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By DOROTHY RABINOWITZ
April 23, 2008
Nothing in the hysteria over last week's Democratic debate – including
the unprecedented opprobrium press critics heaped on the ABC moderators
– should have come as any surprise. That doesn't make it any less
fascinating a guide to current strange notions of what is and is not a
substantive issue in a presidential contest, or any less striking an
indicator of the delicate treatment Mr. Obama's media following have come to
consider his just due.
Moderators Charles Gibson's and George Stephanopoulos's offense was to
ask questions Mr. Obama didn't want to address. Worse, they'd continued
to press them even when the displeased candidate assured them these
were old and tired questions.
The uproar is the latest confirmation of the special place Mr. Obama
holds in the hearts of a good part of the media, a status ensured by
their shared political sympathies and his star power. That status has in
turn given rise to a tendency to provide generous explanations, and put
the best possible gloss on missteps and utterances seriously
embarrassing to Mr. Obama.
- "Akin to a federal crime . . . new benchmarks of degradation," The
New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg declared, of the debate.
- "Despicable. . . . slanted against Obama," Washington Post critic Tom
- A "disgusting spectacle," the New York Times's David Carr opined.
- The questions had "disgraced democracy itself," according to
columnist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News.
The effort and intensity various CNN panelists, for instance, expended
on explaining what Mr. Obama really meant by that awkward San Francisco
speech about bitter small towners clinging to their guns and religion
– it seems he'd been making an important point if one not evident to
anyone listening – exceeded that of the Obama campaign itself.
Still, no effort in helpful explanations was more distinguished than
that of David Gergen, senior CNN commentator, who weighed in just after
the first explosion of reports on Mr. Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
About this spiritual leader – whose sermons declared the September 11
attacks to be America's just deserts, who instructed his flock that the
United States had set forth on a genocidal program to kill black
Americans with the AIDS virus, who held forth as gospel every paranoid fantasy
espoused by the lunatic fringe about America's crimes – Mr. Gergen
said, "Actually, Rev. Wright may love this country more than many of us .
. . but we've fallen short."
It was an attempt at exculpation, as regards Rev. Wright, that no one
has equalled, though many have come close. Not least Mr. Obama, who
spends considerable time arguing that the press has focused on a few
"snippets" taken from years of sermons.
Mr. Obama's apparent inability to confront, forthrightly, the pastor's
poisonous pronouncements and his own relationship with him is, of
course, the cause of all the continuing questions on the subject. It had not
been in him, for instance, to say publicly that for a pastor to have
preached that the U.S. government had embarked on a project to inject
blacks with AIDS was an outrage on truth and decency. He delivered a
celebrated speech on race, one generally hailed as a masterwork, that was
supposed to have explained it all. It was a work masterly, above all, in
its evasiveness. Even its admirers, prepared to swallow his repeated
resort to descriptions like "controversial" for the pastor's hate-filled
rants, couldn't quite give Sen. Obama a pass when it came to his
beloved white grandmother, or to the not so beloved Geraldine Ferraro, both
of whom he suggested were racists in their own right.
These issues – the unanswered, the suspect – which outraged press
partisans have for days attempted to dismiss as trivia and gossip, largely
forgotten by the public, are unlikely to be forgotten, either today or
in the general election, nor are they trivial. This, Messrs. Gibson and
Stephanopoulos clearly understood when they chose their questions. Mr.
Obama's answers told far more than he or his managers wished.
Offered a chance to explain the meaning of his remarks about the
reasons people living in small towns cling to guns and religion, he went on
to repeat them all over again in different words. What there was in
those remarks, what attitudes shown, that had offended people, he had still
not grasped. In short, what he had said that day he'd meant to say.
"What you are, picks its way," as Walt Whitman told us.
The way has been a long one for the candidates, and what they are is,
indeed, picking its way on the campaign trail and during events like
that instructive debate. About which, we now learn, there is to be a
protest campaign against ABC and the moderators, mounted by assorted
journalists and bloggers.
We are at the beginning of a contest likely to repeat itself through
November: between that part of the press prepared to put hard questions
equally, and all the rest, including those who'll mount the barricades
when their candidate is threatened with discomfiture. Let the wars
Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial
By Jed Babbin
Though Hillary Clinton probably can’t, John McCain can certainly defeat
Barack Obama. Obama’s weakness has nothing to do with his race, his
liberalism, or his inexperience.
