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Say what you will about the contest to see which presidential candidate (and which presidential candidate’s wife) is more patriotic. At least it managed to knock Bill Clinton back out of the headlines. The economy, the war, fuel prices, none of that stands much of a chance of seeing much airtime anyway between now and November.

I nearly fell down laughing when I heard someone on CNN talk about how the patriotism debate switched the topic of most news away from the economy, etc., an alleged switch that apparently benefits John McCain. I just don’t remember hearing much about those other issues. But I do recall heated exchanges over the motives and whereabouts of Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the Democratic primary.

I can’t quite understand the media’s fascination with the Clinton-Obama story line. Well, no. I can, given the obvious drama. But it seems that health care, the housing crisis, the war in Iraq all offer plenty of drama, too. They’re just more complicated and require a little more digging outside the beltway. Just don’t expect anyone to pick up a shovel.

In the meantime, I suspect Barack Obama is going to start taking a real beating from the netroots, given his penchant for announcements like this and this. But I suspect the campaign must believe it will help Obama appear more centrist if he is consistently under attack from the left. After all, the same strategy works for McCain, only with attacks coming from the right.

Obama’s decision to spurn public financing and the resulting storm, I first put down as some inside-the-beltway issue that wouldn’t much resonate. But the more I think about it, the more I think he made a mistake there. You don’t jettison systems or principles you supposedly believe in just because they’re inconvenient. Isn’t that the lesson of the last seven-plus years?

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Here’s my prediction on domestic drilling: Republicans will equate support for the idea with patriotism. Any deviation from the line (such as that coming from Barack Obama) will be portrayed as unpatriotic, thereby sparing us from any sort of rational debate.

The sexual overtones probably don’t hurt either. What true American man isn’t in favor of drilling! Here! Now! So not only is it a test of patriotism. It’s also a test of virility, what every great presidential campaign should be about!

At any rate, you can already see this line of attack coming together if you pay attention to the talking heads. I also noticed this comment from a woman quoted in the Harrisburg Patriot-News:

“I’m a red-blooded American,” Newton said. “I say drill away.”

Just wait. Someone will start selling American-flag lapel pins shaped like oil derricks with little gushers spewing out the top. Here’s the 14-karat gold version:

In a surprise announcement, Barack Obama and John McCain jointly said they would let the one who really wanted to be president go ahead and take the job and spare the American people the agony of five more months of listening to stories about which adviser said what and whose preacher preached what.

They also hoped their announcement would end speculation about Bill Clinton’s potential role in the campaign, armchair psychologizing over his motives and endless rehashing of any stray comments he might make between now and November

Under increasing pressure, John McCain today released a detailed plan outlining how he would pay for the United States’ continued military presence in Iraq.

The Republican presidential candidate has come under fire recently for proposing expensive foreign-policy solutions but not offering a way to pay for them.

You’ll immediately note how absurd that sounds. Who’s asking McCain to come up with a way to pay for foreign military adventures? No one. It’s a given that we pay for them, even if we have to borrow every last penny from China and Japan. Don’t expect Barack Obama to get the same pass when the question of health care, mortgage assistance, unemployment benefits or any other sort of domestic program comes up.

Military adventures, no matter how worthwhile or necessary to public safety they may be, cost money. Why don’t reporters and voters ask how we pay for those with the same intensity and knee-jerk persistence with which they demand comprehensive plans for domestic spending?

Asking how you pay for something isn’t the same as questioning whether it’s worth having, although our elected leaders often try to make people think they are.

It’s an interesting double standard, no?

Once Barack Obama lays claim to the nomination, expect a flood of stories on how the Internet fueled his victory. The narrative already is taking shape. But the real story is likely to be more complicated.

A big part of the Democratic electorate wanted to stop Hillary Clinton as much as anyone on the right. They coalesced around Obama in a way they couldn’t have coalesced around any of the other candidates that stood in her path a year ago. Most of these people already were/still are active online and set their sights on stopping Hillary (just like maker of the Vote Different ad suggested they should).

The progressive wing of the Dem party never much cottoned to either Clinton. They’ve been more than happy, I imagine, to beat her. The Internet was simply their hammer. It’s ironic that Clinton’s Senate career has been spent girding for attacks from the right, but she fell to an unlikely attack from the center.

At the risk of sounding like Geraldine Ferraro, I think Obama is probably the only candidate who could’ve stopped Clinton. John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, even Bill Richardson didn’t stand a chance. You can only trump a historic run with another historic run.

It’s still up in the air whether the American electorate as a whole is in the same historical mood as the Democratic slice of it. I’d be more optimistic if I didn’t read regular letters to the editor of my local paper warning me about the socialistic left and the fraudulent hoax known as global warming.

Democrtat Bruce Tushingham has pulled ahead of Republican Rich Alloway in the only vote that matters, at least for until November. I set up a survey at this site here and the vote so far clearly favors Tushingham. There’s only been one vote, of course. But it’s a long, long way to to election day…So vote now and vote again later…

Lawyers for David Archuleta are filing a motion in federal court today to overturn the American Idol victory of David Cook, who was crowned victor in a stunning finale of the musical competition’s seventh season last night.

Archuleta’s attorneys rest their case on the fact that Cook has failed to win over the crucial bloc of white girls aged 10 to 13, who make up a significant portion of the music-buying audience. Cook’s inability to dazzle this demographic threatens his ability to cook up a hit single this fall as a follow-up to his victory in the TV contest, the attorneys allege.

