"Shallow Throat": McCain Is a
"Catastrophe Waiting to Happen"
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
August 26, 2008
The race between McCain and Obama is tighter than one would
think should be the case. I needed some help in figuring out
why, so I got a coded message to "Shallow Throat "-- the
high-ranking GOP mole in the Bush Administration with whom I've
consulted often.** We met under some shade trees at a public
park in Alexandria.
"I'm confused by what's going on," I said to Shallow Throat, who
was wearing a new wig and wraparounds. "Obama should be wiping
the floor with McSame, but the race reminds me too much of 2000
and 2004: so close that Rove and his minions could once again
Shallow Throat smiled. "Don't get too nervous, Bernie. Your guy
should win. McCain, a catastrophe waiting to happen, makes even
the plutocrats nervous. They're doubling down by sending money
Obama's way as well. He may not be their first choice, but he's
not radical and they can live with him.
"Besides, what you're witnessing now, before Labor Day, is just
the usual jockeying for position. Trying out themes and ideas
and ads. See what works, what sticks. Trying to brand your
"In a few weeks, the name of the game starts to shift: It'll be
G.O.T.V. (Get Out the Vote) time, and here your Democrats should
do gangbusters. The Republicans are fractured; the far-right
ultraconservatives and many of the fundamentalists don't trust
McCain; there's not the same kind of passion for the GOP
candidate that energizes the Democratic legions that will be
sending money to and walking the streets and making phone calls
MAD-AS-HELL HILLARY SUPPORTERS
"You may be right," I countered, "but the Democrats have their
own fissures and fractures. Many progressives, for example,
think Obama's little more than a center-rightist, beholden to
the same corporate interests they've fought for decades. Plus,
many of Hillary Clinton's dedicated supporters have said they
won't support Obama and may even vote for McCain or, at the very
least, stay home."
"Don't go drinking that rightwing Kool-Aid, sonny," said ST.
"Sure, there were and are hard feelings among many Hillary
supporters, but a good share of those are frustrated voters,
many of them women, who, once they examine McCain's positions on
abortion rights, stem-cell research, health-care and the like,
will never be able to vote for him. True, some women may sit out
the 2008 campaign and not vote for or work for Obama, but not as
many as you may think. (Will be interesting to see what Bill
Clinton says at the convention, whether he goes all in for Obama
or continues to foment trouble among his wife's supporters.)
"The point is that progressive Democrats want to win this year,
and in their hearts know that despite whatever reservations they
may have about Obama, he's their guy this time out. For without
the presidency, the possibility of passing liberal, let alone
progressive, legislation goes down the tubes. The Dems will win
big in the Congressional races, maybe even big enough to create
a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, but if McCain were to
reside in the White House, his veto-pen could cause untold
damage to the Democratic agenda, and his picks for the Supreme
Court would be disastrous for social progress. I'm not even
mentioning his reckless fascination with war as a first-choice
option. So virtually all progressive Democrats, even if they
wish someone else were their candidate, will vote for Obama."
"I sure hope you're right," I said. "But I'm still caught up in
the political puzzle: The Republican Party is so distrusted and
disliked in the country, Bush's favorable ratings have been in
the low-20s for a year or two, McCain is tied tightly to Bush's
failed policies, and he's such a terrible campaigner, such a
crotchety old dude who may even be approaching the outskirts of
senile dementia -- given all this, how in hell is McCain doing
so well in the national polls?"
"Come on, Bernie, you know at least part of the answer. In case
you haven't noticed, there are a lot of folks out there,
especially in the Republican Party, and especially in the states
of the Old South, who won't vote for a black man, period. And in
states like Florida, there are plenty of old Jews who've
swallowed the dirty-tricks GOP email circulating widely that
falsely proclaims that Obama is Muslim and anti-Israel. In both
cases, as you can see, racism is still alive and well and living
in America, even among some Democrats."
"But surely the percentage of those who think that way is no
more than, say, 10% of the voting population. What's leading so
many others to McCain's camp?"
Shallow Throat gave me a "you-dummy" look: "Wake up and smell
the numbers, my friend. Ten per cent in Ohio and Pennsylvania
and Virginia and Florida and Michigan and Indiana can give those
important states to McCain. Plus, from where I see it, McCain
comes into the election with a running start -- 25% of voters
are fundamentalists, evangelicals, HardRight extremists -- so,
right off the bat, he's got 35% of the vote in his pocket, more
if our estimate of the 10%-racist vote is low, especially in
"Let's talk national numbers. In my rough estimation, Obama's
got a built-in 40%, McCain's got a start-off base of 35%. So
Rove is roughing up Obama right now, and it's working. McCain is
within a point or two of Obama, which is right in Rove's
wheelhouse. Even if he can't push McCain's numbers any higher,
Rove can maneuver to manipulate close elections in key electoral
states the same way he did it in the first two Bush races and in
2002 in Georgia and elsewhere: by cheating and theft.
