Obama is moving into a steady lead, and is set to finally break this one wide open. For all intents and purposes, this race is over. Barring any sudden catastrophe, Barack Obama will win the 2008 election, and win it comfortably.
I've long thought the template for the 2008 election was the 1980 race between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. In that election, voters were deeply dissatisfied with the nation's direction, and Carter's approval numbers were at all-time lows. But while Americans wanted new leadership, they weren't yet sold on Reagan, and so the race remained tight until its final weeks. Once October rolled around, Reagan finally sealed the deal, and the voters quickly tilted his way. The 1980 election ended in a rout.
For many, the turning point may have been Reagan's famous question (which has become THE question we ask of our elected leaders), "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" In 2008, that question on the past eight years of Bush is an overwhelming "no."
For many others, the final tipping point was Carter's failed attempt to rescue the US hostages in Iran. I still remember the images of those dark days, when the Marines attempted their daring rescue. It failed dramatically, and the blame was rightly placed at Carter's feet. I've always admired the man, but there's no denying that he was diminished by the Presidency. During his tenure, Jimmy Carter became a small and seemingly powerless man in the Oval Office.
I think we're seeing the same template playing out today. This time the crisis is the financial meltdown on Wall Street. This problem goes to the very heart of the Bush era, to the very heart of Conservative Republicanism itself. It is the result of de-regulation, of insisting that government shouldn't exist, that the magic of the free market will cure all ills, that massive tax cuts to the wealthy will produce a booming economy for all. This myth of the conservative movement has finally and fully revealed to nothing more than the racketeering sham it is.
John McCain's reactions to this ongoing crisis veered from the surreal to the absurd. It's as though he changed his mind every other day, first denying that anything is wrong at all ("the fundamentals of the economy are strong"); the next running in a blind panic. Does McCain really believe the United States will be in an economic Depression by Monday? Not Tuesday or Sunday?
McCain's behavior has been far beyond reckless. They stink of desperation. Choosing an unknown with no qualifications to the Vice Presidential candidate, then hiding her away from public view. Trying to drum up a border fight between Russia and Georgia into a new Cold War, or even World War III. Desperately trying to continue the unpopular war in Iraq, or start a new one with Iran. Getting caught in lies, again and again. Then, when caught, blame the media, blame Washington, blame Obama. McCain seems willing to blame literally everyone but himself for his mistakes. But I didn't tell him to become a cog in the Bush political machine, or be heavily staffed by lobbyists, or to hire a campaign manager who takes $15,000 a month from Fannie and Freddie.
Now we are watching this funny, sad, tragic escapade of a candidate who is completely lost. Campaign events are cancelled. Palin is hidden away, allowed to speak to reporters, then whisked away. There will be debates, there won't be debates. The debates are rescheduled, the debates are cancelled. McCain suspends his campaign to rush to Washington and solve the fiscal crisis, and there he is again, in New York, giving a speech. Meanwhile in Washington, the Senate is finishing negotiations for a bailout plan. McCain didn't even show up. But he will show up for Bush's photo op in the afternoon.
The bloggers have a field day on McCain and Palin's many lies, large and small and trivial. The National Enquirer prints the name of Palin's alleged secret lover. McCain cancels his appearance on Dave Letterman, promising to fly to Washington. Then he appears down the hallway, in another studio, giving an interview to Katie Couric.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama has remained calm, cool, collected and smart. He has shown a remarkable grasp of the issues at play, and a willingness to listen to competing ideas. His campaign stops and television ads show an intelligent, seasoned leader who has remained steady during this crisis. The difference has never been more stark. It surely helps that Obama has surrounded himself with the wizards who helmed Clinton's economic policy, men like former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Compare him to Bush's current Treasury Secretary, who arrived with a Burger King crown on his head, yelling and crying to be crowned the Holy Emperor of the Treasury.
At last, at long last, have these Republicans no sense of shame? They have completely ruined the United States of America. And their nominee for four more years of the same, well...he's flailing, running away, like old King Lear. It's almost as though the price for his ascendency - his very soul - has driven him mad. John McCain is the Shakespearean tragic hero of our times.
Or, to put it less kindly...John McCain is the "Battlefield Earth" of American politics.
Tomorrow, Obama will take the stage for the first Presidential debate. Will McCain even show up, or will he continue to try and avoid his fate? It doesn't really matter anymore. It doesn't matter whether McCain is on that stage Friday night. It doesn't matter whether Sarah Palin will walk on that stage for her debate against Joe Biden. They may be standing there, but you won't be able to see them. All your eyes will be fixed upon Obama, our next President.
Barack Obama will need every bit of strength and intelligence to dig America out of this grave. For America now, truly, lies dying in the grave; hurled there mercilessly by George W. Bush and the Republican Party. May they meet their justice; in this world or the next.