BARACK Obama is bracing himself for a ferocious onslaught from Republicans who, even before he finally wraps up the Democratic nomination, are already mapping out their plan of attack for November's general election. Strategists working for John McCain believe that Mr Obama is a vulnerable target who can be portrayed as inexperienced on foreign policy and a "limousine liberal" out of touch with the concerns of voters.
"We'll make the case that Barack Obama is a wonderful new voice selling old, discredited ideas, including the most massive tax increase since Walter Mondale ran for president," said Steve Schmidt, a McCain adviser. "It's a combination of weakness, not being ready to be president and not being able to deliver on the things he says he will deliver on."
Frank Donatelli, deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee which has already amassed a 1000-page dossier on the Democratic Senator, put it more bluntly: "We are going to exploit Obama's youth and inexperience."
Others, operating in the shadows outside Mr McCain's campaign, are identifying Mr Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko - a Chicago property developer indicted for corruption - or his links with violent 1960s radicals like Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground. "There's plenty of stuff out there, I'm kinda like in a candy store," said Floyd Brown, who has been responsible for some of the most negative Republican advertising in previous elections.
One proposed TV advert is said to show a series of Democratic politicians, except for Mr Obama, wearing a Stars and Stripes lapel pin, before a message fills screens asking: "What's he got against the American flag?"
Last week Mr Obama denounced Mr McCain for repeating "a smear" that he had been endorsed by the militant Islamic group Hamas. The Democrat insists that his policy is not to negotiate with this "terrorist organisation". But on Friday one of his advisers, Robert Malley, resigned from the campaign after admitting that he had held meetings with the group.
Mr Obama has begun to sharpen his own attacks against Mr McCain who, he says, is standing for a "third Bush term" and represents a business-as-usual approach to Washington politics.
His campaign is also said to be weighing how far it can make an issue of Mr McCain's age - 71 - by presenting Mr Obama as a candidate offering "generational change". He is impatient to switch the focus from the remaining Democratic primaries against Hillary Clinton and raise the sights of his party towards the fight with the Republicans in November.
Mr McCain, meanwhile, suffered the embarrassment of seeing the executive picked to run the Republican convention in September being forced to resign over his links with Burma. Doug Goodyear, whose firm received $US348,000 in 2002 from the country's military junta, said that he was quitting "so as not to become a distraction in this campaign".
Although Mr Obama will make token appearances in West Virginia and Kentucky today - two states that Mrs Clinton is expected to win - he is expected to spend tomorrow in Missouri, which has already narrowly backed him for the Democratic nomination, and is set to be an important battleground in the general election.
Mr Obama has an insurmountable lead over Mrs Clinton among elected delegates and has now finally edged ahead of her in the race for the elite super-delegates that were once seen as her last, best hope for securing the nomination. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, promised that the fight would go on, saying: "Anything can happen." But Mr Obama's aides are confident that, "barring tragedy or travesty", he will be able to declare victory as soon as next week. They are being gracious towards Mrs Clinton and have down-played her incendiary remark last week that his "support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" was weakening.
The Obama campaign says that the race is likely to be less of a barrier to him winning the presidency than questions about his experience or his liberal positions on social issues such as gun ownership, gay rights and abortion.
The Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said she did not believe the colour of Mr Obama's skin was going to be a "deal breaker" in her state. "The key is going to be whether Barack can avoid getting on defence on social `wedge' issues and can stay on the offence on economic issues," she added.
As Hillary Clinton fades, Barack Obama sketches outlines of November race against John McCain
Barack Obama began sketching the outlines of his expected presidential contest against Republican John McCain on Saturday, saying the fall election will be more about specific plans and priorities than about questions of political ideology or who is more patriotic. Barely mentioning Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama said he was open to campaigning with McCain in "town hall" events. But he also warned that controversial issues such as McCain's ties to the Keating Five savings and loan scandal are fair game, and he called McCain's proposal for a temporary halt in the federal gasoline tax a pander and a gimmick. He did not mention that Clinton supports a similar plan.
