Sunday, August 10, 2008

No vacation for Obama

With Barack Obama stepping off the playing field for a week-long Hawaiian vacation, John McCain's campaign released three new attack ads yesterday, signaling that the senator from Arizona would use the void to continue pummeling the character of his rival for the White House. Obama's trip to Hawaii, where he spent much of his youth, comes after a week in which his Republican opponent dominated the news with his negative assault. Obama aides said the senator from Illinois is maintaining his lead in polls and will not be goaded into responding with character attacks of his own.

But the assaults on him continued yesterday, with new television ads and a radio spot portraying Obama as a lightweight celebrity intent on raising taxes across the board. "Life in the spotlight must be grand," a female announcer declares to paparazzi-like images of Obama and adoring chants in the background. "But for the rest of us, times are tough." That advertisement and a Spanish-language ad and radio spot claim Obama voted to raise taxes on families earning just $42,000, a claim based on his vote for a nonbinding, Democratic budget resolution that allows all of President Bush's tax cuts to expire in 2011, something Obama has promised he would not let happen.

Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan called the ad "a lie" and "part of the old, tired politics of a party in Washington that has run out of ideas and run out of steam." But McCain aides showed little concern for such niceties. "Like it would have crossed our minds to let up on the guy just because he's on vacation?" asked Charles R. Black Jr., one of McCain's top advisers, as McCain flew from Iowa to Arkansas yesterday.

Many Democrats are increasingly worried that trying to debunk the McCain attacks will not be enough, particularly with the candidate on vacation. The Republican National Committee mocked Obama with "Barack Obama's Hawaii Travel Guide," noting the elite prep school he attended on scholarship and highlighting a Chevron station selling gasoline for $4.78 a gallon.

Obama did counter by airing a radio advertisement in Ohio taking McCain to task over the fact that his campaign manager lobbied on behalf of a German freight-shipping company, DHL, that is laying off over 8,000 Ohioans and moving its operations to Kentucky.

But an issue-based counterattack to McCain's character assault is not enough, worried Democrats say. "It literally is the same old Democratic, consultant-driven politics," said Matt Stoller, a Democratic political consultant and blogger. "It's the same attempt not to tell a story about the country and the other guy, but to prove you're right, like an academic debating seminar."

The McCain campaign challenged Obama's ad in a conference call with Wilmington, Ohio, resident Mary Houghtaling, who in July tearfully challenged McCain to help with the job losses, then yesterday praised the Republican while castigating Obama and calling for his campaign to take the radio ad off the air. The hospice founder, whose husband is a pilot for DHL facing a layoff, joined in the attack, saying that "Obama's going to be in Hawaii, swimming."

More here

Ten reasons why Barack Obama will not win the 2008 presidential election

Some excerpts from the 10 below

Reason #10: Racist white voters will not support Obama

No, this isn't a condemnation of white, Southern, toothless, gun-toting Republicans. It's an observation about the rank and file of the Democrat party. Whether it'sangry older white women who feel that the election was stolen from Hillary by an upstart younger black man, or just your average Joe Six Pack union worker who made it clear in the Democrat primaries that Bill Clinton was speaking for him when he floated his racist trial balloons on Hillary's behalf, the so-called party of the average guy has repeatedly shown its true colors; pure white, not half-white.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise. A former Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan is now the respected Dean of the Senate Democrats. Any effort to break the cycle of black poverty and illiteracy through welfare reform and school vouchers has been repeatedly opposed by Democrat party officials who prefer their constituency to be completely dependent on the largess of their white elected leaders, rather than even the tiniest bit self-sufficient. Even Democrat fellow travelers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are less interested in bridging the divide between blacks and whites than they are in filling their own pockets with money from guilty white liberals and blackmailed corporations. Al Gore may have invented the carbon credit scam where his companies profit by selling hypothetical indulgences to hypocritical environmentalists who want everyone but themselves to change their lifestyles, but he doesn't hold a candle to the organized race-for-hire politics of Jackson and Sharpton. The Democrat party is about preserving racial politics, not ending it, so it comes as little surprise that those who live by that sword may also die, at least metaphorically, by that same sword.

