Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 1, 2008

Hillary’s O’Reilly Interview Part 2

Tonight was a mixed performance. Her weakest moment: explaining how vacating Iraq would not create the perception of U.S. weakness among Al Qaeda and Iran. She essentially fell back on the “Iraq is a distraction from Afghanistan” argument. That said, her view that there is “no military solution” in Iraq will be an easier sell than John McCain’s “no alternative but victory.”

On torture and waterboarding, she fenced with O’Reilly but craftily reminded him that none of the remaining candidates “think torture works.” Still, she seemed ill-equipped to combat the views of high-level officials that in three instances waterboarding did in fact “work.”

Her best moments came on illegal immigration, when she sounded both tough on enforcement (she says she favors border controls and employer sanctions) but reasonable. She was perhaps less in command and less amusing than in Part 1 of the interview. Still, my take is essentially the same: she is a capable, impressive candidate who has gotten better with time and will come across as eminently reasonable to many less ideologically-motivated voters. What’s more, she’s smart enough to go on Fox, tangle with O’Reilly, and look like she’s enjoying it. (Better than a dreary, disengaged performance on a fluff morning show.)

Tonight was a mixed performance. Her weakest moment: explaining how vacating Iraq would not create the perception of U.S. weakness among Al Qaeda and Iran. She essentially fell back on the “Iraq is a distraction from Afghanistan” argument. That said, her view that there is “no military solution” in Iraq will be an easier sell than John McCain’s “no alternative but victory.”

On torture and waterboarding, she fenced with O’Reilly but craftily reminded him that none of the remaining candidates “think torture works.” Still, she seemed ill-equipped to combat the views of high-level officials that in three instances waterboarding did in fact “work.”

Her best moments came on illegal immigration, when she sounded both tough on enforcement (she says she favors border controls and employer sanctions) but reasonable. She was perhaps less in command and less amusing than in Part 1 of the interview. Still, my take is essentially the same: she is a capable, impressive candidate who has gotten better with time and will come across as eminently reasonable to many less ideologically-motivated voters. What’s more, she’s smart enough to go on Fox, tangle with O’Reilly, and look like she’s enjoying it. (Better than a dreary, disengaged performance on a fluff morning show.)

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But What About Those Terrorist Camps?

In the second half of her interview with Bill O’Reilly, airing tonight, Hillary Clinton claims there’s nothing left for the U.S. military to do in Iraq:

First of all, I believe that our military has fulfilled all their military missions . . .There’s no doubt in my mind. They got rid of Saddam Hussein, which they were asked to do. They gave the Iraqis free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the space and time to make the decisions that only the Iraqis can make for themselves . . . There is no military solution to what we face in Iraq, which is unprecedented. It is dangerous, it is unstable.

Well, some might argue that it’s Iraq’s very instability that requires our commitment to staying on and helping. One might even put it this way:

It will matter to us if Iraq totally collapses into civil war, if it becomes a failed state the way Afghanistan was, where terrorists are free to basically set up camp and launch attacks against us.

In fact someone did put it that way: Hillary Clinton. That was her argument against troop withdrawal in late 2005. It’s now 2008, and Iraq is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was then. If she couldn’t justify risking a failed Iraq when things felt truly hopeless, how can she be so dismissive of it now?

Back then, she was concerned about giving Iraqis “an open-ended invitation not to take care of themselves.” It was a good point, and luckily, Iraq didn’t consider our presence as such an invitation. The Sunni Awakening, political reconciliation, and Maliki’s fight against the Sadrists are all clear indications that Iraqis are indeed taking care of themselves.

But we also know that they’re doing it with our help. Maliki successfully routed Mahdi militias out of Basra with the assistance of the U.S. military. That this victory directly led to the country’s largest Sunni bloc coming back into Iraq’s government is a crystalline example of how American force continues to help move Iraq toward viable statehood.

Hillary clearly has no problem contradicting her own weighty proclamations. But in flip-flopping on this one she reveals an unsettling indifference toward a struggling ally.

In the second half of her interview with Bill O’Reilly, airing tonight, Hillary Clinton claims there’s nothing left for the U.S. military to do in Iraq:

First of all, I believe that our military has fulfilled all their military missions . . .There’s no doubt in my mind. They got rid of Saddam Hussein, which they were asked to do. They gave the Iraqis free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the space and time to make the decisions that only the Iraqis can make for themselves . . . There is no military solution to what we face in Iraq, which is unprecedented. It is dangerous, it is unstable.

Well, some might argue that it’s Iraq’s very instability that requires our commitment to staying on and helping. One might even put it this way:

It will matter to us if Iraq totally collapses into civil war, if it becomes a failed state the way Afghanistan was, where terrorists are free to basically set up camp and launch attacks against us.

In fact someone did put it that way: Hillary Clinton. That was her argument against troop withdrawal in late 2005. It’s now 2008, and Iraq is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was then. If she couldn’t justify risking a failed Iraq when things felt truly hopeless, how can she be so dismissive of it now?

Back then, she was concerned about giving Iraqis “an open-ended invitation not to take care of themselves.” It was a good point, and luckily, Iraq didn’t consider our presence as such an invitation. The Sunni Awakening, political reconciliation, and Maliki’s fight against the Sadrists are all clear indications that Iraqis are indeed taking care of themselves.

But we also know that they’re doing it with our help. Maliki successfully routed Mahdi militias out of Basra with the assistance of the U.S. military. That this victory directly led to the country’s largest Sunni bloc coming back into Iraq’s government is a crystalline example of how American force continues to help move Iraq toward viable statehood.

Hillary clearly has no problem contradicting her own weighty proclamations. But in flip-flopping on this one she reveals an unsettling indifference toward a struggling ally.

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When You’re On A Roll . . .

Hillary Clinton is out to convince voters she’s tougher and savvier than Barack Obama. The New York Times tells us:

Iran has lodged a formal protest at the United Nations about comments by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, the state-run news agency, IRNA, reported Thursday. Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the United Nations secretary general and the United Nations Security Council denouncing the remarks, according to IRNA. Mrs. Clinton made the comments in an interview on ABC last week. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said when she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she added.

Maybe this doesn’t carry much weight in a Democratic primary, but in the general election (should she make it that far) this would be gold for Clinton. She wants to show voters she’s tough and not like all those weak-kneed Democrats of the past? This can be Exhibit A. If she really wants to wow them, she can reply that she doesn’t give a fig what the UN says. But that might be a bridge too far, even for her.

For now, she’s miles ahead in the macho (or whatever you want to call it) contest.

Hillary Clinton is out to convince voters she’s tougher and savvier than Barack Obama. The New York Times tells us:

Iran has lodged a formal protest at the United Nations about comments by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, the state-run news agency, IRNA, reported Thursday. Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the United Nations secretary general and the United Nations Security Council denouncing the remarks, according to IRNA. Mrs. Clinton made the comments in an interview on ABC last week. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said when she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she added.