"But, as I say, the key in November 2008 is G.O.T.V. With a
large enough motivated turnout, and by running up enormous
voting totals, the Democrats should be able to swamp any
attempts at shady vote-tabulating -- even though the McCain
campaign no doubt will try. They're already trying to purge
hundreds of thousands of likely Democratic voters in various
states; are requiring photo IDs from poor and minority voters;
and no doubt will have their U.S. attorneys file phony 'voting
fraud' charges against Dem voting-registration organizers. Plus,
let us not forget that Republican-leaning corporations control
the secret software inside the easiy-hackable voting machines
and, more importantly, control the vote-tabulating software on
Election Night -- and that there's considerable evidence that
they've manipulated the totals in past elections.
"But in one sense, I think Rove sees the electoral handwriting
on the wall, as he did in 2006 when the Democrats took back
Congress. Even though he'd love to steal another one and put
McCain into the White House, that may prove impossible and he
may scale down his definition of victory as keeping the Dems
from reaching a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, making
sure there's a way for the Republicans to block Obama's policies
from that chamber."
JOE BIDEN AS THE ATTACK DOG
"Do you think Rove can succeed?" I asked.
"I think he has a shot in the Senate," said Shallow Throat,
chugging a Dos XX, "but if the Democratic campaign's Get Out the
Vote drive is successful, Obama's coattails can help the Dems
take the Senate big. And putting Biden on the ticket was a good
move in that regard. Joe really knows how to get under McCain's
skin, maybe even enough to provoke McCain into exploding into
"I've heard a lot of negative murmuring from progressives about
Biden as Obama's running mate," I said, "you know, 'yet another
Establishment Democrat who voted for the Iraq war and accepts
the premise of the U.S. as an interventionist superpower, and a
'liberal' senator who voted for the bankruptcy bill and for
other issues unpopular with the Democratic base. Plus, he's too
full of himself, shoots off his mouth too often, and doesn't
bring a big state's electoral votes to the table'."
"Biden's not everybody's cup of tea," said Shallow Throat, "but
he's a dynamic campaigner, has a good sense of humor, a powerful
biography, and balances out Obama's weaknesses in the
experience/foreign-policy/national security areas. Plus he'd
probably make a decent President, if it came to that. Again,
most Democrats, despite whatever misgivings they may have about
either Obama or Biden, will stick with the ticket all the way.
It's their only shot."
"Who do you think McCain will counter with?" I asked.
"If he's dumb, he'll choose Mitt Romney -- two older,
ultra-wealthy, extremist white guys, out of touch with the
problems and desires of most of the country. If he's smart,
he'll choose a woman, maybe Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of
Texas or, despite her own serious 'issues,' Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice. With Rice, he would get a two-fer: black and
female. Take that, Obama. Maybe even rub the Hillary supporters'
still-smarting wound to the point where they'll stay away from
the polls on Election Day."
OBAMA MUST START SCRAPPING
"Obama," I said, "seems so cerebral and nuanced in his approach
to his opponent that I worry that he's about to do a Kerry --
turn off voters who really want someone who will put up a fight
against the down-and-dirty campaign being waged by Rove for
McCain, which has reached the scoundrel depths of questioning
the patriotism of his opponent.
"Yep," said Shallow Throat. "That's where Rove wants to fight,
since they're well-aware that Obama would win on the issues. So
McCain is down there in the mud, even though at times he sure
does look uncomfortable taking Rove's low-road approach. But the
point is that McCain voluntarily is on that road, which makes
him look desperate, mean-spirited, a typical ambitious
politician who'll do anything to get elected -- a far cry from
his somewhat independent 'maverick' reputation that attracted so
many people to him years ago. The Obama campaign should start
'branding' McCain with that soiled image-- attacking, put McCain
on the defensive -- and hammering McCain on energy, the economy
and his affection for wars and confrontations.
"I think the professionals running the Obama campaign know that
after the convention, the gloves have to come off and some
bare-knuckles fighting has to take place. That's not Obama's
style, but Biden's a master at it. Let Barack be Barack, and let
Biden be Biden."
UNDOING THE CHENEYBUSH DAMAGE
"You're a Republican," I said to Shallow Throat, "albeit a
traditional moderate Republican. Why are you not supporting the
"I thought it was obvious by now," said ST. "My party is in the
hands of dangerous extremists. And McCain, who once was a
politician one could respect even when disagreeing with him,
sold his soul to the devil a few years ago as he geared up for
his final presidential race. He's nothing but ambition and
seething anger at this stage. He's willing to walk all over the
Constitution, foment wars (even against a nuclear-armed Russia,
if it comes to that!), scuttle the economy, continue to let the
treasury be looted by corporations, appoint HardRight extremists
to the Supreme Court and appellate courts, etc. etc.
"In other words, CheneyBush would get a third term, and the
country and the Constitution, after what we've been through the
past eight years, cannot afford more gross misrule and
unnecessary wars abroad. Like many traditional Republicans I
know, I'll be voting for the Democrat this year, hoping Obama
can start the process of undoing the damage and getting the
country back on track.
"One last warning. None of my, and the Democrats', optimism will
be realized unless the Obama campaign is ready to fight
ferociously in the courts for the right of everyone to vote and
to have their votes counted honestly. And there will be no
victory unless the voting turnout for Obama is absolutely
humongous. So you guys have a lot of work in front of you in the
next two-and-a-half months. Go do it!"
And with that, Shallow Throat jogged out of the park, leaving me
dazed but somewhat elevated in mood.#
Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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