodham Clinton is more prepared and more progressive.

Miss Clinton, campaigning for her mother in North Carolina, told about 300 people at Duke University that her father, former President Bill Clinton, didn’t have a complete grasp of the inner workings of Congress when he took office in 1993.

The former first daughter said her mother will benefit from her time as a senator from New York, the Associated Press reports.

Miss Clinton said her mother stands her ground on issues but knows how to work with Republicans. And that, she said, will help her mother navigate challenges and fulfill her campaign promises.

“I think that she’ll be a better president because she’ll be more progressive and she’s more prepared,” Miss Clinton said. “She’ll just hit the ground running from Day One in a way that my father was not as equipped to do.”

Award winner

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation announced yesterday that one of four 2008 Bradley Prizes will be awarded to Alan Charles Kors, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and chairman emeritus of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Mr. Kors will be presented the award during a ceremony at the Kennedy Center on June 4. Each award carries a stipend of $250,000.

Mr. Kors, an early activist against “political correctness” on college campuses, authored “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on American Campuses” in 1998.

c Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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