Commentary Magazine


Topic: Eleanor Clift

Flotsam and Jetsam

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Because all our problems are solved, there’s time for this: “Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Marine and the sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, has convinced 79 senators to sign on to the measure [to rename the Department of the Navy] he introduced in late February. But even though it has broad bipartisan support, the bill’s fate could be decided by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and his GOP counterpart Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who oppose the efforts to rename the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps currently operates under the umbrella of the Department of the Navy.”

Because of columns like this, Newsweek became a self-parody. Eleanor Clift on Helen Thomas makes up a cover story and reaches an obnoxious conclusion: “She was talking about the settlers, and if she had said they should go back to Brooklyn, where many of them are from, she probably wouldn’t have made news.” And then she makes excuses for a bigot: “Thomas has always been outspoken on the Palestinian issue, phrasing questions in such a way that sometimes made eyes roll in the press room. The daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Detroit, she felt she brought a perspective that people needed to hear.”

Because Obama is now a weight around the necks of his fellow Democrats, David Axelrod is forced to offer this spin: “I believe that ultimately these [2010] races are going to be decided at the local level at the, at the grass roots.  And the candidates who speak to the aspirations and concerns of people in their districts and states are going to win.”

Because there is no state in which Democrats escape Obama’s toxic effect: “Obamaland is crumbling. Democrats have firmly controlled Illinois, the president’s home state, for nearly a decade, turning it into what one Republican called ‘a deep blue state.’ But this has changed almost overnight. In the midterm elections on November 2, Democrats stand to lose the governorship, Obama’s old Senate seat, two to four House seats, and any number of state legislative seats and down-ticket statewide offices.”

Because there really is no way to overestimate their economic illiteracy, you shouldn’t be surprised when Democrats like House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) say things like “Republicans need to stop talking about cutting taxes and ‘look to the future with a little more compassion and bipartisanship.'”

Because they have no clue what to do about the listing economy — cutting taxes and easing up on business burdens aren’t in their repertoire — the Obami’s solution is always the same: more government spending.

Because the mainstream media continually carry water for the Democrats, the obvious always comes as a surprise to their readers and the chattering class: “We’re all familiar with the factional fights among Republicans, the party purges, and rabid RINO (a.k.a. Republican in Name Only) hunting. … The divisions in the Democratic Party are deepening, less than two years after its galvanizing 2008 victory that left liberals crowing about the prospect of a 40-year majority. With Republicans essentially stonewalling any hope of bipartisan support for Obama’s policies, the reason the significant Democrat majorities have not materialized into a steady stream of legislative victories is because of these ideological and political divisions within the Democratic caucus itself, largely between big-city liberals and swing-district centrists.”

Because all our problems are solved, there’s time for this: “Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Marine and the sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, has convinced 79 senators to sign on to the measure [to rename the Department of the Navy] he introduced in late February. But even though it has broad bipartisan support, the bill’s fate could be decided by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and his GOP counterpart Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who oppose the efforts to rename the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps currently operates under the umbrella of the Department of the Navy.”

Because of columns like this, Newsweek became a self-parody. Eleanor Clift on Helen Thomas makes up a cover story and reaches an obnoxious conclusion: “She was talking about the settlers, and if she had said they should go back to Brooklyn, where many of them are from, she probably wouldn’t have made news.” And then she makes excuses for a bigot: “Thomas has always been outspoken on the Palestinian issue, phrasing questions in such a way that sometimes made eyes roll in the press room. The daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Detroit, she felt she brought a perspective that people needed to hear.”

Because Obama is now a weight around the necks of his fellow Democrats, David Axelrod is forced to offer this spin: “I believe that ultimately these [2010] races are going to be decided at the local level at the, at the grass roots.  And the candidates who speak to the aspirations and concerns of people in their districts and states are going to win.”

Because there is no state in which Democrats escape Obama’s toxic effect: “Obamaland is crumbling. Democrats have firmly controlled Illinois, the president’s home state, for nearly a decade, turning it into what one Republican called ‘a deep blue state.’ But this has changed almost overnight. In the midterm elections on November 2, Democrats stand to lose the governorship, Obama’s old Senate seat, two to four House seats, and any number of state legislative seats and down-ticket statewide offices.”

Because there really is no way to overestimate their economic illiteracy, you shouldn’t be surprised when Democrats like House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) say things like “Republicans need to stop talking about cutting taxes and ‘look to the future with a little more compassion and bipartisanship.'”

