Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 12, 2008

No Free Ride

Much has been said about (and several Saturday Night Live skits have lampooned) the media’s infatuation with Barack Obama. But sometimes a gaffe is so revealing and so encapsulates a candidate’s underlying fault lines (“I actually did vote for the $87M before I voted against it.”) that a sympathetic media can’t spin it away. “Quell the furor” (h/t Instapundit) phrases are a sure sign the media is playing this one down the middle and letting the chips fly where they will.

Here, here, here and here are just a few examples of the beating Obama is taking in the mainstream media. In part, this is because the Clinton team has gone into full court press and, in part, because there is no other campaign story to report now. And sometimes the “helmet in the tank” moment is just so obviously the biggest story there is that there is no stopping it.

So the swarm has descended and there is no let up in sight.

Much has been said about (and several Saturday Night Live skits have lampooned) the media’s infatuation with Barack Obama. But sometimes a gaffe is so revealing and so encapsulates a candidate’s underlying fault lines (“I actually did vote for the $87M before I voted against it.”) that a sympathetic media can’t spin it away. “Quell the furor” (h/t Instapundit) phrases are a sure sign the media is playing this one down the middle and letting the chips fly where they will.

Here, here, here and here are just a few examples of the beating Obama is taking in the mainstream media. In part, this is because the Clinton team has gone into full court press and, in part, because there is no other campaign story to report now. And sometimes the “helmet in the tank” moment is just so obviously the biggest story there is that there is no stopping it.

So the swarm has descended and there is no let up in sight.

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The Perils of High Approval Ratings

A new poll shows that most citizens in the country express satisfaction with their government. Two out of three say the country is generally going in the right direction, though a plurality is dissatisfied with the economy. Half say they trust the government to do what is right most of the time. Two thirds express satisfaction with the country’s relations with the world as a whole. Large majorities approve of how the president is handling his job at home and his dealings with other countries.

This placid picture of a contented nation is very encouraging—for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs of Tehran, that is. These are actually findings from a recent poll of Iranians questioned on their feelings about their own country. Apparently, they could use a few more cable channels, but other than that everything’s hunky-dory. Furthermore, 64 percent of Iranians believe the U.S. purposely tries to humiliate the Islamic world.

If the poll (conducted by a pro-diplomacy group, no less) is even remotely accurate, then it would seem to render any hope of change from within Iran as beyond the realm of fantasy. Many thoughtful pundits have recommended President Bush appeal directly to the people of Iran in an effort to embolden them to stand-up against a government hellbent on acquiring proscribed nukes. But against numbers like these, Bush’s words would carry all the weight of a call to arms delivered in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

A new poll shows that most citizens in the country express satisfaction with their government. Two out of three say the country is generally going in the right direction, though a plurality is dissatisfied with the economy. Half say they trust the government to do what is right most of the time. Two thirds express satisfaction with the country’s relations with the world as a whole. Large majorities approve of how the president is handling his job at home and his dealings with other countries.

This placid picture of a contented nation is very encouraging—for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs of Tehran, that is. These are actually findings from a recent poll of Iranians questioned on their feelings about their own country. Apparently, they could use a few more cable channels, but other than that everything’s hunky-dory. Furthermore, 64 percent of Iranians believe the U.S. purposely tries to humiliate the Islamic world.

If the poll (conducted by a pro-diplomacy group, no less) is even remotely accurate, then it would seem to render any hope of change from within Iran as beyond the realm of fantasy. Many thoughtful pundits have recommended President Bush appeal directly to the people of Iran in an effort to embolden them to stand-up against a government hellbent on acquiring proscribed nukes. But against numbers like these, Bush’s words would carry all the weight of a call to arms delivered in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

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But Bitter In The Good Sense

Barack Obama is now in full scale damage control. On Friday and again on Saturday he struggled to explain that he was merely expressing sympathy with the poor folk who have been left aggrieved and, yes, bitter by the heartless government. There really are two problems, neither of which is going to go away.

First, Mr. Hope thinks the little folk are bitter. Even Chris Matthews remarked last night “Nobody wants to be called bitter.” The little folk, Hillary Clinton says, are not bitter and don’t like being told they are. I suspect Pennsylvanians are going to side with Hillary on that one.

Second, there is no escaping his academic analysis of working class Americans: they irrationally cling to guns, religion and antiquated views because the government had done them wrong.

As to the latter even Hillary could see the problem:

You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a matter of Constitutional rights. Americans who believe in God believe it is a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it is a matter of the American Dream. . . The people of faith I know don’t “cling to” religion because they’re bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich. Our faith is the faith of our parents and our grandparents. It is a fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe.

