Spengler describes “How Obama lost the election”

The FM site occasionally posts material from other sites that is original and thought-provoking, with no express or implied opinion.  Here is one such.  In this article Spengler does remote psychoanalysis.  Few things are less credible, although few do it better.  Spengler is one of our few original thinkers, and so deserves attention.

This just hints at the rich speculation of Spengler’s essay.  I recommend reading it in full.

How Obama lost the election“, Spengler, Asia Times, 3 September 2008

Obama will spend the rest of his life wondering why he rejected the obvious road to victory, that is, choosing Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential nominee. However reluctantly, Clinton would have had to accept. McCain’s choice of vice presidential candidate made obvious after the fact what the party professionals felt in their fingertips at the stadium extravaganza yesterday: rejecting Clinton in favor of the colorless, unpopular, tangle-tongued Washington perennial Joe Biden was a statement of weakness. McCain’s selection was a statement of strength. America’s voters will forgive many things in a politician, including sexual misconduct, but they will not forgive weakness.

That is why McCain will win in November, and by a landslide, barring some unforeseen event. Obama is the most talented and persuasive politician of his generation, the intellectual superior of all his competitors, but a fatally insecure personality. American voters are not intellectual, but they are shrewd, like animals. They can smell insecurity, and the convention stank of it. Obama’s prospective defeat is entirely of its own making. No one is more surprised than Republican strategists, who were convinced just weeks ago that a weakening economy ensured a Democratic victory.

… McCain doesn’t have a tenth of Obama’s synaptic fire-power, but he is a nasty old sailor who knows when to come about for a broadside. Given Obama’s defensive, even wimpy selection of a running-mate, McCain’s choice was obvious. He picked the available candidate most like himself: a maverick with impeccable reform credentials, a risk-seeking commercial fisherwoman and huntress married to a marathon snowmobile racer who carries a steelworkers union card. The Democratic order of battle was to tie McCain to the Bush administration and attack McCain by attacking Bush. With Palin on the ticket, McCain has re-emerged as the maverick he really is.

… Obama, in short, is long on brains and short on guts. A Shibboleth of American politics holds that different tactics are required to win the party primaries as opposed to the general election, that is, by pandering to fringe groups with disproportionate influence in the primaries. But Obama did not compromise himself with extreme positions. He did not have to, for younger voters who greeted him with near-religious fervor did not require that he take any position other than his promise to change everything. Obama could have allied with the old guard, through an Obama-Clinton ticket, or he could have rejected the old guard by choosing the closest thing the Democrats had to a Sarah Palin. But fear paralyzed him, and he did neither.

… Obama has an almost magical ability to gain the confidence of those around him. Perhaps it was the adaptation of a bright and sensitive young boy who was abandoned by three parents – his Kenyan father Barack Obama Sr, who left his pregnant young bride; his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetero; and by his mother, Ann Dunham, who sent 10-year-old Obama to live with her parents while she pursued her career as an anthropologist.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other Posts about the Candidates

1. How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other (7 February 2008) — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.

2. A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012 (1 March 2008) — What is next in Iraq?  None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future.  McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ).  On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…

3. Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay(3 March 2008) — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them.

4. How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?(21 March 2008) — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventh year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

5. American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties (18 May 2008) – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.

6. President Obama, an Muslim apostate? (2 June 2008) — Nope.

7. Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman? (6 June 2008) — Weirdness from our next President.

8. Does America need a charismatic President?(15 july 2008)

9. More about charisma, by Don Vandergriff…(#2 in the “getting ready for Obama” series) (16 July 2008) — About charisma:  know it before you buy it!

10. Obama might be the shaman that America needs(17 July 2008) — At what point does criticism of Obama’s charisma and rhetoric become criticism of leadership itself — and blind faith in technocratic solutions so loved by policy nerds?  Michael Knox Beran crosses that line in “Obama, Shaman“, City Journal, Summer 2008.

11. Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008 — Obama’s statement about America may be the simple truth; this may be why so many find it disturbing.

12. A powerful perspective on the candidates for President of the US, 28 August 2008 — John Derbyshire expresses what I have said about the candidates dreams of saving the world.

13. McCain believes we are stupid. Is he correct?, 30 August 2008

14. Alaska is near Russia, and Gov Palin’s other foreign policy experience, 1 September 2008

15. It’s is not just McCain who believes we’re dumb – it’s a crowd, 3 September 2008

For interesting articles about the candidates from other sources, see About the candidates for President of the United States.

20 thoughts on “Spengler describes “How Obama lost the election””

  1. I think Sarah Palin more succinctly pointed it out: Obama talked about previous wars, but the only time he used the word “victory” was about his own campaign.