Obama also said he soon will campaign in Michigan and Florida, two battleground states whose Democratic primaries were essentially nullified by party disputes, angering many voters. He is scheduled to campaign Tuesday in Missouri, marking the first such visit to a state where the primary is over and McCain awaits him in the fall.
Saying he still has not secured the nomination, Obama nonetheless entertained several questions about the likely outlines of a contest against McCain. As he campaigned in Oregon, whose primary is May 20, Obama picked up four superdelegate endorsements, erasing Clinton's once-substantial lead among the party leaders who will determine the nominee.
Many party leaders feel it is only a matter of time before the former first lady must concede defeat. But Clinton forged ahead Saturday, holding a fundraiser in New York. "Let's keep going, stay with me, this is a great adventure and we're going to make history," she told the crowd.
Speaking with reporters in Bend, Ore., Obama brushed aside suggestions that the fall campaign may be largely about his race, liberalism or patriotism. "In a contest between myself and John McCain," he said, "there is going to be a very clear choice on policy that I don't think is going to have to do with ideology and who theoretically is more liberal or who's more conservative. I think it is going to have to do with who has a plan to provide relief to people when it comes to their gas prices, who has a real plan to make sure that everybody has health insurance, who's got a real plan to deal with college affordability."
"So rather than an abstract set of questions about, 'Is he too liberal, is he too conservative, how do voters handle an African American, et cetera,' I think this is going to be a very concrete contest around very specific plans for how we improve the lives of Americans and our vision for the future," he said.
Obama said he realizes he must continue introducing himself to millions of Americans who do not know him well, and acknowledged that some question his patriotism because he no longer wears a lapel flag pin. He said the test of patriotism "is whether we are true to the ideals and values upon which this country was founded," and willing to fight for them "even when it's politically inconvenient."
Obama said McCain has received "a free pass" while he and Clinton have battled for months. McCain, he said, "has a straight-talker image, but it's not clear that lately he's been following through on that image. I mean, this gas tax holiday was a pander. He didn't even have a way of paying for it." The McCain campaign noted that Obama, as an Illinois state senator, once voted for a temporary gas tax suspension. Obama now says he made a mistake.
Obama was asked Saturday if the fall campaign might touch on the 1987 Keating Five scandal, in which the Senate Ethics Committee said McCain used "poor judgment" for allegedly pressing regulators to go easy on the owner of a failed Arizona savings and loan who was also a campaign contributor. Obama said there is no doubt the Keating Five case is "germane to the presidency." "I can't quarrel with the American people wanting to know more about that," he said.
Clinton, meanwhile, spent the afternoon in Manhattan raising money for her cash-strapped campaign. She made her pitch to a crowd of several hundred people, most of them women - appealing to the group that has largely been responsible for keeping her in the race this long. In the primaries to date, Clinton has held a 60 percent to 36 percent edge over Obama among white female voters.
Appearing with her daughter, Chelsea, Clinton took questions from the audience after a short speech that touched on issues like equal pay for women and balancing work outside the home with family responsibilities. She barely mentioned Obama, only noting their differences on health care and the gas tax. She said it would be "exciting to have the first mother in the White House." "Part of what that would mean is that we would have someone who has lived the experiences that many of us share," she said.
Clinton has struggled to raise money in recent weeks, and was set back further this week when she squeaked by with a narrow win in Indiana while Obama won handily in North Carolina. Aides also disclosed that Clinton had lent her campaign $6.4 million since mid-April, and said she had not ruled out doing so again. The recent loans come after a separate $5 million loan in February.
Obama's Darn Likablity
You'd be so nice to come home to.... - Cole Porter, 1942
Lurking just beneath all that defiant bravado about Obama's unacceptably left wing voting record, disgusting associates and yawning gap where his experience ought to be, is the unexpressed Republican fear that the charming Illinois Senator just might be that easy-to-live-with guy America wouldn't mind coming home to.
In any event, now that all doubt of Obama's inevitable nomination has been dispelled, it's high time John McCain, his minders and independent supporters acknowledged the enormity of the struggle they face between now and November. The stakes are huge, the political terrain a veritable wasteland, and their opponent singularly formidable.
