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 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Gateway to Freedom

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Guns and Poses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Christmas in Prison

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Poison Apples

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Growing Up

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Sarah Topol follows the trade routes used by arms smugglers, Eric Foner explores the hidden history of the Underground Railroad, Karl Ove Knausgaard recounts a humiliating episode from grade school, and more
Photograph by Angela Strassheim
Article
Growing Up·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The best coming-of-age stories have a hole in the middle. They pretend to be about knowledge, but they are usually about grasping, long after it could be of any use, one’s irretrievable ignorance.”
Photograph by Ben Pier
Article
Guns and Poses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘It’s open shopping,’ he said. ‘A warehouse. The whole of Libya.’”
Map by Mike Reagan
Article
Gateway to Freedom·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The Vigilance Committee survived until the eve of the Civil War, and over the course of its several incarnations it propelled the plight of fugitives to the forefront of abolitionist consciousness.“
Photograph by Amani Willett
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Amount that President Obama has added to America’s “brand value” according to the Nation Brands Index:

$2,100,000,000,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

A former New York City police officer who had been arrested in 2012 for exchanging online messages about cooking women alive and eating them, and for illegally accessing data about potential victims in law-enforcement databases, was sentenced to time served.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today