Maybe this doesn’t carry much weight in a Democratic primary, but in the general election (should she make it that far) this would be gold for Clinton. She wants to show voters she’s tough and not like all those weak-kneed Democrats of the past? This can be Exhibit A. If she really wants to wow them, she can reply that she doesn’t give a fig what the UN says. But that might be a bridge too far, even for her.

For now, she’s miles ahead in the macho (or whatever you want to call it) contest.

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Re: The Real Age Issue

I think you are on to something, Abe. What’s more: I think John McCain is subtly trying to make the same point.

McCain left his youth behind at the Naval Academy. His current angst is not personal ( Who is he? Who were his mentors?) but policy-related. Will immigration reform undo him? Will the troop surge rescue America from military defeat and him from political oblivion? Obama is another story. Every week now brings a demonstration of the arrogance of youth that McCain left behind decades ago.

On his biographical tour McCain declared:

When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest attainment, and all glory was self-glory. My parents had tried to teach me otherwise, as did the Naval Academy. But I didn’t understand the lesson until later in life, when I confronted challenges I never expected to face.

Although ostensibly speaking about himself, McCain could easily have been talking about his opponent. Obama perceives all that has come before him as corrupt, base, and, in his wife’s words, “mean.” Only an incredibly gifted, still-young man who has never faced real adversity, never managed a crisis, never fought in a war, and never championed a major piece of legislation could assume that his own innate judgment and character are superior to everyone else’s in public life. Obama runs on the presumption that he can revolutionize politics and make America anew. McCain offers a more modest profile, one which eschews just such presumption.

I think you are on to something, Abe. What’s more: I think John McCain is subtly trying to make the same point.

McCain left his youth behind at the Naval Academy. His current angst is not personal ( Who is he? Who were his mentors?) but policy-related. Will immigration reform undo him? Will the troop surge rescue America from military defeat and him from political oblivion? Obama is another story. Every week now brings a demonstration of the arrogance of youth that McCain left behind decades ago.

On his biographical tour McCain declared:

When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest attainment, and all glory was self-glory. My parents had tried to teach me otherwise, as did the Naval Academy. But I didn’t understand the lesson until later in life, when I confronted challenges I never expected to face.

Although ostensibly speaking about himself, McCain could easily have been talking about his opponent. Obama perceives all that has come before him as corrupt, base, and, in his wife’s words, “mean.” Only an incredibly gifted, still-young man who has never faced real adversity, never managed a crisis, never fought in a war, and never championed a major piece of legislation could assume that his own innate judgment and character are superior to everyone else’s in public life. Obama runs on the presumption that he can revolutionize politics and make America anew. McCain offers a more modest profile, one which eschews just such presumption.

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Where Are We Losing?

Yesterday ABC News posted a story about the new State Department report on terrorism. There’s been, it seems, an uptick in global terror victims. From the story:

Most dramatically, there was a 50 percent increase worldwide in suicide bombings last year. All told, 66,995 people were killed or wounded in terror attacks in 2007 (up from 59,327 in 2006 and 39,469 in 2005).

They then break down some of the figures by country and offer this:

“Around the globe people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people,” said Russ Travers of the National Counterterrorism Center, which compiled the data for the report.

The war on terror has been dispiriting in a number of ways, and even as there’s progress being made, we’re sure to encounter many more unforeseeable setbacks. But we are still very much in a live war. And reading something conclusive into these numbers is disingenuous. It’s like visiting one’s car in the body shop, seeing the pieces scattered about, and determining that the mechanics have made things worse.

The bigger problem lies in the fact that the MSM is so eager to seize upon these figures as confirmation of the Bush administration’s incompetence. In a new piece at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson writes that we’re winning the war abroad and losing it here:

After years of learning how to fight an unfamiliar war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to protect us at home, we are finally getting most things right. But if our soldiers and intelligence agencies have learned how to win, our politically-correct diplomats and the American consumer haven’t – and are doing as much at home to empower radical Islam as those on the front lines are to defeat it.

As Hanson points out, the U.S. military is making long-awaited and tangible progress. But if news outlets remain obsessed with exploiting the “most dramatically” depressing numbers, ignoring the positives, and looking to diminish every potential gain, then they’ll continue to make the overall fight that much harder.

Yesterday ABC News posted a story about the new State Department report on terrorism. There’s been, it seems, an uptick in global terror victims. From the story:

Most dramatically, there was a 50 percent increase worldwide in suicide bombings last year. All told, 66,995 people were killed or wounded in terror attacks in 2007 (up from 59,327 in 2006 and 39,469 in 2005).

They then break down some of the figures by country and offer this:

“Around the globe people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people,” said Russ Travers of the National Counterterrorism Center, which compiled the data for the report.

The war on terror has been dispiriting in a number of ways, and even as there’s progress being made, we’re sure to encounter many more unforeseeable setbacks. But we are still very much in a live war. And reading something conclusive into these numbers is disingenuous. It’s like visiting one’s car in the body shop, seeing the pieces scattered about, and determining that the mechanics have made things worse.

The bigger problem lies in the fact that the MSM is so eager to seize upon these figures as confirmation of the Bush administration’s incompetence. In a new piece at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson writes that we’re winning the war abroad and losing it here:

After years of learning how to fight an unfamiliar war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to protect us at home, we are finally getting most things right. But if our soldiers and intelligence agencies have learned how to win, our politically-correct diplomats and the American consumer haven’t – and are doing as much at home to empower radical Islam as those on the front lines are to defeat it.

As Hanson points out, the U.S. military is making long-awaited and tangible progress. But if news outlets remain obsessed with exploiting the “most dramatically” depressing numbers, ignoring the positives, and looking to diminish every potential gain, then they’ll continue to make the overall fight that much harder.

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Is China Our Enemy?

CIA Director Michael Hayden says no. “China is a competitor–certainly in the economic realm, and, increasingly, on the geopolitical stage,” he said in a speech delivered yesterday at Kansas State University. “But China is not an inevitable enemy.”

No, it is not. The Chinese state-and its increasingly restive people-all have consequential choices to make. So, in both a technical and practical sense, Beijing is not inevitably anything: friend, enemy, or Stephen Colbert’s clever term, frenemy. We can study the history of other rising powers or even look into China’s past for guidance, but we will of course find no answers about the future.

With regard to that future, Hayden says, “There are good policy choices available to both Washington and Beijing that can keep us on the largely peaceful, constructive path we’ve been on for almost 40 years now.” If we ignore the second part of the sentence–which some might want to debate–it is of course true that both the United States and China will influence the future of their bilateral relationship, which some call the most important in the world. There is, however, an assumption, on this side of the Pacific, that the United States, as the sole superpower, can make China a “responsible stakeholder” in the international community, to borrow the State Department’s hopeful formulation.