It should be no difficult task to convince conservatives of the first (the chasm separating McCain and Obama on national defense, federal judges and taxes, to mention but three simplicities, should suffice). No sane person disputes the wretchedness of the political terrain. But there is disturbing talk among McCain supporters about the alleged weakness of the opponent. One hears and reads about a possible McCain walkover, stemming, variously, from Obama's hard left voting record, his inexperience, his awful associations or some combination of the three. These are all indeed legitimate campaign issues and themes, and they need to be hammered home ruthlessly, but any talk of making an easy case against Obama should cease.
Sensible McCain supporters need to begin this struggle with the following painful acknowledgement: on a personal level Barack Obama is one of the most ingratiating, likeable, least threatening, and intelligent-seeming men to run for the Presidency in the last hundred years. There. Though I would no more vote for him than for Robespierre, I said it. It is a fact of consequence that needs to be faced.
In personal gifts relevant to political success, only three Americans during the twentieth century merit mention with Obama: Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan. This trio, as the historically well-schooled will recall, shared not only great political talent, but a common destiny: they all won. So let's have no more talk of how much obviously weaker an opponent Obama is than what's-her-name. He is formidable enough, particularly for the execrable circumstances we confront.
I can almost sense the rage of the convinced rising up in blogosphere : "He is the most dangerous leftist to run for the presidency in a hundred years, perhaps ever;" "His odious associations will sink him like a concrete block." "He has the most Liberal voting record of any United States Senator." "He is a typical academic elitist who can't relate to the common man." Yes, yes, yes. All true. But there's a problem: to me -- a reliably conservative, serious and dour male of considerable vintage -- Obama seems like a nice guy.
This confession angers you? It's keeping me awake nights with worry. Justice Scalia put the Republican dilemma nicely when he explained why he and Ruth Bader Ginsburg like each other so much and get long so well: "Some very good people have some very bad ideas," he observed, simply and intelligently. To fit the ever prescient Scalia's thought to the Obama situation, can we safely assume that a majority of voters won't simply refuse to believe that someone so pleasant as Obama could possibly share any of the views of the creeps he's consorted with?
A bit of history that seems relevant to the present situation: In 1980, back when communication was effected through messages chipped into stone tablets carried by horses, Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency against an incumbent named Carter. Carter enthusiasts breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Republican nomination was settled. They all knew their man was in trouble, but what luck! The Republicans had nominated an out-of-the-mainstream right wing extremist! The only man Carter could beat!
Reagan's overall world view in fact was probably somewhat to the right of most Americans'. But in the event, Reagan won in a landslide, tremendously assisted by his ingratiating manner. There's more, of course, to why he won, but no one would dispute the importance of his manner. People simply couldn't believe that a man as nice as Reagan, as warm, as humorous, self-deprecating, unthreatening, and pleasant to listen to, could be dangerous. Sound like anyone you've heard of recently?
Of course, Reagan's conservatism, though probably somewhat more intense than the country's as a whole, was more in synch with 1980 America than Obama's liberalism is with the America of today. But in the Youtube, three TVs in-every-house era, would you bet the SEP IRA that Obama's undeniable affability will not trump his apparent politics?
I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to observe that Barack Obama could turn out to be the Ronald Reagan of the left -- just nice enough to make his alleged political persona and entourage seem implausible and/or unimportant to a large segment of the great American middle.
One of the possibly unintended consequences of our amazing technology is that today an enormous percentage of our huge, three hundred million plus, citizenry regularly hears, sees, and feels it knows, a would-be President, a far greater percentage than achieved such familiarity during, say, the time of Washington (who got to be the President of a cozy little nation of about four million, while remaining a total stranger to all but a few thousand people).
But today, through technology, more or less all of America lives with its president, almost like family. He is in our living rooms and kitchens every evening. As Cole Porter whimsically penned, we come home to him. Would Obama be nice to come home to? To a lot of ordinary people, particularly those in the electorally critical and generally non-ideological middle, the answer to that question is more to be sought in easily perceptible manner than in obscure substance.
