Neighbors' Obama bumper stickers fill Kristol with 'moroseness'
Muriel Kane
Published: Monday July 28, 2008

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With presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama riding high after a triumphant nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, and John McCain reduced to photo ops in cheese aisles and sausage restaurants, conservative pundits are consoling themselves with the thought that in politics, nothing is certain.

In a New York Times op-ed, Neocon William Kristol appears depressed by the current assumption that Obama has the election in the bag -- but what seems to annoy him most are the "got hope?" bumper stickers adorning even expensive cars in his Washington suburban neighborhood.

"I relapsed into moroseness," Kristol complains, wondering "Are my own neighbors’ lives so bleak that they place their hopes in Barack Obama?" ... "Do they really believe their fellow citizens who happen to prefer McCain are hopeless?"

Although cheering himself up briefly with the thought that "all those 'got hope?' bumper stickers [might] spur a backlash?" Kristol's real dream is that McCain might replicate Harry Truman's upset electoral victory in 1948, when he campaigned against the Republican-controlled "do-nothing" Congress.

"We’ll soon start hearing more from McCain about the deficiencies of today’s surge-opposing, drilling-blocking, earmark-loving Congress," Kristol suggests. "And McCain will then assert that if you don’t like the Congress in which Senator Obama serves in the majority right now, you really should be alarmed about a President Obama rubber-stamping the deeds of a Democratic Congress next year. A President McCain, on the other hand, could check Congressional appetites."

Kristol's recommendation that McCain run on a promise to maintain the status quo by keeping Congress as hamstrung by veto threats as it has been in dealing with George Bush seems hardly equivalent to Truman's 1948 campaign against a "do-nothing" Congress. However, Kristol himself appears to find the idea plausible, and he quickly "drift[s] off into a pleasant daydream" of an upset McCain victory next fall.

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, conservative pundit Robert Novak is concerned that McCain "seems wooden, with a campaign that appears to be in shambles." However, like Kristol, he finds a silver lining in the fact that "Obama's lead in the polls over McCain is fragile because he so far has not won the support of a majority of American voters."

"An effective and massively publicized foreign trip failed to push Obama above the 50 percent mark," Novak insists. "Democratic hopes and Republican fears that he would get a major bounce in the polls when he clinched the nomination and then on his campaign trip abroad have not been realized."

Novak acknowledges that "not even Bob Dole's dismal candidacy in 1996 generated less enthusiasm in GOP ranks than McCain's current effort," while Obama "is the most spectacular campaigner of his generation, with an appeal that extends well beyond Democratic ranks."

He suggests, though, that what this really means is that even Obama's extraordinary political talents may be insufficient to overcome resistance to a black candidate by white working class males, saying that "Obama's difficulty in reaching the 50 percent mark reflects an overwhelmingly white undecided vote of 10 to 15 percent."

"McCain, running a flawed campaign in a big Democratic year, is dangerously close," Novak concludes. "He still could back into victory unless Obama closes the deal."

However, some observers from the left believe that if McCain does pull out an upset victory in this fall's election, the real reason will be neither Congress nor angry white males, but rather widespread voter disenfranchisement.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast has compiled figures on tens of thousands of disproportionately poor and minority voters purged from voting rolls. He writes, "My investigations partner spoke directly to Barack Obama about it. (When your partner is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., candidates take your phone call.) The cool, cool Senator Obama told Kennedy he was 'concerned' about the integrity of the vote in the Southwest in particular. He’s concerned. I’m sweating."