Post below recycled from Blue Crab
Says who? Says Pew: Obama's Image Slips, His Lead Over Clinton Disappears
McCain Seen as More Centrist For his part, McCain runs better in the general election tests against both Democratic candidates among college graduates and white men. More generally, the current poll finds that McCain's competitiveness against both Democrats is buttressed by the fact that voters continue to see him as a centrist whose views are fairly close to their own, and less conservative than George W. Bush's. In contrast, voters place both Clinton and Obama considerably to the left of where they place themselves. These ideological perceptions of the candidates have changed little over the past three months.
Count me as unsurprised.
Although I did think Obama might have been able to convince more people that Clinton was to the left of him. I don't think she is to the left of Obama, but for a good long while, until the last few weeks really, the press has tried to portray Obama as some sort of centrist. Not very many people seem to be buying that fairy tale.
We ain't as dumb as we look! Who knew? (Gleaned from American Future.)
By Victor Davis Hanson
Why the Obama Pass? I think we have sort of reached an impasse on Rev. Wright. Most Americans, I think, accept the following realties. Obama, by what he wrote in his memoirs, by what he said when he spoke in his early campaign speeches, by his frequent praise of Wright, and by his 20-year presence in front of, and subsidies to, Wright knew exactly the racist and anti-American nature of his odious pastor.
But many also seem to accept that they have invested too much in Obama and have come too far to accept anything that might end his candidacy. (Hence their hysteria over the Wright "smear".) In other words, privately they acknowledge:
-that their candidate made a devil's bargain with a racist to create an authentic black persona in order to jump start a political career in Chicago;
-that their candidate was so inured to de rigueur anti-American speech from his church days, black-liberationist friends, assorted reverends, and former radicals like Ayers, that he never really thought things that Wright said were all that big a deal - hence his deer-in-the-headlights approach to the initial scandal and serial hedging. After all, in Obama's adopted world, his church really isn't "particularly controversial;"
-that their Obama messiah is hardly a new politician, but instead a very gifted and charismatic actor, who, in skillful fashion, can talk about utopian politics but then backstep, hedge, and get away with more than anyone since Bill Clinton in his prime in 1992 (one of the reasons that those two dislike each other so is that they are so much alike) - and that is not such a bad thing after all.
So while Obama is hurt in the primaries, and perhaps mortally so in the general election (the white working classes have a long memory), he will probably get the nomination, because his base will overlook all the above: they despise George Bush, will do anything to prevent another Republican in the White House, are tired of the Clintons, and feel Obama offers them symbolic capital, making them liked abroad and free of guilt at home.
Bottom line: unless Obama was caught on tape nodding as Wright screamed his obscenities at the United States, or an angry and spiteful Wright produces some letter, e-mail, etc. that reveals a kindred soul in Obama, or Michelle gives another speech "from the heart" about how hard she has struggled and how in return she has had no pride in this country, or there is another off-the-cuff, but recorded sneer at the white working class (50/50 chance on all four counts), I think he will weather the current storm and get the nomination. Obama evokes pure emotion and raw politics now, and logic, honesty, and accountability have little to do with his nomination bid.
Barack Obama set the trap. Then he stepped in it. Or, as Reverend Wright might put it, Barack's chickens are coming home to roost. Thus is the effect of the Great Race Speech.
Six weeks ago, Obama's status as the Messiah was dramatically enhanced for having turned the negative of Reverend Wright into a "much needed" exploration of race in America. So eager was the liberal establishment for confirmation that race is the biggest problem in this country (and that Barack is the solution) that they didn't see the obvious; they were being deceived by a cynical sleight of hand.
As virtually every intelligent (and honest) pundit noted, along with millions of average Americans, the Wright controversy wasn't about race. It was about patriotism. Any person seeing those clips said to themselves, "I would never have been part of this man's church. I'd have gotten up and left."
It is Barack Obama's comfort in remaining in an environment that regular folk would have abandoned in an instant that leads to the most intriguing part of the Wright debacle. That choice is the most powerful insight we've been given into what kind of man Barack is, and what sort of decision-maker he would be if we decide to give him his first management position.
