Commentary Magazine


Another Excuse –Enough Already

Susan Estrich was worried even before today:

Problem is, there aren’t enough Obama supporters yet to carry the election. It’s the folks in the middle, the folks who haven’t deecided, the folks who need convincing or are inclined not to like him, or are still smarting from the defeat of Hillary Clinton, who will decide this election. Did the foreign trip move them? . . . “They think they can’t lose,” one of the smartest people I know said to me this week, describing the attitude he sees on display in the Obama campaign. He isn’t the first one to say it. There was a crop of stories, as the trip was ending, suggesting that the Obama campaign, which used to pride itself on its openess and transparency as compared to the Clinton machine, has now abandoned openess and transparency in favor of tight controls, attacks on reporters who write less-than flattering pieces, and a particularly unattractive form of hardball that people who think they are on the way to the White House, or already there, often adopt. It will not serve him well.

That was before the umpteenth explanation of why Barack Obama didn’t visit the wounded troops– now he says he didn’t want to “distract them.” Then why make the arrangement originally? Or why not go quietly without the camera crew? McCain is now pouncing with a new ad that makes the “3 a.m.” ad look like beanbag.

When he pulls out these explanations — reminiscent of the “Republicans made me take the private financing” — he betrays not only arrogance, but contempt for voters. They will buy anything, he seems to be convinced. A smile, a glib explanation, and they won’t dare challenge my virtue, he suggests by coming up with explanations that defy belief.

Do regular folks care? Perhaps. The magnificent professor of the “Last Lecture,” Randy Pausch passed away. In a lovely obituary in the Washington Post we read Pausch’s advice:

“You get people to help you by telling the truth, by being earnest,” he said. “I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day because hip is short-term. Earnest is long-term.”

And you wonder whether simple honesty, earnestness and decency really count. Or is it just hip, or hype as the case may be, that drives people? You wonder sometimes what the market will bear.