Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 7, 2008

Time to Go

The evidence is overwhelming that Barack Obama will be the nominee. We are entering the stage where clearly devoted supporters are quietly urging Hillary Clinton to think about leaving the race. Yes, there are good reasons to remain and some good advice to help her carry on–if she could look forward to some great opportunity to upset Obama’s momentum. But that, I think, has already passed, or never happened. So on she plods, but the race is over. Come May 20 when Oregon votes (or May 31 when the DNC settles the delegate dispute over Michigan and Florida, or June 3 when the primaries end) it will officially be over.

Along the way she earned the respect of unlikely critics–from the Clinton-hating Maureen Dowd to various Republicans. She earned it through her sheer force of will, her determination to transform herself into a working-class champion and to bludgeon anyone in her way. (Not exactly the “new politics” everyone says they like.)

And that may be part of her odd legacy: to disprove the theory that you can rise above politics, float on clouds of rhetoric, and appeal to everyone’s better selves. What she showed is you have to go out and beat your opponent. Obama, in order to win, had to get off his pedestal, delve into policy, knock her around on trustworthiness concerns, and remind voters that for all his faults, she had more.

So it’s little wonder John McCain can’t conceal his admiration for Hillary. (Who else is as tenacious? Who else fights on despite the catcalls from the party’s base?) But he’d be wise to learn some of the lessons she absorbed too late: out-organize the opposition, get a change message, and establish rapport with those Reagan Democrats. (And, of course, never take Bill Clinton out in public. But McCain, lucky for him, won’t have that problem.)

The evidence is overwhelming that Barack Obama will be the nominee. We are entering the stage where clearly devoted supporters are quietly urging Hillary Clinton to think about leaving the race. Yes, there are good reasons to remain and some good advice to help her carry on–if she could look forward to some great opportunity to upset Obama’s momentum. But that, I think, has already passed, or never happened. So on she plods, but the race is over. Come May 20 when Oregon votes (or May 31 when the DNC settles the delegate dispute over Michigan and Florida, or June 3 when the primaries end) it will officially be over.

Along the way she earned the respect of unlikely critics–from the Clinton-hating Maureen Dowd to various Republicans. She earned it through her sheer force of will, her determination to transform herself into a working-class champion and to bludgeon anyone in her way. (Not exactly the “new politics” everyone says they like.)

And that may be part of her odd legacy: to disprove the theory that you can rise above politics, float on clouds of rhetoric, and appeal to everyone’s better selves. What she showed is you have to go out and beat your opponent. Obama, in order to win, had to get off his pedestal, delve into policy, knock her around on trustworthiness concerns, and remind voters that for all his faults, she had more.

So it’s little wonder John McCain can’t conceal his admiration for Hillary. (Who else is as tenacious? Who else fights on despite the catcalls from the party’s base?) But he’d be wise to learn some of the lessons she absorbed too late: out-organize the opposition, get a change message, and establish rapport with those Reagan Democrats. (And, of course, never take Bill Clinton out in public. But McCain, lucky for him, won’t have that problem.)

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Cambridge University of Saud

England’s Cambridge University and Edinburgh University have accepted a £16 million endowment from Saudi Prince Al-Walid to create Islamic study centers that “aim to carry out research and public engagements designed to increase understanding between the Muslim world and the West.”

What exactly does “understanding” mean? A month after 9/11, when the same Prince Al-Walid tried to purchase New York City’s “understanding” for $10 million, he said it meant the attacks were to cause the United States to “re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause.” Then Mayor Rudy Giuliani made himself understood by rejecting the “re-examination,” the “balance,”and the check.

No such luck in England. And now two of the West’s finest universities have been bankrolled in the “understanding” racket.

But perhaps we shouldn’t worry, after all. In Al-Walid’s 2001 check memo to the U.S., he called for Israel to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank. It’s been almost three years since Israel has withdrawn from Gaza and two years since Kadima–the Israeli political party founded on the very basis of giving land to Palestinians–became the largest party in the Knesset. With that out of the way, maybe Al-Walid just wants the West to “understand” why teenage Muslim girls go missing from Bradford, England, or what it is that offends British Muslim pupils about their teachers assertion that the Holocaust happened, or why British Muslim clerics say “We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.” You know, Islam/West “understanding” stuff.

England’s Cambridge University and Edinburgh University have accepted a £16 million endowment from Saudi Prince Al-Walid to create Islamic study centers that “aim to carry out research and public engagements designed to increase understanding between the Muslim world and the West.”

What exactly does “understanding” mean? A month after 9/11, when the same Prince Al-Walid tried to purchase New York City’s “understanding” for $10 million, he said it meant the attacks were to cause the United States to “re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause.” Then Mayor Rudy Giuliani made himself understood by rejecting the “re-examination,” the “balance,”and the check.

No such luck in England. And now two of the West’s finest universities have been bankrolled in the “understanding” racket.

But perhaps we shouldn’t worry, after all. In Al-Walid’s 2001 check memo to the U.S., he called for Israel to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank. It’s been almost three years since Israel has withdrawn from Gaza and two years since Kadima–the Israeli political party founded on the very basis of giving land to Palestinians–became the largest party in the Knesset. With that out of the way, maybe Al-Walid just wants the West to “understand” why teenage Muslim girls go missing from Bradford, England, or what it is that offends British Muslim pupils about their teachers assertion that the Holocaust happened, or why British Muslim clerics say “We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.” You know, Islam/West “understanding” stuff.

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Salt-of-the-Earth Democrats

Among the most peculiar aspects of the very peculiar Democratic nomination contest now drawing to a close has been Hillary Clinton’s transformation into a beer-drinking, blue-collar everyman. It has been thoroughly and transparently dishonest, of course. But it worked reasonably well, and over the last few weeks in particular she ably played the cultural conservative in that race. It somehow seemed perfectly reasonable for a union organizer introducing Clinton at a rally last week to say that she was all that stood between the American people and “the Gucci-wearing, latte-drinking, self-centered, egotistical people that have damaged our lifestyle.” Until a few months ago, she was one of the icons of that very crowd. But thanks to Obama’s elitism, Hillary saw the “salt-of-the-earth Democrat” niche was open, and she went for it.

