It’s over.

It’s over.

I don’t mean the Democratic Primary, I mean the general election. The whole thing. Barack Obama is going to walk over John McCain like a piece of gum on the sidewalk.

John McCain


Watching John McCain speak tonight, I was reminded of a principle my Go teachers often mentioned: don’t make a move to which your opponent’s best response would be a move he wanted to make anyway. I often did that: I’d put a stone down on the board, and my opponent’s response would simultaneously counter what I had done and serve some other purpose useful to my opponent. Those opponents who were trying to teach me would ask “Why did you make me stronger? I wanted to go there anyway.”

John McCain is making this mistake with Barack Obama. He’s handing Obama exactly the debating points Obama wants. He accuses Obama of thinking that government can provide solutions, but people remember Katrina, and Obama wants a chance to say specifically what he thinks government can do. He accuses Obama of being willing to engage in diplomacy with rogue regimes, but people remember Iraq, and Obama has a whole foreign policy debate he’d just love to get into with John McCain. He accuses Obama of turning to the past for answers; but people look back fondly on the past, because the present is so tarnished. Obama is only too happy to remind people how much better this country used to be run.

When you get right down to it, Obama just understands how this game is played, and McCain apparently does not. Yes, it helps that Obama is smarter, more charismatic, and genuinely has better policies. (That golden baritone voice and his so-ready-for-this wife Jacqueline Michelle don’t hurt either.) But it also helps that John McCain doesn’t seem to realize how easy it is going to be for Obama to turn McCain’s talking points into a real debate, and win it.

Barack Obama

Of course, due to the electoral college mess, it’s hard to predict how close things will be in the fall. But something would have to go seriously wrong for Obama not to pull this one off by a wide margin in the popular vote. John McCain is going to give Obama opportunity after opportunity to show how different he really is, and it’s only going to persuade more people to vote for Obama.

If I were running John McCain’s campaign, I’d start reading some Go books.


  1. Though I’m not American, but the election really interest me.

    At first, I choose Hilary, I think she would be the democrats’s candidate. I think is because I had read her and her husband’s autobiography. I know much about Hiary’s life. But after read some article’s about obama, I find I know why the Amercan may choose him. I had watch the movie ‘Bobby’, I think someone had made obama as the Bobby.

    I also want to take part in our election one day, make my own decision of our own country.

  2. Lawrence Lessig had an interesting point along similar lines about Clinton’s campaign. A big part of her sales pitch (at least recently) was that she was tougher and more experienced than Obama. She didn’t succeed at getting the nomination, but if she had, she would have been setting herself up for getting creamed by McCain: if those are her strong points, it’s hard to claim that she’s tougher than a former military man / POW, and he unquestionably has more experience in office than she does.

    And, of course, I fully support reading go books. 🙂

  3. By the way, Lessig has been an Obama supporter for a long time (and, if I recall correctly, is an adviser as well — which just makes me that much happier about Obama’s victory).

    rocksun: …and I hope that when you do have elections, it’s with a more rational and democratic system than ours!

  4. Your optimism is encouraging, Karl. I’m really pulling for Obama also and on many levels it seems this should be an easy win. It shouldn’t be hard to make the case that voting for McCain is voting for 4 more years of Bush policies, and I don’t think many people want that. Obama knows how to pick good people and can run a good campaign. My only concern is that there might be enough embedded prejudice (if not racism) to make it closer than I’d like to see.

  5. Yeah, the racism is a factor I worry about too (replying to Scott here) — especially because we are probably ill-placed to know how much of it is out there, just because it would be a socially unacceptable sentiment to express in the circles we hang out in.

    But the more I watch how the McCain campaign is trying to present his candidacy, the more clear it becomes that they are just pathetically out of touch (see here and here, for example). It looks like he’s going to rely on his status as a war hero who has genuinely suffered for his country to make some kind of call for service to a greater cause. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” that sort of thing.

    Which would have worked, except that too many people understand the new game: this time, they lie to you (as my friend Matt put it).

    Who wouldn’t want to serve a cause greater than themselves, after all? Most people would have been glad to; the great tragedy of the Bush administration is that it squandered that emotional capital by selling a war on insinuation and lies. Thus many who might have been prepared to answer McCain’s call will instead scratch their heads and say “Doesn’t he get it? The new game is, they lie to you.” (cough Gulf of Tonkin cough… You’d think as a Vietnam vet, McCain would be a little more sensitive on this point, but apparently not.)

    As clichéd as it is, I think the conventional wisdom on Obama vs McCain is correct: McCain’s living in the past (a past that predates even his own personal experience, actually), while Obama instinctively understands the present.

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