Underpinning the key character question of "why did he stay" is a more ominous problem for Democrats - the question of what liberals believe. The truth is, liberals don't find Reverend Wright shocking. Liberals find themselves nodding in silent agreement with much of what he preaches. Furthermore, they aren't offended by the notion of rewarding a domestic terrorist from the 1960's with professorship at a major state university. Even more damaging is the notion that they really don't practice zero tolerance on racism and bigotry -- they're happy to ignore it if it's being practiced by part of their base.
The political figures liberals support don't generally talk like Pastor Wright. But the activist liberals who reflect the conscience of the movement speak and act in ways that most Americans do find shocking -- from Jimmy Carter to Sean Penn, from Cindy Sheehan to Michael Moore -- we find their beliefs, their opinions, and their behavior to be outrageous. Somehow, the connection hasn't been made between the radical ideologues and the officials they help elect who make their extreme beliefs the law of the land.
The linkage between the activists and the liberal establishment is more apparent now in the era of MoveOn.org and the Daily Kos. These are fringe organizations that ooze radicalism and disdain for America's prowess, and they have moved that radicalism from the closet into the mainstream of Democratic politics today. Candidates must satisfy this liberal underbelly without offending the sensibilities of traditional blue collar democratic voters. No there's a death defying trick that just may kill the magician.
Thus far, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have divided the base into two groups -- the radicals go to Barack (college students and other young people and the affluent suburbs join his natural black constituency), while traditional Democrats go to Hillary. How does the party convert those two poles into a single magnetic force with enough pull to win a general election? Certainly not by nominating the lefty who is struggling to find a way to appear palatable to his party's core voting blocks and who happens to have built his political machine with Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers as limited partners.
The post-war era has been filled with Democrats whose intellectualism and left-leaning aura have made them unelectable -- from Adlai Stevenson to Walter Mondale, from Al Gore to John Kerry. But this problem has been more cultural than ideological -- these candidates simply didn't resonate, failing to match our basic expectations of masculinity. Democrats were wimpy, and America doesn't want wimps in charge.
Bill Clinton offered an alternative as a "New Democrat," a brand built around the concept that winning should come first and ideology second. He snickered at the party's history of electoral failure and went on to prove that you can win if you're not a wimp, Despite having been a draft dodging, Vietnam protesting pot smoking child of the sixties, Bill was perceived as being more interested in women and Big Macs than liberal ideology, making him the first viable thing Democrats had offered up in a long time.
While the party liked having the White House, it didn't like the compromise that Clinton represented. So the excitement was not palpable over entering this election cycle with Hillary Clinton as the de facto nominee. The thought of going another round with the Clintons was sort of creepy -- many leading Democrats had embarrassed themselves with pretzel logic defending Bill during Monica -- the party would have preferred another shot with Al Gore over Clinton redux.
So when Barack Obama caught fire, it appeared that the answer to the dilemma had been sent in the form of an angel. Young, handsome, compelling and only slightly black, Barack Obama was the child of the elite who didn't wear the smell of elitism at first. He was raised in a white suburban family, went to prep school, then Columbia and Harvard, but also went to church and could talk about growing up black. While his adult life had lacked focus before he entered politics 11 years ago, with his mixed race heritage and youth he seemed able to pick the party, and the country, up by the bootstraps and move it into a new era. This is the source of the Democrats' irrational exuberance. He is their dream candidate -- a Trojan horse who could secretly smuggle the liberal elite into the White House -- with Americans unable to pick up their scent until after his inauguration.
But now there is a picture window hung dead center in the horse's belly. We can look inside and see the baggage of traditional liberalism that Barack carries. No one else would have invited Reverend Wright on the ride, so why did Barack? No one else would have accepted the career assistance that unrepentant terrorist William Ayers provided, so why did Barack? No one else would have done the shady land deal with Tony Rezko, so why did Barack? The answer is because he's a liberal. The real thing. The watered down, modern man that liberalism has envisioned -- one who can weave a beautiful yarn but has had all remnants of instinct and good sense squeezed out of him by the PC era. As his outer layer is peeled away, what is revealed is just another intellectual, just another liberal - John Kerry in racial drag.
Now that America can see what's behind the curtain, the illusion has been ruined: Barack Obama cannot be elected President of the United States. His chances of holding onto the nomination that, on paper, he has virtually locked up, are diminishing rapidly. Will the Democrats revert to Hillary? Her argument to super delegates that Barack will guarantee a loss in the Fall will be confirmed if she can combine a solid win in Indiana with a comeback squeaker in North Carolina. But the betrayal of Barack's supporters by the party is rightfully viewed as dangerous -- perhaps too damaging a price to pay to save just one election.