Yet China’s future direction is largely out of our hands. China is too large, proud, and brittle for outsiders to have much of a say. Moreover, the leaders in Beijing have difficulty reconciling and controlling the various factions that end up shaping the country’s policy, and so it is wrong for outsiders to believe they can have much of a hand in guiding the Chinese state. Finally, there is the influence of the Chinese people on their nation’s foreign policies, a factor that became evident last month as nationalist Chinese protested in their own country as well as in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

This leads us to perhaps the most important point about Sino-American relations. Because we have only limited influence over Beijing, we cannot base our policy on what we believe Chinese intentions may be. Our touchstone should be Chinese capabilities. Whether Beijing appears to be friend or enemy, we have to recognize that China is one nation far beyond our control. In short, we should not let optimism prevent us from preparing for the worst.

CIA Director Michael Hayden says no. “China is a competitor–certainly in the economic realm, and, increasingly, on the geopolitical stage,” he said in a speech delivered yesterday at Kansas State University. “But China is not an inevitable enemy.”

No, it is not. The Chinese state-and its increasingly restive people-all have consequential choices to make. So, in both a technical and practical sense, Beijing is not inevitably anything: friend, enemy, or Stephen Colbert’s clever term, frenemy. We can study the history of other rising powers or even look into China’s past for guidance, but we will of course find no answers about the future.

With regard to that future, Hayden says, “There are good policy choices available to both Washington and Beijing that can keep us on the largely peaceful, constructive path we’ve been on for almost 40 years now.” If we ignore the second part of the sentence–which some might want to debate–it is of course true that both the United States and China will influence the future of their bilateral relationship, which some call the most important in the world. There is, however, an assumption, on this side of the Pacific, that the United States, as the sole superpower, can make China a “responsible stakeholder” in the international community, to borrow the State Department’s hopeful formulation.

Yet China’s future direction is largely out of our hands. China is too large, proud, and brittle for outsiders to have much of a say. Moreover, the leaders in Beijing have difficulty reconciling and controlling the various factions that end up shaping the country’s policy, and so it is wrong for outsiders to believe they can have much of a hand in guiding the Chinese state. Finally, there is the influence of the Chinese people on their nation’s foreign policies, a factor that became evident last month as nationalist Chinese protested in their own country as well as in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

This leads us to perhaps the most important point about Sino-American relations. Because we have only limited influence over Beijing, we cannot base our policy on what we believe Chinese intentions may be. Our touchstone should be Chinese capabilities. Whether Beijing appears to be friend or enemy, we have to recognize that China is one nation far beyond our control. In short, we should not let optimism prevent us from preparing for the worst.

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Hoosier Momentum

Sometimes a chart says it all. Check out this one showing the recent polling data for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. On average, according to RealClearPolitics, her lead is less than 5 points, but you have to go back to pre-Pennsylvania to find a result where Obama led outside the margin of error. And there isn’t any poll after the National Press Club disaster where Obama leads. This is problematic for a candidate who boasts a home field advantage (25% of Indiana is in the Chicago media market). He’s said that “People are a little more familiar with me in Indiana.” But it seems that as more and more Indiana voters focus on the race, his poll numbers go down. In the post-Wright-eruption atmosphere, the question remains whether this is as bad as it will get or whether things have yet to hit rock bottom.

And one final note. Should Clinton win, it will show that, for all the talk of her unpopularity with the Democratic establishment, three heavyweights (Strickland in Ohio, Rendell in Pennsylvania, and Bayh in Indiana) may have rescued her from oblivion.

Sometimes a chart says it all. Check out this one showing the recent polling data for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. On average, according to RealClearPolitics, her lead is less than 5 points, but you have to go back to pre-Pennsylvania to find a result where Obama led outside the margin of error. And there isn’t any poll after the National Press Club disaster where Obama leads. This is problematic for a candidate who boasts a home field advantage (25% of Indiana is in the Chicago media market). He’s said that “People are a little more familiar with me in Indiana.” But it seems that as more and more Indiana voters focus on the race, his poll numbers go down. In the post-Wright-eruption atmosphere, the question remains whether this is as bad as it will get or whether things have yet to hit rock bottom.

And one final note. Should Clinton win, it will show that, for all the talk of her unpopularity with the Democratic establishment, three heavyweights (Strickland in Ohio, Rendell in Pennsylvania, and Bayh in Indiana) may have rescued her from oblivion.

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The Real “Age Issue”

I’ve finally figured out what’s been bothering me about the popular interpretation of one of Barack Obama’s recent slips. A few weeks ago, Obama was doing some handshake campaigning in a diner in Indiana when the establishment’s proprietor offered him a cup of coffee. When word got out that Obama declined and asked for some orange juice, the media took this as another sign of the candidate’s elitism or lack of common touch.

But that read doesn’t sit quite right. After all, Hillary looked preposterous when she tried to prove her working class credentials through choice of beverage. Yet there was something off about Obama’s response. Watching him sulk around this week, slightly traumatized by the betrayal of a father figure, I realized what the diner incident was: it was childish. The switch from juice to coffee is a rite of adulthood. It’s not that Obama seemed to hold himself above the coffee drinkers. It’s that he seemed to lag behind them. He’s still on fruit juice while the adults are sipping bitter and bracing coffee.

In the course of the past few months, Obama has gone from broadcasting a worrying arrogance to radiating a near-helplessness. The Wright affair has played out like a textbook teenage drama. Obama fell in with the wrong crowd, refused to stop seeing them, got into real trouble, and had to come to painful grips with the fact that his friends were just users. In this and several other respects, Obama seems, simply, young. The overconfidence, the need to be adored by everyone, the naiveté, and now the befuddlement.

Some months back, Obama said, “One of the things that I’ve known about myself for a long time is that, in difficult or stressful moments, I don’t get rattled And I don’t get rattled during campaigns. I don’t get rattled when things are up . . . and I don’t get too low when things are down.”

This was pure adolescent bravado. At that point, things had not yet been “down” for him, so he couldn’t accurately predict how he’d respond to crisis. Now, the evidence is in: Obama gets rattled.

In policy choices, he’s ordering straight off the kid’s menu. During the last debate, when Charlie Gibson asked Obama a very adult question about why he planned to raise the capital gains tax (as doing so would almost surely lower revenue), the candidate responded: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

Fairness.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time around children is all too familiar with the argument from fairness: This isn’t fair; that’s not fair; nothing is fair. In the adult world, it’s not that fairness isn’t an admirable goal, but rather that when fairness is imposed by the government you end up with something much nastier than unfairness: a parental state. (Something, incidentally, which a grown child would presumably want.)

His national security policy isn’t about national security. It’s about getting America voted most popular. We’ll meet with enemies in the hope that they will like us. As if the U.S. is the alienated kid who desperately tries to befriend the class bully in order to elevate his status.