Take away the small cadres of limousine liberals and idealistic youth who will vote for Obama to assuage their guilt over being born wealthy and white, or just think it would be really, really cool to have a Black Guy in the White House even though it's not all about skin color, and you have the naked face of race-based politics rearing its head in the Democrat party.The “Bradley Effect” is alive and well among Democrat voters, so named because they have a distinctive habit of lying to pollsters about their support for black candidates, only to act differently on election day. When their decisions actually count, all their progressive, liberal pabulum goes out the window as they reach for the lever and vote for the white guy like they did repeatedly in California, Chicago, New York and other cities. It's why Obama needs to be 10-12 points ahead of McCain in the battleground states on November 4 — not statistically tied like he is today — or he'll end up losing the election by double digits.

Reason #7: Gas is $4/gallon

Never mind that it costs more to fill up the average car in Europe than it does in America. Americans don't want to drive a golf cart with an AM-FM radio like they do in London, or squeeze themselves into a tin can on wheels like they do in Paris, Berlin and Rome. We're not looking to justify $9/gallon gas by riding in a cardboard box that gets 40miles/gallon, so that the cost of filling up a mini-Cooper in Europe is equivalent to filling up your SUV in America. This is America, and we don't give a rat's rear end what they do in Europe and why they do it. If it makes sense on its own merits we'll adopt it — and undoubtedly improve on it. If it can't pass the common sense test, then no amount of high-minded preaching by the self-appointed elite will turn a bad idea into a good one.

And while we're on the subject, let's not forget the hypocrisy of Al Gore and other liberals who decry the high price of gasoline as a failure of the Bush administration; all of whom have been advocating $4/gallon gas for years in an effort to force Americans to abandon their cars and turn to mass transit. Trains and busses are great in a place like New York City, which is a densely populated island the size of DFW Airport. But in Texas, Wyoming, Arizona, or even a lot of the East Coast itself, mass transit is impractical. On occasion, and for specific tasks like commuting to work in an urban environment, mass transit may be great. But in a nation the size of the United States with a lot of distance between points even when it's a “local” drive, we still need our cars. Paying four bucks a gallon is nuts when we have plenty of domestic oil reserves that are off limits thanks to our Democrat friends in Congress, regardless of how good it will be for “the planet” in Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi's distorted view of reality.

One day we'll all be driving solar powered wind mobiles, and the cost of a barrel of oil will no longer be an issue. (Actually, one day our great-grandchildren will be doing this, since new technologies don't arise with the snap of a finger because Nancy Pelosi wants to demagogue the issue.) But until then we need oil; and not just a three-day supply from the Strategic Oil Reserve. Or, a nation-wide program to check the air pressure in our tires as Obama suggested, and thus supposedly alleviate the need for any further drilling.

There's plenty of oil in ANWR that's off limits because Democrats don't want to risk potentially spoiling a pristine, 80-below-zero landscape the size of a few football fields. They'd rather have you pay through the nose to fill up your gas tank, and hopefully be pissed off enough at Bush to not elect John McCain. But as one person on the street said in a recent TV interview after she was shown an actual picture of ANWR while filling up her gas tank, if drilling there will threaten the local wildlife, then put all the animals in a zoo and pump the oil so my gasoline bill will be lower! The same goes for drilling offshore the US coast. China is going to drill 60 miles from the US coastline on behalf of Cuba while Nancy Pelosi “protects the planet” by preventing the US from developing these same oil fields, so we can buy this oil at a premium from the Chinese.

People aren't stupid. They may be lazy and ill-informed at times, and willing to save the environment when the cost to them is $2.15 a gallon of gas instead of $2.05. But crank that cost up to $100 a tank-full, and you can almost hear their collective cry of “screw the polar bears!” Obama and the Democrats have turned a deaf ear to this outrage, lamenting only that the price of gas went up “too fast”, instead of “too high.”

Economic issues will drive the 2008 election. However, the people will not blame Bush and McCain for their misery, but rather Obama and Pelosi who have done absolutely nothing to alleviate the pain.

Reason #5: Obama's friends and supporters

Reverend Wright, Louis Farrakhan, William Ayers, Ludacris, and Tony Rezko. Any one of these associations would have sent the media into a death-watch feeding frenzy if they were even indirectly linked to the Republican Party nominee.

And yet, while the press continues to make excuses for Obama, the American people are starting to take a long hard look at the man about whom the terrorist group Hamas said, “We like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the election.”