Clinton’s transformation into a teamster almost saved her–but not quite. In the end, the Democrats look to be nominating another elitist liberal who looks down on most of his voters, and so setting in motion a campaign certain to be shaped, once again, by clashing cultural self-images: the straight-talking patriot and the champagne-sipping intellectual; the worldly young progressive and the simple-minded Neanderthal.

This dynamic doesn’t pre-determine the winner, to be sure, and (as John Podhoretz persuasively argues below) Republicans should not lull themselves into imagining otherwise. But it is a pattern that has done grave damage to the Democrats for decades.

If they’re paying attention, the smart strategists among the Democrats will have learned something crucial in these past few months. A real (as opposed to a patently fake) blue-collar, everyman, salt of the earth Democrat–one who takes the rebukes of the MoveOn Left as a compliment and is even a tiny bit culturally conservative–could have a very real chance of winning the party’s nomination, would do especially well in states that are most crucial in the general election, and, most importantly, could be a knock-out winner in the fall. Is there any doubt that a genuinely anti-elitist, culturally moderate Democrat would crush  every Republican candidate we can conceive of today?

Of course, such salt-of-the-earth Democratic politicians are increasingly hard to come by, as cultural liberalism is the core of the party’s self-identity today. But maybe Clinton’s failed effort will get some conservative Democrats thinking. It would be good for the Democrats, and good for the country, if their leaders came to see that their cultural elitism, bordering on cultural separatism, is not only obnoxious but counterproductive. Maybe next time.

Among the most peculiar aspects of the very peculiar Democratic nomination contest now drawing to a close has been Hillary Clinton’s transformation into a beer-drinking, blue-collar everyman. It has been thoroughly and transparently dishonest, of course. But it worked reasonably well, and over the last few weeks in particular she ably played the cultural conservative in that race. It somehow seemed perfectly reasonable for a union organizer introducing Clinton at a rally last week to say that she was all that stood between the American people and “the Gucci-wearing, latte-drinking, self-centered, egotistical people that have damaged our lifestyle.” Until a few months ago, she was one of the icons of that very crowd. But thanks to Obama’s elitism, Hillary saw the “salt-of-the-earth Democrat” niche was open, and she went for it.

Clinton’s transformation into a teamster almost saved her–but not quite. In the end, the Democrats look to be nominating another elitist liberal who looks down on most of his voters, and so setting in motion a campaign certain to be shaped, once again, by clashing cultural self-images: the straight-talking patriot and the champagne-sipping intellectual; the worldly young progressive and the simple-minded Neanderthal.

This dynamic doesn’t pre-determine the winner, to be sure, and (as John Podhoretz persuasively argues below) Republicans should not lull themselves into imagining otherwise. But it is a pattern that has done grave damage to the Democrats for decades.

If they’re paying attention, the smart strategists among the Democrats will have learned something crucial in these past few months. A real (as opposed to a patently fake) blue-collar, everyman, salt of the earth Democrat–one who takes the rebukes of the MoveOn Left as a compliment and is even a tiny bit culturally conservative–could have a very real chance of winning the party’s nomination, would do especially well in states that are most crucial in the general election, and, most importantly, could be a knock-out winner in the fall. Is there any doubt that a genuinely anti-elitist, culturally moderate Democrat would crush  every Republican candidate we can conceive of today?

Of course, such salt-of-the-earth Democratic politicians are increasingly hard to come by, as cultural liberalism is the core of the party’s self-identity today. But maybe Clinton’s failed effort will get some conservative Democrats thinking. It would be good for the Democrats, and good for the country, if their leaders came to see that their cultural elitism, bordering on cultural separatism, is not only obnoxious but counterproductive. Maybe next time.

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Teacher And Apprentice Revisited

In the December 2007 issue of the Atlantic, Mark Ambinder wrote a piece on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s relationship in the Senate. It was a dramatic read then, and in light of last night, it’s positively Shakespearean.

When Obama assumed his U.S. Senate seat in January 2005, he reached out to Hillary, looking for mentorship.

Clinton’s staff was collegial. Obama’s overture was viewed by some as genuflection to the party’s natural leader, its likely presidential nominee; Obama himself was thought of as a possible apprentice and, perhaps one day, an heir. Clinton’s own decision to run for president had a whiff of destiny about it-she’d been preparing for years, had served four years as a senator, and had developed a nuanced political strategy. Some of her top advisers exuded a sense of entitlement: Clinton deserved to be president; it was her turn. They did not perceive any threat until it was almost too late.

An agreeable understanding was supposedly in place between the Hillary and Obama camps. Hillary would show Obama how to deal with the press, for whom to do favors, etc, and in return Obama would observe the sense of “destiny” in a 2008 Hillary campaign for President.

But something changed-and fairly rapidly. Obama diverged from the Clinton path and decided to challenge the former first lady for the presidency.

Or did nothing change on Obama’s end? Judging from Hilllary’s subsequent campaign, it’s plausible that she read the situation drastically wrong from the beginning. Perhaps the understanding was one-sided from the start.

The Ambinder piece also gets credit for this telling glimpse of Michelle Obama, then barely thought of as more than a smart, stylish lady:

On November 8, the day after Democrats took control of Congress, Obama, his wife, and his brain trust crowded into a fourth-floor conference room in the brick building in Chicago’s Loop that houses Axelrod’s consulting firm. “I want you to show me how you’re going to do this,” Michelle Obama said, according to an aide. “You need to show me that this is not going to be a bulls**t fly-by-night campaign.”

He showed her. And her.

In the December 2007 issue of the Atlantic, Mark Ambinder wrote a piece on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s relationship in the Senate. It was a dramatic read then, and in light of last night, it’s positively Shakespearean.

When Obama assumed his U.S. Senate seat in January 2005, he reached out to Hillary, looking for mentorship.

Clinton’s staff was collegial. Obama’s overture was viewed by some as genuflection to the party’s natural leader, its likely presidential nominee; Obama himself was thought of as a possible apprentice and, perhaps one day, an heir. Clinton’s own decision to run for president had a whiff of destiny about it-she’d been preparing for years, had served four years as a senator, and had developed a nuanced political strategy. Some of her top advisers exuded a sense of entitlement: Clinton deserved to be president; it was her turn. They did not perceive any threat until it was almost too late.

An agreeable understanding was supposedly in place between the Hillary and Obama camps. Hillary would show Obama how to deal with the press, for whom to do favors, etc, and in return Obama would observe the sense of “destiny” in a 2008 Hillary campaign for President.

