In the face of considerable evidence that Barack Obama is a strangely passive, remote, and rather wimpy candidate, some have taken to fantasizing about what he “wishes he could say.” Wouldn’t it be great if he went after all of the Clintons’ sleazy associations like Marc Rich and Norman Hsu? Wouldn’t it be fun if he mentioned up her failed healthcare plan? Oh, and it would be great to see him say she is killing the Democrats’ chances by staying in the race, wouldn’t it?
Well, there are a couple of problems with all this. First, Obama does not express anger or fiery indignation over much of anything. His “cool” routine has gotten him through some testy debates, but it also leaves people wondering how deeply he cares about matters large and small. His rather odd interview with Meredith Viera yesterday suggested that he was vaguely irritated with the whole campaign and maybe resigned to the fact that his “improbable” campaign might in the end falter. So there’s about as much chance of him going after Clinton in personal terms (and sounding like he really means it) as there is of Michelle declaring she’s been a fool not to realize her good fortune to live in the freest country in the world. Not going to happen.
More importantly, the entire narrative of Obama’s camapign is that he is above all that. He’s not going to get “distracted” by petty politics. He’s the leader of the new politics, where elections are decided on sweeping appeals to our better selves, and who you are, what you’ve done, and who you associate with are all “irrelevant.” (This fits nicely, doesn’t it, with someone who lacks an impressive résumé and has a bizarre collection of radical associations?)
So hoping that Obama becomes a tougher, more aggressive, and perhaps more effective candidate is a good way to pass the time. But can he do it? No, he can’t.