Never mind John McCain’s actual age. While he is a senior, there’s certainly nothing quiescent about his approach to crisis or politics in general. It’s Barack Obama’s arrested development which is troubling.

I’ve finally figured out what’s been bothering me about the popular interpretation of one of Barack Obama’s recent slips. A few weeks ago, Obama was doing some handshake campaigning in a diner in Indiana when the establishment’s proprietor offered him a cup of coffee. When word got out that Obama declined and asked for some orange juice, the media took this as another sign of the candidate’s elitism or lack of common touch.

But that read doesn’t sit quite right. After all, Hillary looked preposterous when she tried to prove her working class credentials through choice of beverage. Yet there was something off about Obama’s response. Watching him sulk around this week, slightly traumatized by the betrayal of a father figure, I realized what the diner incident was: it was childish. The switch from juice to coffee is a rite of adulthood. It’s not that Obama seemed to hold himself above the coffee drinkers. It’s that he seemed to lag behind them. He’s still on fruit juice while the adults are sipping bitter and bracing coffee.

In the course of the past few months, Obama has gone from broadcasting a worrying arrogance to radiating a near-helplessness. The Wright affair has played out like a textbook teenage drama. Obama fell in with the wrong crowd, refused to stop seeing them, got into real trouble, and had to come to painful grips with the fact that his friends were just users. In this and several other respects, Obama seems, simply, young. The overconfidence, the need to be adored by everyone, the naiveté, and now the befuddlement.

Some months back, Obama said, “One of the things that I’ve known about myself for a long time is that, in difficult or stressful moments, I don’t get rattled And I don’t get rattled during campaigns. I don’t get rattled when things are up . . . and I don’t get too low when things are down.”

This was pure adolescent bravado. At that point, things had not yet been “down” for him, so he couldn’t accurately predict how he’d respond to crisis. Now, the evidence is in: Obama gets rattled.

In policy choices, he’s ordering straight off the kid’s menu. During the last debate, when Charlie Gibson asked Obama a very adult question about why he planned to raise the capital gains tax (as doing so would almost surely lower revenue), the candidate responded: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

Fairness.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time around children is all too familiar with the argument from fairness: This isn’t fair; that’s not fair; nothing is fair. In the adult world, it’s not that fairness isn’t an admirable goal, but rather that when fairness is imposed by the government you end up with something much nastier than unfairness: a parental state. (Something, incidentally, which a grown child would presumably want.)

His national security policy isn’t about national security. It’s about getting America voted most popular. We’ll meet with enemies in the hope that they will like us. As if the U.S. is the alienated kid who desperately tries to befriend the class bully in order to elevate his status.

Never mind John McCain’s actual age. While he is a senior, there’s certainly nothing quiescent about his approach to crisis or politics in general. It’s Barack Obama’s arrested development which is troubling.

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Who Booked This?

Others wonder, as I do, whether it was wise for Barack Obama to go on Meet the Press this Sunday. Didn’t he claim he had no time to debate Hillary Clinton, since he was busy meeting voters out on the stump?

More importantly, there seems to be a good deal of downside (and virtually no upside) to his doing this. It only takes one bad answer or an hour of hard questions to get voters thinking that Obama is now a prisoner of his own bad narratives (Snobgate, Rev. Wright, etc.). And “He survived Russert” isn’t likely to change many votes, while one gaffe may.

So why do it? I suspect that this is an effort to convince the ultimate Inside-the-Beltway crowd–superdelegates–that everything is fine, just fine. See, he can say to them, even Russert can’t score any more points on me. This assumes that Russert won’t get the best of him and and that superdelegates are making their decisions in a vacuum. Obama may well best Russert. But the superdelegates are far more likely to take notice of upset wins, real or moral, for Clinton on Tuesday, than of Obama’s appearance on Meet The Press.

Far better for him to go win those two primaries resoundingly and silence the doubts. Campaigning for votes in critical states would seem to be the best use of his time now. But maybe he’s burned out and not as effective on the stump as he used to be.

Others wonder, as I do, whether it was wise for Barack Obama to go on Meet the Press this Sunday. Didn’t he claim he had no time to debate Hillary Clinton, since he was busy meeting voters out on the stump?

More importantly, there seems to be a good deal of downside (and virtually no upside) to his doing this. It only takes one bad answer or an hour of hard questions to get voters thinking that Obama is now a prisoner of his own bad narratives (Snobgate, Rev. Wright, etc.). And “He survived Russert” isn’t likely to change many votes, while one gaffe may.

So why do it? I suspect that this is an effort to convince the ultimate Inside-the-Beltway crowd–superdelegates–that everything is fine, just fine. See, he can say to them, even Russert can’t score any more points on me. This assumes that Russert won’t get the best of him and and that superdelegates are making their decisions in a vacuum. Obama may well best Russert. But the superdelegates are far more likely to take notice of upset wins, real or moral, for Clinton on Tuesday, than of Obama’s appearance on Meet The Press.

Far better for him to go win those two primaries resoundingly and silence the doubts. Campaigning for votes in critical states would seem to be the best use of his time now. But maybe he’s burned out and not as effective on the stump as he used to be.

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Bob Gates on Dissent

If you’re wondering why Admiral Fox Fallon had to step down as Commander of Central Command, it’s worth reading the speech that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates delivered at West Point on April 21. Gates never once mentioned Fallon’s name, but the testy admiral’s shadow loomed over his remarks on the role of dissent within the military chain of command.

He urged the cadets to tell the truth, even if it hurts: “if as an officer–listen to me very carefully–if as an officer you don’t tell blunt truths or create an environment where candor is encouraged, then you’ve done yourself and the institution a disservice.” But he also argued that, after an officer has had a chance to vent his disagreement, he must still carry out his orders, whether he likes them or not. In this regard, Gates cited the canonic example of George C. Marshall.

In 1940, he noted, “Marshall believed that rearming America should come first. Roosevelt overruled Marshall and others, and came down on what most historians believe is the correct decision–to do what was necessary to keep England alive.”

He went on:

The significant thing is what did not happen next. There was a powerful domestic constituency for Marshall’s position among a whole host of newspapers and congressmen and lobbies, and yet Marshall did not exploit and use them. There were no overtures to friendly congressional committee chairmen, no leaks to sympathetic reporters, no ghostwritten editorials in newspapers, no coalition-building with advocacy groups. Marshall and his colleagues made the policy work and kept England alive.

Fallon undoubtedly met Gates’s directive “to provide blunt and candid advice always.” But, unlike Marshall, he fell short on two other measures laid out by the defense secretary: “to keep disagreements private” and “to implement faithfully decisions that go against you.”

Fallon was all too public in his differences with regard to administration policy on Iraq, Iran, and the broader Middle East. His downfall came shortly after he bared his thoughts to Thomas P.M. Barnett in Esquire magazine.