But something changed-and fairly rapidly. Obama diverged from the Clinton path and decided to challenge the former first lady for the presidency.

Or did nothing change on Obama’s end? Judging from Hilllary’s subsequent campaign, it’s plausible that she read the situation drastically wrong from the beginning. Perhaps the understanding was one-sided from the start.

The Ambinder piece also gets credit for this telling glimpse of Michelle Obama, then barely thought of as more than a smart, stylish lady:

On November 8, the day after Democrats took control of Congress, Obama, his wife, and his brain trust crowded into a fourth-floor conference room in the brick building in Chicago’s Loop that houses Axelrod’s consulting firm. “I want you to show me how you’re going to do this,” Michelle Obama said, according to an aide. “You need to show me that this is not going to be a bulls**t fly-by-night campaign.”

He showed her. And her.

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Shuler Misses

Congressman Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a former NFL quarterback, has just backed Hillary Clinton.  This means that Shuler is about as good at picking his endorsements as he was at finding his receivers.

Congressman Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a former NFL quarterback, has just backed Hillary Clinton.  This means that Shuler is about as good at picking his endorsements as he was at finding his receivers.

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Beirut on the Brink

Lebanon is in turmoil again today, but this time the turmoil is clearer than it has been in the past. As things stand right now, members of Hezbollah are thugging their way through the streets of Beirut, setting fires, fighting, and dumping piles of dirt and trash in the roads in order to shut down the city. Most importantly, Hezbollah has closed the highway that connects Beirut to Lebanon’s major airport.

All of this is in response to a few brave and necessary actions recently taken by the Lebanese government. The cabinet voted to dismiss the Beirut airport security chief, a Hezbollah loyalist who allowed the group to set up a video surveillance system to monitor the airport. The government also ordered a judiciary probe of the independent telecommunications network that Hezbollah has been building, with Iranian assistance, in recent months.

So Hezbollah has responded by doing what it does best: sowing chaos and violence, escalating its confrontation with the Siniora government, and hoping that when the dust settles Siniora is weakened (or even removed from power) and Hezbollah is on stronger ground.

The flashpoint to watch is the airport road. Lebanon, like Israel, has only one major airport (although there is talk of quickly turning a smaller airport in the north into a functioning international hub), and its closure is debilitating and unacceptable. The Lebanese government faces the grave and immediate question of whether to capitulate to Hezbollah or to send troops to open the road, which Hezbollah has been covering with truckloads of landfill. Siniora says that his government will not back down; Hezbollah says that it now considers the Lebanese army as having “joined the enemy,” and might build a tent city on the airport road, just as it has done in downtown Beirut.

Hezbollah, though, is isolated in Lebanon as never before. In its latest tantrum, it operates without the sectarian cover of its erstwhile Christian ally, Michel Aoun; the fight is now more clearly than ever one of Hezbollah vs. Lebanon, rather than one of some Lebanese groups vs. some other Lebanese groups. This is bad for Hezbollah, because it puts them in a corner in terms of political tactics — there will be no alliance-shuffling and dealmaking in the offing, always the hallmarks of Lebanese crisis-management — and because it puts Nasrallah in a win/lose corner: either he forces the government to capitulate, or he is seen as having been defeated.

And Hezbollah’s military options against the Lebanese government aren’t clear, given that Hezbollah has organized itself to fight a rocket and guerrilla war against Israel, not street battles in Beirut. If Hezbollah forces an armed conflict, its fealty to Iran and fundamental hostility to Lebanon will be laid bare as never before. Stay tuned.

Lebanon is in turmoil again today, but this time the turmoil is clearer than it has been in the past. As things stand right now, members of Hezbollah are thugging their way through the streets of Beirut, setting fires, fighting, and dumping piles of dirt and trash in the roads in order to shut down the city. Most importantly, Hezbollah has closed the highway that connects Beirut to Lebanon’s major airport.

All of this is in response to a few brave and necessary actions recently taken by the Lebanese government. The cabinet voted to dismiss the Beirut airport security chief, a Hezbollah loyalist who allowed the group to set up a video surveillance system to monitor the airport. The government also ordered a judiciary probe of the independent telecommunications network that Hezbollah has been building, with Iranian assistance, in recent months.

So Hezbollah has responded by doing what it does best: sowing chaos and violence, escalating its confrontation with the Siniora government, and hoping that when the dust settles Siniora is weakened (or even removed from power) and Hezbollah is on stronger ground.

The flashpoint to watch is the airport road. Lebanon, like Israel, has only one major airport (although there is talk of quickly turning a smaller airport in the north into a functioning international hub), and its closure is debilitating and unacceptable. The Lebanese government faces the grave and immediate question of whether to capitulate to Hezbollah or to send troops to open the road, which Hezbollah has been covering with truckloads of landfill. Siniora says that his government will not back down; Hezbollah says that it now considers the Lebanese army as having “joined the enemy,” and might build a tent city on the airport road, just as it has done in downtown Beirut.

Hezbollah, though, is isolated in Lebanon as never before. In its latest tantrum, it operates without the sectarian cover of its erstwhile Christian ally, Michel Aoun; the fight is now more clearly than ever one of Hezbollah vs. Lebanon, rather than one of some Lebanese groups vs. some other Lebanese groups. This is bad for Hezbollah, because it puts them in a corner in terms of political tactics — there will be no alliance-shuffling and dealmaking in the offing, always the hallmarks of Lebanese crisis-management — and because it puts Nasrallah in a win/lose corner: either he forces the government to capitulate, or he is seen as having been defeated.

And Hezbollah’s military options against the Lebanese government aren’t clear, given that Hezbollah has organized itself to fight a rocket and guerrilla war against Israel, not street battles in Beirut. If Hezbollah forces an armed conflict, its fealty to Iran and fundamental hostility to Lebanon will be laid bare as never before. Stay tuned.

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Some Thoughts on Last Night

1. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for President. That was clear before yesterday; absent a complete and unforeseen disaster, it’s a certainty now. Democratic superdelegates will soon begin to break in large numbers for Obama. They have been wanting to do so for some time now; what they needed was a plausible trigger to justify publicly supporting Obama. Last night they got it. Yesterday in the voting booths of North Carolina, the last dog died.

The Clintons have done a lot of damage to our politics over the years, something which Obama tapped into with great skill. They have destroyed a lot of folks who they viewed as obstacles to their power, and so it’s good, very good, that they will not be returning to the White House.