The Greeks had a term for it: hamartia. The one flaw -- different in
every man -- that makes him imperfect, vulnerable and gives his
adversaries, if they discover it, the ability to bring him down. Achilles’ was
his heel. Obama’s is his political glass jaw.
The supposedly-brilliant Democratic wunderkind can’t take a punch. Like
a Hollywood actor, he’s only comfortable, quick and charismatic as
long as the crowd is oohing and ahhing. But the moment that he is
challenged -- as we first saw in his presser after he lost the Ohio primary in
March and again last week in the ABC debate -- the mask shatters. What
we see is what we would get with an Obama presidency: a man whose range
is so small and ego so huge and fragile that when taken out of his
comfort zone, he not only fails to shine, he barely is able to speak.
In that post-Ohio presser, the reporters who had previously been a
source of adulation were themselves riled by a Saturday Night Live skit
which portrayed them as they had been: fawning over Obama. (In the skit
one actor-reporter offered him a pillow.) And then, when he lost to
Clinton in Ohio, reporters dared to actually ask a few questions that
required more of him than to smile and mutter “change.”
Obama was flustered, angry, and terminated the event with a sharpness
that startled some of the participants. Last week, he showed another
In the last debate against Clinton before the Pennsylvania primary,
Obama had a very bad night. He ducked and weaved, demonstrating an amazing
shallowness on critical issues. On capital gains tax, he said he’d
raise it to a “fair” level, shrugging off the questioner’s statement that
the proven result of capital gains tax hikes is a reduction in
collected tax revenues. He, and Clinton, are suddenly big fans of the Second
Amendment, but he (and Clinton) both spoke favorably of gun control laws.
The former chief of the Harvard Law Review didn’t display much
understanding of the Constitution. Or of the Supreme Court case that’s about
to decide the constitutionality of the DC gun ban.
Obama may be able to float like a butterfly but he also stings like
one. At a rally later last week in Raleigh, N.C., Obama was critical of
Clinton, saying, “Sen. Clinton looked in her element” in the debate. And
then he did something as shocking and juvenile as we’ve seen a pol do
since the last time Bill Clinton stuck his thumb in a lady’s waistband
and snapped her panty hose.
Obama was speaking critically about Hillary Clinton and -- unable to
control his impulse -- he smirked and made an obscene finger gesture (in
a manner well-known to high schoolers) with his middle finger against
his nose. (To those who doubt, see the video and judge for yourself.)
Everyone saw what he meant: the crowd understood. And so did Howard Dean
and John McCain.
The Pennsylvania debate and aftermath drew a frustrated plea from
Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. In a CNN interview last
Thursday, Dean practically begged the superdelegates to put him out of
his primary misery. “I need them to say who they’re for starting now…We
cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing
time,” Dean said. Not just campaign time and fundraising time. But
Dean -- having done much to create this Frankenstein-like primary
season -- has, like the mad Baron, realized what he has done. He may not
have forseen the Obama phenomenon or the fact that Hillary Clinton
couldn’t close the deal on Super Tuesday. But even the man who brought primal
scream therapy to televised campaigning sees open, not-soon-to-heal
wounds separating the biggest Democratic constituencies: black voters and
the most liberal of Democrats overwhelmingly for Obama versus women and
more moderate Dems for Clinton.
Dean’s party is split neatly down the middle, in a battle growing
rougher by the day. Which is why he is pleading more for time to heal than
time to campaign against John McCain. But Hillary Clinton isn’t going
anywhere, and neither Dean nor any of the other party elders can either
stop her or compel superdelegates to decide the race. Both Hillary and
Obama have gone negative in the days before tomorrow’s Pennsylvania
primary. Healing is delayed, indefinitely.
Which leaves Sen. John McCain able to throw sharp above-the-belt jabs
at Obama to keep the Democrats divided. On Sunday, McCain raised Obama’s
long-time association with former Weather Underground terrorist
William Ayers. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulous, McCain said
that Obama’s defense of his relationship with Ayers “borders on the
outrageous.” Having done the damage he desired -- like any good fighter
pilot -- McCain headed back to base saying he didn’t question Obama’s
patriotism. “But,” McCain added, “his relationship wit Mr. Ayers is open
When Pennsylvania Democrats vote tomorrow, they’ll be placing their
bets on who can survive a 15-round fight with Sen. John McCain. Sen.
McCain wants to fight the fall campaign by Marquis of Queensberry rules. In
his own words, McCain is older than dirt and has more scars than
Frankenstein. He can throw a pretty good political punch.
