Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama-Biden Postmortems Pour In

After Walter Mondale’s drubbing at the hands of Ronald Reagan, Joshua Muravchik wrote “Why The Democrats Lost” (Commentary, Jan. 1985). Then in 1989, he wrote, “Why The Democrats Lost Again.” These postmortems were written after the election was decided. It is interesting that the postmortems on Barack Obama have begun two months before election day. The campaign does appear to be in meltdown. But let me remind you: anything can happen in politics.

Here is a far from comprehensive review. It is just what I have noticed.

Kirsten Powers in “How Obama Blew It” (New York Post, Sept 9, 2008).

Obama's toughest challenge has always been to connect with working-class swing voters. So attacking the poster child for small-town values, Sarah Palin, was a bad strategy. No, Obama didn't engage in the mass sneering at Palin - but he did fall into the trap of disrespecting her. When McCain chose her, the Obama campaign's first response was to ridicule the size of her town. Then the candidate himself began referring to her as a "former mayor" when she is in fact a sitting governor. ...

Lured by the McCain camp, Obama supporters engaged in an argument about who had more overall experience - the top of the Democratic ticket or the bottom of the GOP ticket. This diminished Obama. ...

So now he is weighted down with more baggage as he works to convince an important voting bloc that he and his party don't hold them in contempt.

Clive Crook at Britain’s Financial Times (“Democrats Must Learn Some Respect," Sept. 7, 2008) elaborates on this contempt problem among the Democrats, a problem that, despite all his little-guy sob stories on the campaign trail, Obama has earned for himself. He was recorded telling a private gathering in San Francisco (that didn’t help) that when tough times hit, small-town people "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." Despite billing themselves as the party of ordinary Americans, of Main Street versus Wall Street, Clive observes that Democrats “lack respect for the objects of their solicitude. Their sympathy comes mixed with disdain, and even contempt.”
Democrats regard their policies as self-evidently in the interests of the US working and middle classes. Yet those wide segments of US society keep helping to elect Republican presidents. How is one to account for this? Are those people idiots? Frankly, yes – or so many liberals are driven to conclude. Either that or bigots, clinging to guns, God and white supremacy; or else pathetic dupes, ever at the disposal of Republican strategists. If they only had the brains to vote in their interests, Democrats think, the party would never be out of power. But again and again, the Republicans tell their lies, and those stupid damned voters buy it.

Crook has great sympathy for Obama and would like to see the Democratic party in power more frequently. But he sees from afar the obstacles that the clever and highly paid leaders of that party cannot bring themselves to recognize.
They will have to develop some regard for the values that the middle of the country expresses when it votes Republican. Religion. Unembarrassed flag-waving patriotism. Freedom to succeed or fail through one’s own efforts. Refusal to be pitied, bossed around or talked down to. And all those other laughable redneck notions that made the United States what it is.

Jonah Goldberg (“McPalin Rattles Team Obama,” National Review Online, Sept. 10) faults in part Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as running mate. He may help win Pennsylvania, but for the next two months he is either either useless or a drag on the campaign. As a consequence, Obama is playing two on one defensive ball against McCain and Palin. (“McCain's team doesn't care if no one guards Joe Biden, who seems to spend most of his time yelling to the media, "I'm open! I'm open!" But when he gets the ball, all he does is talk about what a great player he is and dribble in place.”)

The Obama people keep walking (no, jumping!) into the Republican snares.
Thanks to the double-team strategy, Obama has found himself in the awkward position of sounding as if he's running against the GOP's vice presidential nominee. When Obama compared his own experience to Palin's tenure as mayor of Wasilla (leaving out her current job as governor), he ran right into the pick the McCain campaign had set, leaving McCain a clearer path to victory. The more Obama has to explain why being a community organizer - or a state legislator, or a one-term senator with few accomplishments under his belt - is better preparation for the presidency than being a mayor or governor, the more he volunteers his own shortcomings when compared with McCain.
In today's New York Post ("Why Bam's Flailing"), op-ed editor Mark Cunningham argues that that Obama's inexperience in fighting elections has been critical to his failure in this big league competition.
If it suddenly seems like the Obama campaign doesn't have any idea what it's doing, maybe that's because it doesn't. Barack Obama has never run a campaign against a real Republican. ... In the [2004 Senate election], he basically had it won once a Chicago paper took down the GOP nominee by getting a court to unseal unseemly divorce papers, and the local Republicans then tapped Alan Keyes - a carpet-bagging right-wing performance artist - as their standard-bearer.
He says the same of Obama's campaign team. "And his main strategist, David Axelrod, is way out of his areas of expertise. Axelrod specializes in urban politics. He's run a bunch of mayoral races (usually in cities with lots of blacks), plus contests in true-blue states like Massachusetts and New York."