    I wanted and want ‘victory’ for Iraqi Freedom. Probably most American voters do, too. Tho most will not be happy about the costs … they still want to win.

  2. There’s a kernel of truth here. Biden is certainly an establishment figure. Hillary Clinton would have been just as much of one, if not more, because more directly connected to the DLC.

    But there’s really no comparison between Hillary and Palin. Hillary appeals an activist “liberated” feminist voter; Palin appeals to an anti-feminist, traditional values voter. I think she was quite a good choice, tactically — a modern American ticket has got to have “sex appeal” (glamour, if you prefer) somewhere, and McCain certainly doesnt have that.

    Where does Spengler come up with Palin’s “impeccable reform credentials”?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Palin has “impeccable reform credentials” from her revolt on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and running against the Alaska State Republican Party’s candidate for Governor. They are just very brief brief (in the sense of taking place over a short period of time) reform credentials.

  3. They are just very brief reform credentials

    I strongly disagree. Palin’s reforms:
    –beat a 3-term incumbent mayor and swept his cronies out of the bureaucracy
    –commenced an ethics probe against her party’s state chairman, Randy Ruedrich, involving conflict of interest. He was fined $12,000.
    –joined Democrats in an ethics complaint against the Republican Attorney General, who resigned
    –took on and beat the incumbent Repub governor, and former senator (22 years), Frank Murkowski in the Repub primary, 51-19.
    –joined the effort to unseat Alaska’s only congressman, Republican Don Young
    Fabius Maximus replies: I was not clear. I meant “brief” in the sense of taking place over a short period of time. That refers to her time on the O&G commission and as Gov.

    I have seen no evidence that her time as mayor produced substantial reforms (unless one counts reducing her salary as reform, which I do not w/o more information). So far this is all I have seen: “Palin – the Iron-fist Mayor“, The Washington Independent, 1 September 2008 – Excerpt:

    “Eleven days after taking office in 1996, she mailed letters to each of the city’s top managers requesting that they resign as a test of loyalty.

    “The Anchorage Daily News at the time {26 October 1996} reported the strange events: (via Nexis)

    ‘Mayor Sarah Palin sent the resignation requests Thursday to Police Chief Irl Stambaugh, public works director Jack Felton, finance director Duane Dvorak and Mary Ellen Emmons, the head of libraries. A fifth director — John Cooper, who oversaw the city museum — resigned earlier this month after Palin eliminated his position.’

    “Cooper initially resisted resigning, but to no avail. Palin also later fired the police chief, saying she knew in her “heart” that he did not support her. She left the head of libraries a letter saying she was out — though Palin later decided to spare the librarian after being convinced that she would tow the line.”

  4. There are many way’s that Palin can backfire. There’s the troopergate scandal for example. The greatest danger though is that Palin damages McCain’s “experience” argument and forces him to run as a “Maverick”. Since McCain isn’t actually willing to buck either conservative policies or the conservative establishment, being a “Maverick” comes to imply plain old risk taking. Obama will try to pain McCain as the risky choice, indeed they have already begun with their “10% chance of change” line.

    The other aspect of all of this is that Obama is simply out-organizing McCain. A larger ground operation that is spread to many different states gives Obama many different paths to Victory. If he fails to get Ohio and Florida he can still pull it out by flipping Virginia. Fail in Virginia? Colorado is up for grabs. The math shows that Obama can win in half a dozen different ways while McCain’s only chance is if he holds onto nearly ALL of the states that Bush won in 2004. I don’t see Palin changing this.

  5. In response to D. Bacon: You {are on} the fringe of dishonesty.

    “beat a 3-term incumbent mayor and swept his cronies out of the bureaucracy”

    -first time in my life I have ever heard the staff of a town of 6000 referred to as a “bureaucracy” its usually less than a half dozen full timers.

    “commenced an ethics probe”

    – where I come from in a small town like her we call this filing a complaint, (which she did along with a fellow board member) She herself admitted she had no authority to do much about it and was frustrated by his continued activities so she resigned her position on the board she shared with Ruedrich. Other entities actually “reformed” Mr. Ruedrich.

    Your other three points seem more proximal to genuine.

  6. American voters are not intellectual, but they are shrewd, like animals. They can smell insecurity, and the convention stank of it.

    Well thanks, Spengler. I like being described as a feral animal that’s just looking for an opening to bite.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps he was referring to me. That often fits me to a “t”.

