The (Presidents' Day) Filter: 2.18.08

A round-up of this morning's must-read stories.

THE NEWSWEEK ROSTER:

THE END OF CONSERVATISM (Fareed Zakaria)
Conservative slogans sound anachronistic in the context of today's problems, like an old TV show from the 1970s.

BARACK'S ROCK (Richard Wolffe)
She's the one who keeps him real, the one who makes sure running for leader of the free world doesn't go to his head. Michelle's story.

'I CAN ONLY BE WHO I CAN BE' (Richard Wolffe)
Michelle on the 'pluses and minuses' of her potential role as First Lady.

A REAL WIFE, IN A REAL MARRIAGE (Raina Kelley)
An outspoken, smart black woman or a bossy, emasculating wife? Michelle Obama defies stereotypes, but cannot escape them, either.

PART OF SOMETHING LARGER (Howard Fineman) 
Barack Obama is a symbol of a new generation of leadership.

A PERENNIAL PRESS OPERA (Evan Thomas)
Be serious! Give us access! The roots of the Clinton-media tension.

HOW DEEP IN THE HEARTS OF TEXAS (Arian Campo-Flores)
Clinton's chances may come down to Latino support in the Lone Star State.

SCOPING OUT OBAMA VS. MCCAIN (Jonathan Alter) 
The race would pit change vs. experience, fresh vs. tested, green vs. gray.


THE BEST OF THE REST: 

CAN JOHN MCCAIN REINVENT REPUBLICANISM?
(Ryan Lizza, New Yorker)

There is the principled McCain, who, more than any other candidate running for President this year, has a record of sticking to a position even when it puts his political future at risk. In this campaign, his positions on the surge and on immigration (he supported a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for illegals) almost sank him. But there is also the political McCain, who knows that a reputation for standing on principle is a valuable commodity, though only if it’s well advertised. If it takes flogging a dodgy quote to emphasize a larger truth about your own character, then so be it. 

THE MEME PRISONER
(John Heilemann, New York)

Citing the Times primary-beat reporters assigned to the candidates, a competitor of theirs observes, “Pat Healy’s job is to challenge the Clinton myth and machine. Jeff Zeleny’s is to write the epic rise of Barack Obama. That’s generally the media’s approach—Clinton and Obama are just at different points in their stories.” Campaigns are, at bottom, a competition between memes: infectious ideas that gather force through sheer repetition. The most powerful of these memes are what Just refers to as meta-narratives, the backdrops against which everything plays out in the media. “Clinton’s meta-narrative,” she says, “is that she’ll do anything to win; she can’t be trusted, she’s ethically challenged; she’s manipulative, calculating, and programmed.” Obama’s meta-narrative is decidedly otherwise. “It’s the same, in a way, as John McCain’s,” says Just. “He’s authentic, honest, free of taint. Then you add in new, charismatic, and an agent of change.”

THE GRAND OLD WHITE PARTY CONFRONTS OBAMA
(Frank Rich, New York Times)

The 2008 primary campaign has been so fast and furious that we haven’t paused to register just how spectacular that change is. All the fretful debate about whether voters would turn out for a candidate who is a black or a woman seems a century ago. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama vanquished the Democratic field, including a presidential-looking Southern white man with an enthusiastic following, John Edwards. What was only months ago an exotic political experiment is now almost ho-hum.

IT'S ALL UPHILL FROM HERE
(Howard Kurtz, Washington Post)

The media floodgates opened after Obama swept last week's primaries in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Never mind that the two Democratic candidates remain close in the delegate count, or that Clinton has been described as doomed once before, in New Hampshire. She is drowning in a sea of negative coverage. The New York Daily News said "the once-mighty Clinton campaign is beginning to feel like the last days of Pompeii." The New York Times quoted an unnamed superdelegate backing Clinton as saying that if she doesn't win Ohio and Texas next month, "she's out." The Washington Post said "even many of her supporters worry" that the nomination "could soon begin slipping out of her reach." Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman likened her campaign to the Titanic. A Slate headline put it starkly: "So, Is She Doomed?"

CLINTON'S TIES TO TEXAS RUN LONG AND DEEP
(Dan Balz, Washington Post) 

From her incidental connections such as the one Salinas described from the 1992 campaign, to deep friendships formed working in Texas during the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern, to acquaintances gained from multiple visits over the past decades, Clinton is rooted in Texas as she is in few other states... In Texas, Obama cannot replicate Clinton's affinity overnight. His advisers believe they can overcome many of her built-in advantages, enough at least to emerge with a close split in delegates under the state's convoluted primary-caucus system, by tapping into a new generation of Texans who have no connections to the Clintons and by arguing that the senator from Illinois would be the stronger general-election candidate. But as was the case in the run-up to Super Tuesday, his advisers say he will be in a race against the clock.

OBAMA SEEKS TO TURN THE TABLES IN OHIO AND TEXAS
(Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times)
With the Democratic presidential race about to enter another crucial phase of voting, Barack Obama has launched a newly aggressive strategy to undermine two pillars of support for rival Hillary Rodham Clinton: Latinos and working-class white voters. In Ohio, Obama backers are courting local union leaders and members with promises that the Illinois senator will change U.S. trade policies enacted by Clinton's husband, and which the unions blame for severe job losses. In Texas, Obama has launched a new effort to introduce himself to Latino voters as someone who understands their challenges, thanks to his background of attending college on a scholarship and working with churches as a community organizer.

FOR MCCAIN, A CHOICE ON A ROLE FOR BUSH
(Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times)

Senator John McCain’s campaign advisers will ask the White House to deploy President Bush for major Republican fund-raising, but they do not want the president to appear too often at his side, top aides to Mr. McCain said Sunday... But even as the consensus was that Mr. McCain needed to “stand in the sun” on his own, as one adviser put it, without the large shadow cast by Mr. Bush, left unsaid was the difficult calculus the McCain campaign faces: Using Mr. Bush enough to try to make the tough sell of Mr. McCain to conservatives but not so much that he will drive away the independents and some moderate Democrats that Mr. McCain is counting on in November.
 

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