J.R. Dunn at American Thinker was ahead of the game when he chronicled Obama’s flakery and electoral buffoonery, and anticipated a fatal continuation of this until election day. See my August post, “Why Obama Will Lose: He’s a Flake!

But the amazing Spengler, writing in the Asia Times ("How Obama Lost the Election," Sept. 3, 2008), has to cap it off with this account and a reference back to his devastating profile of Obama that he published back in February ("Obama's Women Reveal His Secret") that predicted the eventual self-destruction of the Obama candidacy.

Fatal step #1: He passed over Hillary for veep.
Obama will spend the rest of his life wondering why he rejected the obvious road to victory, that is, choosing Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential nominee. ...[R]ejecting Clinton in favor of the colorless, unpopular, tangle-tongued Washington perennial Joe Biden was a statement of weakness. McCain's selection was a statement of strength. America's voters will forgive many things in a politician, including sexual misconduct, but they will not forgive weakness.
Fatal step #2: He chose Biden instead.
Obama evidently chose him to assuage critics who point to his lack of foreign policy credentials. That was a deadly error, for by appearing to concede the critics' claim that he knows little about foreign policy, Obama raised questions about whether he is qualified to be president in the first place. He had a winning alternative, which was to pick Clinton. That would have sent a double message: first, that Obama is tough enough to make the slippery Clintons into his subordinates, and second, that he is generous enough to extend a hand to his toughest adversary in the cause of unity.
Fatal circumstantial flaw: he cannot get around his glaring inexperience, a weakness that McCain has skillfully exploited in his own choice of running mate.
The young Alaskan governor, to be sure, hasn't any business running for vice president of the United States with her thin resume. McCain and his people know this perfectly well, and that is precisely why they put her on the ticket. If Palin is unqualified to be vice president, all the less so is Obama qualified to be president.

Fatal character flaw #1: “a fatally insecure personality”
Obama, in short, is long on brains and short on guts. ...Obama could have allied with the old guard, through an Obama-Clinton ticket, or he could have rejected the old guard by choosing the closest thing the Democrats had to a Sarah Palin. But fear paralyzed him, and he did neither.

Fatal character flaw #2: subservience to Michelle, i.e. “His peculiar dependency on an assertive and often rancorous spouse."

Spengler calls Michelle “a very angry woman” who “hates America,” and documents both of these claims in his jaw dropping February column, "Obama's Women Reveal His Secret." He cites Robert Novak’s May 10 report that Michelle vetoed Hillary consideration as running mate. You could see the loathing in Michelle's eyes when Hillary was speaking at the convention.
If Novak's report is accurate, then Michelle's anger will have lost the election for Obama, as Achilles' anger nearly killed the Greek cause in the Trojan War. But the responsibility rests not with Michelle, but with Obama. Obama's failure of nerve at the cusp of his success is consistent with my profile of the candidate, in which I predicted that he would self-destruct.

Of course, Shelby Steele's little book, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win (Free Press, 2007) explores Obama's peculiar background and equally peculiar character more fully. You can read the first chapter in this NYT excerpt.

Spengler’s bottom line: “He is trapped in a losing position, and there is nothing he can do to get out of it.” He is the author of his own undoing.'s a wild world we live in, and anything can happen in politics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One does wonder if Obama is going to dump Biden in favor of Hillary even at this late date. I wonder what Bill had to say to the boy wonder at their Thursday lunch.