It worries me that I don't mind listening to Obama. I don't mean what he actually says, of course, which is either airy nonsense or garden variety hyper-liberal utopianism, but his manner of talking. As he talks, he actually seems to be translating current thoughts into words, to be engaging in what we used to call conversation. He doesn't yell. His voice rises and falls at appropriate moments. He has humor. He benefits from possession of a pleasantly modulated, mellifluous voice that tends to calm and sooth rather than to excite.
Compare that to the speech patterns of those inflicted on us by recent history, as either presidents or would-be presidents. In the late 70's I had to turn off any electronic device that brought the sanctimonious, unctuous Carter into my house. My skin crawled when he spoke. I grabbed just about as quickly for the power switch when the humorless, trite, lethally boring Mondale or Dukakis started to talk.
Reagan, of course, was a brief exception -- a man America liked to listen to -- but that was a long time ago, and even Reagan, in the later years of his presidency, as he aged, had his problems without a written text.
Bush Senior never encountered a thought he couldn't mangle in English, so actually listening to him was not only like work, but unpleasant. The raspy-voiced Clinton (Bill), contrary to popular myth, was also a hard listen, not just because he usually seemed to be recovering from bronchitis, but because he was always cutting too fine a point and bloviating a one minute thought into a thirty minute verbal assault. And in the latter stages of his presidency, of course, his infamously loathsome conduct made one immediately wonder, when his voice was heard, whether the women-folk were safely inside the house and the silverware secured.
Gore, so far as I'm aware, has never really talked at all, rather, he has yelled, raged and fulminated, an unfailingly loud, angry and desperate-seeming man -- attacks of nervousness and temporary hearing loss were always risks when he was on, so with him, too, people tended to move the dial to the "off" position.
Kerry was so flat-out nauseating when he spoke it was hard to keep food down; no event, however serious, up to and including the end of the universe, could possibly warrant all that faux Brahmin-accented, relentlessly ponderous, fake gravity.
Clinton (Hillary) may well have lost the nomination because of her unfortunate speaking voice, combined with her curse of invariably sounding rehearsed and false; but mostly it was the voice, grating, harsh, vocal chords all used up, a mediocre mezzo ten years past advisable retirement.
And then there is our present President. This is hard for me, because I genuinely like and respect the man, and I admire his major decisions, choices and policies. To me he is an enormously sympathetic figure, especially now, in the final agony of his unfairly pilloried presidency. Posterity will be much kinder to him than his contemporaries have been. Kinder to him, I said, not to his use of language. He can't talk extemporaneously. Period. He admits it, jokes about it and there are no dissenters from this truth.
In sum, it's been a long time since the White House occupant, or anyone with a serious chance of becoming one, has been easy to listen to. As long as one disregards what he's actually saying, which, as I say, many normal people automatically do when listening to a politician, Obama is pretty easy on the ears. This salutary gift, and the personal likeability that comes with it, is going to be a considerable asset in his coming struggle against (yet another) verbally challenged Republican.
The McCain team, and its independent supporters, needs to think fast, hard and seriously about all this. For what it's worth, I vote to tag Obama early, hard and often with the truth about who he is politically and whom he will bring to Washington. And to do so bluntly, using all the visual and factual aids he and those closest to him have provided. Outrage will immediately issue forth from all the usual places, but this is no time for squeamishness. Selling the substantive reality will be hard, because it is so at variance with the persona. Rely on the obvious, and repeat it often. If not this, what? Substance aside, who would you rather come home to?
Bugged by the miracle of Obama
Is anyone else bothered by the superhuman rise of Barack Obama? Granted all his virtues, his intelligence, his fast footwork, and the grand rhetoric of his stump speech. Does anyone feel bothered by the fact that he has a conspicuously invisible track record, and that his Illinois years are marred by doctrinaire leftism and intimate connections with the Chicago Machine?
Here's a telling fact: Michelle Obama is the daughter of a Daley Machine precinct captain. She grew up watching Chicago politics up close; now she is its biggest homegrown star. Maybe it's not that hard to understand Obama marrying Michelle and blasting off like a Delta rocket at Canaveral. Lots of Chicago loyalists must be counting on their share of the 2,700 appointed positions in a new US administration. Others are figuring how to get fat government contracts -- to help the poor and oppressed, of course.
