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Contentions

Words Matter

Roger Simon of Politico observes:

You know a candidate is really feeling the heat when he starts complaining about the kitchen. You know a candidate is having problems when he starts complaining about the process. Wednesday night, in a debate here, Barack Obama complained a number of times about the presidential campaign process and how some people spend way too much time “obsessing” about some of the things that he and others have actually said.

Sure enough, Obama’s campaign manager came out right after the debate with a defensive-sounding statement:

Tonight we saw a real choice between the old politics of point-scoring and distraction and a politics that focuses on bringing us together to actually solve the challenges we talk about every single election.

So we have now come full circle. The candidate who cribbed the line “Words matter” and bragged that his rhetoric lifts all comers has been reduced to complaining that words–his words–don’t matter. The man who was to lead a movement, whose judgment and virtue were cause (finally) for pride in America, now says that the particulars of his past and his associations with friends and mentors are a “distraction.”

What happened? It appears that Obama believed he could skate through an entire primary (and maybe a general election) without having to answer hard questions. Last night, the ABC moderators finally put those long-avoided questions to him. The results weren’t pretty. This raises more fundamental concerns. Can he answer hard questions, regardless of the setting? Or is he only able to give the same canned “we are the change” stump speech over and over again? Judging from his track record of hiding from the media–and his debate performance–it seems the only words that matter from his perspective are the ones drafted, memorized, and rehearsed among admiring advisers and friends.


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