Beyond Fallon’s fate, the rules that Gates laid out seem like a very sensible distillation of the proper relationship between officers and their civilian superiors. In some respects the most noteworthy theme he struck was not that dissent can sometimes go too far but that he believes dissent and debate is healthy and should be encouraged–attitudes that, rightly or wrongly, were not seen as hallmarks of Donald Rumsfeld’s days at the Pentagon.

If you’re wondering why Admiral Fox Fallon had to step down as Commander of Central Command, it’s worth reading the speech that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates delivered at West Point on April 21. Gates never once mentioned Fallon’s name, but the testy admiral’s shadow loomed over his remarks on the role of dissent within the military chain of command.

He urged the cadets to tell the truth, even if it hurts: “if as an officer–listen to me very carefully–if as an officer you don’t tell blunt truths or create an environment where candor is encouraged, then you’ve done yourself and the institution a disservice.” But he also argued that, after an officer has had a chance to vent his disagreement, he must still carry out his orders, whether he likes them or not. In this regard, Gates cited the canonic example of George C. Marshall.

In 1940, he noted, “Marshall believed that rearming America should come first. Roosevelt overruled Marshall and others, and came down on what most historians believe is the correct decision–to do what was necessary to keep England alive.”

He went on:

The significant thing is what did not happen next. There was a powerful domestic constituency for Marshall’s position among a whole host of newspapers and congressmen and lobbies, and yet Marshall did not exploit and use them. There were no overtures to friendly congressional committee chairmen, no leaks to sympathetic reporters, no ghostwritten editorials in newspapers, no coalition-building with advocacy groups. Marshall and his colleagues made the policy work and kept England alive.

Fallon undoubtedly met Gates’s directive “to provide blunt and candid advice always.” But, unlike Marshall, he fell short on two other measures laid out by the defense secretary: “to keep disagreements private” and “to implement faithfully decisions that go against you.”

Fallon was all too public in his differences with regard to administration policy on Iraq, Iran, and the broader Middle East. His downfall came shortly after he bared his thoughts to Thomas P.M. Barnett in Esquire magazine.

Beyond Fallon’s fate, the rules that Gates laid out seem like a very sensible distillation of the proper relationship between officers and their civilian superiors. In some respects the most noteworthy theme he struck was not that dissent can sometimes go too far but that he believes dissent and debate is healthy and should be encouraged–attitudes that, rightly or wrongly, were not seen as hallmarks of Donald Rumsfeld’s days at the Pentagon.

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Barack Obama And The Case of the Misused Subjective Pronoun!

On the “Today Show” this morning, Barack Obama — who is, judging from his own memoir and the speeches he seems to have written himself, one of the more literate men in Washington — made a grammatical blunder. When Meredith Vieira asked him whether he should have denounced Jeremiah Wright sooner, he said:  “I think the sequence of events was the right one, because this was somebody who had married Michele and I….”

That should have been “Michelle and me.” Not “Michelle and I.” It’s hard to believe Barack Obama, the man with the silver tongue and the two Ivy degrees, would make such a mistake. The fact that he did suggests the kind of strain he’s under and gives one the sense he knows he has gotten himself into some very serious trouble.

On the “Today Show” this morning, Barack Obama — who is, judging from his own memoir and the speeches he seems to have written himself, one of the more literate men in Washington — made a grammatical blunder. When Meredith Vieira asked him whether he should have denounced Jeremiah Wright sooner, he said:  “I think the sequence of events was the right one, because this was somebody who had married Michele and I….”

That should have been “Michelle and me.” Not “Michelle and I.” It’s hard to believe Barack Obama, the man with the silver tongue and the two Ivy degrees, would make such a mistake. The fact that he did suggests the kind of strain he’s under and gives one the sense he knows he has gotten himself into some very serious trouble.

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No Help At All

The New York Times today does Barack Obama no favors on the ongoing Reverend Wright fiasco. First, it seems to confirm that a sense of personal pique rather than any “new information” on Wright caused Obama to finally denouce his former pastor. Recounting how Obama read the National Press Club remarks on his blackberry, the Times explains:

As Mr. Obama told close friends after watching the replay, he felt dumbfounded, even betrayed, particularly by Mr. Wright’s implication that Mr. Obama was being hypocritical. He could not tolerate that.

You see, any suggestion that Obama had tolerated, solicited and embraced Wright for political aims and then dumped him when whites got wind of Wright’s hateful radicalism was intolerable. But wasn’t it also true? There are plenty of facts suggesting that this is exactly what occurred. The Times provides additional evidence.

Obama tried to suggest at his press conference that he and Wright weren’t all that close. But that of course is poppycock. The Times recollects:

Only a few years ago, the tightness of the bond between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright was difficult to overstate. Mr. Obama titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Mr. Wright’s sermons, and his pastor was the first one he thanked when he gained election as a United States senator in 2004. “Let me thank my pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ,” Mr. Obama said that night, before going on to mention his family and friends.

In this learned and radical pastor, Mr. Obama found a guide who could explain Jesus and faith in terms intellectual no less than emotional, and who helped a man of mixed racial parentage come to understand himself as an African-American. “Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black,” Mr. Obama wrote in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father.”

At the same time, as Mr. Obama’s friends and aides now acknowledge, he was aware that, shorn of their South Side Chicago context, the words and cadences of a politically left-wing black minister could have a very problematic echo. So Mr. Obama haltingly distanced himself from his pastor.

And of course, Obama himself had constructed an autobiography with Wright at the center, the Times, reminds us:

Mr. Obama faced practical political considerations as well. He had made Mr. Wright a central figure in his personal narrative. His embrace of Mr. Wright’s church and its congregants, wealthy and working class and impoverished, formed the climax of his book. It was the moment, in his telling, when Mr. Obama finally pulled every disparate strand of his background together and found his faith.

Bottom line: the liberal media paper of record leaves little doubt that Obama’s claim of ignorance about Wright’s incendiary views is fraudulent. For a candidate running on virtue and as the Agent of Change this is deadly stuff. (Is it any wonder the Times‘ sister paper the Boston Globe finds the whole thing “depressing”?)

The New York Times today does Barack Obama no favors on the ongoing Reverend Wright fiasco. First, it seems to confirm that a sense of personal pique rather than any “new information” on Wright caused Obama to finally denouce his former pastor. Recounting how Obama read the National Press Club remarks on his blackberry, the Times explains:

As Mr. Obama told close friends after watching the replay, he felt dumbfounded, even betrayed, particularly by Mr. Wright’s implication that Mr. Obama was being hypocritical. He could not tolerate that.

You see, any suggestion that Obama had tolerated, solicited and embraced Wright for political aims and then dumped him when whites got wind of Wright’s hateful radicalism was intolerable. But wasn’t it also true? There are plenty of facts suggesting that this is exactly what occurred. The Times provides additional evidence.