In the real world you are known by both your friends and your enemies. In Obama's case, his friends seem to have several things in common with America's enemy Hamas: from damning America for its policies and actions, to spewing race- or religious-based hatred, to blowing up government property and killing innocent civilians, to saying stupid and idiotic things in support of his candidacy, to simply being a crook.

With friends like these, Obama doesn't need any enemies.

Reason #4: 57 States, and counting

Every candidatemakes gaffes. Some mangle their words. Others momentarily conjoin similar sounding words (Iran/Iraq). Some even put an “e” at the end of “potato.” Thank God I have spell check on my computer.

If you're a Republican, this means you're an idiot. Bush (take your pick — 41 or 43) can't complete a coherent sentence. Dan Quayle was, and still is, a national laughing stock for his famous misspelling. But Barack Obama can speak about a “bomb” that fell on Pearl Harbor (confusing it with Nagasaki), think he'll be President for “eight to ten years,” or most famously of all lament that he hasn't yet visited “all 57 states” and, well, we're supposed to understand that the guy was tired or having an off day, so give him a break.

The painful fact is that, like the anchors who report the mainstream news, Obama is a good reader and public speaker. Give him a teleprompter with a prepared script by one of his many speechwriters, and the man can turn a captivating phrase. But give him a microphone in an unscripted setting, and he's as dumb as the proverbial box of rocks.

We can accept personal flaws — and even the occasional peccadillo — in our leaders. But we can't accept outright stupidity. It's the reason the nuclear peanut farmer Jimmy Carter lost to the B-movie actor Ronald Reagan. The press in 1980 had little love for the supposedly mentally challenged movie actor who won the Republican Party nomination. But as it turned out, the American people saw that Reagan was no dummy. And even more to the point, they had absolutely no love for retaining the professed super smart White House incumbent who gave us long lines and gasoline rationing, hyper-inflation, American civilians held hostage in Iran, a “national malaise” blamed on the American public, and the boycott of the Moscow Olympics as a substitute for any coherent foreign policy.

Obama is a train wreck waiting to happen, from his tax-happy domestic proposals to his third-grade grasp of international relations. McCain's recent ad showing him as just another media-created celebutard has resonated with the public because, like so many things that tend to hit home, in addition to being witty and funny, it has the added advantage of being true.

Reason #3: One Messiah is enough for most people

There's something disturbing about a person who equates his inevitable ascendency to the Office of President of the United States with shimmering light, epiphanies of the spirit, and a command over the world's oceans.

Now, no one seriously believes that Barack Obama seriously believes that he is the actual messiah. But most people who don't believe they are the product of the Second Coming avoid speaking about themselves in messianic terms, and therein lies the problem. Whether it's the serial fainters at his rallies being handed the serial water bottles to revive them, the religious-like metaphors he embraces to talk about a new beginning for all mankind that will arise from his election to office, or the just plain creepy way a number of his supporters liken him to a biblical figure, none of this wears well with the majority of the American public.

We've been conditioned by decades of liberal-speak to automatically avoid anyone who wants to mix politics and religion. Google “Obamassiah” and you get a few hundred thousand hits. Google “McCainassiah” and it asks you if you actually meant a different word.

Obama runs the very great risk of alienating the voting public by mixing the presumed inevitability of his election with the pseudo-religious undertones he creates through his own words and actions. Americans don't want to elect a pope any more than they want to elect a king.

Reason #2: There's no there, there

Exactly what the hell is “change,” except the coins I get back after giving the coffee shop attendant five bucks for my $3.95 frappuccino?

There are only so many times a candidate can repeat a platitude like “change” before the voting public will eventually require him to define what he means. The problem is, every time Obama tries to put some flesh on his pronouncements he runs into trouble, like he did recently with his on again/off again support for an undivided Jerusalem. After being raked over the coals by Jews and Arabs alike for his equivocal statements, Obama fell back on his best Rodney King impersonation and answered all further questions with his own version of can't we all just get along? That may work well in Hollywood or the vacuousness of TV news, but Americans normally demand a bit more than empty rhetoric and slogans from their prospective leaders.


