Friday, April 18, 2008

Maureen Dowd on Wonderboy

The NYT's Dowdy one normally attacks conservatives

I'm not bitter. I'm not writing this just because I grew up in a house with a gun, a strong Catholic faith, an immigrant father, brothers with anti-illegal immigrant sentiments and a passion for bowling. (My bowling trophy was one of my most cherished possessions.) My family morphed from Kennedy Democrats into Reagan Republicans not because they were angry, but because they felt more comfortable with conservative values. Members of my clan sometimes were overly cloistered. But they weren't bitter; they were bonding. They went to church every Sunday because it was part of their identity, not because they needed a security blanket.

Behind closed doors in San Francisco, elitism's epicenter, Barack Obama showed his elitism, attributing the emotional, spiritual and cultural values of working-class, "lunch pail" Pennsylvanians to economic woes.

The last few weeks have not been kind to Hillary, but the endless endgame has not been kind to the Wonder Boy either. Obama comes across less like a candidate in Pennsylvania than an anthropologist in Borneo.

His mother got her Ph.D. in anthropology, studying the culture of Indonesia. And as Obama has courted white, blue-collar voters in "Deer Hunter" and "Rocky" country, he has often appeared to be observing the odd habits of the colorful locals, resisting as the natives try to fatten him up like a foie gras goose, sampling Pennsylvania beer in a sports bar with his tie tight, awkwardly accepting bowling shoes as a gift from Bob Casey, examining the cheese and salami at the Italian Market here as intriguing ethnic artifacts, purchasing Utz Cheese Balls at a ShopRite in East Norriton and quizzing the women working in a chocolate factory about whether they could possibly really like the sugary doodads.

He hasn't pulled a John Kerry and asked for a Philly cheese steak with Swiss yet, but he has maintained a regal "What do the simple folk do to help them escape when they're blue?" bearing, unable to even feign Main Street cred. But Hillary did when she belted down a shot of Crown Royal whiskey with gusto at Bronko's in Crown Point, Ind.

Just as he couldn't knock down the bowling pins, he can't knock down Annie Oakley or "the girl in the race," as her husband called her Tuesday - the self-styled blue-collar heroine who reluctantly revealed a $100 million fortune partially built on Bill's shady connections. Even when Hillary's campaign collapsed around her and her husband managed to revive the bullets over Bosnia, Obama has still not been able to marshal a knockout blow - or even come up with a knockout economic speech that could expand his base of support.

Even as Hillary grows weaker, her reputation for ferocity grows stronger. A young woman in the audience at a taping of "The Colbert Report" at Penn Tuesday night asked Stephen Colbert during a warm-up: "Are you more afraid of bears or Hillary Clinton?" Even though Democratic elders worry that the two candidates will terminally bloody each other, they each seem to be lighting their own autos-da-fe.

At match points, when Hillary fights like a cornered raccoon, Obama retreats into law professor mode. The elitism that Americans dislike is not about family money or connections - J.F.K. and W. never would have been elected without them. In the screwball movie genre that started during the last Depression, there was a great tradition of the millionaire who was cool enough to relate to the common man - like Cary Grant's C.K. Dexter Haven in "The Philadelphia Story."

What turns off voters is the detached egghead quality that they tend to equate with a wimpiness, wordiness and a lack of action - the same quality that got the professorial and superior Adlai Stevenson mocked by critics as Adelaide. The new attack line for Obama rivals is that he's gone from J.F.K. to Dukakis. (Just as Dukakis chatted about Belgian endive, Obama chatted about Whole Foods arugula in Iowa.)

Obama did not grow up in cosseted circumstances. "Now when is the last time you've seen a president of the United States who just paid off his loan debt?" Michelle Obama asked Tuesday at Haverford College, referring to Barack's student loans while speaking in the shadow of the mansions depicted in "The Philadelphia Story." But his exclusive Hawaiian prep school and years in the Ivy League made him a charter member of the elite, along with the academic experts he loves to have in the room. As Colbert pointed out, the other wonky Ivy League lawyer in the primary just knows how to condescend better.