Which leaves the nuclear option -- a white knight, such as Al Gore, riding in to save the day. That way, both sides in the Barack/Hillary fight are given the consolation prize of knowing that the other side didn't win, and both live to run another day, allowing all Democrats to coalesce around an Academy Award winner. Liberals are happiest around Hollywood types, anyway.
Mark Steyn: To Obama, 'we' means 'me'
Four score and seven years ago . No, wait, my mistake. Two score and seven or eight days ago, Barack Obama gave the greatest speech since the Gettysburg Address, or FDR's First Inaugural, or JFK's religion speech, or (if, like Garry Wills in The New York Review of Books, you find those comparisons drearily obvious) Lincoln's Cooper Union speech of 1860.
And, of course, the senator's speech does share one quality with Cooper Union, Gettysburg, the FDR Inaugural, Henry V at Agincourt, Socrates' Apology, etc.: It's history. He said, apropos the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that "I could no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother." But last week Obama did disown him. So, great-speech-wise, it's a bit like Churchill promising to fight them on the beaches and never surrender, and then surrendering a month and a half later, and on a beach he decided not to fight on.
It was never a great speech. It was a simulacrum of a great speech written to flatter gullible pundits into hailing it as the real deal. It should be "required reading in classrooms," said Bob Herbert in the New York Times; it was "extraordinary" and "rhetorical magic," said Joe Klein in Time - which gets closer to the truth: As with most "magic," it was merely a trick of redirection.
Obama appeared to have made Jeremiah Wright vanish into thin air, but it turned out he was just under the heavily draped table waiting to pop up again. The speech was designed to take a very specific problem - the fact that Barack Obama, the Great Uniter, had sat in the pews of a neo-segregationist huckster for 20 years - and generalize it into some grand meditation on race in America. Sen. Obama looked America in the face and said: Who ya gonna believe? My "rhetorical magic" or your lyin' eyes?
That's an easy choice for the swooning bobbysoxers of the media. With less impressionable types, such as voters, Sen. Obama is having a tougher time. The Philly speech is emblematic of his most pressing problem: the gap - indeed, full-sized canyon - that's opening up between the rhetorical magic and the reality. That's the difference between a simulacrum and a genuinely great speech. The gaseous platitudes of hope and change and unity no longer seem to fit the choices of Obama's adult life. Oddly enough, the shrewdest appraisal of the senator's speechifying "magic" came from Jeremiah Wright himself. "He's a politician," said the reverend. "He says what he has to say as a politician. . He does what politicians do."
The notion that the Amazing Obama might be just another politician doing what politicians do seems to have affronted the senator more than any of the stuff about America being no different from al-Qaida and the government inventing AIDS to kill black people. In his belated "disowning" of Wright, Obama said, "What I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that - that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the - the commonality in all people."
Funny how tinny and generic the sonorous uplift rings when it's suddenly juxtaposed against something real and messy and human. As he chugged on, the senator couldn't find his groove and couldn't prevent himself from returning to pick at the same old bone: "If what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough. That's - that's a show of disrespect to me." And we can't have that, can we?
In a shrewd analysis of Obama's peculiarly petty objections to the Rev. Wright, Scott Johnson of the Powerline Web site remarked on the senator's "adolescent grandiosity." There's always been a whiff of that. When he tells his doting fans, "We are the change we've been waiting for," he means, of course, he is the change we've been waiting for.
"Do you personally feel that the reverend betrayed your husband?" asked Meredith Vieira on "The Today Show." "You know what I think, Meredith?" replied Michelle Obama. "We've got to move forward. You know, this conversation doesn't help my kids."
Hang on. "My" kids? You're supposed to say "It's about the future of all our children," not "It's about the future of my children" - whose parents happen to have a base salary of half a million bucks a year. But even this bungled cliche nicely captures the campaign's self-absorption: Talking about Obama's pastor is a distraction from talking about Obama's kids.
By the way, the best response to Michelle's "this conversation doesn't help my kids" would be: "But entrusting their religious upbringing to Jeremiah Wright does?" Ah, but, happily, Meredith Vieira isn't that kind of interviewer.
