How cool was it to see Barack Obama turn ABC's attempts to turn him into the man who would revive the Weather Underground right back on them?
We are so used to seeing "toughness on the campaign" take the form of saber-rattling at other nations and attacks on the opponent taking the form of dire predictions of what he/she is going to do to the country. We're used to Democrats apologizing for lamebrained photo-ops that make them look silly instead of coming out and saying, "Hey, you want these photo ops? Well, sometimes we're going to look silly doing them." But we have never, ever seen a cool customer like Barack Obama. I would like to see this "shoulder brush" become THE memorable moment from this campaign.
Doesn't it seem like Obama is really starting to enjoy this? Sure, it's easy to be confident when everything your opponent does to try to bring you down backfires on her. It remains to be seen what happens when the Republican noise machine really starts in earnest. But the fact that ABC's obvious and craven attempt to bury the Obama candidacy seems to have not only backfired, but backfired spectacularly, with fireworks and a big brass band, may mean that such tactics no longer matter, that the hunger that Americans have for a change of direction isn't just limited to young people, or black people, or whatever groups the pundits decide form Obama's voter base. On the contrary; Obama's voter base includes everyone -- young, old, black, white.
Yes, it's "scary", because we are so used to seeing white men, mostly old white men, sworn in on January 20 every four years. Because Obama is not only African-American, but also has this unusual background that flies in the face of the kind of log-cabin, homespun, Norman Rockwell picture that we associate with presidents. But when George W. Bush has shown just how much a white guy can screw things up, there's something about Someone Different that has this aura of potential that Just Another White Guy doesn't have.
You can make the argument that Hillary Clinton, as a woman, would also represent this kind of sea change, were it not for the baggage that her husband's presidency brings to the table, and were it not for the fact that she's arguably more of a warhawk than John McCain and wants as much if not more of a unitary executive than George W. Bush:
With Clinton not having gained any traction from the debate, and with Obama closing the gap in Pennsylvania despite the best efforts of ABC and others to stop him, the upcoming election being one of Bush III vs. some kind of very real change is becoming clearer.Unless you're David Brooks
, in which case despite Obama's lift in the polls every time the punditry declares him dead in the water, Obama is doomed:
Back in Iowa, Barack Obama promised to be something new — an unconventional leader who would confront unpleasant truths, embrace novel policies and unify the country. If he had knocked Hillary Clinton out in New Hampshire and entered general-election mode early, this enormously thoughtful man would have become that.
But he did not knock her out, and the aura around Obama has changed. Furiously courting Democratic primary voters and apparently exhausted, Obama has emerged as a more conventional politician and a more orthodox liberal.
He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn’t on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment.
Obama also made a pair of grand and cynical promises that are the sign of someone who is thinking more about campaigning than governing.
Do you get the sense that Brooks had this column ready to use about either one of the Democratic candidates?
For decades, the pundit corps has been able to rely on their games of gotcha and their conventional wisdom about voter blocs and about the "fact" that what Americans really care about is flags and abortion and two guys kissing and other things completely irrelevant to the lives of most people. And for the most part, Americans have willingly gone along.
This time it seems to be different. How much different it is remains to be seen. But there is a different aroma in the air today, and it's scaring poor David Brooks half to death.
Labels: Barack Obama, David Brooks, hack journalism