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Contentions

Unknowns

The Wall Street Journal picks up where John McCain left off, questioning how much most Americans know about Barack Obama. As for a new era of bipartisanship the Journal’s editors observe:

We can’t find a single issue on which Mr. Obama has broken with his party’s left-wing interest groups. Early on he gave a bow to merit pay for teachers, but that quickly sank beneath the waves of new money he wants to spend on the same broken public schools. He takes the Teamsters line against free trade, to the point of unilaterally rewriting Nafta. He wants to raise taxes even above the levels of the Clinton era, including a huge increase in the payroll tax. Perhaps now Mr. Obama will tack to the center, but somehow he will have to explain why the “change” he’s proposing isn’t merely more of the same, circa 1965.

And unlike McCain, they also question Obama’s judgment and choice in associating with Wright, Pfleger, and the less well known Rev. James Meeks. As Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once put it:

As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

For Obama we know from his record that he is very liberal and we know that he hasn’t accomplished much. We also know he is a great speechmaker and verbally fluent (when not pressed very hard, as he was in the Philadelphia debate). The known unknowns include how he plans to increase his support with working-class voters and how he will pivot back to the center on taxes, the economy, the surge, national security, and a list of issues. But it is the unknown unknowns that nag at many Democrats. The video clips floating around, the other wacky preachers who might pop up, the other people who heard him promise Palestinian acitvists he was on their side or who saw him attend the Million Man march. It is that last category which will make the next five months a nailbiter for the Democrats.

For the Republicans it is the known knowns that keep them up: their candidate’s rhetorical limitations, the GOP’s damaged brand, the money and enthusiasm gap, and the “country is on the wrong track” poll numbers.

Which is all a long way of saying that we know less than we think about how this will all turn out.


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