Mrs. O is becoming a challenge for satirists. My radio pal Hugh Hewitt played a clip on his show of the putative first lady identifying the real problem facing America: "Like many young people coming out of college, with their MA's and BA's and PhD's and MPh's coming out so mired in debt that they have to forego the careers of their dreams, see, because when you're mired in debt, you can't afford to be a teacher or a nurse or social worker, or a pastor of a church, or to run a small nonprofit organization, or to do research for a small community group, or to be a community organizer because the salaries that you'll earn in those jobs won't cover the cost of the degree that it took to get the job."
I'm not sure why Michelle would stick "pastor of a church" in that list of downscale occupations: Her pastor drives a Mercedes and lives in a gated community. But, insofar as I understand Mrs. O, she feels that many Harvard and Princeton graduates have to give up their life's dream of being a minimum-wage "community organizer" (whatever that is) and are forced to become corporate lawyers, investment bankers and multinational CEOs just to pay off their college loans. I'm sure the waitresses and checkout clerks nodded sympathetically.
Michelle Obama is a bizarre mix of condescension and grievance - like Teresa Heinz Kerry with a chip on her shoulder. But the common thread to her rhetoric is its antipathy to what she calls "corporate America." Perhaps for his next Gettysburg Address the senator will be saying, "I could no more disown my wife than I could disown my own pastor. Oh, wait . ."
Whatever one thinks of Sens. Clinton and McCain, they're as familiar as any public figures can be. Obama, on the other hand, is running explicitly on a transcendent "magic." It doesn't help when the cute girl in spangled tights keeps whining about how awful everything is, and the guy you sawed in half sticks himself together and starts rampaging around the stage. The magician has lost control of the show.
How the Wright Scandal Is Playing In Indianapolis' Gourmet Dog Biscuit Shop
First, from the Indianapolis Star:
Michael Hemphill, a 25-year-old Purdue University graduate student, is backing Barack Obama for president but won't vote at all if Hillary Rodham Clinton is the Democratic nominee.
Christen Burns, a 31-year-old employee at a Downtown hotel, feels just as strongly that the nominee should be Clinton. And if it's Obama? She expects to vote for Republican John McCain.
It's voters like that - and they're easy to find not only in Indiana but across the nation - that have some Democrats worried that this long primary battle between Obama and Clinton could leave the party divided and defeated this November...
Obama supporters who disapproved of Clinton grew from 35 percent in November to 44 percent this month, while Clinton supporters with an unfavorable view of Obama grew from 26 percent to 42 percent.
Second, from the New York Times, a description of some rather elite-seeming Obama supporters in Indiana (I'm sorry, a gourmet dog biscuit store is almost too perfect) who all insist that they won't be holding Obama's longtime association with Wright against the candidate, but they're worried about all of "THOSE" people who might:
In the cafes, gift stores and the gourmet dog biscuit shop in this city's neighborhood of Broad Ripple Village, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.'s name draws all sorts of responses - sighs, rolling eyes, laughter, grim silence.
But many people, like Clyde H. Crockett, a retired law professor who was sipping a drink in a coffee shop here on Thursday, said his thoughts about Mr. Wright would have no bearing on his decision - still unfinished - about whom to vote for in Indiana's Democratic primary on Tuesday. "Why should it?" Mr. Crockett said. "No one should be tainted because of Reverend Wright."
The shoppers in Broad Ripple and in the neighborhoods nearby reflect a demographic group - mostly white, highly educated, professional, artsy, relatively well-off, politically independent - that has leaned toward Senator Barack Obama in other states and one that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will hope to gain an edge with here, in a state that polls show as almost evenly split.
But in interviews here on Thursday, voters said Mr. Wright's highly publicized comments and the responses and echoes that have followed had had little bearing on them. Supporters of both Democratic candidates said that they did not think the Wright episode should change the race but said, again and again, that they feared it might in other, less cosmopolitan areas of Indiana where they thought people might be searching for some acceptable explanation for not voting for a black candidate.
Mr. Crockett, who said he was leaning ever so slightly toward Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, his wife's preferred candidate, said he worried that Mr. Obama's ties to his former pastor could harm him among voters in the far southern part of the state, the small towns, the more conservative enclaves. "I think Reverend Wright will give a lot of people an excuse not to vote for Obama," Mr. Crockett said. "They're looking for an excuse, and this will be it."
And then they will bitterly cling to their guns, their religion, xenophobia and opposition to trade deals...
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