Pro-Obama Group Threatens Republican Donors

A new left-wing organization that wants to help elect Barack Obama president is sending letters to nearly 10,000 major donors who contribute to Republican causes, threatening them with potential legal problems if they finance conservative groups. The nonprofit organization, Accountable America, is even offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the criminal conviction or fines of at least $10,000 for violations of campaign finance laws or other statutes by a conservative group, according to The New York Times.

Accountable America is led by Tom Matzzie, former Washington director of the liberal activist group, and its research director is Judd Legum, who served that role in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Matzzie called the organization's effort "going for the jugular." He told The Times, "We want to stop the Swift Boating before it gets off the ground."

The warning letter being sent to potential donors "is intended as a first step, alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives," The Times reports. If a conservative group do run ads attacking Obama, Matzzie says his group plans to run ads countering it exposing the donors behind the anti-Obama message.

Matzzie's group has so far raised only $200,000, but he said he hopes to raise more than $500,000 by next week and $2 million overall.

Republican strategist Chris LaCivita doubts the group will succeed in scaring off donors, saying "they're not going to be intimidated by some pipsqueak on the kooky left."

Matzzie previously headed the Campaign to Defend America, which has run ads against Republican presidential candidate John McCain in Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Ex-Moveon leader's planned 'warning' letters to donors 'could fall under the KKK Act'

A public interest group that prosecutes government corruption announced an investigation into a left-leaning group that is warning contributors to conservative causes this election year about "potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives."

Officials with Judicial Watch today said its investigation into Accountable America would focus on a nationwide effort by the "liberal activist group to intimidate supporters of Republican and conservative causes," because those activities may fall under a key federal civil rights law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act. That law, Judicial Watch said, may come into play if "two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector for president or vice president, or as a member of Congress of the United States; or to injure any citizen in person or property on account of such support or advocacy."

"Threats and intimidation have no place in our democratic elections and are a violation of the law. This new front group, Accountable America, seems have crossed a legal line," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

The New York Times said the group plans to send "warning" letters to nearly 10,000 of the biggest donors to Republican candidates and causes across the country in coming days in an effort to prevent similar groups from the right from getting off the ground this fall. The group is led by Tom Matzzie, who has been involved with prominent left-wing efforts in recent years....

The report said Accountable America already has singled out major Republican donors such as Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul, and Mel Sembler, a real estate magnate, who both have donated to Freedom's Watch. A spokesman for Freedom's Watch, Ed Patru, said he wasn't particularly concerned about Matzzie's plan. "This idea sounds even more sloppily though out than his last venture, which, of course, went belly-up for lack of financial support," Patru told the Times.


Suspicious ties force Obama adviser's resignation

Former coordinator for Muslim affairs has links to Hamas, CAIR

Ten days after the announcement of his appointment as the Obama campaign's coordinator for Muslim affairs, Chicago lawyer Mazen Ashabi resigned, saying he didn't want investigations into his past associations to become "distracting." Mazen Asbahi became the campaign's coordinator of outreach to Muslims on July 26, but earlier this week a report by the Internet newsletter Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report was surfaced by the Wall Street Journal that linked Asbahi to Jamal Said, a man thought by the U.S. Department of Justice to be involved in racketeering and fundraising for the Palestinian terror organization Hamas.

A pair of Detroit Free Press articles this week also revealed Asbahi spent part of the day of his appointment at a fundraiser at the home of Dr. Jukaku Tayeb, president of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. CAIR has been accused in the book "Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out", published by WND books, of being a co-conspirator in funneling $12 million to Hamas, operating as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and extensive connections to terrorist organizations.

The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, which initiated the events leading to Asbahi's resignation, is published by a Washington think tank that tracks the Muslim Brotherhood, a world-wide Sunni Islam fundamentalist group based in Egypt. The Report revealed Asbahi had briefly served in 2000 on the board of an Islamic investment fund called the Allied Assets Advisors Fund with Jamal Said, imam at a fundamentalist-controlled mosque in Illinois. Said, in turn, was named last year by the U.S. Department of Justice as an unindicted co-conspirator in a racketeering trial surrounding alleged Hamas fundraisers, which ended in a mistrial.

According to the Wall Street Journal, after it learned of Asbahi's connection to Said, the newspaper submitted a list of questions to the Obama campaign about Asbahi's background. Rather than answers, however, Asbahi responded with his resignation.