Obama tried to suggest at his press conference that he and Wright weren’t all that close. But that of course is poppycock. The Times recollects:

Only a few years ago, the tightness of the bond between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright was difficult to overstate. Mr. Obama titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Mr. Wright’s sermons, and his pastor was the first one he thanked when he gained election as a United States senator in 2004. “Let me thank my pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ,” Mr. Obama said that night, before going on to mention his family and friends.

In this learned and radical pastor, Mr. Obama found a guide who could explain Jesus and faith in terms intellectual no less than emotional, and who helped a man of mixed racial parentage come to understand himself as an African-American. “Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black,” Mr. Obama wrote in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father.”

At the same time, as Mr. Obama’s friends and aides now acknowledge, he was aware that, shorn of their South Side Chicago context, the words and cadences of a politically left-wing black minister could have a very problematic echo. So Mr. Obama haltingly distanced himself from his pastor.

And of course, Obama himself had constructed an autobiography with Wright at the center, the Times, reminds us:

Mr. Obama faced practical political considerations as well. He had made Mr. Wright a central figure in his personal narrative. His embrace of Mr. Wright’s church and its congregants, wealthy and working class and impoverished, formed the climax of his book. It was the moment, in his telling, when Mr. Obama finally pulled every disparate strand of his background together and found his faith.

Bottom line: the liberal media paper of record leaves little doubt that Obama’s claim of ignorance about Wright’s incendiary views is fraudulent. For a candidate running on virtue and as the Agent of Change this is deadly stuff. (Is it any wonder the Times‘ sister paper the Boston Globe finds the whole thing “depressing”?)

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Hamas and the Holocaust

Palestinian Media Watch has translated an official Hamas television broadcast in which a strange explanation of the Holocaust is proposed: that the Jews themselves perpetrated it (Youtube video here).

Much bewilderment and outrage has ensued. But actually this explanation makes perfect sense: Hamas is not only willing but in fact eager to make its people suffer and die in order to win the benefits of international sympathy. The suffering-to-benefits ratio is one of the most important calculations that informs Hamas’ relations with the world: when Palestinians die — it really doesn’t matter how — Israel is condemned and Palestinian suffering rushes to the forefront of international concern.

Amin Dabur, a Palestinian “expert” quoted in the television clip, says that “They were sent [by the Jews to die] so there would be a Holocaust, so Israel could ‘play’ it for world sympathy.” To western ears, this is crazy. But if your experience of the world is that of a member of Hamas, this explanation is eminently sensible.

Palestinian Media Watch has translated an official Hamas television broadcast in which a strange explanation of the Holocaust is proposed: that the Jews themselves perpetrated it (Youtube video here).

Much bewilderment and outrage has ensued. But actually this explanation makes perfect sense: Hamas is not only willing but in fact eager to make its people suffer and die in order to win the benefits of international sympathy. The suffering-to-benefits ratio is one of the most important calculations that informs Hamas’ relations with the world: when Palestinians die — it really doesn’t matter how — Israel is condemned and Palestinian suffering rushes to the forefront of international concern.

Amin Dabur, a Palestinian “expert” quoted in the television clip, says that “They were sent [by the Jews to die] so there would be a Holocaust, so Israel could ‘play’ it for world sympathy.” To western ears, this is crazy. But if your experience of the world is that of a member of Hamas, this explanation is eminently sensible.

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Moveon, Kos – R.I.P.

In the monomaniacal world of moveon.org and the Daily Kos, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have committed an unforgivable sin. By appearing on Fox News the Democrats have proven themselves unserious in the apocalyptically serious fight against Rupert Murdoch’s quest for world domination.

Back when Obama was the unflappable boy wonder of the Left, the Kos crowd was savoring the accumulated days (771) that the I’ll-talk-to-Tehran candidate had abstained from talking to America’s most watched news source.

Why does the far Left so despise Fox, anyway? Here’s “San Francisco’s alternative online daily” with some much needed clarity:

To understand why bloggers are so upset about Fox News’ co-sponsorship [of a since-cancelled Democratic debate] , look at how the station hosted a Democratic presidential debate last time around in 2003. During its live coverage, the Fox News graphic – as well as a banner over the stage – titled the event “Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate,” a right-wing epithet made famous most recently in George Bush’s State of the Union Address.

It doesn’t matter how many times you re-read that; it still makes no sense. Nevertheless, the Nevada debate was cancelled when the state’s Democrats caved-in to the paranoid anti-Fox campaign. Silencing open debate was the far-Left blogosphere’s crowning achievement—and the beginning of a nightmare for Democrats. With moveon.org and the Daily Kos actually being paid the respect of Democratic representatives, Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards had to maneuver gingerly around a daily barrage of whacko agit-prop that now bore the unofficial imprimatur of the Democratic Party.

Last fall, moveon.org ran the ridiculous “General Betray Us” ad, and serious Democrats began to distance themselves. But Obama’s appearance on Fox News this past Sunday was the real beginning of the end. At the very same time that Kos bloggers were melting down about Obama’s interview, the media lit-up with reports that Hillary was going on Bill O’Reilly. The Dems had moved on. The fact that Hillary thrived under O’Reilly’s cross-examination only serves to further the long-overdue marginalization of these histrionic and poisonous organizations. Their stranglehold is no more.

In the monomaniacal world of moveon.org and the Daily Kos, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have committed an unforgivable sin. By appearing on Fox News the Democrats have proven themselves unserious in the apocalyptically serious fight against Rupert Murdoch’s quest for world domination.

Back when Obama was the unflappable boy wonder of the Left, the Kos crowd was savoring the accumulated days (771) that the I’ll-talk-to-Tehran candidate had abstained from talking to America’s most watched news source.

Why does the far Left so despise Fox, anyway? Here’s “San Francisco’s alternative online daily” with some much needed clarity:

To understand why bloggers are so upset about Fox News’ co-sponsorship [of a since-cancelled Democratic debate] , look at how the station hosted a Democratic presidential debate last time around in 2003. During its live coverage, the Fox News graphic – as well as a banner over the stage – titled the event “Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate,” a right-wing epithet made famous most recently in George Bush’s State of the Union Address.

It doesn’t matter how many times you re-read that; it still makes no sense. Nevertheless, the Nevada debate was cancelled when the state’s Democrats caved-in to the paranoid anti-Fox campaign. Silencing open debate was the far-Left blogosphere’s crowning achievement—and the beginning of a nightmare for Democrats. With moveon.org and the Daily Kos actually being paid the respect of Democratic representatives, Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards had to maneuver gingerly around a daily barrage of whacko agit-prop that now bore the unofficial imprimatur of the Democratic Party.

