With Obama as the almost-certain Democratic candidacy, the conservative punditry is very depressed. John Podhoretz summarizes it best, although he is by no means a lone voice:
It is important for conservatives and Republicans, who have comforted themselves with the thought that Obama cannot possibly win because no one as far to the Left as he is can win the presidency in the United States, to understand the nature of the challenge he poses. Think of it this way. In 1972, George McGovern, on Election Day, received 29 million votes — fewer than Obama’s and Hillary’s combined vote totals in the Democratic primary in 2008.
Think of it this way as well, if you want to delude yourself that a left-liberal can’t win. In 2004, John Kerry, the most liberal member of the Senate and nobody’s idea of a good candidate, received 59 million votes. He bettered Al Gore’s 2000 vote total by 17 percent. He only lost because George Bush generated 62 million votes, the greatest number in American history. Who received the second greatest number of votes in American history? John Kerry.
A left-liberal can win, and will win, unless he is defeated by his rival. Barack Obama will not defeat himself. He’s already too strong a candidate for that to be a possibility.
Reading through the blogs this afternoon, I’ve seen the same sentiment expressed over and over again. Newt Gingrich is convinced that Republicans will lose in droves. Peter Wehner also foresees an overwhelming Obama victory:
Democrats will begin to rally around Obama and, once Hillarydrops out of the race, he will take a large, perhaps even a commanding, lead over John McCain. In the last month there has been some talk among Republicans that Obama will be an exceptionally weak candidate, on the order of a Dukakis (loser of 40 states), Mondale (loser of 49 states), and McGovern (loser of 49 states). That won’t be the case. Obama is far more talented and appealing than Dukakis, Mondale, or McGovern ever were.
He also has in place one of the finest political operation the Democrats have ever put together. And beyond that, this year — unlike 1972, 1984, and 1988 — virtually every metric favors Democrats, whether we’re talking about fundraising, party identification, the public’s views on an array of issues, and the energy and excitement among base voters. In addition, it’s hard for an incumbent party to win a third term, particularly in an environment in which voters are longing for change, where the President’s popularity is extremely low, and where 80 percent of the country believes the nation is on the wrong track.
A disturbing sign was that last weekend the GOP lost its second House seat in a special election in two months – this time in Louisiana, in a seat that had been Republican for 34 years and one which Bush carried by 20 points in 2004. It’s true that most congressional races are local rather than national in nature and Woody Jenkins was a particularly weak candidate. Nevertheless, the results in Louisiana could be an ominous sign, especially for down-ballot Republicans.
This is indeed depressing stuff, although some are holding their heads up high. Although he’s admittedly painting on a small palette, Captain Ed points out the fallacies in the screaming headline that Republicans in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries voted against McCain, with the implication being that those Republicans have already packed their suitcases and abandoned that sinking ship. In pertinent part, the Captain points out that:
After clinching the nomination against McCain, Bush’s numbers bounced around from 64% to 83%. In Pennsylvania, Bush scored an almost identical percentage in 2000 (72.47%) as did McCain in 2008 (73%). No one at the time considered that a protest vote against Bush, even though McCain in 2000 won a much higher percentage of the vote (22%) than did Ron Paul in 2008 (16%). The only people really pushing this meme are Paul supporters.
As for me, I’m still struggling to come to terms with the thought that Americans, in the privacy of the voting booth, could actually vote for a man who has so many problems unique to him.
To begin with, Obama has no meaningful political experience. He was a “community organizer,” whatever the heck that means (Alinsky knows, I guess), after which he became a State Senator (during which time power brokers pushed Legislation his way to raise his profile) and he was a US Senator for less than four years. His resume is significantly weaker than those that, in their days, Dukakis, Mondale and McGovern offered American voters.
As you may recall, Dukakis had been in politics for over 20 years, as a legislator, Lt. Governor, and Governor; Mondale, in the 20 years before his presidential run, had been a State Attorney General and, for 16 years, a United States Senator; and McGovern, when he run for office, had served as a bomber pilot in WWII, and then spent almost 20 years in politics, first as a member of the US House of Representatives, and then as a three term Senator.
These men were seasoned politicians whatever their other flaws. They were not neophytes aiming for the land’s highest office — and they still lost.
