Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Commencement Blunder?

Bill Kristol points out an omission in a recent Barack commencement speech that could come back to haunt. It was memorial day weekend, when Barack was filling in for Ted Kennedy at Wesleyan University.

The speech was a predictable call to public service. In it, Barack details -
at some length — the “so many ways to serve” that are available “at this defining moment in our history.” There’s the Peace Corps, there’s renewable energy, there’s education, there’s poverty — there are all kinds of causes you can take up “should you take the path of service.”

But there’s one obvious path of service Obama doesn’t recommend — or even mention: military service. He does mention war twice: “At a time of war, we need you to work for peace.” And, we face “big challenges like war and recession.” But there’s nothing about serving your country in uniform.

Did it not occur to Barack to mention the military as a viable option? Not likely. More realistically, we can assume that he 1) chickened out, not wanting to say anything unpleasant on graduation day, or 2) is philosophically opposed, considering being in the military something other than working for peace.
But at an elite Northeastern college campus, Obama obviously felt no need to disturb the placid atmosphere of easy self-congratulation. He felt no need to remind students of a different kind of public service — one that entails more risks than community organizing. He felt no need to tell the graduating seniors in the lovely groves of Middletown that they should be grateful to their peers who were far away facing dangers on behalf of their country.
Here's the problem - this omission is another piece of the puzzle of "Who is Barack?" Many of the pieces are insignificant when taken in isolation - his refusal to wear a flag pin, his failure to have his hand over his heart at an appropriate moment, his wife's pride in America remarks. But as the puzzle comes together, the picture that is forming is of a radical who feels contempt for what America is.

When the picture becomes clear this fall, will it be one that is acceptable to those casting their votes? David Brooks reminds us today that Barack already has his electoral struggles:
Though voters now prefer Democratic policy positions on most major issues by between 11 and 25 points, Obama has only a 0.7 percent lead over McCain in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. His favorability ratings among independents has dropped from 63 percent to 49 percent since late February.
Why has Barack staggered over the past several weeks?
Since effectively wrapping up the nomination, Barack Obama has lost 7 of the last 13 primaries.
Why can't Barack get average working folk to support him?
Ron Brownstein of the National Journal calculates that Obama did no better among those voters in a late state like Pennsylvania than he did for 26 out of 29 earlier primary states where he lost the working class.
Is he simply the candidate of the elite?
There is something about his magic that resonates powerfully with the well-educated but doesn’t translate with the less-educated. As a result, you get all these odd poll results. Voters agree with Obama’s original position on Iraq, but according to the Pew Research Center, they trust McCain more to handle the issue.
Democrats think that the Wright controversy is behind Barack.
Peter Hart did a focus group for the Annenberg Public Policy Center with independent voters in Virginia that captured reactions you hear all the time. These independent voters were intrigued by Obama’s “change” message, but they knew almost nothing about him except that he used to go to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church.
At the end, it will come down to whether Barack Obama, with his inexperience, his lack of integrity in advancing his career, his bizarre affiliations, and his links to radical anti-Americanism will survive the scrutiny of the general election.

Despite the heavy odds against the GOP this year, the exception will be a McCain victory. I don't know why more people don't see this.

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