Because they have no clue what to do about the listing economy — cutting taxes and easing up on business burdens aren’t in their repertoire — the Obami’s solution is always the same: more government spending.

Because the mainstream media continually carry water for the Democrats, the obvious always comes as a surprise to their readers and the chattering class: “We’re all familiar with the factional fights among Republicans, the party purges, and rabid RINO (a.k.a. Republican in Name Only) hunting. … The divisions in the Democratic Party are deepening, less than two years after its galvanizing 2008 victory that left liberals crowing about the prospect of a 40-year majority. With Republicans essentially stonewalling any hope of bipartisan support for Obama’s policies, the reason the significant Democrat majorities have not materialized into a steady stream of legislative victories is because of these ideological and political divisions within the Democratic caucus itself, largely between big-city liberals and swing-district centrists.”

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No Intuition, No Judgment

Michael Barone writes that presidents must rely on “something intangible and unquantifiable, in determining what is within the realm of possibility and what is a bridge too far: intuition.” Alas, he finds Obama doesn’t have much of it: “On what he identified as the biggest foreign and domestic issues, Obama’s intuition has proved to be faulty. Things have not worked out as he hoped. And, though a president cannot micromanage everything, his deference to congressional Democratic leaders in determining the details of the stimulus, health care and cap-and-trade bills has proven politically disastrous.”

Put slightly differently, Obama lacks judgment. We were told during the campaign that he had loads of judgment, and it would offset his experience gap. But alas, he lacked the judgment to assess nearly every critical issue he faced — the Iranian nuclear threat, the Middle East “peace process,” health-care reform, and his entire domestic agenda. He might lack intuition — the ability to foresee how events will unfold — but more critically, he also lacks the ability to assess events once they do unfold. He lacked the foresight to see that Iran would not respond to video valentines, but then he persisted in frittering away a year on engagement and standing idly by when democratic protestors could have used our help. And he has compounded his error by taking military force off the table and seemingly laying the groundwork for itty-bitty, ineffective sanctions. In sum, he doesn’t learn.

That inability to assess events, make adjustments, and correct course promptly may be attributable to a lack of life experience (e.g., he has never seen his ideological assumptions rejected so thoroughly, nor has he had to shift course so abruptly). It may also stem from arrogance — the belief that he has a monopoly on virtue and wisdom and that his opponents are rubes and/or operate out of bad faith. And then again, he may simply be weighed down by silly ideas (e.g., government can create jobs) and a lack of executive acumen. We don’t know, and we don’t know whether he can improve.

His defenders are reduced to hoping that he will be forced to improve by a congressional wipeout. Eleanor Clift writes:

The advisers around Obama would never admit it, but losing one or even both houses of Congress might be better for Obama than the gridlock paralyzing his agenda. History in our partisan age suggests that for a president to be truly successful and get big legislative achievements, a divided Congress may be necessary. Only then does each party have some stake in governing, and maneuvering room to compromise.

Well, Obama might be forced to improve if he loses both Houses. But then he’d still have foreign policy to puzzle out, new policies to construct, and an agenda to execute. In other words, even with a lot of help, the president still matters. And if the president can neither anticipate events nor react wisely to them, there’s not much we can do about it. Other than elect a new one.

Michael Barone writes that presidents must rely on “something intangible and unquantifiable, in determining what is within the realm of possibility and what is a bridge too far: intuition.” Alas, he finds Obama doesn’t have much of it: “On what he identified as the biggest foreign and domestic issues, Obama’s intuition has proved to be faulty. Things have not worked out as he hoped. And, though a president cannot micromanage everything, his deference to congressional Democratic leaders in determining the details of the stimulus, health care and cap-and-trade bills has proven politically disastrous.”

Put slightly differently, Obama lacks judgment. We were told during the campaign that he had loads of judgment, and it would offset his experience gap. But alas, he lacked the judgment to assess nearly every critical issue he faced — the Iranian nuclear threat, the Middle East “peace process,” health-care reform, and his entire domestic agenda. He might lack intuition — the ability to foresee how events will unfold — but more critically, he also lacks the ability to assess events once they do unfold. He lacked the foresight to see that Iran would not respond to video valentines, but then he persisted in frittering away a year on engagement and standing idly by when democratic protestors could have used our help. And he has compounded his error by taking military force off the table and seemingly laying the groundwork for itty-bitty, ineffective sanctions. In sum, he doesn’t learn.

