Karl Rove, who masterminded the last two Republican victories in presidential elections, is gazing with undisguised relish at the giant target being painted on Barack Obama's back before the next one. In an interview with The Times yesterday, he described the likely Democratic nominee as a "frail" candidate, who represents the values of an out-of-touch liberal social elite and demonstrates "tone deafness" to the concerns of ordinary Americans. "You have probably seen this kind of guy at London parties, trailing ash from a fashionable cigarette into the carpet and making snide remarks about someone `being an abominable bore'," Mr Rove said.
He suggested that voters have not heard the last of Mr Obama's recent comments at a San Francisco fund-raiser, where he suggested small town Pennsylvanians were clinging to guns and religion because they were "bitter". The candidate sounded, Mr Rove said, as if he was following in the footsteps of his anthropologist mother "reporting on the exotic species of voter he had encountered in some dark corner on the opposite side of the globe".
All this is a far cry from just a few short weeks ago when Mr Obama's soaring oratory - his promise to heal racial divisions or transcend the partisan politics of an older generation - had Republican strategists regarding him with shock and awe.
It is now the Democrats' turn to worry. Mr Obama's decisive defeat in this week's Pennsylvania primary has been followed by whispers of alarm that they may end up with a candidate who is listing badly - even holed below the water line - just as he is about to cross the finishing line in his race with Mrs Clinton. His failure to win white working-class voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania - both certain to be important battlegrounds in November's general election - has raised doubts about his fitness for the fight against John McCain. He sometimes appears drained by his fight with Mrs Clinton, a woman 14 years older than him, taking time off the campaign trail this week and setting himself a light schedule for the coming days.
Whereas he once energised rallies with the chant, "Fired up! Ready to go!" he now complains about feeling tired and the length of primary season, or says he wants to go home to see his young family.
If Mr Obama loses again in Indiana on May 6, then panic will spread through the party. His campaign spent much of yesterday explaining to the Democratic super-delegates - who could yet wrest the nomination away from him, why he remains the best candidate to beat the Republicans. Mr Obama himself was busy shoring up his battered Everyman credentials by holding a press conference at an Indianapolis petrol station. But Mr Rove said that "unless something extraordinary happens", Mr Obama's lead among elected delegates still means that he will be the Democratic nominee.
And, although it may be unwelcome right now, Mr Rove even had some advice for him. First, he cease making attacks on Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain, which are "corrosive of his fundamental message about representing a new kind of politics". Mr Rove also pointed out that Mr Obama cannot stand on a platform promising post-partisan politics when he has virtually nothing to show on this front from sitting in the Senate for three years. "He should spend less time on the campaign trail between now and September and more time in the Senate" trying to get such an achievement under his belt, Mr Rove said. "The best way to prove a message is to live it."
Mr Obama has also been embarrassed in recent weeks by his black liberationist pastor Jeremiah Wright, who returned to the airwaves yesterday to denounce the media for portraying him as "some sort of fanatic". Unhelpfully, he explained that one of the differences between him and Mr Obama is that he "goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician". It is a treacherous, racially-charged subject, and Mr McCain has been careful this week to disassociate himself from Republicans who have launched a TV advert attacking Mr Obama's links with the pastor.
But Mr Rove suggested that race, far from hurting Mr Obama probably works in his favour by attracting white voters who regard the prospect of a black president as a "hopeful thing". A bigger problem for Mr Obama, he said, is winning industrial states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania with a voter base that resembles "George McGovern's coalition of college students and white wine sippers".
Mr Rove cited polls showing that as many as 26 per cent of Mrs Clinton's supporters will vote Republican if Mr Obama is the nominee, saying even though such numbers were likely to come down before November, "there are going to be significant numbers of defections in this contest". His scorn for Mr Obama was almost palpable as he described how the candidate had developed a habit of "parsing" when faced by criticism or complaining about rough treatment as he did after last week's TV debate against Mrs Clinton. This makes him look like a whiner, Mr Rove said. "She has been getting tough with him - but it's not as tough as it will get from all sorts of places in a general election."