2. Whether Hillary Clinton withdraws or not is a far less important question than it was 48 hours ago. She may formally continue in the race, but as last night’s speeches made clear, the rhetorical swords will be sheathed. And there will be a lot of energy spent in the next several days negotiating a graceful exit for Hillary and Bill Clinton. That may not be easy. Many adjectives apply to the Clintons. Graceful is not one of them.

3. Democrats will begin to rally around Obama and, once Hillarydrops out of the race, he will take a large, perhaps even a commanding, lead over John McCain. In the last month there has been some talk among Republicans that Obama will be an exceptionally weak candidate, on the order of a Dukakis (loser of 40 states), Mondale (loser of 49 states), and McGovern (loser of 49 states). That won’t be the case. Obama is far
more talented and appealing than Dukakis, Mondale, or McGovern ever were.

He also has in place one of the finest political operation the Democrats have ever put together. And beyond that, this year — unlike 1972, 1984, and 1988 — virtually every metric favors Democrats, whether we’re talking about fundraising, party identification, the public’s views on an array of issues, and the energy and excitement among base voters. In addition, it’s hard for an incumbent party to win a third term, particularly in an environment in which voters are longing for change, where the President’s popularity is extremely low, and where 80 percent of the country believes the nation is on the wrong track.

A disturbing sign was that last weekend the GOP lost its second House seat in a special election in two months – this time in Louisiana, in a seat that had been Republican for 34 years and one which Bush carried by 20 points in 2004. It’s true that most congressional races are local rather than national in nature and Woody Jenkins was a particularly weak candidate. Nevertheless, the results in Louisiana could be an ominous sign, especially for down-ballot Republicans.

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1. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for President. That was clear before yesterday; absent a complete and unforeseen disaster, it’s a certainty now. Democratic superdelegates will soon begin to break in large numbers for Obama. They have been wanting to do so for some time now; what they needed was a plausible trigger to justify publicly supporting Obama. Last night they got it. Yesterday in the voting booths of North Carolina, the last dog died.

The Clintons have done a lot of damage to our politics over the years, something which Obama tapped into with great skill. They have destroyed a lot of folks who they viewed as obstacles to their power, and so it’s good, very good, that they will not be returning to the White House.

2. Whether Hillary Clinton withdraws or not is a far less important question than it was 48 hours ago. She may formally continue in the race, but as last night’s speeches made clear, the rhetorical swords will be sheathed. And there will be a lot of energy spent in the next several days negotiating a graceful exit for Hillary and Bill Clinton. That may not be easy. Many adjectives apply to the Clintons. Graceful is not one of them.

3. Democrats will begin to rally around Obama and, once Hillarydrops out of the race, he will take a large, perhaps even a commanding, lead over John McCain. In the last month there has been some talk among Republicans that Obama will be an exceptionally weak candidate, on the order of a Dukakis (loser of 40 states), Mondale (loser of 49 states), and McGovern (loser of 49 states). That won’t be the case. Obama is far
more talented and appealing than Dukakis, Mondale, or McGovern ever were.

He also has in place one of the finest political operation the Democrats have ever put together. And beyond that, this year — unlike 1972, 1984, and 1988 — virtually every metric favors Democrats, whether we’re talking about fundraising, party identification, the public’s views on an array of issues, and the energy and excitement among base voters. In addition, it’s hard for an incumbent party to win a third term, particularly in an environment in which voters are longing for change, where the President’s popularity is extremely low, and where 80 percent of the country believes the nation is on the wrong track.

A disturbing sign was that last weekend the GOP lost its second House seat in a special election in two months – this time in Louisiana, in a seat that had been Republican for 34 years and one which Bush carried by 20 points in 2004. It’s true that most congressional races are local rather than national in nature and Woody Jenkins was a particularly weak candidate. Nevertheless, the results in Louisiana could be an ominous sign, especially for down-ballot Republicans.

4. What Senator McCain has working in his favor is that he has the greatest potential of any Republican on the national stage to reach beyond his base. That’s especially important in a year when voters are down on the GOP. The challenge for McCain remains his capacity to energize the Republican base while appealing beyond it. That is always the task of a nominee; this year, given McCain’s history with conservatives, it will be harder than most.

Also working in McCain’s favor is that Obama is a completely orthodox liberal in a nation that remains, for the most part, center-right. And Obama’s associations with Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and Tony Rezko have raised questions about his judgment and character. It remains to be seen if, in a general election, these concerns metastasize. One more troubling revelation about Obama’s associations, it could be quite
damaging to him. Hairline fractures can easily turn into complete breaks. And of course if Jeremiah Wright decides to re-emerge and hold forth on the virtues of “black liberation theology” and the vices of America, it could have a shattering effect on the Obama campaign.

5. The other thing McCain has working in his favor is that Obama has shown a limited appeal among rural and blue-collar voters, seniors, Catholics, and Latinos. Hillary Clinton has also done much better than Obama among conservative white Democrats. These demographic groups, and hence states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, are ones McCain has a chance to win. And a state like Florida is one where Hillary Clinton would have been a far more formidable opponent than Obama.

Obama’s strength has been with African Americans; in North Carolina, for example, he won more than 90 percent of the black vote amidst record turnout. He also runs extremely strong among young voters (18-29 years old), highly educated voters, in urban areas, and among elites — voters with high incomes and graduate degrees. Obama also has a realistic chance to carry Rocky Mountain States like Colorado and Nevada.

David Brooks has said that “demography is king” in this election. That has proven mostly true, and when it comes to the general election Obama has shown some worrisome (for Democrats) signs. That doesn’t mean he can’t surmount them, especially in a year that ought to favor Democrats. But it does mean that he is not without vulnerabilities.

6. Obama’s speech last night was a revealing roadmap to what he perceives as his own weaknesses. He ridiculed the notion of using “labels” to describe himself; it is, he has insisted in the past, part of the “old politics” that Obama alone can transcend. But let’s be specific: the label Obama has in mind is “liberal,” and in this instance it fits quite nicely. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Obama is an utterly conventional liberal – arguably the most liberal person running for president since McGovern. Obama has shown no willingness to challenge liberal orthodoxy. What he does not understand, or what he will not admit, is that a person’s political ideology reveals important things not only about his stance on individual issues, but also about his worldview, his assumptions and the beliefs that animate his political activism. In the past, the “liberal” label has been politically lethal for those running for President. Obama understands this – and since he can’t alter his record, he is going to do everything he can to smash the categories.

The man who last October proudly declared that he decided he wouldn’t wear an American flag pin shortly after 9/11 because it “became a substitute for I think true patriotism” last night spoke movingly about the “flag draped over my grandfather’s coffin” and what that flag stands for.

The man whose pastor, close friend and confidant referred to the United States as the “U.S. of K.K.K.” and whose wife declared our country to be “downright mean” and who has for the first time in her adult life found reason to be proud of America spoke glowingly about “the America I know.” Obama added this: “That’s why I’m in this race. I love this country too much to see it divided and distracted at this moment in history. I believe in our ability to perfect this union because it’s the only reason I’m standing here today. And I know the promise of America because I have lived it.”

The man who in San Francisco talked about the bitterness of small-town Americans who “cling” to their religion and guns and xenophobia, told us about the “simple truth I learned all those years ago when I worked in the shadows of a shuttered steel mill on the South Side of Chicago.”

The man who believes the Iraq war is irredeemably lost and wants to withdraw all major combat troops within 16 months — which would lead to a devastating American defeat, mass death and possibly genocide, a resurgent al Qaeda and a strengthened Iran – said, “I trust the American people to recognize that it’s not surrender to end the war in Iraq so that we can rebuild our military and go after al Qaeda’s leaders.”

The man who in the first year of his presidency wants to meet individually and without preconditions with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea declared last night, “I trust the American people to understand that it’s not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but our enemies – like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.” (The notion that Obama is in the same foreign policy tradition as FDR, JFK, and Truman is not a serious one; he is far closer to McGovern’s appeal to “Come Home, America.”)

Obama’s speech, then, was an effort to pivot to the general election and reposition himself as a post-partisan, post-ideological, mainstream, and unifying figure. That effort was fairly effective for a while. But the Obama magic is fading fast. As he showed last night, he remains an appealing figure. He is still able to make high-minded (if largely empty) appeals. Yet many of us, having watched him closely over the last few months, hear him differently than we once did. The words are largely the same; it’s the man delivering them who somehow seems different.

Barack Obama is still the favorite to be the next President. But he’s a good deal weaker than he was, and a long and withering campaign lies ahead.

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Hitting the Streets in Jenin (and Nablus)

When the vast quantities of baroque rhetoric that accumulate around the peace process are distilled, a basic formula for progress remains: Israel must cease building settlements, and the Palestinian Authority must field a non-corrupt, non-terrorist, non-incompetent police force in the Palestinian territories. If the day arrives when the PA security forces become crack anti-terror squads, the Israeli security presence in the West Bank, the argument goes, will be rendered unnecessary, and the creation of a Palestinian state will quickly follow. The PA will have fulfilled Max Weber’s basic definition of a state: it will have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

It is regrettable that this linchpin of Palestinian statehood–the competence of the security forces–is the subject of only desultory attention. But if you look closely you can discern a little bit of what’s happening in the realm of PA security on the West Bank. Nablus has been since late 2007 a test case for the PA security effort, and what appears to be happening there is similar to the longstanding relationship between UNIFIL and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon — a tacit agreement between terrorists and western-backed security forces not to create problems for each other. From an LA Times story on two brothers from Nablus, we learn that

There is another explanation for the calm [in Nablus], according to Palestinians informed about security matters: a quiet understanding that police will not pursue militant groups that pose a threat to Israel as long as they lie low and do not challenge the Palestinian Authority.

And when such “militant groups” decide to put on a show of arms, the PA seems helpless to stop them. After a group of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades gunmen battled the PA police two weeks ago, they “held a parade in Nablus in which they carried weapons, promised not to give in to the PA and vowed to continue to fight the Israeli occupation.”

The PA’s security efforts were extended this week to the Jenin area, provoking more clashes. In Qabatya, a village outside of Jenin, a firefight between the PA police and militants left a bystander dead. Thus, the PA “had planned to remain in Qabatya for a few days in a show of force but withdrew to the entrance of the town fearing tension after the killing.”

And so it goes. All of this is not to ridicule the PA effort, which actually I think deserves some limited praise. What’s going on today in the West Bank is unprecedented, inasmuch as it is something that Yasser Arafat certainly never attempted to do — his creation and manipulation of Palestinian security forces revolved entirely around solidifying his own rule and preparing for a terror war against Israel.

The current Palestinian Authority, though, is attempting to impose a western-style centralized order on a land that has been home for centuries to a traditional Arab pattern of social organization, in which families and tribes exist as the arbiters of power across territories and villages. Palestinian terror groups have been adept at operating from within and around this power structure, and Yasser Arafat was a master of playing Palestinian groups and interests off each other. What the PA is attempting today, though, is different — it is a kind of intra-Arab clash of civilizations. And it is one, alas, that the Palestinian Authority is not likely to win.

When the vast quantities of baroque rhetoric that accumulate around the peace process are distilled, a basic formula for progress remains: Israel must cease building settlements, and the Palestinian Authority must field a non-corrupt, non-terrorist, non-incompetent police force in the Palestinian territories. If the day arrives when the PA security forces become crack anti-terror squads, the Israeli security presence in the West Bank, the argument goes, will be rendered unnecessary, and the creation of a Palestinian state will quickly follow. The PA will have fulfilled Max Weber’s basic definition of a state: it will have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

It is regrettable that this linchpin of Palestinian statehood–the competence of the security forces–is the subject of only desultory attention. But if you look closely you can discern a little bit of what’s happening in the realm of PA security on the West Bank. Nablus has been since late 2007 a test case for the PA security effort, and what appears to be happening there is similar to the longstanding relationship between UNIFIL and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon — a tacit agreement between terrorists and western-backed security forces not to create problems for each other. From an LA Times story on two brothers from Nablus, we learn that

There is another explanation for the calm [in Nablus], according to Palestinians informed about security matters: a quiet understanding that police will not pursue militant groups that pose a threat to Israel as long as they lie low and do not challenge the Palestinian Authority.

And when such “militant groups” decide to put on a show of arms, the PA seems helpless to stop them. After a group of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades gunmen battled the PA police two weeks ago, they “held a parade in Nablus in which they carried weapons, promised not to give in to the PA and vowed to continue to fight the Israeli occupation.”