“Without getting into names, other Idol winners have clearly failed in the wider marketplace,” said Stu Ing, lead attorney for the teen sensation Archuleta. “We think it’s time the show reflected the broader, music-buying public rather than a narrow elite of people who have phones.”

Ing and his colleagues also contend that the finale should be redone as many tweens were asleep in bed during the crucial final phase of voting. Had these girls been able to vote, the results might have been different and Archuleta would have been the one weepily crooning at the end.

Wait a sec. Are we talking about American Idol or the Democratic primary season? Who knows anymore. But it’s tempting to consider what Cook’s win portends for the second-biggest election this year.

Is Cook a stand-in for Barack Obama, the outsider who wasn’t even expected to enter the contest? And is Archuleta Hillary Clinton, with a troublesome stage father in place of an intrusive stage husband?

Or is Cook John McCain, the grizzled veteran, while Archuleta represents a new face, i.e. Obama, who was buoyed by a youth vote that failed to materialize when it really mattered?

We can only wait and see. And hope that tween girls aren’t so disillusioned that they give up on American Idol entirely.

All this talk about Bush and his daddy is hogwash. The man he really wants to outdo is John McCain. How else do you explain Bush’s belated admission that global warming is real, following so closely a big speech by McCain on the same subject?

McCain won kudos for breaking with Bush and his own party way back on Monday. But it seems that Bush doesn’t want McCain to top him in the history books any more now than he did during the South Carolina primary in 2000. The pair have walked hand in hand on Iraq, with McCain lending an air of authority to Bush’s decisions. Maybe Bush is a little hurt that McCain is seen as abandoning him on global warming.

Why would Bush be more obsessed with McCain than with his own dad? Consider first that the elder Bush probably wasn’t around much during the younger’s childhood. It would have been natural for W. to look outside for a father-figure. McCain probably isn’t the first to fill that role.

Much has been made of Bush the son following in his dad’s Air Force footsteps. But McCain also was a pilot — who made a name for himself in the very war Bush avoided.

Maybe it’s all just psychobabble, but I can’t help scratching my head about these two Republican leaders both acknowledging the reality of global warming in the same week. It has to be more than coincidence. I can understand why McCain did it — he’s been a consistent supporter of climate-change legislation. Bush has had seven years to think about it. Why now?

If polls show that Barack Obama has trouble winning over working-class, less-educated whites, that’s science. But if Hillary Clinton mentions it, that’s playing the race card.

I managed to convince myself at one point that the dragging Democratic primary wouldn’t be harmful. Now I’m not so sure, but don’t blame Clinton. As was pointed out last weekend, the Democratic party is an odd mishmash. Republicans are, too, I suppose. That’s what happens when you try to cram tens of millions of political views into two opposing camps.

The continuing battle seems worse for Obama, in that it diminishes his ability to attract swing voters if he’s defined as the candidate of young people, African Americans and the college-educated (who, contrary to their own self-image, are a minority).

Sure, Obama is popular online, the Web somehow predicted his victory and he has won more votes in the Democratic primaries. But anyone who thinks the Democratic primary process — or the Internet — is the best way to pick a general-election winner should think again. The Internet may simply be replicating the losing touch of the primary electorate itself.

At any rate, it’s no accident that the only Democrat to win a presidential election since 1968 is Bill Clinton, and he was anything but a front-runner in the beginning. He lost Iowa in ’92, if anyone cares to remember. And he probably wouldn’t have been too popular among the netroots, what with all his compromises, political and otherwise. OK, Gore won in 2000 — but he was vice president to a popular two-term candidate who couldn’t run again and probably would have been disowned by the party even if he had been able. (A friendly reader reminded me I left out Jimmy Carter, but pointed out that he was a long shot, too.)

The chief talking point against McCain is that he represents a third Bush term. Given Bush’s poor standing, that line of attack makes sense. But I don’t see it sticking. It just doesn’t ring true, certainly not as true as Obama’s supposed elitism. That bowling score (37, but in seven frames. So be fair: he could have rolled a 127 if every other ball were a strike) — and this picture — is going to come back to haunt him. Couldn’t he at least have unbuttoned his collar and loosened the tie? He must have been pretty uncomfortable with all that fabric tugging at his neck.

Plus, the far right will be contradicting the Dem’s attack on McCain’s behalf. Could it be the ultimate sucker punch? Conservatives hound McCain from the right knowing it will help him with independents and thereby paving his way to the White House? But let’s face it. Bush and McCain are very different men, have lived very different lives and have occasionally disagreed. Bush also won TWO TERMS. Let me go out on a limb and suggest that the polls showing low approval ratings have less to do with Bush and more to do with the way we expect people to perceive him, and the answers people believe they should be giving to the pollsters.

It’s also a tidy way to sweep him off the stage so the cameras can focus on the sequel rather than the pressing issues facing this country. Who wouldn’t want to watch a beauty contest — however ugly it gets — rather than a food shortage or a housing crisis?

I discovered a new site that let me create my own polls and offer YOU the chance to take them. This survey here allows you to take your pick in the 33rd Senate District race between Rich Alloway and Bruce Tushingham. Take a look and let me know what you think.

The outcome of this particular race isn’t much in doubt, so I’ll try to create additional polls that might actually offer some suspense.

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