That is probably the smartest thing she’s said in her entire political career.

If she wins the Keystone state next week going away she will enjoy a breath of life and the hope that superdelegates will conclude that Obama has poisoned his own well. For now, Obama is flailing away in a sea of scathing criticism.

How damaging this gaffe is may not be known until all those gun- and religion-clinging voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina get their say. ( And by the way, this is why Hillary was right to not give up. Now she never will.)

Barack Obama is now in full scale damage control. On Friday and again on Saturday he struggled to explain that he was merely expressing sympathy with the poor folk who have been left aggrieved and, yes, bitter by the heartless government. There really are two problems, neither of which is going to go away.

First, Mr. Hope thinks the little folk are bitter. Even Chris Matthews remarked last night “Nobody wants to be called bitter.” The little folk, Hillary Clinton says, are not bitter and don’t like being told they are. I suspect Pennsylvanians are going to side with Hillary on that one.

Second, there is no escaping his academic analysis of working class Americans: they irrationally cling to guns, religion and antiquated views because the government had done them wrong.

As to the latter even Hillary could see the problem:

You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a matter of Constitutional rights. Americans who believe in God believe it is a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it is a matter of the American Dream. . . The people of faith I know don’t “cling to” religion because they’re bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich. Our faith is the faith of our parents and our grandparents. It is a fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe.

That is probably the smartest thing she’s said in her entire political career.

If she wins the Keystone state next week going away she will enjoy a breath of life and the hope that superdelegates will conclude that Obama has poisoned his own well. For now, Obama is flailing away in a sea of scathing criticism.

How damaging this gaffe is may not be known until all those gun- and religion-clinging voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina get their say. ( And by the way, this is why Hillary was right to not give up. Now she never will.)

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They Aren’t Thrilled With The Remarks?

Well what explanation could the Obamaphile punditocracy come up with for the Great One’s gaffe? There really is none.

One gamely offers the contrite approach, as if acknowledging that Eliot Spitzer could use “a tad more self-control”:

Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. Republicans know that these attributes aren’t popular in middle America, so they will use every opportunity to remind independents and moderates about them.

Notice the vain attempt to insist that Obama really did have a working class upbringing like all the folk he slandered. (Generally it helps to live on the same continent with your countrymen and not rely on Harvard sociology professors to brief you later in life on the habits of your fellow citizens.) And, you see, those nasty Republicans will “use” this outburst because ordinary Americans can’t tell for themselves when they have been insulted.

Others are more honest:

Not only is this pretty darn condescending on its face, but the trade comment adds another whole layer of insult. He’s almost admitting that he does not believe his previous trade talk!

(Somewhere Austan Goolsbee is smiling.)

And Obama wasn’t getting many takers for his convuluted explanation that this was a mini-exegesis on What’s the Matter With Kansas?:

And even if it was what he meant, it isn’t what he said. What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith, or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

Well don’t expect Andrew Sullivan to admit Obama’s comments were meant “pejoratively” (because “cling to guns” was meant with the deepest reverence for the right to bear arms?). But if this is the reaction on the Left blogosphere imagine how this will go down in Altoona.

Well what explanation could the Obamaphile punditocracy come up with for the Great One’s gaffe? There really is none.

One gamely offers the contrite approach, as if acknowledging that Eliot Spitzer could use “a tad more self-control”:

Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. Republicans know that these attributes aren’t popular in middle America, so they will use every opportunity to remind independents and moderates about them.

Notice the vain attempt to insist that Obama really did have a working class upbringing like all the folk he slandered. (Generally it helps to live on the same continent with your countrymen and not rely on Harvard sociology professors to brief you later in life on the habits of your fellow citizens.) And, you see, those nasty Republicans will “use” this outburst because ordinary Americans can’t tell for themselves when they have been insulted.

Others are more honest:

Not only is this pretty darn condescending on its face, but the trade comment adds another whole layer of insult. He’s almost admitting that he does not believe his previous trade talk!

(Somewhere Austan Goolsbee is smiling.)

And Obama wasn’t getting many takers for his convuluted explanation that this was a mini-exegesis on What’s the Matter With Kansas?:

And even if it was what he meant, it isn’t what he said. What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith, or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

Well don’t expect Andrew Sullivan to admit Obama’s comments were meant “pejoratively” (because “cling to guns” was meant with the deepest reverence for the right to bear arms?). But if this is the reaction on the Left blogosphere imagine how this will go down in Altoona.

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