2 campaigns seek 'truth' about Obama's birth

Eligibility for presidency hinges on American citizenship

Israel Insider is reporting that analysts working separately have determined the birth certificate posted on the Daily Kos website and later on Sen. Barack Obama's "Fight the Smears" campaign website is fraudulent, and now two different actions have been launched to try and obtain the truth about the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's birth.

The Israel Insider report said the two analysts it interviewed both have been "able to independently discern the name 'Maya Kassandra Soetoro' from artifacts left behind in the process of forging a new fake document for Barack from an image of Maya's original document." Maya is Obama's younger half-sister. The report follows a posting from another researcher, identified by the news publication as Techdude, that the birth certificate is a forgery because it originally documented the birth of a woman in the 1970s.

Blogger Mitchell Langbert now has launched an online petition to the Federal Election Commission in which signers are asking the agency to "take responsibility to verify the eligibility of Mr. Barack H. Obama to be president of the United States." Wrote Langbert, "Mr. Obama has refused to produce a physical certified, stamped copy of his birth certificate. An electronically displayed imaged displayed by his official campaign website has alleged to have been a forgery. . We request that the FEC require Mr. Obama to authorize the FEC to obtain an official copy of his birth certificate."

Ted Moran, who said he wished to be contacted at, said he also was launching a campaign to discern the truth about Obama's birth certificate. "I am looking for 50 brave men or women from 49 states and the District of Columbia to join me in suing the secretaries of state in our respective states to prevent them from posting the name Barak H. Obama on the November 2008 ballot until he presents incontrovertible proof that he is a . U.S. citizen," he said. "The secretaries of state are the ones who by placing a person or initiative on the ballot certify that the candidates or initiatives meet the legal requirements to be on the ballot.

"The office of the president is simply too important to trust to someone other than a person whose loyalties are 100 percent American, and while it is impossible to read into the heart of a man or woman we do have the test our forefathers gave us. Which is this office is not to be entrusted to anyone but a natural U.S. citizen," he said.

Multiple requests over a period of several days by WND to the Obama campaign for a comment or explanation of the birth certificate issue did not generate any response.

The Israel Insider said, "The revelation that [the birth certificate] of Obama's own sister was evidently used to create the electronic forgery represents what supporters of this analysis claim is a 'smoking gun' that appears to implicate Sen. Obama directly. Hawaii law limits access to vital records to family members only, a fact which slowed down the ability of researchers to compare the purported Obama 'birth certificate' - which displayed from the start a peculiar provenance and inexplicable features - to genuine specimens. Therefore, it would seem that either Maya K. Soetoro-Ng (as she is now called) supplied the document or its image to half-brother Barack or his campaign, or Obama/his campaign used it without her permission.

"The stakes couldn't be higher. Even the Snopes anti-rumor site acknowledges that Obama's constitutional fitness to be president depends solely on his being born in the United States, because his mother - not yet 19 at the time of his birth - would not have had a sufficient number of years as an adult citizen, according to the laws prevailing at the time, to pass on 'natural born citizenship' automatically," the report said.

"There have been reports, so far unconfirmed, that Obama was born outside the country, either in Kenya, his presumed father's native land, or in Canada. The fact that the Obama campaign has been touting as genuine a forgery since June 12 will likely increase pressure to not only account for the fake but produce a genuine paper birth certificate. Obama, in his book 'Dreams from My Father,' specifically mentioned having such a document in his possession, but it has not been submitted for public inspection or analysis if it in fact exists," the report said.

The forensic computer investigators interviewed by the news publication concluded there are two obvious possibilities for the birth certificate image: A real certificate was scanned and digitally edited or a real certificate was scanned for the graphic layout, then blanked by soaking the document in solvent to remove the toner. The certificate was published by the Daily Kos June 12 following initial reports questioning Obama's place of birth. He's stated he was born in Hawaii, but if that was not the case, his citizenship could be uncertain, since his father was not a citizen and his mother was not old enough to pass along American citizenship automatically.

