If this presidential campaign has been about anything, it has been about character -- which candidate has it, which candidate lacks it, and what we can learn from the extemporaneous remark, the slip of the tongue, the company they keep, or their wayward (or not-so-wayward) youths. Every four years, it seems, we forget that this is exactly what the last election was like, and the election before it. And every four years, advocates of better, cleaner, more nutritious elections lament that we're not talking enough about the issues.
For months, I've been predicting that conservatives would delicately prompt voters to see Barack Obama through the lens of race. They'd drop hints, they'd make roundabout arguments, they'd find a hundred subtle ways to encourage people to vote their prejudices, while denying vociferously that they were doing anything of the sort.
A few months ago, a day before one of the occasional marches the Capital sees demanding an end to the Iraq War, I began the descent into the Metro stop near my office, looked up, and saw a number of representatives of Code Pink standing at the railing overlooking the escalator. Or rather, I heard them first. They were screaming at the parade of commuters, at the top of their lungs and in a tone somewhere between simple frustration and righteous anger, "End the war!!!"
Well, I thought, that ought to take care of things. Good work, hippies!
In May of 2006, as Iraq spiraled down into an orgy of sectarian bloodletting, John McCain had a solution. "One of the things I would do if I were president," McCain told a group of wealthy contributors, "would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit.'"
If only someone had thought of that before. This is the man Brian Williams of NBC News recently referred to as having "vast foreign-policy expertise and credibility on national security."
The fight for the Democratic nomination isn't over yet, but the direction the other side thinks things are going can be gleaned from the salvos being lobbed at the Democrats. Go to the Web site of the Republican National Committee, or any of the more virulent conservative blogs, and you'll see that most of the attacks are being aimed at Barack Obama. The contours of the coming campaign are taking shape, and as usual, it's not pretty.