That inability to assess events, make adjustments, and correct course promptly may be attributable to a lack of life experience (e.g., he has never seen his ideological assumptions rejected so thoroughly, nor has he had to shift course so abruptly). It may also stem from arrogance — the belief that he has a monopoly on virtue and wisdom and that his opponents are rubes and/or operate out of bad faith. And then again, he may simply be weighed down by silly ideas (e.g., government can create jobs) and a lack of executive acumen. We don’t know, and we don’t know whether he can improve.

His defenders are reduced to hoping that he will be forced to improve by a congressional wipeout. Eleanor Clift writes:

The advisers around Obama would never admit it, but losing one or even both houses of Congress might be better for Obama than the gridlock paralyzing his agenda. History in our partisan age suggests that for a president to be truly successful and get big legislative achievements, a divided Congress may be necessary. Only then does each party have some stake in governing, and maneuvering room to compromise.

Well, Obama might be forced to improve if he loses both Houses. But then he’d still have foreign policy to puzzle out, new policies to construct, and an agenda to execute. In other words, even with a lot of help, the president still matters. And if the president can neither anticipate events nor react wisely to them, there’s not much we can do about it. Other than elect a new one.

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The Best We Are Going to Do?

Diane Ravitch observes:

Our president must somehow wake up to the idea that he can’t “engage” people who strap suicide belts to their bodies or who drive cars loaded with explosives into crowded areas. No amount of outreach, no concessions, no sweet talk will persuade them to abandon their jihadist ideals. They are not persuadable. They are fanatics. They don’t care if we close Gitmo or give their brethren Miranda rights. They live to die, preferably by causing the deaths of many others, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, or Europeans. They kill indiscriminately. That’s the nature of terrorism. Panetta knows this. When will Obama figure it out?

Obama’s spinners and wishful observers contend that Obama has figured this out. Or he will. Or there are hopeful signs that he will. And yet, if the light had dawned, one would expect some telling sign of a revelation — a shift in policy on Guantanamo or a short-circuiting to the KSM trial, for example — that Obama is convinced that our enemies must be defeated with every tool at our disposal, not talked out of their grievances. We have seen no such sign. Likewise on Iran, after many got their hopes up, we aren’t yet hearing about the prospect of those crippling sanctions. If anything, Obama has been consistent — some would say bull-headed — in his refusal to adjust his policies despite a plethora of evidence that engagement only works with those who wish to be engaged.

Among Obama’s advisers (including his chief of staff and secretary of state) as well as his most dutiful pundit cheerleaders, the talk is still engagement-happy. Clinton says we are leaving the door open for the mullahs — just in case they want to give up their nukes and stop murdering their citizens. Rahm Emanuel speaks fondly of the Cairo speech as a great achievement,  as if we are expected to avert our eyes from the results of their shockingly counterproductive Middle East policy. You would think those working for Obama would be brandishing new talking points if in fact we were in for a course correction.

Some of Obama’s media enablers swear that Obama turned a corner. Eleanor Clift reports that she spotted the president’s “inner outrage” over the Christmas Day attack. Really? Hard to spot it amid all that deadening bureaucratic talk. And hard to believe it, given that no one is to be fired and no fundamental policy assumptions are to be re-examined. It would be nice to think that Obama will “grow in office” — what conservatives are always urged to do (otherwise known as accommodating liberals). Unfortunately, he appears rather stuck in his ways. Unless Congress seizes the reins on some of these issues or the voters deliver a blow that cannot be ignored in the 2010 elections, I suspect we’re going to see more of the same. So, to answer Ravitch’s question, I don’t think Obama will figure it out any time soon, perhaps ever.

Diane Ravitch observes:

Our president must somehow wake up to the idea that he can’t “engage” people who strap suicide belts to their bodies or who drive cars loaded with explosives into crowded areas. No amount of outreach, no concessions, no sweet talk will persuade them to abandon their jihadist ideals. They are not persuadable. They are fanatics. They don’t care if we close Gitmo or give their brethren Miranda rights. They live to die, preferably by causing the deaths of many others, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, or Europeans. They kill indiscriminately. That’s the nature of terrorism. Panetta knows this. When will Obama figure it out?

Obama’s spinners and wishful observers contend that Obama has figured this out. Or he will. Or there are hopeful signs that he will. And yet, if the light had dawned, one would expect some telling sign of a revelation — a shift in policy on Guantanamo or a short-circuiting to the KSM trial, for example — that Obama is convinced that our enemies must be defeated with every tool at our disposal, not talked out of their grievances. We have seen no such sign. Likewise on Iran, after many got their hopes up, we aren’t yet hearing about the prospect of those crippling sanctions. If anything, Obama has been consistent — some would say bull-headed — in his refusal to adjust his policies despite a plethora of evidence that engagement only works with those who wish to be engaged.