  7. The weakness vs. strength thing is idiocy. Weakness would have meant being bullied into selecting a VP candidate that you don’t actually want, i.e. what Spengler wanted Obama to do by picking Clinton. Instead Obama picked someone that will help him govern, Biden. He is colorless and tangle-tongued which is why it was a risky decision, not a “weak” one – it was made with a view towards governing rather than selling one’s soul in order to get to the White House. McCain on the other hand recognized his electoral weakness and picked someone who will help energize the GOP crazies but brings nothing to the table in terms of governing. Pandering to the extreme wing of your party by picking unqualified people is not “strength,” it is reckless, desperate stupidity.

    “That is why McCain will win in November, and by a landslide, barring some unforeseen event.”

    While at first glance this looks like a testable prediction and thus Spengler could potentially lose all credibility if he is wrong (although when’s the last time that happened to a political pundit), that last clause is a get-out-of-jail-free card, as unforeseen things happen in EVERY election and so if Spengler is wrong he’ll be sure to have something to point to.

  8. It is not as clear-cut as Spengler claims. Obama’s choice of Biden is not his worst decision, although it is abysmally bad. As Alex, Al, and Adrian point out, Obama will have his hands full just making it a close race.

  9. I am relatively new to this site and have been hugely impressed to date but Spengler is little better than a racist neo-con. This is very disappointing.
    Fabius Maximus replies: The goal is diversity of viewpoints in the pursuit of truth. Are you referring to Spengler as a person or to specific aspects of this post? People often dismiss viewpoints saying “he’s a bad guy”. I do not care who or what he is. The words posted here are all that interests me. They might come directly from the devil for all I care (although in that case I might post a warning to readers).

  10. Obama’s choice of Biden is not his worst decision, although it is abysmally bad. As Alex, Al, and Adrian point out, Obama will have his hands full just making it a close race.

    Are we living on the same planet? Because on the planet I’m on McCain has consistently trailed Obama in every poll, even after the VP selections. More importantly, Obama’s ahead in states that add up to a significant electoral college edge over McCain. See Pollster.com, FiveThirtyEight, Intrade for all the detail you need.

  11. Obama’s pattern is to build strength on the fringes and then slide towards the center. The spectacular New Yorker profile showed that his actions in Chicago were a good blueprint for getting elected.

    Biden’s selection fits in perfectly with that pattern: get the really liberal crowd het up, make the splash, get in the race, get elected and then get adopted by a lesser star who knows what he/she’s doing in the legislative world.
    Fabius Maximus replies: One of the most interesting observations I have seen about the race is “A word more on Palin and the riskiness of mockery“, James Fallows, posted at his blog at The Atlantic, 4 September 2008.

    In brief, McCain’s playing for a base mobilization strategy; Obama is going for the Center. Which has better odds, assuming both are executed well?

  12. In brief, McCain’s playing for a base mobilization strategy; Obama is going for the Center. Which has better odds, assuming both are executed well?

    The GOP base has declined substantially between 2004 and today. Significant chunks have slid off into the “independent” category. A Republican campaign focusing on mobilizing the base will be lucky to pull 45%.

  13. Good post. Spengler is always interesting, and he could be right. I’ll be interested to see what Hillary does. I could very easily see a scenario where states Obama thought he had in the bag are all of a sudden a lot closer.

    The famous Admiral Yamamoto quote about awaking sleeping giants applies to suburban moms. See your local school board for proof.

  14. RE: Spengler describes “How Obama lost the election”

    Interesting article, but on what basis does Mr. Spengler make his claim that “McCain does not have one-tenth of Obama’s synaptic firepower”? Is he a neurologist, or perhaps a physicians? This sort of statement is not only mean-spirited, but irrelevent. It is also thoroughly ageist; promoting the idea that simpy because someone is of advanced age, one is not capable of functioning at a very high level relative to younger peers. Do you seriously believe that “synaptic firepower” is somehow a pre-requisite for executive or legislative office? If so, then why not start with some of those octagenarians (or better) in the Democratic Party, such as Robert Byrd? I’m not for means-testing, but if you insist, why not start there? Oh yes, why don’t we measure your synaptic richness, as it were, and see how it compares to Mr. McCains?

    The real issue is not raw brainpower, of which Obama is obviously blessed, but wisdom; IQ does not equate to the ability to govern or lead effectively, if it did, men like Jimmy Carter would have been among our best Presidents, and not mediocrities or worse. Mr. Obama, in my view, is a political star who will be around for a long time to come – and if he loses this election, he will be back and probably win once he accumulates some age and experience. By then, I might even consider voting for him, provided my values come into closer allignment with his.

