There may not be any major primary contests to focus the minds of candidates and voters, but that doesn’t mean the players are resting up. It has given Republican nominee John McCain the chance to make an embarrassing though not terminal gaffe on Iraq (see video below), and the press has had time to rethink some of the recent action, in particular Barack Obama’s landmark speech on race from last week. After the initial flood of rapturous applause, some are beginning to reconsider their reaction.

A McCain moment: Now, it’s been widely reported that, heading into the Iraq war, George Bush had no clue about the differences between Sunni and Shia. But that was 2003, and it was George Bush. This is five years later and we’re talking about John McCain. But it turns out this acclaimed foreign policy expert doesn’t know the difference between Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Sunni insurgents, Iran and Syria. Or, perhaps more charitably, he’s doesn’t care to know. Yes, John McCain is a war hero, and yes, we’re all grateful for his service during the Vietnam war. But as McCain’s embarrassing foreign fact-finding fiascos make clear: having acted heroically in a foreign war does not magically translate into foreign policy expertise and judgment. — Huffington Post

Hillary’s Bosnia gaffe: An aide to Senator Hillary Clinton acknowledged on Monday that the New York Senator “misspoke” about the immediate dangers she faced when, as first lady, she visited war torn Bosnia. Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s chief spokesperson, said on a conference call that “it is possible in the most recent instance with which she discussed this that she misspoke, with regards to the leaving of the plane.” Later, he was more certain: “On one occasion, she misspoke.” But Wolfson insisted that the first lady’s visit was indeed perilous, as supported by “contemporaneous accounts” in the press. In recent weeks, Senator Clinton has sought to bolster her national security and foreign policy credentials by highlighting the role she played in Bosnia. – Huffington Post

Let’s not, and say we did: I shuddered only once while watching Barack Obama’s speech last Tuesday. It wasn’t when he posed the rhetorical questions: “Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?” The real question, of course, is not why Obama joined Trinity, but why he stayed there for two decades, in the flock of a pastor who accused the U.S. government of “inventing the H.I.V. virus as a means of genocide against people of color,” and who suggested soon after 9/11 that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” — New York Times

Obama afterglow: As the afterglow of last week’s landmark Philadelphia speech on race fades, even many conservatives agree with liberal editorial writers that Obama’s approach was brilliant. I’m skeptical of that adjective and reluctant to hazard a guess about the political impact of the speech on blue-collar whites. Until the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, we won’t know if they even heard about the story of his white grandmother, or how he gave voice to white frustration about affirmative action and busing. But I do know that the speech was “presidential” in the best sense of that word, and for reasons beyond a tone of gravitas and a backdrop of American flags. — Newsweek

The numbers are stacking up for Obama: The unholy noise surrounding Barack Obama’s preacher has not upset the calculus towards victory that has been clear for the past fortnight. During Holy Week, notwithstanding the agony of Fox News and the ecstasy of Obama’s sermon on race in Philadelphia, the senator’s fundamentals continued to strengthen. — Bruce Wolpe, SMH

Turnout bonanza: After a primary season marked by record-shattering voter turnout, election officials across the country are bracing for what might be an Election Day like no other. Many state and local election officials expect turnout in the Nov. 4 presidential election to exceed that of 2004, when voter turnout hit 61 percent — which was the highest level since 1968, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. “November could see the highest turnout of my lifetime,” said Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer, 63. “Turnout could be up to as much as 80 percent.” — Politico

A grim milestone: Don’t expect to hear from President Bush directly about the grim threshold that was crossed yesterday, as the U.S. death toll in Iraq passed 4,000. White House policy is to minimize the significance of such milestones. Bush was out on the South Lawn of the White House this morning, cheerfully blowing the whistle to start the annual Easter Egg Roll and getting a hug from the Easter Bunny. – Dan Froomkin, The Washington Post

Peter Fray

Inoculate yourself against the spin

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey