Thursday, March 6, 2008

Beating Obama Easy...and Vital!

As Hillary fades (is she?), and Barack Obama becomes more certainly the presumptive nominee, the press, always needing something new to say, will turn an increasingly critical eye toward Obama's past record and his future proposals. As this happens, Americans will come to see what those who are sober have been seeing all along: Barack Obama is vulnerable not only on account of his foreign policy commitments but also his domestic policies. Consider these recent stories.

Michael Gerson, President Bush's former speech writer, imagines "Obama's First 100 Days" (New York Sun, Mar. 6, 2008) in the Oval Office. He takes Obama's publicly stated intentions, projects the predictable responses from our friends and enemies abroad and presents the resulting mess. He concludes with this:

Mr. Obama's 100-day agenda would be designed, in part, to improve America's global image. But there is something worse than being unpopular in the world — and that is being a pleading, panting joke. By simultaneously embracing appeasement, protectionism, and retreat, President Obama would manage to make Jimmy Carter look like Teddy Roosevelt. Which is why President Obama would probably not take these actions — at least in the form he has pledged. Sitting behind the resolute desk is a sobering experience that makes foolish campaign promises seem suddenly less binding. But it is a bad sign for a candidate when the best we can hope is for him to violate his commitments. And that's a good sign for John McCain.

It is not difficult to point these things out in the national campaign and in such a way that is easy to understand and suitably frightening to sensible people.

Peter Wehner, former Bush deputy assistant and now at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, shows in "Al-Qaeda Is Losing the War of Minds" (Financial Times, Mar. 5, 2008) that we are not only defeating al-Qaeda militarily in Iraq but also politically (should we press it deeper and say "socially"?) across the Muslim world. He cites "prominent voices within the jihadist movement" condemning bin Laden and al-Qaeda. These include Sayyid Imam al-Sharif who was once al-Zawahiri's mentor, Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh who is the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, and Sheikh Salman al-Awdah a prominent Saudi cleric for whom bib Laden has had very high praise in the past. To this he adds the so-called Anbar Awakening which has led to "Iraqis en masse siding with America, the “infidel” and a western “occupying power,” to defeat Islamic militants."

The campaign question is: Why won't the Democratic candidate for President do the same? Barack Obama doesn't see this this success and refuses to acknowledge it, but polls show that most voting Americans are seeing it and are feeling more hopeful about Iraq and about what came come out of it...speaking of hope.

On the domestic front, John Fund has a characteristically fine article ("Obama and Chicago Mores," WSJ, Mar. 3, 2008) on the emerging Obama-Rezko scandal involving campaign fund raising and a corrupt land deal. He provides indications of many sewer lids ready to be cracked open. Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, summed it up when he told ABC "We [in Chicago] have a sick political culture, and that's the environment Barack Obama came from." You don't emerge from that as clean as Obama boasts of being. At the moment, McCain has the luxury of letting others dig up the dirt, but it seems that it might be thick and capable of providing dirty but publicly useful work right up to November.

Then of course there is health care, a subject that is as useful for the Republicans now as it was in 1993, but this time only if they wholeheartedly embrace and clearly advocate the consumer-driven alternative that is all worked out and freely available. On that, see my earlier summary of the issue, "Hope for the Health Care Mess."

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