The PA’s security efforts were extended this week to the Jenin area, provoking more clashes. In Qabatya, a village outside of Jenin, a firefight between the PA police and militants left a bystander dead. Thus, the PA “had planned to remain in Qabatya for a few days in a show of force but withdrew to the entrance of the town fearing tension after the killing.”

And so it goes. All of this is not to ridicule the PA effort, which actually I think deserves some limited praise. What’s going on today in the West Bank is unprecedented, inasmuch as it is something that Yasser Arafat certainly never attempted to do — his creation and manipulation of Palestinian security forces revolved entirely around solidifying his own rule and preparing for a terror war against Israel.

The current Palestinian Authority, though, is attempting to impose a western-style centralized order on a land that has been home for centuries to a traditional Arab pattern of social organization, in which families and tribes exist as the arbiters of power across territories and villages. Palestinian terror groups have been adept at operating from within and around this power structure, and Yasser Arafat was a master of playing Palestinian groups and interests off each other. What the PA is attempting today, though, is different — it is a kind of intra-Arab clash of civilizations. And it is one, alas, that the Palestinian Authority is not likely to win.

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Clinton Team Conference Call

In a media call today, Clinton advisors Howard Wolfson and Geoff Garin tried to make the case that it’s full steam ahead for HRC. Wolfson said bluntly: “No discussions about not going forward.” Garin’s spin about last night’s result? Hillary Clinton came from far behind in their internal polls (which had her down eight points in Indiana).

What about North Carolina? Their best argument was that she improved dramatically among white voters, going from a tie to a 24-point margin. What do they have to do going forward? They placed great emphasis on West Virginia, pledged to seat Michigan and Florida (if all are seated they claim they will pick up 58 votes, bringing them within 100 delegates), and promised to make the case to superdelegates that she matches up better against John McCain. Are they concerned about the pundits writing them off? “The punditocracy does not control this process.”

But perhaps the most telling exchange was a moment of hesitation when Garin was asked whether he saw any problem in the Democratic Party selecting someone who led in neither the popular or delegate vote. After a pause he said “Well. . . it will be close.” So for now Hillary is not giving up. Were the questioners skeptical, verging on incredulous? A bit. When asked whether the campaign was concerned about “burning the village [i.e. the Democratic party] to save it” Wolfson, in impassioned tones, explained that Hillary has devoted her entire adult life to the Democratic party, that it’s “what gets her up” in the morning. She’s just not ready to let go.

In a media call today, Clinton advisors Howard Wolfson and Geoff Garin tried to make the case that it’s full steam ahead for HRC. Wolfson said bluntly: “No discussions about not going forward.” Garin’s spin about last night’s result? Hillary Clinton came from far behind in their internal polls (which had her down eight points in Indiana).

What about North Carolina? Their best argument was that she improved dramatically among white voters, going from a tie to a 24-point margin. What do they have to do going forward? They placed great emphasis on West Virginia, pledged to seat Michigan and Florida (if all are seated they claim they will pick up 58 votes, bringing them within 100 delegates), and promised to make the case to superdelegates that she matches up better against John McCain. Are they concerned about the pundits writing them off? “The punditocracy does not control this process.”

But perhaps the most telling exchange was a moment of hesitation when Garin was asked whether he saw any problem in the Democratic Party selecting someone who led in neither the popular or delegate vote. After a pause he said “Well. . . it will be close.” So for now Hillary is not giving up. Were the questioners skeptical, verging on incredulous? A bit. When asked whether the campaign was concerned about “burning the village [i.e. the Democratic party] to save it” Wolfson, in impassioned tones, explained that Hillary has devoted her entire adult life to the Democratic party, that it’s “what gets her up” in the morning. She’s just not ready to let go.

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The Task Ahead

Between them, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have generated more than 30 million primary votes. To say there has never been anything like this is to understate the case. In 2000, when George W. Bush and John McCain were fighting it out for the Republican nomination, a total of 20 million votes was cast. The Democrats in 2008 have bested that by 50 percent. What this means is that, even if a third of Hillary’s voters absolutely refuse to vote for Obama in November, that will leave him with a probable 30 million votes in the bank. In May. Six months before the November election.

Now, surely those 30 million votes would have turned out for Obama in November anyway, even if Hillary had dropped out of the race in Iowa. But that is not the significance of this number. It means something because Obama will not have to spend a nickel to get their vote. Instead, he will only have to spend money to get another 30 million or so votes, and he will have more money than anyone else has ever had before to do so.

It is important for conservatives and Republicans, who have comforted themselves with the thought that Obama cannot possibly win because no one as far to the Left as he is can win the presidency in the United States, to understand the nature of the challenge he poses. Think of it this way. In 1972, George McGovern, on Election Day, received 29 million votes — fewer than Obama’s and Hillary’s combined vote totals in the Democratic primary in 2008.

Think of it this way as well, if you want to delude yourself that a left-liberal can’t win. In 2004, John Kerry, the most liberal member of the Senate and nobody’s idea of a good candidate, received 59 million votes. He bettered Al Gore’s 2000 vote total by 17 percent. He only lost because George Bush generated 62 million votes, the greatest number in American history. Who received the second greatest number of votes in American history? John Kerry.

A left-liberal can win, and will win, unless he is defeated by his rival. Barack Obama will not defeat himself. He’s already too strong a candidate for that to be a possibility.

Between them, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have generated more than 30 million primary votes. To say there has never been anything like this is to understate the case. In 2000, when George W. Bush and John McCain were fighting it out for the Republican nomination, a total of 20 million votes was cast. The Democrats in 2008 have bested that by 50 percent. What this means is that, even if a third of Hillary’s voters absolutely refuse to vote for Obama in November, that will leave him with a probable 30 million votes in the bank. In May. Six months before the November election.

Now, surely those 30 million votes would have turned out for Obama in November anyway, even if Hillary had dropped out of the race in Iowa. But that is not the significance of this number. It means something because Obama will not have to spend a nickel to get their vote. Instead, he will only have to spend money to get another 30 million or so votes, and he will have more money than anyone else has ever had before to do so.

It is important for conservatives and Republicans, who have comforted themselves with the thought that Obama cannot possibly win because no one as far to the Left as he is can win the presidency in the United States, to understand the nature of the challenge he poses. Think of it this way. In 1972, George McGovern, on Election Day, received 29 million votes — fewer than Obama’s and Hillary’s combined vote totals in the Democratic primary in 2008.

