Obama: Ambition Should Be Made of Sterner Stuff

Remember that Obama flap–no, not Rev. Wright, not Bill Ayres, not BitterClingGate, not LapelPinGate,  not Michelle Be Not Proud–no, way back even further, when the Clinton campaign unearthed evidence that Obama did  have early ambitions to be Pres, as they found in a grade-school essay he had written?

I don’t know when Obama first had the idea, which he may now regret,  to run for President. But as these shoes from his past have dropped one by one, I’ve come to this conclusion: Obama has long lacked the Ultra Caution Gene that’s part of almost every successful  politician’s makeup.

    I’ve known and befriended a  number of people who served at the city council, state rep/ state Senate and  House level, in addition to several unsuccessful candidates for office and a number of bold talkers who threatened to run for office but never got in the ring. And almost all these winners, losers, and wannabes had one thing in common: They were pathologically cautious. Everything they did  was passed through this filter: Will this Person /Event/Contribution/Statement  hurt me or help me in reaching my goal?

These were people straight out of the Clintonian mold, forever “preserving their options” against the day they would run for office. At fundraisers or staff parties, they would never be photographed holding a beer or glass of wine. If they knew a journalist was nearby, even someone who covered sports or real estate, they would constantly interrupt the most innocuous chatter to say, “Now, this is off the record, but…” And so on.

One anecdote will suffice. Several years ago  I was a semi-regular panelist on a local PBS public affairs TV show. Four of us would get together a few times a month and argue about local, state, and national politics. The shows would air Friday nights and Sunday mornings, so you can imagine the underwhelming size of the audience.  One woman panelist, whom I’ll call Marissa, was generally known to have political ambitions, and those dreams acted as a governor on everything she did and said. Her every comment was balanced and nuanced until the life was squeezed out of it; she  never entertained a single thought that didn’t come from the party’s marching orders of that month or year.

Pal around with firebrand preachers? Ex bomb-throwers? Are you kidding? This woman would have run screaming from a Unitarian, much less a militant.

Just before we’d go on the air each week, an assistant producer would bring out a payroll sheet for us to initial so that we could receive what the station called an “honorarium,” which is PBS-speak for “enough to buy a six-pack and some Doritos on the way home.” One day the AP was sick, so we didn’t see the payroll sheet that day. After the show, another staffer told me that she had just initialed them for us and had already taken the sheet to the business office.

Marissa, who was taking off some of her camera makeup, spun around in her chair. “What?” she asked, her eyes wide. “You did what?”

The staffer, nervous now, repeated what she had done. Marissa jumped from her chair, whipping off the makeup gown, and said something like, “We need to fix that. Now!” And she demanded that the frightened young minion accompany her to the business office, where, I later learned, she accosted the accounting head and demanded that he give her the payroll sheet so that she could erase the offending initials and insert her own.

A few weeks later I ran into a mutual friend who told me how horrified Marissa had been over the incident. What if she ran for office a year or five years later, and some opposition research weasel found out somebody had forged her initials on a financial document? Yikes!

Not five but ten years later, Marissa did run for Congress. Her opponent, the incumbent, trounced her without breaking a sweat, portraying her as a conventional, programmatic politician who was simply out of step with the district’s needs. But at least he never plumbed the dark secrets of  InitialGate.






Rev. Wright Buries Obama’s Hopes

I think I just heard the coffin lid slamming on Barack Obama’s hopes in this speech Rev. Wright gave to the National Press Club yesterday.  I thought giving him more room to establish his real context might clarify his relationship with Obama and help millions of skeptics see the good that Obama saw in him. Uh, guess I was wrong.

 He may still grab the nomination by a fingernail, but he’ll spend September and October trying to explain, again and again and again, why he could stomach the Rev for 20 years, only to discover the man’s true nature in the past six months. And, as they say, if you’re explainin’ you ain’t campaignin’, and you sure ain’t gainin’.

Here’s What Rev. Wright Meant to Say

Some weeks ago I pleaded  for media outfits to supply some context for Obama’s controversial former minister, Rev. Wright. I suggested that they might actually leave the newsroom and go talk to a few dozen people who have attended the church over the years–“interview” them, as newshounds like to say–and, y’know, give readers/viewers some idea of Wright’s thinking, to let us curious millions know whether his “GD America” comments were an outrageous exception or typical Sunday fare.

Well, here’s a shot at context from Bill Moyers, the transcript of his interview with Wright. Get a somewhat bigger picture of the Rev here.

Bush on “Deal or No Deal”: Not an Urban Legend

Well, silly me. We watch so little TV around here that when my wife heard a radio fragment about Bush appearing on a game show, I just figured it was some urban legend or misinformed caller sounding off. But no: The once and future Dallas Arean did show up to cheer on a “Deal or No Deal” contestant who is a decorated veteran, and to quip about his own historically low ratings. Catch the cameo here.

By the way, the contestant, Joseph Kobes, went on to win $26,000. Apparently these glamour babes are each holding a case with a certain dollar amount inside, and Kobes didn’t draw the big $1 million jackpot.

 The Bush moment spurs today’s trivia question: Was Richard Nixon’s pop-up appearance on the old “Laugh In” show the first time a sitting President appeared on an entertainment program? If it was not, who was the first Pres to do so? The winner will be issued 250,000 carbon offset credits, or more if you would like.

Prescient Progosticator Nails It Again

Well, gee, the same li’l  blogger who exactly predicted the vote in the Texas Primary–that would be me–has now nailed it again with Pennyslvania, as I modestly observe here: You’ll note the date of the prediction–a month ago.


If Not Obama, Who?

March 20, 2008 ·

Impossible to tell at this point how successful Obama was with the twin purposes of his big race speech on Tuesday, which were  to 1) distance himself from the black racism and outright nuttiness of Rev. Wright (The U. S. invented AIDS to keep blacks down?) and 2) further an honest discussion of race in this country.

As for Goal #1, he was already running behind in Pennsylvania and remains behind (I think he’ll lose by at least 10 points), so we don’t know the impact there. Important to remember that of the millions who hear about the speech, the vast majority will never read or hear it entirely, so much depends on which sound bites get bounced around the most.

And Remember, The Times Endorsed Hillary

From a NY Times editorial today:

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it. . . .

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.


So this is what Hillary’s supporters are saying about the campaign she ran.  If Obama does manage to stagger on to the nomination, McCain can just send all his campaign staff on vacation and re-run Clinton’s attacks on Obama.