The Corner

Politics & Policy

Re: Obama on the Trail

In response to Discharge

Rich — you write of Obama:

Given that he has a real talent for mockery — this, not uplift or persuasion, is what he’s best at — he’s going to have a field day going after Trump.

He is indeed, and his performance yesterday served as a reminder of just how good a campaigner he is. But, like you, I wonder how effective it will be. On the surface, Obama’s hits on Trump looked solid; for style, he gets an A+. The substance, though, was . . . well, it was odd.

Obama hit Trump for playing golf at the sort of exclusive resorts that “working people” can’t get into. Is that really a charge that he can level? He hit Trump for appealing to the working class, which served to remind the audience just how much blue collar support the Democratic party has lost in the last few years. He suggested that “odd things can happen” in elections, by which he meant that Trump could win. Who watching that didn’t immediately append to his line “. . . because Hillary is a terrible candidate”? And he suggested that foreign leaders are shocked by Trump, which is a) a breach of protocol — Obama should not be revealing the private views of international figures in order to score domestic points, and b) probably the weakest attack that progressives routinely try to advance (remember 2004?).

I understand that this was a Democratic rally, and that Obama’s role was to throw out red meat. I understand, too, that Obama was there to energize his side, rather than to convince the stragglers. But I’m not entirely convinced that there is much value in that. If you go a Hillary Clinton rally, you’re probably already planning to vote. How, I wonder, did the substance of his remarks look to the undecideds watching at home?

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