Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Enemy in sight

The New York Times reports that Barack Obama has started to run against John McCain, ignoring Hillary Clinton. This is the classic organizing tactic of taking a position in order to force your rivals to define themselves in relation to you. Obama probably figures that taking the initiative against McCain will unite the party behind him and put both McCain and Hillary in an awkward position. If Hillary attacks Obama while while he sorties against McCain, she risks casting herself as an ideological saboteur and as a traitor to the Democratic Party. On the other hand, if McCain returns the attack against Obama, he will effectively have established the narrative of McCain versus Obama. In other words, Obama will act the nominee and put the burden of knocking him off the perch to others.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Senator Barack Obama opened the next phase of his presidential campaign here Tuesday evening, seeking to turn his focus away from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and persuade party leaders that time is running out for Democrats to start defining their Republican opponent.

A series of endorsements are scheduled to be announced in the coming days, including superdelegates who intend to pledge their support for Mr. Obama. And more campaign workers in the Chicago headquarters will be dedicated to taking on Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

But this tactic may be too clever by a half. Nearly seventy years ago, a British Naval officer commanding a cruiser squadron in the South Atlantic pondered the problem of how to use his three ships -- two lights cruisers and a heavy -- against the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, commanded by Captain Hans Langsdorff. The Graf Spee's 11 inch guns had a much greater broadside weight of shell than his three ships put together. A straight shootout between a line of battle composed of the three British ships and the German could only end in disaster for the Royal Navy. Commodore Henry Harwood's solution to the problem was to divide his force into wings and attack on either side of the pocket battleship. This would force Langsdorff to divide his fire, possibly leave one or more British ships unengaged free to land the fatal blow.

Everyone knows what happened next. Hardwood's ship, HMS Exter, was nearly sunk by Graf Spee's shells. But his gambit worked. The great Nazi vessel was damaged to the extent that she had to seek shelter in a neutral port. And in time the Royal Navy bluffed the pocket battleship to self-destruction. Thus ended the Battle of the River Plate, with Harwood marching in honors at the head of his men through London and Langsdorff in a cold, but heroic grave.

The question is why Obama, reprising the role of Hans Langsdorff, should purposely seek to divide his fires between the two political men o' war facing him. Isn't one enemy enough? Maybe he believes the enemy fires will interfere with each other. But this is not necessarily so. McCain can counter with a campaign aimed at his Republican base. After all, as the de facto Republican nominee, McCain is already running against Obama and has wisely refrained from attacking him directly, precisely to avoid acknowledging Obama as his opposite number. Hillary, on the other hand, can simply hammer at Obama's electability, thereby posing as the savior of the Democratic Party from the Obama train wreck.

In other words, Obama can be hit by two different angles of fire from either beam. To assume the fires will cancel each other may be wishful thinking. By leaving Hillary unengaged and focusing on Obama, he runs the risk of not being able to counter the vicious Clinton smear machine, which is certain capable of holing him below the waterline. And like the Admiral Von Graf Spee, Obama may reach the harbor of Denver and yet be unable to sally forth again.

The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.


Blogger dla said...

Not quite the same situation. Hillary cannot win the nomination by straight delegate count. McCain IS the republican nominee.

Perhaps Obama realizes that it is time to take on McCain and stop messing with the sinking Hillary.

4/22/2008 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

The Brits don't make movies like that any more.

4/22/2008 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Powerline's John Hinderacker begins the hard-look at "The Friends of Barack Obama."
--Guy Benson of WYLL's The Sandy Rios Show -- found audio that no one else in all of the MSM found to launch this story.

What else will we be discovering about Barack Obama's friends, and about the candidate?

Ayers-Dohrn audio

Mike Allen, Ayers-Dohrn audio With Hugh Hewitt
04220801 Hewitt: Hour 1 - Hugh gets a preview of the Pennsylvania primary from Politico.com reporter Mike Allen, and then plays an amazing series of audio cuts of Barack Obama's friends, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

The Ayers-Dohrn 2007 Audio

Mark Steyn and James Lileks have reacted on tonight's show to the 2007 audio of Ayers and Dohrn dug up by Guy Benson. Much should be written about it and what it tells us about Senator Obama, but whether the MSM even notices remains to be seen.

A caller from North Carolina, Steve, noted the obvious: We know what Dohrn and Ayers were thinking about the U.S. in 2007. We know that they know Obama well, and have "vetted" him. And we know they supported him from 1995 forward.
Buddy Larsen said...
take a look:
Bernardine Dohrn, on the Manson murders:
''Dig It. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach! Wild!''

Nowadays she's a lawyer, member of the American Bar Association’s governing elite, and director of Northwestern University’s Children and Family Justice Center.
Will the Denver convention ignite Helter Skelter that not even Charlie Manson could precipitate?

4/22/2008 11:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Weather Underground Documentary (Part 1 of 9)

Andy McCarthy's Article on Obama's connections to former domestic terrorists

Bill Ayers, Obama friend and contributor, remembers his bombing days fondly

4/22/2008 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Laura Whitehorn, then and Now
(Good to see HAPPY People, no?)

4/23/2008 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

You can still visit the ship that played the Graf Spee in the 1950s movie. The USS Salem (CA-139) is now a museum ship. It is if anything more impressive the original German pocket battleship. The Salem is certainly larger and had nine semiautomtic 8 inch guns, which could fire 10 RPM per barrel for a total of 90 RPM of 8 inch.

4/23/2008 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Another analogy would be Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. He needed something he could frame as a victory on the field of battle before he could issue it.