By Charles Krauthammer
"Real change has never been easy. . . . The status quo in Washington will fight. They will fight harder than ever to divide us and distract us with ads and attacks from now until November" -- Barack Obama
With that, Obama identified the new public enemy: the "distractions" foisted upon a pliable electorate by the malevolent forces of the status quo, i.e., those who might wish to see someone else become president next January. "It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit for tat that consumes our politics" and "trivializes the profound issues" that face our country, he warned sternly. These must be resisted.
Why? Because Obama understands that the real threat to his candidacy is less Hillary Clinton and John McCain than his own character and cultural attitudes. He came out of nowhere with his autobiography already written, then saw it embellished daily by the hagiographic coverage and kid-gloves questioning of a supine press. (Which is why those "Saturday Night Live" parodies were so devastatingly effective.)
Then came the three amigos: Tony Rezko, the indicted fixer; Jeremiah Wright, the racist reverend; William Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist. And then Obama's own anthropological observation that "bitter" working-class whites cling to guns and religion because they misapprehend their real class interests.
In the now-famous Pennsylvania debate, Obama had extreme difficulty answering questions about these associations and attitudes. The difficulty is understandable. Some of the contradictions are inexplicable. How does one explain campaigning throughout 2007 on a platform of transcending racial divisions, while in that same year contributing $26,000 to a church whose pastor incites race hatred?
What is Obama to do? Dismiss all such questions about his associations and attitudes as "distractions." And then count on his acolytes in the media to wage jihad against those who have the temerity to raise these questions. As if the character and beliefs of a man who would be president are less important than the "issues." As if some political indecency was committed when Obama was prevented from going through his latest -- 21st and likely last -- primary debate without being asked about Wright or Ayers or the tribal habits of gun-toting, God-loving Pennsylvanians.
Take Ayers. Obama makes it sound as if the relationship consists of having run into each other at the DMV. In fact, Obama's political career was launched in a 1995 meeting at Ayers's home. Obama's own campaign says that they maintain "friendly" relations. Obama's defense is that he was 8 when Ayers and his Weather Underground comrades were planting bombs at the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and other buildings. True. But Obama was 40 when Ayers said publicly that he doesn't regret setting bombs. Indeed, he said, "I feel we didn't do enough." Would you maintain friendly relations with an unrepentant terrorist? Would you even shake his hand? To ask why Obama does is perfectly legitimate and perfectly relevant to understanding what manner of man he is.
Obamaphiles are even more exercised about the debate question regarding the flag pin. Now, I have never worn one. Whether anyone does is a matter of total indifference to me. But apparently not to Obama. He's taken three affirmative steps in regard to flag pins. After Sept. 11, he began wearing one. At a later point, he stopped wearing it. Then last year he explained why: because it "became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security."
Apart from the self-congratulatory fatuousness of that statement -- as if in this freest of all countries, political self-expression is somehow scarce or dangerous or a sign of patriotic courage -- to speak of pin-wearing as a sign of inauthentic patriotism is to make an issue of it yourself. For Obamaphiles to now protest the very asking of the question requires a fine mix of cynicism and self-righteousness.
But Obama needs to cast out such questions as illegitimate distractions because they are seriously damaging his candidacy. As people begin to learn about this just-arrived pretender, the magic dissipates. He spent six weeks in Pennsylvania. Outspent Hillary more than 2 to 1. Ran close to 10,000 television ads -- spending more than anyone in any race in the history of the state -- and lost by 10 points. And not because he insufficiently demagogued NAFTA or the other "issues." It was because of those "distractions" -- i.e., the things that most reveal character and core beliefs.
Obama's Real Bill Ayers Problem
The ex-Weatherman is now a radical educator with influence
Barack Obama complains that he's been unfairly attacked for a casual political and social relationship with his neighbor, former Weatherman Bill Ayers. Obama has a point. In the ultraliberal Hyde Park community where the presidential candidate first earned his political spurs, Ayers is widely regarded as a member in good standing of the city's civic establishment, not an unrepentant domestic terrorist. But Obama and his critics are arguing about the wrong moral question. The more pressing issue is not the damage done by the Weather Underground 40 years ago, but the far greater harm inflicted on the nation's schoolchildren by the political and educational movement in which Ayers plays a leading role today.