Obama is also a fairly compulsive liar, something that highlights myriad other problems. That is, whevever he’s caught in a problematic situation (ah, those friends of his), rather than making a clean breast of it, or a good defense, he instead engages in a perfect storm of ever-spiraling affirmative defenses, with the common denominator always being that it’s everyone’s fault but Obamas.
For those who are not lawyers, let me explain what affirmative defenses are. A complaint contains allegations that the defendant committed myriad acts of wrongdoing. In response, the defendant does two things. First, he denies everything except his own name, and he’d deny that too, if he could. Next, he issues affirmative defenses, which concede the truth of the accusations, but deny that they have any legal or practical meaning.
As an example of how this plays out, imagine a complaint alleging that I smashed my car into a fence, destroying it. I’d start by saying, “No, I didn’t.” Then I’d begin the affirmative defenses: (1) “Okay, I did bring my car into contact with the fence, but I didn’t actually hurt the fence.” (2) “Okay, I hurt the fence, but I didn’t hurt it badly enough to entitle its owner to any damages.” (3) “Okay, I destroyed the fence, but it was falling down already, so it’s really the owner’s fault, so he gets no damages.” And on and on, in a reductio ad absurdum stream of admissions and excuses.
These affirmative defense patterns have shown up with respect to some of Obama’s nastiest little pieces of personal history. When Jeremiah Wright’s sermons first surfaced, Obama denied knowing anything about them. When that denial failed, he claimed that he only had one or two exposures to this deranged level of hatred, so he didn’t make much of it. When that denial failed, he conceded that he’d heard this stuff often over the years, but wasn’t concerned about it, because he knew his pastor was a good man. (Which makes Obama either complicit in the statements or a fool.) Indeed, he even made a much-heralded speech about what a good man his pastor is. He then promised that he’d never abandon his beloved pastor. But when his pastor became dead weight, Obama dropped him so hard you could hear the thud.
The same pattern appeared when word got out about Obama’s connection with two self-admitted, unrepentant, America-hating terrorists. (That would be William Ayer and Bernadine Dohrn, for anyone out of the loop here.) When caught, Obama again engaged in a perfect storm of affirmative defenses. (1) I don’t know them. [A lie.] (2) Okay, I know them, but not well. [A lie.] (3) Okay, I know them well, but we’re just good friends, not political fellow travelers. [A lie.] (4) Okay, we’re more than just good friends, because we served on a Leftist board and I sought political advice from him. And on and on. With every lie, Obama concedes, and then comes forward with a new lie.
The same pattern emerges with Rezko, with Obama freely ranging from “I didn’t know him,” to “I never took favors from him,” to “I didn’t take big favors from him,” to “I took a big favor from him, but I didn’t know it was a big favor.” It just goes ad nauseum, as if Obama is a machine, programmed to spew forth this endless flow of denial and concession. The guy is pathological in his inability to admit wrongdoing and his ability to prevaricate.
In an odd way, Obama’s approach to truth reminds me of how they used to break the news to patients about cancer — incrementally, very incrementally. I know this first hand, because this is what happened with my Dad. In his case, the following statements played out over the course of about a week: “Nothing’s wrong.” This was a lie. “There’s a slight anomaly on the tests, but nothing to worry about.” This was a lie. “There’s a tumor, but we’re sure it’s benign.” This was a lie. “The tumor is, in fact, malignant, but it’s completely treatable.” This, too, was a lie. “You have one year.” Finally, the truth. What you end up with is that, at the end of all the lies, cancer is cancer, and Obama’s past is Obama’s past.
The question then becomes whether American voters will be happy with the constant barrage of Obama lies, and will be willing to travel Obama’s incremental pathways to unpleasant truths, or if they’re at last going to rebel and say “Who and what are you?” And if they finally get the truth, and it’s pretty sure to be ugly will it matter?
I’d like to think that the truth will matter, just as I’d like to think that, for many Americans, the mere fact that he lied so compulsively will matter too. After all, that is one of the reasons they’ve grown to hate Hillary. My dream is that, no matter how perfectly polished and highly functional the Obama political machine is, the fact that Obama is still the core of that machine will be, in and of itself, an insurmountable problem for him.