Think of it this way as well, if you want to delude yourself that a left-liberal can’t win. In 2004, John Kerry, the most liberal member of the Senate and nobody’s idea of a good candidate, received 59 million votes. He bettered Al Gore’s 2000 vote total by 17 percent. He only lost because George Bush generated 62 million votes, the greatest number in American history. Who received the second greatest number of votes in American history? John Kerry.

A left-liberal can win, and will win, unless he is defeated by his rival. Barack Obama will not defeat himself. He’s already too strong a candidate for that to be a possibility.

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The General Idea

We have known what Barack Obama’s message is for a year: change. Change Washington’s political culture, change the way we engage our enemies, change the tax structure, and change reliance on a largely private health care insurance system. His countermessage: John McCain is against change and wants more of George W. Bush’s policies.

So what is McCain supposed to do about this? For starters, he really does need an over-arching theme. Victory in Iraq and preserving tax cuts are not a theme: they’re policy positions. George W. Bush had a theme–compassionate conservatism–which turned out to be not much of either, but it was a theme. And biography, no matter how compelling, is also not a theme. Running against an extreme liberal with a grab bag of wacky associates and no record of accomplishment could be an asset. But, again, it’s not a theme.

When McCain comes up with a theme, one he can explain in a sentence (a few words would be better), we will know that he has an actual strategy to beat Barack Obama. In the end, voters have to vote for something: Something (however flaky) will beat nothing every time.

We have known what Barack Obama’s message is for a year: change. Change Washington’s political culture, change the way we engage our enemies, change the tax structure, and change reliance on a largely private health care insurance system. His countermessage: John McCain is against change and wants more of George W. Bush’s policies.

So what is McCain supposed to do about this? For starters, he really does need an over-arching theme. Victory in Iraq and preserving tax cuts are not a theme: they’re policy positions. George W. Bush had a theme–compassionate conservatism–which turned out to be not much of either, but it was a theme. And biography, no matter how compelling, is also not a theme. Running against an extreme liberal with a grab bag of wacky associates and no record of accomplishment could be an asset. But, again, it’s not a theme.

When McCain comes up with a theme, one he can explain in a sentence (a few words would be better), we will know that he has an actual strategy to beat Barack Obama. In the end, voters have to vote for something: Something (however flaky) will beat nothing every time.

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Israeli Democracy Gags

For nearly a week, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office has been shrouded in scandal–a scandal so major, we’ve been told, that it will probably be the scandal that forces the scandal-ridden Israeli Prime Minister from office. What exactly happened? Nobody really knows and, thus far, only the New York Post has uncovered any substantive details. Yesterday, the Post reported that Olmert had received money from Long Island millionaire Morris Talansky during his term as mayor of Jerusalem. How much money? What was the purpose of this payoff? Again, nobody knows.

This dearth of information is the consequence of a stringent Israeli gag order. Indeed, even while references to the Post‘s fine investigative journalism have abounded, the Israeli media has been completely prevented from mentioning Talansky’s name. (One station, Keshet TV, went as far as blurring the text in a photo it provided of the Post‘s web-based scandal coverage.) Of course, when it comes to protecting national security-relevant information–as in the case of Israel’s bombing of an alleged Syrian nuclear facility last September–these blackouts are par for the course in Israel. But corruption in high government offices is not a national security issue–it is a political one, and withholding vital information from the public disturbingly undermines Israel’s democratic processes.

Yet the gag order exposes far more than the limits of civil liberties in Israel. Rather, it demonstrates the alarming extent to which Israel’s political culture, quite literally, stands on ceremony. Indeed, the police have argued that lifting the gag order on Israel’s day of mourning for its fallen soldiers–today–would “harm the public interest.” Moreover, as the gag order currently extends through May 11th, it appears as though its ultimate goal is to keep Olmert in power at least until Israel’s 60th birthday celebration passes a few days later. After all, the government has long planned this event–which will be attended by President Bush, among other foreign leaders and luminaries–as a showcase of Israel’s political, economic, artistic, and scientific achievements, and it seems determined to not let Olmert’s corruption, no matter how extensive, interfere.

One thus has to wonder: does Israel’s national security establishment believe that the Jewish state’s international standing is so tenuous that protecting an A-list birthday party warrants such profound limitations on free speech?

For nearly a week, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office has been shrouded in scandal–a scandal so major, we’ve been told, that it will probably be the scandal that forces the scandal-ridden Israeli Prime Minister from office. What exactly happened? Nobody really knows and, thus far, only the New York Post has uncovered any substantive details. Yesterday, the Post reported that Olmert had received money from Long Island millionaire Morris Talansky during his term as mayor of Jerusalem. How much money? What was the purpose of this payoff? Again, nobody knows.

This dearth of information is the consequence of a stringent Israeli gag order. Indeed, even while references to the Post‘s fine investigative journalism have abounded, the Israeli media has been completely prevented from mentioning Talansky’s name. (One station, Keshet TV, went as far as blurring the text in a photo it provided of the Post‘s web-based scandal coverage.) Of course, when it comes to protecting national security-relevant information–as in the case of Israel’s bombing of an alleged Syrian nuclear facility last September–these blackouts are par for the course in Israel. But corruption in high government offices is not a national security issue–it is a political one, and withholding vital information from the public disturbingly undermines Israel’s democratic processes.

Yet the gag order exposes far more than the limits of civil liberties in Israel. Rather, it demonstrates the alarming extent to which Israel’s political culture, quite literally, stands on ceremony. Indeed, the police have argued that lifting the gag order on Israel’s day of mourning for its fallen soldiers–today–would “harm the public interest.” Moreover, as the gag order currently extends through May 11th, it appears as though its ultimate goal is to keep Olmert in power at least until Israel’s 60th birthday celebration passes a few days later. After all, the government has long planned this event–which will be attended by President Bush, among other foreign leaders and luminaries–as a showcase of Israel’s political, economic, artistic, and scientific achievements, and it seems determined to not let Olmert’s corruption, no matter how extensive, interfere.

One thus has to wonder: does Israel’s national security establishment believe that the Jewish state’s international standing is so tenuous that protecting an A-list birthday party warrants such profound limitations on free speech?

