Commentary Magazine


The Reaction to Saddleback

From skeptical conservatives to many of the MSM outlets to Obama defenders (if the most ardent admirer of Obama signaled a “draw” you can bet it’s a sign of a bad night for his guy), the reaction to the Rick Warren forum last night was rather uniform: John McCain was surprisingly good, darn good. It is also apparent that Barack Obama made two big errors.

First, he insulted Clarence Thomas for lack of experience. . . or was it for lack of qualifications (or judicial smarts)? Either way, this is a horrid issue for Obama to raise (let’s go down the experience/qualifications route if he wants) and one simply lacking in factual support. If he objects to Thomas on philosophical grounds, fine. But his churlish accusation that the former head of the EEOC and a sitting Federal Circuit Court judge was unfit for the Supreme Court suggests all his talk of respecting his intellectual opponents is, well,  just talk.

What the event suggests is also something much more fundamental and more troublesome for Obama. Of all the opponents he could possibly have drawn, McCain is probably the most difficult for him to handle. Obama’s lack of experience, his glibness, his absence of depth and personal gravitas might not be as noticeable against another type of candidate.  These deficits are glaring, shocking almost when McCain is the opponent, in a way they were not against Hillary Clinton and might not have been against one of the other GOP contenders. A side-by-side comparison leaves Obama seeming lighter than air. It will be hard to disguise that from the voters.

And this suggestion is dead on: McCain doesn’t need to wow the crowds; he only needs to remind them that he possesses a seriousness of purpose and depth of experience his opponent does not.