and when I do, my usual course is to backtrack and figure out where I went wrong. But on this one, I do respectfully disagree. Jay is put in mind of the old saying that two wrongs don’t make a right. I look at this more like, can we walk and chew gum at the same time? To me, there are two very different, very easily severable questions on the table: (a) was the Annointed One intentionally taking a shot at Palin with the “lipstick on a pig” remark, and (b) if yes, should we cry in our beer about it like a bunch of bean-counting, race-bating, tree-hugging, metrosexual wusses? The obvious answers are (a) yes and (b) no. I am not afraid that we can’t handle the (b) part with a confident smile and good cheer, so I am not at all wary about acknowledging (a).
Much of the counter-argument on (a) seems to be that Obama is such a savvy politician it is hard to believe he would intentionally say something so stupid. I just don’t think that’s an accurate read of the away-from-the-teleprompter Obama we are finally coming to know.
He’s not that savvy. He’s lucky — which, as they say, ain’t nothin’. But he’s like a guy who got called up for the World Series after winning the high school championship: now, suddenly, the fields are bigger, the crowds are enormous and more discerning, and the other team is accomplished, professional and comes to beat your brains in — not to provide an exhibition in good sportsmanship.
Obama must react to this drastic change, but he is not as smooth as advertised, he simply does not have a well of experience to draw on, and, importantly, the Democrat nomination campaign did not prepare him. He has always had very obvious weaknesses, but the Democrat candidates could not exploit them because their nomination cannot be won without appealing to a hard-Left base which is night-and-day different from the vast majority of the country. They play a hardcore identity politics and they would crucify anyone who so much as hinted that a young, black community organizer with movement-activist (i.e., terrorist) friends and a record of protecting a woman’s right to choose even into the 4th trimester was not an ideal candidate.
Hillary, who would otherwise have been acceptable to the base, could not exploit Obama’s biggest vulnerabilities. She couldn’t go after him on terrorism because of the Clinton record of feckless counterterrorism and the pardons of Weather Underground and FALN terrorists (FWIW, that was my point in this piece). And she couldn’t go after him on his rise from the seamy world of Chicago politics because of, well, see 1992-2000. But realize that, even with her hands tied behind her back in this way, Hillary would still have beaten him had the race gone on another month or so.
Even as he mathematically eliminated the competition, Obama was sinking like a stone because, as we’re seeing now, he doesn’t wear well over time. Yuval and Jay are entirely right to suggest that he unintentionally says dumb things (e.g., 57 states). Yet, the Chicago pol in him quite intentionally says a lot of offensive things (cling to guns and religion, punished with a baby, lipstick on a pig …). He has not been swift enough to discern the change in the audience. This is a guy who, up til now, had to appeal to (1) an ultra-Left Chicago district, (2) the 7 in 10 Illinois residents who just wanted Alan Keyes to go away, and (3) the Democrats’ antiwar base. They gave him such a warm glow maybe he was duped into thinking everyone would love his routine. In any event, this is his first conversation with America and he’s not ready for prime-time. Plus, he is in the unenviable position of having to pose as a post-racial, post-partisan centrist when his record is one of race-conscious, left-wing partisanship. It’s only natural that when he gets rattled and is not reading a script, he reverts to Hyde Park.
A primary season like the modern Democratic Party has is an exercise in unreality. It molds the candidate into something attractive to a fringe that is unrepresentative of the country at large. When Obama moved from that sandbox to the real playing field, he wasn’t ready. In a panic, he sensed the need to turn to an old Washington pro — and somehow managed to find a pro, Biden, who shares some of his own worst foot-in-mouth tendencies (and has not been able to shake that congenital problem in his three dozen senate years). The result? It’s only been a week and they have already suggested that they will order banana-republic style prosecutions of Bush administration officials, that Palin — mother of a special needs child — doesn’t care about special needs children, and, now, lipstick on a pig.
This is exactly what it looks like: amateur hour. We should say so, and have fun with it.