Among Obama’s advisers (including his chief of staff and secretary of state) as well as his most dutiful pundit cheerleaders, the talk is still engagement-happy. Clinton says we are leaving the door open for the mullahs — just in case they want to give up their nukes and stop murdering their citizens. Rahm Emanuel speaks fondly of the Cairo speech as a great achievement,  as if we are expected to avert our eyes from the results of their shockingly counterproductive Middle East policy. You would think those working for Obama would be brandishing new talking points if in fact we were in for a course correction.

Some of Obama’s media enablers swear that Obama turned a corner. Eleanor Clift reports that she spotted the president’s “inner outrage” over the Christmas Day attack. Really? Hard to spot it amid all that deadening bureaucratic talk. And hard to believe it, given that no one is to be fired and no fundamental policy assumptions are to be re-examined. It would be nice to think that Obama will “grow in office” — what conservatives are always urged to do (otherwise known as accommodating liberals). Unfortunately, he appears rather stuck in his ways. Unless Congress seizes the reins on some of these issues or the voters deliver a blow that cannot be ignored in the 2010 elections, I suspect we’re going to see more of the same. So, to answer Ravitch’s question, I don’t think Obama will figure it out any time soon, perhaps ever.

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Meltdown

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

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Nailbiting Time

The punditocracy is worried about Barack Obama. Maureen Dowd isn’t pleased with his debate performance (although she explains it’s because he really operates on a higher plane than mere mortal politicians):

The thorny questions Obama got in the debate were absolutely predictable, yet he seemed utterly unprepared and annoyed by them. He did not do well for the same reason he failed to outmaneuver Hillary in a year’s worth of debates: he disdains the convention, the need for sound bites and witty flick-offs and game-changing jabs.

Eleanor Clift was dismayed that he “spoke haltingly much of the time” and was “on the defensive,” and she now wonders if Obama would be a nominee “whose vulnerabilities boost chances of a Republican victory in the fall.” And others (here and here and here) are equally dismayed. Some are downright disgusted by the gap between Obama’s high-minded appeal to “new politics” and the cynical realities of his campaign. Some are disappointed by the fact that “it’s still true that after so many months of promising hard truths, Obama doesn’t really force people to accept any.”

Did one debate performance do all that? Was media confidence in him so shaky that a few tough questions from ABC moderators could send his standings into a tailspin? There is a bipolar quality to such opinion shifts: one day Obama is the messiah of American politics, the next he’s a deeply flawed candidate. And the public fretting that Hillary Clinton’s criticism prefigures eventual GOP attacks highlights a central problem for Obama: isn’t he going to be vulnerable when the GOP does launch its salvos?

But all this fretting is really to be expected: Obama has staked everything on his verbal acuity. When that fails, he has no safety net. He cannot point to tough campaigns or great legislative achievements to assure his base that he’s been through worse. So it all comes down to sustaining the balloon of excitement and novelty he has created.

Likewise, when Obama’s strange, far-Left associations come to the fore, or when his musings about average Americans make the news, the thin veneer of moderation and post-partisanship is torn. It makes people like Clift worry. And their fear is not entirely irrational.

The punditocracy is worried about Barack Obama. Maureen Dowd isn’t pleased with his debate performance (although she explains it’s because he really operates on a higher plane than mere mortal politicians):

The thorny questions Obama got in the debate were absolutely predictable, yet he seemed utterly unprepared and annoyed by them. He did not do well for the same reason he failed to outmaneuver Hillary in a year’s worth of debates: he disdains the convention, the need for sound bites and witty flick-offs and game-changing jabs.

Eleanor Clift was dismayed that he “spoke haltingly much of the time” and was “on the defensive,” and she now wonders if Obama would be a nominee “whose vulnerabilities boost chances of a Republican victory in the fall.” And others (here and here and here) are equally dismayed. Some are downright disgusted by the gap between Obama’s high-minded appeal to “new politics” and the cynical realities of his campaign. Some are disappointed by the fact that “it’s still true that after so many months of promising hard truths, Obama doesn’t really force people to accept any.”