Last fall, moveon.org ran the ridiculous “General Betray Us” ad, and serious Democrats began to distance themselves. But Obama’s appearance on Fox News this past Sunday was the real beginning of the end. At the very same time that Kos bloggers were melting down about Obama’s interview, the media lit-up with reports that Hillary was going on Bill O’Reilly. The Dems had moved on. The fact that Hillary thrived under O’Reilly’s cross-examination only serves to further the long-overdue marginalization of these histrionic and poisonous organizations. Their stranglehold is no more.

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Hey, I Have A Great Political Idea! Let’s Alienate The Nation’s Largest Minority!

Today’s Census news is that Hispanics now comprise 15 percent of the population of the United States, and their population growth is now not a factor of immigration but of births inside the United States — in other words, to U.S. citizens. Jeffrey Humphreys of the University of Georgia tells the Wall Street Journal, “”The base population of Hispanics already here is so large that it is virtually impossible for immigration to play as important a role in population growth as it has historically.”

Seen in this light, the effort to push the Republican party into a radically restrictionist stance is nothing short of deranged, as a practical matter. As a matter of principle, people should not be silent when they believe something dangerous and destructive is going on — but then advocates of restriction should stop trying to argue that the GOP has anything to gain politically from alienating a young and fast-growing population.

Today’s Census news is that Hispanics now comprise 15 percent of the population of the United States, and their population growth is now not a factor of immigration but of births inside the United States — in other words, to U.S. citizens. Jeffrey Humphreys of the University of Georgia tells the Wall Street Journal, “”The base population of Hispanics already here is so large that it is virtually impossible for immigration to play as important a role in population growth as it has historically.”

Seen in this light, the effort to push the Republican party into a radically restrictionist stance is nothing short of deranged, as a practical matter. As a matter of principle, people should not be silent when they believe something dangerous and destructive is going on — but then advocates of restriction should stop trying to argue that the GOP has anything to gain politically from alienating a young and fast-growing population.

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Uh Oh. . .

North Carolina was the big win, in the bag, the solid firewall for Barack Obama. There now is this poll: he leads by only seven points. And even one showing Hillary Clinton up by two.

Meanwhile, the local media are all over the Wright debacle, noting that unlike the Left blogosphere (remarkable isn’t it?) voters in North Carolina care a lot about this issue. If the Wright affair is “apparently eroding his once formidable lead” and he already has done his full rejection speech, what does Obama do now? Should Hillary Clinton finish in low single digits in the primary Tuesday night, the race may look very different on Wednesday.

North Carolina was the big win, in the bag, the solid firewall for Barack Obama. There now is this poll: he leads by only seven points. And even one showing Hillary Clinton up by two.

Meanwhile, the local media are all over the Wright debacle, noting that unlike the Left blogosphere (remarkable isn’t it?) voters in North Carolina care a lot about this issue. If the Wright affair is “apparently eroding his once formidable lead” and he already has done his full rejection speech, what does Obama do now? Should Hillary Clinton finish in low single digits in the primary Tuesday night, the race may look very different on Wednesday.

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Farrakhan’s Friend, Hillary’s Friend

I rarely pay attention to Colbert King, and when I do, I seldom agree with him. But he delivers the goods today.

Here is the video clip that he calls attention to in his Washington Post column:

Governor Rendell endorsed Hillary Clinton back in January.

Barack Obama has now forcefully — if tardily — denounced the hateful Reverend Wright, with whom he had a close association over two decades.

Through Rendell, Hillary now enjoys two degrees of separation from Louis Farrakhan — but even six degrees of separation would be too close. Whatever she now says or does not say about Rendell’s willingness to associate with Farrakhan, and to heap praise on the Nation of Islam, this is a sickening video.

I rarely pay attention to Colbert King, and when I do, I seldom agree with him. But he delivers the goods today.

Here is the video clip that he calls attention to in his Washington Post column:

Governor Rendell endorsed Hillary Clinton back in January.

Barack Obama has now forcefully — if tardily — denounced the hateful Reverend Wright, with whom he had a close association over two decades.

Through Rendell, Hillary now enjoys two degrees of separation from Louis Farrakhan — but even six degrees of separation would be too close. Whatever she now says or does not say about Rendell’s willingness to associate with Farrakhan, and to heap praise on the Nation of Islam, this is a sickening video.

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Obama’s Bad Numbers

New NBC/Wall Street Journal and NY Times/CBS polls have plenty of data to worry Obamaphiles. In the head-to-head national RealClearPolitics.com averages Barack Obama’s lead over Hillary Clinton is shrinking fast. (And many of these polls surveyed voters in significant part before the latest Wright eruption.)

A few tidbits from the NBC/WSJ poll: Obama has dropped 5 points in the “has background/set of values I identify with” and 48% find Obama’s associations with Wright and Bill Ayers a major or moderate concern.

From the NY Times/CBS poll: Obama now is tied with John McCain while Clinton beats him in the head-to-head match ups. And things are heading in the wrong direction on other counts as the Times explains:

Fifty-one percent of Democratic voters say they expect Mr. Obama to win their party’s nomination, down from 69 percent a month ago. Forty-eight percent of Democrats say Mr. Obama is the candidate with the best chance of beating Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, down from 56 percent a month ago.

Obama still leads Clinton in both of these polls. But what will the polls say after the public has digested the latest epsiode in the Wright-Obama debacle?

The real news is now Clinton has more than Harold Ickes’ hunches to discuss with the superdelegates. The Times lets on that “some party leaders and superdelegates said the Wright controversy has given them pause, raising questions about Mr. Obama’s electability in the general election next fall.” Imagine that. Superdelegates are precisely the type of people (elected official, professional poll watchers, scared of their constituents) who are the most likely to “pause” ( which may be Times-speak for “break out in a cold sweat”) when they see a political firestorm and don’t know if all the shoes have dropped.

But perhaps by Tuesday all will be forgotten and Obama will cruise to wins in Indiana and North Carolinaes with an impressive coalition of whites/women/African Americans/union voters/seniors. Why, just like he did last time he won a primary in a populous state — Wisconsin. That was on February 19.

New NBC/Wall Street Journal and NY Times/CBS polls have plenty of data to worry Obamaphiles. In the head-to-head national RealClearPolitics.com averages Barack Obama’s lead over Hillary Clinton is shrinking fast. (And many of these polls surveyed voters in significant part before the latest Wright eruption.)

A few tidbits from the NBC/WSJ poll: Obama has dropped 5 points in the “has background/set of values I identify with” and 48% find Obama’s associations with Wright and Bill Ayers a major or moderate concern.

From the NY Times/CBS poll: Obama now is tied with John McCain while Clinton beats him in the head-to-head match ups. And things are heading in the wrong direction on other counts as the Times explains:

Fifty-one percent of Democratic voters say they expect Mr. Obama to win their party’s nomination, down from 69 percent a month ago. Forty-eight percent of Democrats say Mr. Obama is the candidate with the best chance of beating Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, down from 56 percent a month ago.