The Coulter comment

The Democrats' "Fake-Out America" adviser, Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff, must be beside himself. Despite Lakoff's years spent training Democrats to "frame" their language to stop scaring Americans, B. Hussein Obama was caught on tape speaking candidly to other liberals in San Francisco last week. One minute Obama was bowling in Pennsylvania with nice, ordinary people wearing "Beer Hunter" T-shirts, and the next thing you know, he was issuing a report on the psychological traits of normal Americans to rich liberals in San Francisco.

Obama informed the San Francisco plutocrats that these crazy working-class people are so bitter, they actually believe in God! And not just the 12-step meeting, higher power, "as you conceive him or her to be" kind of God. The regular, old-fashioned, almighty sort of "God." As Obama put it: "(T)hey get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

The rich liberals must have nearly fainted at the revelation that the denizens of small towns in Pennsylvania have absolutely no concern for the rich's ability to acquire servants from Mexico at a reasonable price.

We don't know much about Obama's audience, other than that four fundraisers were held on April 6 at the homes of San Francisco's rich and mighty, such as Alex Mehran, an Iranian who went into daddy's business and married an IBM heiress, and Gordon Getty, heir to the Getty Oil fortune. It is not known whether any of Getty's three illegitimate children attended the Obama fundraiser - which turned out to be more of a McCain fundraiser - but photos from the event indicate that there were a fair number of armed (and presumably bitter) policemen providing security for the billionaire's soiree. In 1967, Gordon sued his own father to get his hands on money from the family trust - and lost. So Gordon Getty knows from bitter. It's a wonder he hasn't turned to guns, or even to immigrant-bashing. God knows (whoever he is) there are enough of them working on his home.

These are the sort of well-adjusted individuals to whom Obama is offering psychological profiles of normal Americans, including their bizarre theories about how jobs being sent to foreign countries and illegal-alien labor undercutting American workers might have something to do with their own economic misfortunes.

It's going to take a lot of "framing" for Democrats to recast Obama's explanation to San Francisco cafe society that gun ownership and a belief in God are the byproducts of a psychological disorder brought on by economic hardship. It is an article of faith with the Democrats that they must fool Americans by simulating agreement with normal people. The winner of the Democratic primary is always the candidate who does the best impersonation of an American. But then, after all their hard work making believe they're into NASCAR and God, some Democrat invariably slips and lets us know it's all a big fake-out. They're like a gay guy trying to act straight who accidentally refers to Brad Pitt as "yummy!"

The Democrats' last phony American (or perhaps I should say "faux American") was John Kerry, who famously said that if "you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." Kerry claimed this was not an accurate reflection of his feelings about the troops, despite a four-decade record of contempt for them, including accusing American troops of being baby-killers during the Vietnam War. Rather, he said, it was a "botched joke." (In Kerry's defense, he was the opening act for Randi Rhodes' stand-up comedy show at the time.) But as with his military records, Kerry refused to allow his joke-writer to release any of the jokes cut from that speech.

In case there was any confusion, other Democrats immediately clarified their position by going on television and saying - as Rep. Charlie Rangel did - that our troops are people who don't have the option of having "a decent career."

These Democrats can't even pull off attending a NASCAR race without embarrassing themselves. In August 2004, Kerry exclaimed: "Who among us does not love NASCAR?" And then, about six months ago, Democratic congressional staffers to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., sent out a memo urging aides going to NASCAR races to get inoculated before attending.

Obama had been so careful until now, "framing" his message as "change" - rather than partial-birth abortion, driver's licenses for illegal aliens, tax hikes, socialized medicine and abandoning mandatory minimum prison sentences for federal crimes. His message is "change" - not that his wife has not been proud to be an American for most of her life. He is for "change" - and don't mind the crazy racist loon who has been Obama's spiritual mentor for two decades. One can only hope that Obama got his shots before bowling in Altoona, Pa.


The Philadelphia TV debate

Marc Ambinder comments:

Keeping the score card, there's no way Obama could have fared worse. Nearly 45 minutes of relentless political scrutiny from the ABC anchors and from Hillary Clinton, followed by an issues-and-answers session in which his anger carried over and sort of neutered him. But Hillary Clinton has a Reverse-Teflon problem: her negatives are up, and when she's perceived as the attacker, the attacks never seem to settle on Obama and always seem to boomerang back on her. So it would be unwise to declare that Hillary "won" the debate in the dynamic sense just yet. (How much money will Obama raise off this debate? $3m million? $4 million?)