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Here’s The Rub

Barack Obama can fix his rhetoric (as he did last night). But can he fix his demographics? He won big in North Carolina and nearly bumped Hillary Clinton off in Indiana. He won the expectations game in a big away. Still, some perspective is in order:

[H]is victory in North Carolina depended heavily on his overwhelming (91%) share of the black vote, which made up about a third of the primary electorate. Mrs. Clinton won 61% of white Democrats in North Carolina, according to the exit polls, and 65% of white Democrats in Indiana. Mrs. Clinton also broke even among independents. Clearly Mr. Obama’s early promise of a transracial, postpartisan coalition has dimmed as the campaign has progressed and voters have learned more about him.

The question remains whether the McCain campaign is determined and nimble enough to snatch those Hillary Clinton voters away and keep Obama boxed in with a narrow base of African Americans, young people, and ultra-liberal voters. What we know is that, given running room, Obama will sprint to the center and expand his appeal to the very voters whom he let slip through his grasp in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And he will do an effective job of arguing that McCain will represent a third Bush term.

McCain’s challenge is both to define his opponent as outside the political mainstream and to avoid being defined as a Bush clone. It will take a clear and concerted effort by the McCain team–more than biography and an appeal to “experience.” Neither got Hillary Clinton very far.

Barack Obama can fix his rhetoric (as he did last night). But can he fix his demographics? He won big in North Carolina and nearly bumped Hillary Clinton off in Indiana. He won the expectations game in a big away. Still, some perspective is in order:

[H]is victory in North Carolina depended heavily on his overwhelming (91%) share of the black vote, which made up about a third of the primary electorate. Mrs. Clinton won 61% of white Democrats in North Carolina, according to the exit polls, and 65% of white Democrats in Indiana. Mrs. Clinton also broke even among independents. Clearly Mr. Obama’s early promise of a transracial, postpartisan coalition has dimmed as the campaign has progressed and voters have learned more about him.

The question remains whether the McCain campaign is determined and nimble enough to snatch those Hillary Clinton voters away and keep Obama boxed in with a narrow base of African Americans, young people, and ultra-liberal voters. What we know is that, given running room, Obama will sprint to the center and expand his appeal to the very voters whom he let slip through his grasp in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And he will do an effective job of arguing that McCain will represent a third Bush term.

McCain’s challenge is both to define his opponent as outside the political mainstream and to avoid being defined as a Bush clone. It will take a clear and concerted effort by the McCain team–more than biography and an appeal to “experience.” Neither got Hillary Clinton very far.

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Preview

If you want to know what Hillary’s strategist, Harold Ickes, might whisper in the ears of superdelegates if she decides to stay in and fight, here is a good taste. Nothing quite beats Paul Begala lecturing Donna Brazile that Democrats can’t win with a coalition of “eggheads and African Americans.” After that exchange, you can probably add one more superdelegate (Brazile) to the Obama column. Gotta love that Clinton light touch.

But before Republicans get excited about the possibilty of vicious infighting that will torment Democrats, those Republicans should keep in mind two things. First, eventually there will be a nominee (whether May or June or August) and a final night of the convention where everyone will raise hands together and declare undying loyalty. Most of those Clinton supporters, especially ones committed enough to vote in a primary, will vote Democratic in November. And there are a lot more registered Democrats than there used to be.

Second, Obama is a fast learner. His speech last night included a heavy dose of heartfelt appreciation for America, reverence for the land of opportunity and lots of empathy for working class voters. Like a vacuum cleaner, he is sucking up the Clintonian message to blue collar voters and absorbing the rhetoric which has successfully lured a coalition of working class whites, seniors and women. Don’t expect any more Snobgate slip-ups.

In short, the fun for conservatives is at an end.

If you want to know what Hillary’s strategist, Harold Ickes, might whisper in the ears of superdelegates if she decides to stay in and fight, here is a good taste. Nothing quite beats Paul Begala lecturing Donna Brazile that Democrats can’t win with a coalition of “eggheads and African Americans.” After that exchange, you can probably add one more superdelegate (Brazile) to the Obama column. Gotta love that Clinton light touch.

But before Republicans get excited about the possibilty of vicious infighting that will torment Democrats, those Republicans should keep in mind two things. First, eventually there will be a nominee (whether May or June or August) and a final night of the convention where everyone will raise hands together and declare undying loyalty. Most of those Clinton supporters, especially ones committed enough to vote in a primary, will vote Democratic in November. And there are a lot more registered Democrats than there used to be.

Second, Obama is a fast learner. His speech last night included a heavy dose of heartfelt appreciation for America, reverence for the land of opportunity and lots of empathy for working class voters. Like a vacuum cleaner, he is sucking up the Clintonian message to blue collar voters and absorbing the rhetoric which has successfully lured a coalition of working class whites, seniors and women. Don’t expect any more Snobgate slip-ups.

In short, the fun for conservatives is at an end.

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The Compassion of Bill

Courtesy of the New York Times

Mr. Clinton’s frenetic schedule spared no time for the distractions that often crop up on the campaign trail. When a young woman collapsed from the heat at an event on Sunday afternoon in Marion, he did not stop speaking for a second. And when an elderly man fainted later that day at an outdoor event in Lenoir, the former president appeared visibly irritated at onlookers hovering over the fallen man. “You folks don’t make so much noise,” he said into the microphone.

Courtesy of the New York Times

Mr. Clinton’s frenetic schedule spared no time for the distractions that often crop up on the campaign trail. When a young woman collapsed from the heat at an event on Sunday afternoon in Marion, he did not stop speaking for a second. And when an elderly man fainted later that day at an outdoor event in Lenoir, the former president appeared visibly irritated at onlookers hovering over the fallen man. “You folks don’t make so much noise,” he said into the microphone.

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Vanishing

As Lake County finally shows its hand, Hillary Clinton’s lead slips away. Whether she narrowly hangs on or whether she loses by a few thousand votes hardly seems to matter. Today the conversations will no doubt start as to how to reach a “graceful” end, as Bill Kristol described it. The Republicans will not enjoy the luxury of watching a hard-fought Democratic race much longer.

As Lake County finally shows its hand, Hillary Clinton’s lead slips away. Whether she narrowly hangs on or whether she loses by a few thousand votes hardly seems to matter. Today the conversations will no doubt start as to how to reach a “graceful” end, as Bill Kristol described it. The Republicans will not enjoy the luxury of watching a hard-fought Democratic race much longer.

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