Obama still leads Clinton in both of these polls. But what will the polls say after the public has digested the latest epsiode in the Wright-Obama debacle?

The real news is now Clinton has more than Harold Ickes’ hunches to discuss with the superdelegates. The Times lets on that “some party leaders and superdelegates said the Wright controversy has given them pause, raising questions about Mr. Obama’s electability in the general election next fall.” Imagine that. Superdelegates are precisely the type of people (elected official, professional poll watchers, scared of their constituents) who are the most likely to “pause” ( which may be Times-speak for “break out in a cold sweat”) when they see a political firestorm and don’t know if all the shoes have dropped.

But perhaps by Tuesday all will be forgotten and Obama will cruise to wins in Indiana and North Carolinaes with an impressive coalition of whites/women/African Americans/union voters/seniors. Why, just like he did last time he won a primary in a populous state — Wisconsin. That was on February 19.

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But, But Didn’t They Tell Us. . .?

On March 21 Politico.com reported: “Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.” Actually, they gave her no better than a 10 percent shot.

On Wednesday the Politico reporters told us: “She’s relaxed and she’s in her groove.” While conceding that she has a uphill climb to win in the delegate count, they informed us:

Recent days have shown that the ground has shifted in important ways for her. . . . if the mathematics of the race has not changed, aides believe the psychology has. Before, the Clintons knew they were fighting a story line that said she could never win unless superdelegates take the nomination away from a popular African-American who came in first. Now they hope that they have subtly shifted to a new story line: Superdelegates must think twice before bestowing the nomination on an increasingly controversial politician who has missed repeated opportunities to wrap up the contest with a decisive, big-state victory.

Suffice it to say that the storyline Clinton was fighting was written by reporters from Politico and other outlets who convinced themselves that Barack Obama could not lose. Was that based on wishful thinking? On an utter lack of appreciation for the paucity of real vetting that had taken place?

This is all reminiscent of the John McCain story: he was deader than dead. Until he wasn’t. The media, contrary to popular belief, don’t always like a horserace, and they have the ability to delude themselves into believing that unresolved races are really resolved. Once they have fixated on a narrative, it takes dynamite to blast them off it.

Perhaps “it can never,” “she’s never going to” and “there’s no way he can” phrases should be reserved for times when races really are decided and the math is literally, not figuratively, conclusive. For the media that may be boring, but safer. And a lot less embarrassing.

On March 21 Politico.com reported: “Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.” Actually, they gave her no better than a 10 percent shot.

On Wednesday the Politico reporters told us: “She’s relaxed and she’s in her groove.” While conceding that she has a uphill climb to win in the delegate count, they informed us:

Recent days have shown that the ground has shifted in important ways for her. . . . if the mathematics of the race has not changed, aides believe the psychology has. Before, the Clintons knew they were fighting a story line that said she could never win unless superdelegates take the nomination away from a popular African-American who came in first. Now they hope that they have subtly shifted to a new story line: Superdelegates must think twice before bestowing the nomination on an increasingly controversial politician who has missed repeated opportunities to wrap up the contest with a decisive, big-state victory.

Suffice it to say that the storyline Clinton was fighting was written by reporters from Politico and other outlets who convinced themselves that Barack Obama could not lose. Was that based on wishful thinking? On an utter lack of appreciation for the paucity of real vetting that had taken place?

This is all reminiscent of the John McCain story: he was deader than dead. Until he wasn’t. The media, contrary to popular belief, don’t always like a horserace, and they have the ability to delude themselves into believing that unresolved races are really resolved. Once they have fixated on a narrative, it takes dynamite to blast them off it.

Perhaps “it can never,” “she’s never going to” and “there’s no way he can” phrases should be reserved for times when races really are decided and the math is literally, not figuratively, conclusive. For the media that may be boring, but safer. And a lot less embarrassing.

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Hillary On The Factor

Hillary Clinton went on Bill O’Reilly’s Factor. The first half of the interview can be seen here and here. If you grade on substance, she’s fairly awful. She going to sue OPEC through the World Trade Organization and tax oil companies to bring down gas prices. (Honest. No, it’s not clear what happens if OPEC doesn’t answer the first set of written discovery requests.) She’s raising income taxes and she’s not willing to come clean on how much her health care plan will cost.

But on style it’s hard not to gape at her tour de force – pugnacious, funny (she says with a twinkle in her eye that she’d expect nothing but “fair and balanced” coverage from Fox), quick on her feet and, within the confines of her shtick, somewhat candid. She’s a phony, but sort of a real phony.

For Democrats and independents who buy into the populist economics and think someone really is going to have to go fight the mean Republicans and the big bad insurance and oil companies, it’s hard to imagine a feistier combatant.

Republicans have long worried that Barack Obama would be a soothing, deceptively alluring figure in a general election. I think what we saw on O’Reilly was that if she makes it that far, Clinton will be a different, but perhaps equally challenging, figure. Somewhere along the way she learned to articulate a nostalgic, even patriotic vision (“Let’s go back to the 50′s and 60′s,” she says) in which, she says, the middle class isn’t under seige. You can argue with her facts, but the message is clear, the audience specific, and the patter fairly effective. One wonders how skilled John McCain will be in arguing with her about health care and the relative merits of the Clinton and Bush economies. Part 2 of the interview will air tonight.

Hillary Clinton went on Bill O’Reilly’s Factor. The first half of the interview can be seen here and here. If you grade on substance, she’s fairly awful. She going to sue OPEC through the World Trade Organization and tax oil companies to bring down gas prices. (Honest. No, it’s not clear what happens if OPEC doesn’t answer the first set of written discovery requests.) She’s raising income taxes and she’s not willing to come clean on how much her health care plan will cost.

But on style it’s hard not to gape at her tour de force – pugnacious, funny (she says with a twinkle in her eye that she’d expect nothing but “fair and balanced” coverage from Fox), quick on her feet and, within the confines of her shtick, somewhat candid. She’s a phony, but sort of a real phony.

For Democrats and independents who buy into the populist economics and think someone really is going to have to go fight the mean Republicans and the big bad insurance and oil companies, it’s hard to imagine a feistier combatant.

Republicans have long worried that Barack Obama would be a soothing, deceptively alluring figure in a general election. I think what we saw on O’Reilly was that if she makes it that far, Clinton will be a different, but perhaps equally challenging, figure. Somewhere along the way she learned to articulate a nostalgic, even patriotic vision (“Let’s go back to the 50′s and 60′s,” she says) in which, she says, the middle class isn’t under seige. You can argue with her facts, but the message is clear, the audience specific, and the patter fairly effective. One wonders how skilled John McCain will be in arguing with her about health care and the relative merits of the Clinton and Bush economies. Part 2 of the interview will air tonight.

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