Obama is young and unscarred. And he can’t take a punch. John McCain
can beat Obama even if Hillary can’t.
Mr. Babbin is the editor of Human Events. He served as a deputy
undersecretary of defense in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He
is the author of "In the Words of our Enemies"(Regnery,2007) and (with
Edward Timperlake) of "Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United
States" (Regnery, 2006) and "Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe
are Worse than You Think" (Regnery, 2004). E-mail him at
By Ann Coulter
April 16, 2008
The Democrats' "Fake-Out America" adviser, Berkeley linguistics
professor George Lakoff, must be beside himself. Despite Lakoff's years spent
training Democrats to "frame" their language to stop scaring Americans,
B. Hussein Obama was caught on tape speaking candidly to other
liberals in San Francisco last week.
One minute Obama was bowling in Pennsylvania with nice, ordinary people
wearing "Beer Hunter" T-shirts, and the next thing you know, he was
issuing a report on the psychological traits of normal Americans to rich
liberals in San Francisco.
Obama informed the San Francisco plutocrats that these crazy
working-class people are so bitter, they actually believe in God! And not just
the 12-step meeting, higher power, "as you conceive him or her to be"
kind of God. The regular, old-fashioned, almighty sort of "God."
As Obama put it: "(T)hey get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or
antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or
anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
The rich liberals must have nearly fainted at the revelation that the
denizens of small towns in Pennsylvania have absolutely no concern for
the rich's ability to acquire servants from Mexico at a reasonable
We don't know much about Obama's audience, other than that four
fundraisers were held on April 6 at the homes of San Francisco's rich and
mighty, such as Alex Mehran, an Iranian who went into daddy's business and
married an IBM heiress, and Gordon Getty, heir to the Getty Oil
It is not known whether any of Getty's three illegitimate children
attended the Obama fundraiser -- which turned out to be more of a McCain
fundraiser -- but photos from the event indicate that there were a fair
number of armed (and presumably bitter) policemen providing security for
the billionaire's soiree.
In 1967, Gordon sued his own father to get his hands on money from the
family trust -- and lost. So Gordon Getty knows from bitter. It's a
wonder he hasn't turned to guns, or even to immigrant-bashing. God knows
(whoever he is) there are enough of them working on his home.
These are the sort of well-adjusted individuals to whom Obama is
offering psychological profiles of normal Americans, including their bizarre
theories about how jobs being sent to foreign countries and
illegal-alien labor undercutting American workers might have something to do with
their own economic misfortunes.
It's going to take a lot of "framing" for Democrats to recast Obama's
explanation to San Francisco cafe society that gun ownership and a
belief in God are the byproducts of a psychological disorder brought on by
It is an article of faith with the Democrats that they must fool
Americans by simulating agreement with normal people. The winner of the
Democratic primary is always the candidate who does the best impersonation
of an American.
But then, after all their hard work making believe they're into NASCAR
and God, some Democrat invariably slips and lets us know it's all a big
fake-out. They're like a gay guy trying to act straight who
accidentally refers to Brad Pitt as "yummy!"
The Democrats' last phony American (or perhaps I should say "faux
American") was John Kerry, who famously said that if "you study hard and you
do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well.
If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Kerry claimed this was not an accurate reflection of his feelings about
the troops, despite a four-decade record of contempt for them,
including accusing American troops of being baby-killers during the Vietnam
Rather, he said, it was a "botched joke." (In Kerry's defense, he was
the opening act for Randi Rhodes' stand-up comedy show at the time.) But
as with his military records, Kerry refused to allow his joke-writer
to release any of the jokes cut from that speech.
In case there was any confusion, other Democrats immediately clarified
their position by going on television and saying -- as Rep. Charlie
Rangel did -- that our troops are people who don't have the option of
having "a decent career."
These Democrats can't even pull off attending a NASCAR race without
embarrassing themselves. In August 2004, Kerry exclaimed: "Who among us
does not love NASCAR?" And then, about six months ago, Democratic
congressional staffers to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., sent out a memo
urging aides going to NASCAR races to get inoculated before attending.
Obama had been so careful until now, "framing" his message as "change"
-- rather than partial birth abortion, driver's licenses for illegal
aliens, tax hikes, socialized medicine and abandoning mandatory minimum
prison sentences for federal crimes.
His message is "change" -- not that his wife has not been proud to be
an American for most of her life.
He is for "change" -- and don't mind the crazy racist loon who has been
Obama's spiritual mentor for two decades.
One can only hope that Obama got his shots before bowling in Altoona,