Did one debate performance do all that? Was media confidence in him so shaky that a few tough questions from ABC moderators could send his standings into a tailspin? There is a bipolar quality to such opinion shifts: one day Obama is the messiah of American politics, the next he’s a deeply flawed candidate. And the public fretting that Hillary Clinton’s criticism prefigures eventual GOP attacks highlights a central problem for Obama: isn’t he going to be vulnerable when the GOP does launch its salvos?

But all this fretting is really to be expected: Obama has staked everything on his verbal acuity. When that fails, he has no safety net. He cannot point to tough campaigns or great legislative achievements to assure his base that he’s been through worse. So it all comes down to sustaining the balloon of excitement and novelty he has created.

Likewise, when Obama’s strange, far-Left associations come to the fore, or when his musings about average Americans make the news, the thin veneer of moderation and post-partisanship is torn. It makes people like Clift worry. And their fear is not entirely irrational.

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Tribal Democrats

If you were told that a guest on a Sunday morning political talk show had lost control of his or her emotions and declared it a tragedy that a black man is currently engaged in a very viable bid for the White House, who might you suppose had said it? Perhaps former Klansman David Duke? Or a Ron Paul supporter from way-back-when?

As it happens, the culprit is left-wing pundit Eleanor Clift. This is what she said on the “McLaughlin Group” this past Sunday:

Women have waited decades to see the first woman president and it’s actually something of a tragedy that a talented African-American guy comes along at the same–this isn’t liberal guilt.

It is, of course, the very opposite of tragedy that a woman and a black man are competing fiercely for the presidential nomination. This historic first serves as living proof of the noblest of American principles—equality among citizens. Throughout the primaries the two candidates’ fortunes have shifted and shifted back. One is in the lead, and then the other, and so on. Shouldn’t it be enough for Ms. Clift that when one of them loses it won’t be because of their color or gender? Apparently not. And she’s right: it’s not liberal guilt—it’s base tribalism.

And in a piece entitled “The Feminist Case for Obama,” in yesterday’s Washinton Post, Adele M. Stan describes her own struggle with this:

I have hoped against hope to see a good, liberal woman lead this nation before I die. In the voting booth on primary day, I stared at the ballot for a long time before I marked it for Barack Obama. It was a painful mark to make.

Such sacrifice. Meanwhile, Ms. Stan’s piece was written in response to a piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, by Linda Hirshman, who complains of women voters: “They’re the only voting bloc not voting their bloc.”

It’s no wonder that the Democratic candidates have been steeped in identity. It’s what their constituency responds to. It is, for Democrats, the number one issue. As one pores over the countless arguments for this or that candidate being the “correct” choice for this or that demographic (white working-class women, elite black women, etc.) one begins to think of Clinton’s identity strategy not so much as sleazy but simply on-point.

If you were told that a guest on a Sunday morning political talk show had lost control of his or her emotions and declared it a tragedy that a black man is currently engaged in a very viable bid for the White House, who might you suppose had said it? Perhaps former Klansman David Duke? Or a Ron Paul supporter from way-back-when?

As it happens, the culprit is left-wing pundit Eleanor Clift. This is what she said on the “McLaughlin Group” this past Sunday:

Women have waited decades to see the first woman president and it’s actually something of a tragedy that a talented African-American guy comes along at the same–this isn’t liberal guilt.

It is, of course, the very opposite of tragedy that a woman and a black man are competing fiercely for the presidential nomination. This historic first serves as living proof of the noblest of American principles—equality among citizens. Throughout the primaries the two candidates’ fortunes have shifted and shifted back. One is in the lead, and then the other, and so on. Shouldn’t it be enough for Ms. Clift that when one of them loses it won’t be because of their color or gender? Apparently not. And she’s right: it’s not liberal guilt—it’s base tribalism.

And in a piece entitled “The Feminist Case for Obama,” in yesterday’s Washinton Post, Adele M. Stan describes her own struggle with this:

I have hoped against hope to see a good, liberal woman lead this nation before I die. In the voting booth on primary day, I stared at the ballot for a long time before I marked it for Barack Obama. It was a painful mark to make.

Such sacrifice. Meanwhile, Ms. Stan’s piece was written in response to a piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, by Linda Hirshman, who complains of women voters: “They’re the only voting bloc not voting their bloc.”

It’s no wonder that the Democratic candidates have been steeped in identity. It’s what their constituency responds to. It is, for Democrats, the number one issue. As one pores over the countless arguments for this or that candidate being the “correct” choice for this or that demographic (white working-class women, elite black women, etc.) one begins to think of Clinton’s identity strategy not so much as sleazy but simply on-point.

Read Less




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