    By the way, Mr. Spengler, if you are reading this – save the condescension about the intellect of the American voter… you are not nearly as smart as you believe, nor are we as lacking in intellectual accomplishment as you charge. I suspect you are one of those types all too willing to hurl such charges from the safety of your PC keyboard, but completely lacking the backbone to make such comments face-to-face. How sleazy…

    Such patronisation is precisely why Gov. Palin is achieving such popularity; we in the heartland are tired of elitist holier-than-thou types looking down their noses at us. Get it?

  15. The Democrats have shown a marked propensity for getting their rear ends handed to them in presidential elections over the last 40 years.

    And as Spengler points out – winning primaries and caucuses doesn’t translate into winning the White House. Usually the Democrats ended up with unappealing, identity politics driven elitist candidates that have no appeal to the citizenry at large. Especially to white working class voters whom they have a very hard time winning over.

    And the two times the Democrats did win in 40 years was thanks to the GOP running really bad candidates and a 3rd party challenge from Perot that drained votes from the GOP.

    Obama doesn’t have either advantage, a uncharismatic Republican opponent or a 3rd party to drain votes from McCain.

  16. If McCain gets elected ,and if he really was a continuation of the Bush Policies , it would indicate the first sign of a failing democracy , when demagogue Republicans get elected for 3 continuous terms on failing policies.

    But hey McCain can’t win if the minorities vote well , and the “working class whites” finally get to know their own interests which Obama DOES represent. McCain and his incompetent administration would leave a ruined US economy and HUGE public debt.

    Unfortunately , the US public is vulnerable to statements concerning the US oil reserves and how would exploiting them would improve their life , However , McCain and Palin care more about more drilling permits for their Oil-business lobbies , and it was clearly evident in the recent difference between mccain and palin concerning WHERE to drill , and of course Science doesn’t have its place in Republican speeches

  17. Update: polling data

    Palin Power: Fresh Face Now More Popular Than Obama, McCain“, Rasmussen Reports, 5 September 2008 — Excerpt:

    Note: Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.

    “A week ago, most Americans had never heard of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Now, following a Vice Presidential acceptance speech viewed live by more than 40 million people, Palin is viewed favorably by 58% of American voters. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 37% hold an unfavorable view of the self-described hockey mom.

    “The figures include 40% with a Very Favorable opinion of Palin and 18% with a Very Unfavorable view (full demographic crosstabs are available for Premium Members). Before her acceptance speech, Palin was viewed favorably by 52%. A week ago, 67% had never heard of her.

    “The new data also shows significant increases in the number who say McCain made the right choice and the number who say Palin is ready to be President. Generally, John McCain’s choice of Palin earns slightly better reviews than Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden.

    “Perhaps most stunning is the fact that Palin’s favorable ratings are now a point higher than either man at the top of the Presidential tickets this year. As of Friday morning, Obama and McCain are each viewed favorably by 57% of voters. Biden is viewed favorably by 48%. …”

  18. The Barack Obama Prophecies” (humor), by Josh Greenberger, 17 August 2008 — Opening:

    “Legend has it that Migel Nostrildamous, a seer of the 1500s, could smell the future. He predicted the 2008 U.S. Presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. Nostrildamous claimed there were two parallel universes, one in which McCain would win and one in which Obama would win. Although he could not clearly see which universe was ours, he gave an amazingly detailed account of the outcome of the Obama presidency. What Nostrildamous saw was startling. In 2015, after winning a second term, Obama will find himself in a large room being grilled by angry senators ready to impeach him. This was Nostrildamous’ vision: …”
    Fabius Maximus replies: At almost 1400 words, this was not only far in excess of the comment policy (250 words is a reasonable max), but also longer than most FM posts. Nor is it topical (as in relating specifically to the post). Last, Fabius Maximus had no sense of humor that we know of. However, I leave the opening and reference for any who wish to follow it.

  19. Palin’s speech was akin to a rocket blasting off from Vandenberg, which is just a few miles from here. May it enter outer space and accomplish its’ mission, before returning for a smooth landing. Not even Senator McCain could have forseen the dramatic uplift she would give to his campaign. He’ll govern well, command respect from the leaders around the world, and with a little cooperation from Congress accomplish much of his program. At least HE has a plan, and he has experience as a leader as well as a moderator of men.

    Hope? If we had lost hope, this nation would not exist today. Change? We’ve had it as a continuing experience since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They’re meaningless terms. We’re not losers and never have been, that is, until Jane Fonda and the anti-war group came along. In spite of that, having seen eight decade pass by, I’ve always had faith in this great nation, not wept and hoped for better. I’ve seen how we’ve changed the world for the better in thousands of little ways around the Globe. Sen. John McCain is a lucky, lucky man. He has two dynamic women to stand besidses him, Cindy and Sarah. That old song, “I’m biden my time . . . ” until McCain and Palin take the Oath of Office and, on the Bible.

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