Washington Babylon — February 6, 2008, 1:12 pm

Yes We Can’t: Pundits fail, flail

Yesterday I planned to write a post about the likely outcome of the Super Tuesday voting, but gave up when I saw the glut of over-excited punditry filling the newspapers and jamming the Internet’s tubes. When the votes finally came in, it was clear that most of what had been written and said was little more than idle speculation, much of it based on a combination of worthless polls and the personal hopes of the pundit in question.

During the past week, the media narrative has been that a wave of momentum was building for Barack Obama. There were all those endorsements from top Democratic elected officials, the backing from MoveOn.org, that music video, and the tightening polls. Meanwhile, it was said that Bill Clinton had singlehandedly destroyed Hillary’s chances, even though this theory is illogical because the former president, no matter how high-profile, is not on the ballot.

In Massachusetts, backing from Ted Kennedy and assorted family members was supposedly going to turn the tide for Obama. Last night, Hillary Clinton won there easily. (Who knows, perhaps an Obama endorsement from Michael Skakel, the one Kennedy family member who seemingly did not to make an official endorsement, would have tipped the race?) There was fevered speculation that Al Gore might endorse Obama, which was going to turn the tide in his favor in Tennessee (and possibly nationally). No endorsement came and it clearly wouldn’t have a made a difference anyway given that Clinton trounced Obama in Tennessee by 13 points. Obama also lost decisively in a number of other states where the hype, and the early exit polls, suggested he would either win or come very close.

Now that the votes have (mostly) been counted and there’s actually something to analyze, I’d say that Hillary Clinton came out slightly ahead last night, but the future favors Obama. But given how tight the race is at this point everything is essentially guesswork.

It’s far more simple on the G.O.P. side. The Republicans are stuck with John McCain whether they like it or not. The press keeps reviving Mitt Romney from the dead, but last night should prove to be the final stake through his heart. (You could tell during Romeny’s “victory” speech that even wife Ann has had enough. The look on her face said it all–Please, Mitt, pull the plug on this thing and stop blowing through the kids’ inheritance.) Mike Huckabee performed well, but his base of support is narrow and it’s hard to see how he could possibly stop McCain now.

All told, the best state-of-the-game analysis I’ve seen today is this one at The New Republic. Check it out, get back to your normal life and don’t read anything more about the presidential race until after the next set of primaries. You’ll free up a lot of time.

I still can’t muster much enthusiasm for either of the Democratic candidates. There’s a lot to admire in Barack Obama and the excitement he has generated on the campaign trail is genuinely stirring. On the other hand I still don’t know what he really stands for and fear that he’d be a cautious, middle-of-the-road president who’d disappoint his followers. Hillary Clinton is meaner and tougher and that in some ways seems preferable to Obama’s naïve calls for bipartisanship. Also, you know from the get-go what Hillary is all about. Hence, it’s possible to skip the phases of betrayal and disillusionment and go straight to opposition, which is almost always the best place to be in American politics.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans
Post
Kid Chocolate’s Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Cuban eyes often look close to tears.”
Illustration by the author
Article
Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If you short-circuit the bottom, you threaten the entire cycle,” Joye told me. “Without a healthy ocean, we’ll all be dead.”
Illustration by John Ritter

Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:

15

Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.

A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today