The issue originally was raised by Jim Geraghty, reporting on the Campaign Spot, a National Review blog. He cited the "unlikely" possibility that Obama's 1961 birth was not within the U.S. At the time, he wrote, "If Obama were born outside the United States, one could argue that he would not meet the legal definition of natural-born citizen . because U.S. law at the time of his birth required his natural-born parent (his mother) to have resided in the United States for 10 years, at least [f]ive of which had to be after the age of 16.'" He then pointed out Ann Dunham, Obama's mother, was 18 when Obama was born, "so she wouldn't have met the requirement of five years after the age of 16." When the Daily Kos website posted an image that appeared to be Obama's birth certificate, Geraghty announced he was satisfied.

The presumptive Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., already has gone through a similar challenge, and the U.S. Senate responded with a resolution in April declaring him to be a "'natural born Citizen' under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States." The article declares "no person except a natural born citizen . shall be eligible to the office of president." McCain was challenged because he was born to two U.S. citizens in the Panama Canal Zone.


Obama's Tactical Gift to McCain

There is now one question in American politics: With the Republican Party in such bad shape -- measured by polls, voter registration and general enthusiasm -- why isn't Barack Obama in better shape? (Most national polls show him slightly ahead.)

For some, the answer -- or at least part of the answer -- is simple: because Obama doesn't look like the presidents on American currency. But race in America is anything but simple, and polls seem powerless to measure its political influence. There is clearly an undercurrent of prejudice in parts of the electorate, evident even among some Democratic primary voters. There is also massive enthusiasm among younger voters to break the color barrier in the Oval Office, coupled with large increases in African American primary turnout. These unpredictable factors may well balance in Obama's favor, which would speak well of the country.

There are explanations enough for a close presidential race without recourse to race. First, while John McCain still lacks a unifying theory for his campaign, his tactics show marked improvement -- progress that coincided with campaign personnel changes that included the elevation of Steve Schmidt to head day-to-day operations.

Sometimes the right issue can be even better than the right theory, and for McCain the energy issue has been a gift. There is perhaps no other topic in American politics today on which the public is angry, seeks action and agrees strongly with Republicans. McCain's approach is to do it all: drilling, nuclear, alternatives and conservation. Obama's approach has been reactive and irrelevant. What would his redistributed windfall profits tax do to produce energy or reduce the need for it? And Obama is hamstrung by a coalition that insists we will not drill our way out of this problem -- which is true but beside the point. No single approach will solve the problem in the short or medium term. And a nation in an energy crisis has every justification to extract its oil and natural gas while it pursues alternatives to oil and natural gas.

Second, Obama's tactics are undermining the unifying theory of his campaign. During the primaries, Obama presented himself as someone different, better and special. He would not only improve the economy and the health-care system, he would transcend old divisions and heal a broken land. Supporters embraced him as inspirational; detractors criticized him as messianic. Few doubt that he set the highest rhetorical goals since the New Frontier.

Since the primaries, Obama has made a tactical decision: He refuses to be painted as a liberal. America may be a discontented country, but it remains a center-right country. Democrats who understand this fact -- such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton -- become president. Democrats who don't lose elections.

But since Obama's short public career has been conventionally -- in some cases, extremely -- liberal, his tactical shift to the center has been startlingly obvious, on issues from guns to terror surveillance to Iraq, and now (reluctantly) to oil drilling. Says Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center: "Obama's political calculation may be correct, but it still involves a price. It has shattered his claim to be different. It calls into question his political character and leaves the impression he is consumed and defined by ambition."

At least temporarily, Obama's tactics have raised a damning political question: Who is this man? And the McCain campaign has begun to cleverly exploit these concerns, not with a frontal attack on his liberalism or his flip-flops but with a humorous attack on his "celebrity" -- really a proxy for shallowness. The argument is powerful: McCain has roots and convictions. Obama has fans and paparazzi. And Obama's European trip -- more Princess Diana than John Kennedy -- served only to confirm these impressions.

All this sets up a fascinating convention season. Will McCain be able to describe some compelling vision -- some combination of maverick, reformer and patriot -- that unites and justifies his campaign? Will Obama be able to reignite the inspiration of his campaign without overreaching into self-absorbed, second-rate Ted Sorensen? Will he be able to define an idealism that offers something more than himself as the ideal?

Even after his worst few weeks of the general election campaign, Obama remains in the lead. And he remains a far more talented and compelling figure than either John Kerry or Al Gore. McCain still swims upstream, but the current may run weaker than we thought.



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