A lot of stuff that Obama doesn't want Pennsylvanians to think about were the subject of fairly detailed questions. Obama's supporters are already blaming the "establishment" -- that is, the powerful institution of the mainstream media -- for the tone of the debate. This sets up a blowback scenario wherein his supporters will rally to his defense and lash out at the media very loudly. But Obama's going to be the next president of the United States, maybe. The most powerful person in the world. And questions about his personal associations, his character, his personal beliefs, his statements at private fundraisers -- the answers to these questions tell us a lot. Sometimes the questions are unfair (( -- nothing about Colombia and Mark Penn -- )), but this ain't Pop Warner; the artificial distinction between politics, personality and policy doesn't exist in this league, and if you're uncomfortable with it, then change the rules or don't run for office.

But let's stipulate, for a moment and for the sake of argument only, that the ABC moderators were tone-deaf: that doesn't excuse Obama's performance. (If you think the MSM is ornery, wait until president Obama confronts Congress!) Obama's supporters like to see him fight back against the Man... witness his quick response to "bittergate".....; tonight, it seemed as if he was surprised by the pace of the questions and all the air was gone from his answers. There was no fight. Unless you paid attention, you might have missed a few firsts: the first time the candidates debated gun control. The first time that Obama attacked Clinton about her husband's pardon. Obama's floating the idea that he would exempt workers who make between $97,000 and $200,000 from his payroll tax hike.

The introduction of ex-Weatherman William Ayers into the mainstream of the debate (wasn't that Sean Hannity's question). Tax pledges by Clinton and Obama. Insinuations by both Democrats that they would not accept the advice of generals and admirals who urged them to keep troops in Iraq. My guess is that the debate helps Clinton marginally in Pennsylvania ... and is a mixed bag outside of Pennsylvania... where many Dems will be troubled by Obama and his performance... and others troubled by the attacks against Obama and what they say about the media....


Jim Geraghty of NRO on the debate

Forty-five Minutes of Pummeling Before a Wonky Cooldown

I don't like Hillary Clinton. But I respect her as an adversary. And every once in a while, when she demonstrates she has the guts to "go there" in front of a Democratic audience that want their debates to be criticism-free lovefests, I'm tempted to say, "I like the cut of your jib, Senator." It's like watching a linebacker perfectly execute a blitz and flatten a quarterback from the blind side. It's brutal, and tough to watch when it's your guy being hit, but it's within the rules and almost artistic when it's perfectly executed.

Tonight, she had her stumbles. Her answer on the Bosnia sniper tales really didn't help her out that much; she needed to explain something bewildering to the average Joe, which is remembering things that didn't happen. She made a lame joke about not getting enough sleep, but oddly, Obama didn't jump in by mentioning her "3 a.m." ads.

But she tore into Obama on all of his weak spots. Relentlessly. For the most part, she avoided looking nasty while she did it. She focused on the `cling' comment in the context of not understanding the role of religion in people's lives. She repeated what Wright actually said the Sunday after 9/11, and probably introduced Wright's blaming of America to a lot of people who had only heard Wright's sermons through a media filter. She twisted the knife when she noted that people don't choose their families, but they choose their pastor. When Obama tried to downplay his relationship to William Ayers, she brought up the Woods Foundation.

After about forty-five minutes, David Axelrod probably should have thrown in the towel and stopped the fight.

Obama got a little better as the night wore on, but the damage was done. He looked terrible tonight. He said he disowned Wright - contradicting his speech line about being no more able to disown Wright than his own grandmother - then backed away and said he only disowned his comments. When Hillary brought up Wright's 9/11 comments, he merely lamented that some of his comments had been "objectionable." He never quite explained why he stopped wearing the American flag pin, and he kept digging in deeper on William Ayers. He dismissed the question, then described Ayers as an "English professor." He completely downplayed Ayers' terrorist past, and said they didn't exchange ideas "on a regular basis." Then he compared his relationship to Ayers to his relationship with Senator Tom Coburn! Way to chase away the last of the Obamacans, Senator.