A Chicago native son, Ayers first went into combat with his Weatherman comrades during the "Days of Rage" in 1969, smashing storefront windows along the city's Magnificent Mile and assaulting police officers and city officials. Chicago's mayor at the time was the Democratic boss of bosses, Richard J. Daley. The city's current mayor, Richard M. Daley, has employed Ayers as a teacher trainer for the public schools and consulted him on the city's education-reform plans. Obama's supporters can reasonably ask: If Daley fils can forgive Ayers for his past violence, why should Obama's less consequential contacts with Ayers be a political disqualification? It's hard to disagree. Chicago's liberals have chosen to define deviancy down in Ayers's case, and Obama can't be blamed for that.
What he can be blamed for is not acknowledging that his neighbor has a political agenda that, if successful, would make it impossible to lift academic achievement for disadvantaged children. As I have shown elsewhere in City Journal, Ayers's politics have hardly changed since his Weatherman days. He still boasts about working full-time to bring down American capitalism and imperialism. This time, however, he does it from his tenured perch as Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America's future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.
Indeed, the education department at the University of Illinois is a hotbed for the radical education professoriate. As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K-12 teachers need to "be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation." Ayers's texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation's ed schools and teacher-training institutes. One of Ayers's major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change.
Unfortunately, neither Obama nor his critics in the media seem to have a clue about Ayers's current work and his widespread influence in the education schools. In his last debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama referred to Ayers as a "professor of English," an error that the media then repeated. Would that Ayers were just another radical English professor. In that case, his poisonous anti-American teaching would be limited to a few hundred college students in the liberal arts. But through his indoctrination of future K-12 teachers, Ayers has been able to influence what happens in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of classrooms.
Ayers's influence on what is taught in the nation's public schools is likely to grow in the future. Last month, he was elected vice president for curriculum of the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association (AERA), the nation's largest organization of education-school professors and researchers. Ayers won the election handily, and there is no doubt that his fellow education professors knew whom they were voting for. In the short biographical statement distributed to prospective voters beforehand, Ayers listed among his scholarly books Fugitive Days, an unapologetic memoir about his ten years in the Weather Underground. The book includes dramatic accounts of how he bombed the Pentagon and other public buildings.
AERA already does a great deal to advance the social-justice teaching agenda in the nation's schools and has established a Social Justice Division with its own executive director. With Bill Ayers now part of the organization's national leadership, you can be sure that it will encourage even more funding and support for research on how teachers can promote left-wing ideology in the nation's classrooms-and correspondingly less support for research on such mundane subjects as the best methods for teaching underprivileged children to read.
The next time Obama-the candidate who purports to be our next "education president"-discusses education on the campaign trail, it would be nice to hear what he thinks of his Hyde Park neighbor's vision for turning the nation's schools into left-wing indoctrination centers. Indeed, it's an appropriate question for all the presidential candidates.
Obama Delegate Admits the Obvious: 'Bitter' Was Indeed a Big Deal
Reading the analysis of Dan Wofford (son of former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford) on "What Went Wrong" for Obama in the last primary is a rather reassuring experience. When Obama offered that Rosetta Stone of Condescension at the San Francisco fundraiser, you (well, probably) and I thought that ought to be a big deal. The coverage suggested it could be a big deal. But Obama's cheerleaders in the press insisted it wasn't a big deal, and the polls didn't give us instant confirmation that it was a big deal.
We were told his explanation of his remarks was "sensible and refreshing." The Obama campaign actually emailed out a CNN segment where Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty, and Jeffrey Toobin all defended the comments. Even ordinarily sensible race watchers declared, "The word "bitter" wasn't the best choice in the context he used it in but he was trying to make a broader point. I guess those are the pitfalls of being really smart. But to say that these comments are "elitist" or are "demeaning" seems to be a big time stretch. It's hard to paint Obama as an "elitist" while at the same time he's described as hip, cool and relates to the younger generation. That makes no sense."
So it's reassuring to hear an Obama supporter - an Obama delegate, no less! - come out and say, "yup, it was a big deal." And to point out that elitism and snobbery are toxic in American politics, even in Democratic primaries...
You ask "what went wrong"... Here's my hangover-colored answer: He visited San Fransisco [sic] two weeks ago. That's what happened.
