Sur­prise: The Repub­li­cans are back

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Don­ald Lam­bro

The un­ex­pected has hap­pened to both pres­i­den­tial candidates in the past two weeks and has turned the race for the White House up­side down.

Barack Obama’s prom­ise-the­many­thing ac­cep­tance speech did not draw the im­me­di­ate bounce in the polls that most an­a­lysts had been ex­pect­ing. With his ap­proval num­bers fall­ing as he headed into his celebrity-filled Den­ver rock show, his old-style po­lit­i­cal at­tacks on John McCain tar­nished his im­age as a new age leader, re­veal­ing him­self to be just an­other pol.

His speech was filled with boiler plate lib­eral, wel­fare state pro­pos­als his party has been ped­dling for decades that be­lied the “change you can be­lieve in” prom­ises he has been mak­ing. His dis­ap­point­ing speech on a pre­sump­tu­ous Greco-Ro­man set in the Den­ver Bron­cos sta­dium was a costly left­ist wish list that promised a vast en­large­ment of gov­ern­ment that we have heard so many times be­fore from Wal­ter Mon­dale, Al Gore, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry. Where was the change?

The Ari­zona Repub­li­can, how­ever, showed him­self to be the mav­er­ick, re­form-minded leader he al­ways has been by choos­ing a rel­a­tively lit­tle­known woman gov­er­nor who threw a con­fused Obama cam­paign on the de­fen­sive — while strength­en­ing Mr. McCain’s sup­port at his party’s base.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as gov­er­nors be­fore her, was im­me­di­ately sus­cep­ti­ble to charges of in­ex­pe­ri­ence in for­eign pol­icy, and ques­tions of whether she was up to the job. For­mer gov­er­nors like Ron­ald Rea­gan, Bill Clin­ton and Ge­orge W. Bush had lit­tle over­seas ex­pe­ri­ence ei­ther, but dealt ef­fec­tively with in­nu­mer­able for­eign pol­icy crises.

But Mrs. Palin’s hands-on ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence as gov­er­nor, plus her real-life role as a wife, mother and po­lit­i­cal re­former — not to men­tion her fi­esty tal­ent as a po­lit­i­cal com­bat­ant — sug­gests that Mr. McCain had scored a po­lit­i­cal bulls­eye.

Even in­flu­en­tial so­cial con­ser­va­tive broad­caster James Dob­son, no McCain cheer­leader, is singing the se­na­tor’s praises as a re­sult of his de­ci­sion to place pro-lifer Mrs. Palin on the ticket.

Early po­lit­i­cal re­ac­tion pointed to her lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment. She has only served two years as gov­er­nor. But she ar­guably has much more ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence than Barack Obama, who un­til just a few years ago was a state se­na­tor and be­fore that a neigh­bor­hood or­ga­nizer.

As gov­er­nor, state oil and gas com­mis­sioner and for­mer mayor she has run things and, maybe more im­por­tantly, taken on tough fights within her own party — some­thing that Mr. Obama has avoided like the plague.

She went af­ter her party’s Repub­li­can state chair­man over eth­i­cal im­pro­pri­eties, forc­ing him to re­sign from the state’s oil and gas com­mis­sion and pay a $12,000 fine. She de­feated Repub­li­can Gov. Frank Murkowski in her party pri­mary, go­ing on to win the gov­er­nor­ship with ease against a pop­u­lar for­mer gov­er­nor.

In short, this is a woman with con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal skills who will be no pushover in the vice pres­i­den­tial de­bate with Sen. Joe Bi­den.

Two more de­vel­op­ments have occurred that prom­ise to help the GOP as the pres­i­den­tial race heads into the gen­eral elec­tion — one is eco­nomic, the other is in Iraq.

De­spite the gloom-and­doomers who have been pre­dict­ing the coun­try is fall­ing into a re­ces­sion, the U.S. Com­merce Depart­ment an­nounced two weeks ago that the econ­omy grew by a 3.3 per­cent an­nu­al­ized rate be­tween April and June — much stronger than was first thought.

The sec­ond quar­ter gross do­mes­tic prod­uct es­ti­mate was put at 1.9 per­cent ini­tially, but reeval­u­a­tion of the eco­nomic data showed that a surge in U.S. ex­port sales had risen by nearly 14 per­cent over the three-month pe­riod.

This was sharply at odds with the Democrats’ de­lib­er­ately pes­simistic char­ac­ter­i­za­tion that Amer­ica doesn’t man­u­fac­ture much of any­thing any more.

In fact, we are mak­ing more and sell­ing more abroad than ever be­fore in our his­tory — rak­ing in more than $1.6 tril­lion a year.

Mean­time, gas prices were fall­ing as the price of oil re­ceded, and there was ev­i­dence that new and ex­ist­ing home sales were show­ing signs of life as a re­sult of more af­ford­able prices.

This is hav­ing a mod­estly pos­i­tive af­fect on con­sumer sen­ti­ment. The Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan con­sumer con­fi­dence in­dex rose slightly to 63 points last month, up from 61.2 in July.

Then there is the like­li­hood that U.S. troop with­drawals will be­gin this month as a re­sult of the suc­cess­ful U.S. mil­i­tary surge strat­egy that Mr. McCain cham­pi­oned and that Barack Obama pre­dicted would fail.

It was an­nounced last week that the Iraqi army has now taken over the once-vi­o­lent An­bar prov­ince, one of more than a dozen prov­inces that Iraqis se­cu­rity forces now ef­fec­tively safe­guard.

This not only low­ers the in­ten­sity of the Iraq war as an is­sue that Mr. Obama hoped would sweep him into the pres­i­dency, it raises trou­bling ques­tions about his judg­ment on the war. He pre­dicted de­feat for U.S. forces there, while Joe Bi­den pro­posed di­vid­ing Iraq into three coun­tries (Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurd), fore­cast­ing noth­ing but “chaos” for its new gov­ern­ment. Both were wrong.

There will be many more twists and turns in this con­test, but as of now, Mr. Obama has lost ground and Mr. McCain has gained some.

Don­ald Lam­bro, chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent of The Wash­ing­ton Times, is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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