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Obama’s Quandary

Margaret Carlson contends that Barack Obama has made two big errors in his campaign. One was failing to recognize the impact of Rev. Wright’s incendiary language The other was his failure at bowling. She makes a good case that, in working-class, primarily white suburbs, Obama “is having a hard time passing himself off as ordinary folk” and his 37 (a really abysmal score) just made it worse.

One might argue, as many of us here have, that his association with Wright was more than a failure to anticipate public reaction: it was a moral and intellectual failing. (Juan Williams, as he has before, explains this in today’s Wall Street Journal with searing clarity.) Yet she has a point: does Obama lack a “feel” for ordinary voters’ sensibilities?

Well, of course. His life experience is utterly unlike the average voter’s. On his journey from Hawaii to Indonesia to Hawaii to Harvard, he probably ran into a lot of critiques of American culture and not very much bowling. He hasn’t, it looks like, developed an internal compass that warns him when something may be offensive or off-putting to ordinary Americans.

So while Clinton has morphed from a former First Lady and Yale-educated feminist lawyer to a champion of working class voters (“her ‘Rocky’ doggedness has grabbed the sympathy of people so unlike her yet drawn by what looks like a hard-luck story”), Obama is still grasping for a connection to the people whose votes will be critical in November.

That is the downside of continually criticizing your country and fellow countrymen. It makes it that much harder to turn around and tell them you’re one of them.


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