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Nicholas Kristof’s Imaginary Barack Obama

In his New York Times column today, Nicholas Kristof praises John McCain for his inability to pander convincingly to the conservative GOP base. “In short, Mr. McCain truly has principles that he bends or breaks out of desperation and with distaste,” Kristof writes. “That’s preferable to politicians who are congenital invertebrates.” This is an undoubtedly true (and hardly controversial) assessment of McCain, and explains why he will prove to be such a formidable candidate come November.

Yet towards the end of his piece — perhaps realizing that all these good words for a Republican are driving his regular readers crazy — Kristof compares McCain’s repeated insurrections against his own party to … Barack Obama. Kristof writes:

It’s also striking that Barack Obama is leading a Democratic field in which he has been the candidate who is least-scripted and most willing to annoy primary voters, whether in speaking about Reagan’s impact on history or on the suffering of Palestinians.

Has Barack Obama ever taken a stand against the prevailing winds within his own party on a substantive political issue (saying you have friends in red states does not count)? Granted, Obama’s political career is a mere shadow next to John McCain’s decades of experience, but there is still plenty of time for him to have opposed the entrenched thinking of his party on something. Obama never “annoys” primary voters (and, for the record, speaking of the “suffering of Palestinians” hardly “annoys” Democratic primary voters; it delights them); in fact, he does the opposite.

Hillary Clinton, if anyone, is the candidate who continually “annoys” primary voters with her refusal to apologize for her Iraq vote. Obama never offers McCain’s occasional and necessary bitter pill. Obama is, in fact, his party’s candy dispenser. And as for Kristof’s contention that Obama is the “least-scripted” candidate, what distinguishes Obama is that he is the most scripted candidate in recent political history; a candidate whose virtues seem to stem entirely from the speeches he delivers and the rhetorical style with which he delivers them. Indeed, when speaking without a script, he somehow loses his magical aura.


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