Friday, October 17, 2008


Sam Smith

It is true that the moving averages have Obama ahead, but it is also true that within those averages are some scary anomalies, narrow margins that in no way should be there given the current state of the economy and the dismal McCain campaign.

One of Obama's major political problems has not been his race but his place - not the color of his hide but the culture of his Hyde Park. He has reached well his core constituency - blacks and white liberals - but as soon as the general election got underway he began struggling and stumbling. His style has been too urban, upscale, too post-graduate and too reserved.

Obama's failure to soar during a historic collapse of the economy supports this thesis and suggests that his handlers need to give him several kicks in the butt to ensure he gets across the goal line.

While there are plenty of substantive issues to discuss about Obama once he's in the White House, the main problem right now is to make sure that his lying, mean and decrepit opponent, along with his as his incompetent, reckless and sleazy potential successor, don't get there first.

Here are a few last minute suggestions for his campaign:

- Get out of the pulpit and on to the playground into the bars. No more photos of Obama looking down at us.

- Obama is obsessed with seeming presidential but too often just appears pompous and dull. All he needs to do is observe at the absurd success of Sarah Palin to appreciate how limited is the appeal of unrelieved portentousness.

- Be specific. Give some examples of what Obama will do that everyone can understand. Even after all my years in Washington, I still can't visualize $150 billion being spent on energy over 10 years. But I do know what new railroad trains and tracks or solar panels look like.

- Work on Obama's metaphorical deficiency disorder. Teach him the southern technique of winning arguments by anecdotes rather than just cold facts. His last debate offered a telling example. McCain attacked him for having known Bill Ayers and Obama came back blandly with the fact that the group on which board they had both sat had been endorsed by the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the Chicago Tribune. He said it and it passed.

I have complained about Obama approaching politics too much from the perspective of a lawyer, but Jon Rowe, who observed and worked in Washington for may years, got much closer to the truth when he said that Obama talks as though he is in moot court, the mock sessions used to train law students. Notes Rowe, "He seems to think an argument is finished once he has stated it. Somehow he doesn't seem to understand the need to drive home a point emotionally as well -- which is to say, to repeat it two or three different ways so that people start to feel it. Things tend to fly by on the mental plane with him. You find yourself thinking that he was impressive but that he still didn't quite connect with you."

A good politician, or a good trial lawyer for that matter, would have come back at McCain when he refused to let the Ayers issue drop, saying something like, "Senator, I wonder whether given your feeling about this board backed by three of the most respectable institutions in Chicago, you would refuse an endorsement from the Chicago Tribune or decline to let your child go the University of Chicago or Northwest U?" And if he didn't give up, Obama might have added, "Why haven't you been as critical of your pal Gordon Liddy's criminal conduct as I have been of Bill Ayers?"

You've got to knock these things down hard and fast and Obama just doesn't have the touch.

The continued deterioration of the economy and McCain's rottenness may make such concerns totally irrelevant, but it sure would be nice if the Democrats could run a campaign that left us cheering more and praying less.


At October 18, 2008 9:31 AM, Anonymous hoo-fucking-rah said...

Nobody's cheering because there's nothing to cheer about. The best I can say about Barack Obama is," Maybe his Supreme Court nominees won't be quite as crazy as John McCain's". Given that Qbama is financed by the same people who financed Clinton, Bush the Weenie, and McCain, even the Supreme Court nominee argument doesn't give hope for positive change.


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