Hillary closed by saying she's a fighter. She proved that tonight; if I were on Team McCain, tonight might have convinced me to hope for a showdown with Obama.

UPDATE: During the night, I wondered if Democrats would conclude she was too nasty and negative. But I don't think she ever came across as shrill or sneering in her delivery, like when she did with the "slumlord Rezko" line a few debates ago. But I suppose it's possible that tonight's performance backfires, that Democrats see her as tearing down their Obamessiah. But my first gut instinct is that she's knocking him off his pedestal with all of this...


Comment from the Hewitt blog

What a horrible night for Barack Obama, and for the Democrats in general. George Stephanopoulos, along with Charlie Gibson, conducted a great debate on substance, showing any American willing to look that neither Democratic candidate is ready for the West Wing, and that John McCain clearly is.

In an exchange that will be played all through the general election season, Senator Obama was asked about his connections to unrepentent anti-war bomber/terrorist/Weather Ungerground member Bill Ayers. Obama was clearly flustered by the question, and in responding, compared Ayers to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn's views on doctors who perform abortion.

The last time I checked, Doc Coburn neither advocated, participated, nor had a need to repent from any terrorist activity, unlike Bill Ayers, who to this day is proud of his activities forty years ago. If Obama wanted to unify America, he took another large step in achieving half of that goal with conservatives, who are not going to take this slander on Coburn lightly.

Both Clinton and Obama stumbled on taxes, especially capital gains taxes, on guns, and on foreign policy. Obama was clearly uncomfortable on the Wright issue that hasn't been put behind him yet.

The other exchange that's going to come back and bite Obama is him doubling down once again on the bitterness comment that has caused him so much grief this past week.

When people feel like Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after year, decade after decade that they're economic situation's going to change, and it doesn't, then politically, they end up focusing on those things that are a constant, like religion. They end up feeling this is a place where I can find some refuge. This is something that I can count on. They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have been on from generation to generation.

So if the economy is going great, especially if it's caused by action in Washington, people have no need to focus on things like religion or votes on guns? It sounds to me like he didn't walk back from what he said to the elites in San Francisco a week and a half ago. Instead, Obama's answer came out sounding something like, "I made a mistake about what I said in San Francisco, so let me be clear about what I really meant then, and mean today. When small town people get bitter, it sometimes drives them to guns and God. Hopefully, I cleared that up."

As has been said around the blogosphere, there was only one clear winner tonight, and that is John McCain.


Obamas grow ever richer during Bush administration

Senator Barack Obama released his 2007 tax return on Wednesday evening, reporting a household income of $4.2 million last year due to a sharp increase in the sale of his books during the first year of his presidential campaign.

That was a substantial jump from the roughly $1 million in income the Obamas reported in 2006, much of that also from book deals. Earlier this month, the Clintons released their tax returns over eight years, showing they earned $109 million over that period, with a substantial portion likewise coming from book sales.

In the returns released Wednesday, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, reported a $3.9 million net profit from books, a sum that dwarfed their combined salaries of $260,735. They paid nearly $1.4 million in federal taxes last year and contributed $240,370 to various charities....

For the third year in a row, royalties from the sale of Mr. Obama's books dramatically elevated their wealth. His annual Senate salary was $157,102 and her salary at the University of Chicago hospitals was $103,633 - less than the previous year because she dropped to part-time status to spend more time on the presidential campaign.

Their contributions to charity have increased exponentially since he started running for president. Among their largest gifts were donations of $26,270 to Trinity United Church of Christ; $50,000 to the United Negro College Fund; $35,000 to the global poverty charity CARE. In terms of investments, the Obamas reported just $1,442 in taxable interest income in 2007....

That is pretty good pay for a part time job for Michelle, considering that it is more than 95 percent of the country make working full time. It is really incredible that she whines so much about how hard life is. It is also clear that Obama attempt to mislead the country into believing we are in hard economic times is a fraud.

Another thing of note here is it appears he has had no experience with investing despite his robust income. That is probably why he has such screwball ideas about taxing investment income and capital gains.



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