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Dewey?

Philip Terzian makes the case that Barack Obama bears a striking resemblance to Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential race. Among other things is the audacity factor:

Above all, it was an overweening self-confidence that undermined the Republican candidate. The Democrats had controlled the White House for 16 years, and public opinion polls indicated that voters were ready for change. But the governor and his advisers were so beguiled by their early poll readings and press coverage, and persuaded that the campaign was over before it had begun, that a self-protective Dewey did not so much run for the presidency as pose and occasionally speak in anticipation of election.

(But there were differences of course — Dewey was an accomplished prosecutor for one.) Terzian makes a strong argument, although he doesn’t mention a telling incident from the 1948 campaign. Dewey was speaking from a train when it unexpectedly began to back up. Dewey cracked that the engineer “should probably be shot at sunrise, but we’ll let him off this time since no one was hurt.” Truman pounced and made much of Dewey’s contempt for the working man.

The lesson of that: voters don’t like it when you overlook or take for granted folks like them. And what’s more, little incidents reveal grace and personal character, leaving a lasting impression on average voters. That is why Obama’s soldier snubbing gaffe and the parade of excuses may last longer than the trip photos. It revealed a lack of good sense and an obsession with his own image and needs above those of others, in this case some of the people most deserving of our respect and affection. The reason for the cancellation — that he could not bring campaign entourage and cameras — is the nub of the matter. For Obama, it is all about the show.

And that’s why McCain, whose only hope may be an appeal to ordinary voters’ sense of decency and common sense, is right to make an issue of it.



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