* Message to all Democratic Candidates: Never to go San Francisco, unless incognito;
* Message to Barack: Don't think out loud at fundraisers in San Francisco if you're stupid enough to go there.
* Message # 3: If someone in SF asks you about those "strange rural people in PA"...don't indulge their liberal, latte drinking bull [poop]...Just tell them if they want to understand rural and ethnic PA that they should get in the Prius's and drive down to Bakersfield or any of the other mid state towns in California where there are people who actually lead ordinary lives and care about God and own guns....
Bittergate hurt a lot - bc is slowed down and then with the poor debate performance stopped what was truly real closing momentum. No question had he not gone to SF or said those comments, we lose by 3-4 pts.
As somebody mentioned weeks ago, "if, as current polls predict, Barack Obama loses Pennsylvania by a double-digit margin on April 22, the truly ominous omen will not be the loss itself, but his campaign's catastrophic inability to tailor its message to vital demographics."
Something more than audacity
Barack Obama knows about audacity. He learned it from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, perfected it in Chicago and dazzles Democrats from Sioux City to Skagway and smaller places between. Fresh from his triumphs with the Audacity of Hope, he's eager to aim the Audacity of Bloviation at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who dreams of making a Hiroshima of Tel Aviv. Well, why not? His audacity has kids, babes, Hollywood stars, Manhattan ladies who lunch, celebrities of stage, screen and old-time radio and even Colin Powell in thrall. How could a mere Persian rug merchant resist him?
Continuing to play games with words, Mr. Obama says he wants to make a "diplomatic surge" with talks with Iran to stabilize the situation in Iraq. This is odd, because on the one hand he insists the "surge" that everybody else recognizes as working has been a bust. Now he wants the diplomats to emulate a bust.
There's something of Democratic surge in meddling, too, though we must audaciously hope that it is not coordinated. On the very day that Mr. Obama went surging through Iraq and Iran, the known world (or at least the worlds of Arabia and a precinct or maybe two in southwest Georgia) was rocked by the news that The Hon. Jimmy Carter would soon be on his way to Syria to break bread and nibble on sheep's eyes with Khaled Meshal, the exiled leader of Hamas, which the State Department regards as one of the foremost terrorist organizations in the world. Like Khaled Meshal, Jimmy Carter will be a guest of President Bashar al-Assad, though they won't necessarily share the same rug. Mr. Jimmy will be the first Western leader of his rank to greet the terrorist chief.
"It's about par for the course from President Carter, demonstrating a lack of judgment typical of what he does," says John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "To go to Syria to visit Hamas at this point is just an ill-timed, ill-advised decision on his part."
Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was, as you might expect, euphoric. He says Mr. Carter's efforts demonstrate that he's "a true partner" of peace. "I think President Carter would only undertake such a mission if he believed that something could be achieved in terms of peace and reconciliation in the region." Any friend of Hamas is a friend of "peace," as suicide bombers define "peace."
Jimmy Carter's adventures no longer agitate anyone very much, but the prospect of Barack Obama - green, na‹ve and inexperienced in the ways of the world beyond the south side of Chicago - rushing off to charm despots and dictators with smooth talk sends shivers down the backbones, such as they may be, of everybody in a pair of striped pants. Summits look like fun to prospective presidents, with flags flying from the front fenders of long black limousines and self-important aides scurrying about with learned papers and cold coffee. Older men have learned to be wary.
"Summits have all too often been a gamble, the experience nerve-wracking and the results unsatisfactory," said Dean Acheson, who was Harry S. Truman's secretary of State. He recalled the advice given to Woodrow Wilson on the eve of the first Wilson journey to Europe: "The moment President Wilson sits down at the council table with these prime ministers and foreign secretaries, he has lost all the power that comes from distance and detachment. He becomes merely a negotiator dealing with other negotiators." When the quarterback, i.e., the president, fumbles, the goal line is open behind him.
Sending the inexperienced Barack Obama, the ultimate salesman armed only with a smile, guile and a shoeshine, off to parley with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il or even the man in charge in Moscow and Beijing is enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. Sen. Obama can't wait to try out the Audacity of Bloviation that has worked so well on gullible Democrats at home. This is the second time he's talked about how he's eager to substitute easy verbosity for hard-won experience. We must have the audacity to hope for better than that.
(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)