Obama attempts to free himself from the primaries after a defeat. He has dissed Hillary big time (flipping her the "bird" like a high school kid in a cafeteria) and then backed out of the debate next Sunday. This is a great way to make sure she stays in the race clear through to Denver. If someone flips you the bird, do you turn around and help them?

He risks losing Indiana big if he treats them as extras on the road to his coronation. He'll take North Carolina but if it is a squeaker and Hillary takes Indiana by ten -- the man will be in big trouble

He is also dissing her supporters when he disses her and that will drive some of them toward McCain in the fall -- actually, it may be many.

Before the Ohio Primary, when I indicated that I would vote for McCain in the fall, life long Democrats would look at me amazed -- as if they had not even thought that an option. Yesterday, these same Democrats were thinking it an option (McCain was in town).

I think we have two candidates that don't give a rat's ass about the Democratic Party.

4/23/2008 04:40:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...


06:38 As Exeter was turning to starboard to bring her portside torpedo tubes to bear, she received two 28 cm hits which knocked out a main turret and started a fire between decks. She was now reduced to only two intact 8 in guns. All her gyro-compasses had been destroyed and the commander was steering by a boat's compass. All communication in the ship was being performed by runners, a number of compartments were flooded and a dangerous fire was raging. She had a 7° list and was down by the head, although steaming at full speed.

4/23/2008 05:30:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

BBC Timewatch: "The Battle of the River Plate" 3 of 5

4/23/2008 05:41:00 AM  
Blogger buck smith said...

obama may be able to enough supoer delegate endorsements to end it shprtly, but Glenn Reynolds links to post that note for the super delegates the longer it goes on the more favors and promoises that can suck from the presumptive nominees.

4/23/2008 05:46:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I'm not sure that Obama can leave Hillary disengaged by ignoring her and focusing on McCain. I think Hillary has a hunch that Obama can be stampeded. She smells a weakness and is acting like she is contemptuous of him. The word they are using is that she is psychologically bent on "emasculating" him.

If he ignores her it may look like he's running. As in running from a woman. "Why can't you close the deal?" she taunts. And this just the kind of low angle fire that will be completely different from the hits Obama will take from John McCain.

So if one were Obama, what to do?

4/23/2008 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

“I am happy to pay with my life for any possible reflection on the honour of the flag.”

Won't be reading any notes like that from Kapitan Obama.

4/23/2008 06:01:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Great post and comments.

Obama sure looks good in noble bearing and dress uniform, though, even under attack.

If the USS Obama goes down, I suspect he'll step off nimbly at the dock, like Captain Jack in "Pirates." No tragedy for him, thanks.

4/23/2008 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Wretchard: The word they are using is that she is psychologically bent on "emasculating" him.

That won't be effective against Obama. He is actually the only woman in this race. His rhetoric of reaching across divides, of talking to enemies, of bringing together Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, is a blast of pure estrogen. Hillary comes across as a mimic of a man with her talk of three AM phone calls and bombing Iran, but if I want that kind of thinking, I would vote for McCain, who has the undeniable attribute of actually being a man.

4/23/2008 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

Good post, but Harwood was in Ajax not in the heavier Exeter. Heavy Cruiser Exeter however, was a bigger ship (8" guns as opposed to the two other light cruisers 6" guns), and consequently, Exeter drew most of Graf Spee's fire.

PoorExeter was a hard luck ship: she and most of her crew died in the Second Battle of the Java Sea (1 March 1942).

4/23/2008 07:00:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

USS Salem, CA139, as the Graf Spee

Go to 0836 and listen.

4/23/2008 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

HMNZS Achilles portrayed herself in the movie. She was INS Delhi by then.

4/23/2008 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Salt Lick said...

I think we have two candidates that don't give a rat's ass about the Democratic Party

What's amusing is that while many of us feared identity politics would balkanize and paralyze our republic, we never foresaw it might do this only to the Democrat Party.

4/23/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Obama's problem is structural. He appeals to rich white yuppies and Blacks. That's it.

It's enough to get the nomination, since the Party is dominated by that coalition, but it's electoral disaster.

Hillary knows this. She also knows that by destroying Obama, and much of his allies, by rallying working-middle class whites, and forcing a disaster in Denver, she can clear the way in the manner that her husband did in 1992 after Dukakis flamed out for similar reasons.

She can't win now. She's playing for four years later.

Where do you think these Dorn-Ayers tapes/info is coming from? Hillary doesn't care if the NYT does not love her. She wants to win. She also thinks Obama would be a disaster on the order of Hoover and Buchanon.

4/23/2008 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Left wing Face Off

4/23/2008 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

whiskey: [Hillary] can't win now. She's playing for four years later.

An interesting ploy. I've come to the conclusion that whoever wins in November will end up being only a one-termer - McCain because of his age, Hillary or Obama because I can't see the voting public putting up with any more than four years of either of their shenanigans. Hillary must be thinking the same thing, at least with respect to McCain.

4/23/2008 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Who says the voting public will have anything to say about it after 4 years of Obama?
(Change, ya know. ...big time)

4/23/2008 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jim in Virginia said...

Senator Clinton may have an interesting gambit of her own. Yesterday she said that if Iran nuked Israel while she was President, we would retaliate and "we have the capacity to annihilate them."
It's the sort of statement that will drive the Democratic/ isolationist wing of the Democratic party crazy, but it will play well next October. Is she that confident of victory in Denver?

4/23/2008 07:05:00 PM  

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