All the Rezkos and Auchis and Khalidis that we haven't heard about yet are counting on access to the halls of American power. Once those Obamanites are in charge in Washington, DC, they will apply the lessons of Chicago politics because that's what they know. After all, the Clintons brought their Arkansas politics to Washington. We're told this is the Second Coming, but it might just be a war of political machines.
Look at other Democrats who rose to instant stardom. Jimmy Carter -- dubbed "Dhimmi Carter" by Mark Steyn -- came out of obscurity on to the national scene. As president Jimmy performed like Buster Keaton, one spectacular pratfall after another, and continues thirty years later to harm our national security with pigheaded self-righteousness. Carter is now giving speech after speech slamming democratic Israel against terrorist Hamas. We're supposed to believe that our friend Dhimmi is doing this out of the goodness of his heart. But then Carter undermined American security, too, when he was president. I guess that shows his finely tuned sense of moral balance.
After Democrat Dhimmi Carter we had Democrats Bill and Hillary, whose own rise from nowhere was greeted with the same numbskull adoration that the media are now ready to bestow on Obama. Bill and Hillary conducted a slick sucker play, and libs by the millions fell on their knees and worshipped. When just a tiny piece of Clinton corruption was finally exposed by Monica and the others, the liberal masses just couldn't believe that Our Guy Bill was a scammer.
By now they are beginning to see through Billary, sort of, but they still can't admit to themselves how completely they were taken in for seventeen years. They never learn. In 1991, guided by our media cheerleaders, they fell in love with ole' Bill, just as they are furious with him now for thwarting the New Messiah. And now they are just as eager to be cuckolded again. Verily, the ways of True Believers are a wonder to behold.
So now we witness Barack and Michelle -- from nowhere to stardom, Zap-o! Change-o! Now you see it, now you don't! It's amazing.
I voted for W in 2000 because I knew about his family. We knew what values he was raised with. The Bushes are personally decent and very dedicated Americans. I disagree with them sometimes, but I don't doubt their integrity and genuine good will. George H.W. Bush, Sr., Bob Dole, John McCain, every one a true war hero. Dole doesn't talk about the grinding Italian campaign in World War II, where he was badly wounded, but look it up if you don't know about it. Two of those three men suffer from lifelong combat wounds. One reason that John McCain looks awkward at times is because his shoulders are frozen; chances are that he is in chronic pain. But like Dole, he will never talk about it. As for Bush Sr., he is still jumping out of airplanes in his eighties.
Look how they stack up against Carter, Clinton and Obama, just as human beings. See any pattern? All three Democrat Saviors represent straight Leftist ideologies. All three are awash in far too much self-esteem; they are incapable of modesty. All three pranced onto the national stage so quickly that nobody had time to look at their back stories. All three pulled off a dazzling media act for a while. But faced with a harsh reality, Carter and Clinton turned into national security disasters. The 9/11 terror assault was a direct result of Clinton's gross negligence in office. It was the most preventable catastrophe in American history.
We now know the Clinton Justice Department purposely blocked the flow of terror intelligence to the CIA. FBI agents who picked up terrorist threats couldn't even get a hearing in Washington, DC. We know the Clintons stacked the bureaucracy with militant Leftists like Janet Reno, who rose to fame based on dubious prosecutions of decades-old child abuse cases, and ended up killing 76 people in Waco on the mere suspicion that children were being abused. Even today, the FBI and CIA seem a lot more scared of the Politically Correct Police than of Osama Bin Laden.
President A'jad of Iran just told the world on Israel's 60th birthday that the Jewish nation is nothing but "a stinking corpse" that is "on its way to annihilation." Sane human beings don't talk that way. Tehran is awash in deadly hatred; it inculcates it into toddlers, and for thirty years its legions of fanatics have been taught to chant "Death to America, Death to Israel!" Naturally, our libs feel sure they must be kidding. Just a barrel of laughs, these mullahs.
Obama's foreign policy advisor Joseph Cirincione argues that Israel should surrender its own nukes to make peace with Tehran. Mr. Cirincione is a militant voice against US missile defense. I wonder if he also wants to disarm all the cops in his neighborhood, so the muggers and rapists can do their work without fear? By his mad logic unilateral police disarmament will guarantee a crime-free neighborhood forever. Two of Obama's foreign policy "thinkers" have already resigned for blurting out whacky things --- and this guy is still on the team? What does that tell you?
The Khomeini cult is still defended by Dhimmi Carter after killing tens of thousands of Iranians, terrorizing women and gay people for three decades, enriching uranium, and sending teenagers on suicide missions into Saddam's minefields wearing green plastic "Keys to Paradise" around their necks, so that Allah would welcome them to Paradise as soon as they blew up.
A'jad is constantly excused by Jimmy Carter's team, just as 9/11 is still being spun by Bill Clinton and Sandy Berger. Liberals never, ever learn. They go way beyond normal bumbling incompetence; they display malevolent bumbling incompetence.
So maybe the slicksters on the Left have figured out that the only way for liberals to win is to run stealth candidates. But if we get another Ship of Fools in the White House, next time we'll get attacked with a lot bigger bombs. Those who don't learn from history ...
Our only hope is for the conservative media to do more research on our new Savior, who just happened to pop out of nowhere right in time for election season.
Mark Steyn has pointed out how just one Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, was able to change Canada into a Politically Correct autocracy, with its own parallel Leftist "Human Rights" courts, empowered to imprison people without due process. Those tyrannical PC Commissars are now persecuting Mark Steyn for his free speech in Canada. They are easily suborned by Islamists -- single-party elites are remarkably simple to corrupt.
The same kangaroo courts operate in Politically Correct Europe, which is why their societal survival is now threatened. In Europe and Canada, elections have become less and less meaningful. The ruling elites have lifetime sinecures anyway, so they just shaft the voters. There are no consequences for political failure after failure. Europe is decaying fast, Canada is well on its way down, and the Democrats are looking enviously at those shining examples. They think we should be just like them.
One instant Democrat Savior might be a coincidence; two begins to look like a pattern; and three is... what?
Die hard Hillary Clinton supporters are not giving up the fight. The Washington Post tells of one small group in West Virginia that came out to support Clinton, despite the insults from Obama supporters. Clinton's most loyal supporters — the ones still standing on street corners — have adopted their candidate's motto, even as she trails Sen. Barack Obama by an insurmountable margin in pledged delegates: to fight like hell, despite dim odds and denigration, until someone officially wins the Democratic nomination.
But on this day, the intersection of Highway 480 and German Street, where they stood, divided Shepherdstown into two factions. College kids from Shepherd University approached from the north, angry that Clinton has remained in a race she appears destined to lose. Truck drivers and farmers approached from the south, their support for Clinton fortified by her perseverance.
The two groups met at the intersection in a cacophony of honking horns and shouting that echoed across this town of about 1,000 near the Maryland border. After two hours, Luanne Smith had heard enough. "It's become so personal, just one insult after another," Smith said. "These sides are starting to feel some hate for each other. Everybody is angry, but I'm going to keep at this as long as I can. I never want to look myself in the mirror and say, 'You quit. You didn't do your part.' "
An indication of just how badly divided the Clinton and Obama supporters are comes later in the story: "Give up already," shouted a woman in a red jeep. "Boo. Clinton's a loser," said a man in a blue sedan. "What are you doing?" asked a passenger in a weathered Pontiac. "Didn't you hear Clinton already lost?"
After each insult, Smith and Kuzma glared straight ahead, venting to each other only after the drivers had pulled away. "This just isn't very nice," Kuzma said. "These are some mean people." "Every one of them is the same — skinny kids who've never experienced anything but college," Smith said. "The more I'm involved, the angrier I get. Every call for her to get out of the race just incenses me. It makes me crazy. Who are you? Who in the world are you to tell this woman who's done so much that it's time for her to be quiet and sit down?"
I doubt Clinton can win regardless of what happens in the few remaining races. But it also looks increasingly likely that Obama will not be able to heal the rifts his supporters have caused. It has gotten too ugly and too personal.
(For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)