The same old Demo­crat Party on dis­play

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Don­ald Lam­bro

For weeks, John McCain has been pound­ing Barack Obama in TV ads that de­pict him as an in­ex­pe­ri­enced, in-over-his-head celebrity can­di­date who is not up to the job of com­man­der in chief.

And for most of that time, the fresh­man Demo­cratic se­na­tor, who said he of­fered the vot­ers “a new kind of pol­i­tics,” has not re­sponded with an ef­fec­tive coun­terof­fen­sive of his own.

It re­minded frus­trated Democrats of John Kerry’s fail­ure to an­swer the Swift Boat at­tacks on his ex­ag­ger­ated ser­vice in Viet­nam. The re­sult has been a rapid ero­sion of Mr. Obama’s sup­port among Democrats, women, Catholics and even younger vot­ers, ac­cord­ing to John Zogby’s lat­est poll, show­ing Mr. McCain edg­ing ahead by a 46 per­cent to 41 per­cent mar­gin. A slew of other polls, in­clud­ing the Los An­ge­les Times/Bloomberg poll, came out two weeks ago that re­in­forced Mr. Zogby’s find­ings and stunned Mr. Obama’s high com­mand.

“The sur­vey high­lights Obama’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity on the ques­tion of his readi­ness to lead the na­tion. Less than half of the reg­is­tered vot­ers polled think the first-term Illi­nois se­na­tor has the ‘right’ ex­pe­ri­ence to be pres­i­dent, while 80 per­cent be­lieve McCain, a four-term se­na­tor, does,” the Times re­ported last Wed­nes­day.

Mr. Obama has been get­ting pounded on two ad­di­tional is­sues dur­ing this time: his op­po­si­tion to drilling for more oil in the face of high gas prices on one hand, and his meek, Jimmy Carter-like re­sponse to Rus­sia’s Soviet-style in­va­sion and sub­se­quent oc­cu­pa­tion of neigh­bor­ing Ge­or­gia on the other.

Both were ma­jor fac­tors in Mr. Obama’s shrink­ing sup­port, but the for­eign-pol­icy cri­sis in Ge­or­gia has hurt him more be­cause it plays into the notready-to-lead charge that Mr. McCain has made a para­mount is­sue of his cam­paign.

Thus, there was much rid­ing on last week’s con­ven­tion and the po­lit­i­cal im­age Barack Obama and the Democrats pre­sented to the na­tion over four suc­ces­sive nights, cul­mi­nat­ing with his mega-rally ex­trav­a­ganza Aug. 28 in Den­ver.

One po­ten­tial trou­ble spot: Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton are dom­i­nat­ing much of the con­ven­tion. Mr. Obama bent over back­ward to kow­tow to their look-atme de­mands for more prom­i­nent con­sec­u­tive nights prime-time speak­ing roles.

Then there will be a nom­i­nat­ing roll-call vote that Hil­lary also de­manded to give her still-an­gry sup­port­ers a cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence to vent and show her proper re­spect. Pre­sum­ably, this will re­quire Mrs. Clin­ton to make an­other trip to the podium to release her del­e­gates to vote for Mr. Obama and move to de­clare him the nom­i­nee by ac­cla­ma­tion.

But will Mrs. Clin­ton’s speech be all about her and her cam­paign and the 18 mil­lion votes she re­ceived in the pri­maries? Hordes of her sup­port­ers will fill the con­ven­tion hall, lustily cheer­ing ev­ery ut­ter­ance about her his­toric bid for the pres­i­dency. And many are un­will­ing to bury the hatchet and let by­gones by by­gones.

The name of one of the three ma­jor groups work­ing on her be­half in Den­ver is PUMA, which stands for “Party Unity My. . . .” They in­sist Mrs. Clin­ton was robbed of the nom­i­na­tion and are in no mood to em­brace Mr. Obama’s can­di­dacy, at least not yet. For­mer Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man Steve Gross­man, who backed Mrs. Clin­ton, told me any pos­si­bil­ity of party unity right now re­mains “a work in progress.”

But the larger sub­text of the Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion is shap­ing up to be far more prob­lem­atic for Democrats in the fall elec­tion.

While Mr. Obama has been preach­ing change, a new kind of pol­i­tics and a new chap­ter in Demo­cratic poli­cies, the same old lib­eral, nanny state, anti-trade, anti-tax cuts, anti-drilling, an­tibusi­ness pol­i­tics was on full dis­play in Den­ver — re­mind­ing vot­ers that noth­ing has changed in the party of Ge­orge McGovern, Wal­ter Mon­dale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry.

There were be the Clin­tons, hog­ging the lime­light and wish­ing for a re­turn to the old days when they were at the cen­ter of power. Then in rapid suc­ces­sion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid and a conga line of other Demo­cratic leaders, re­mind­ing the coun­try why Congress’ pub­lic-ap­proval rat­ing has sunk to 14 per­cent.

The key­note speech was de­liv­ered by for­mer Gov. Mark Warner of Vir­ginia — hardly a house­hold name — whose dull, tech­no­cratic speak­ing style was one rea­son why his own pres­i­den­tial bid fell with a thud.

Other speeches were de­signed to ap­peal to a raft of Demo­cratic spe­cial plead­ers and blameAmer­ica-first com­plain­ers call­ing for a laun­dry list of new gov­ern­ment pro­grams to solve ev­ery prob­lem un­der the sun. Haven’t we heard this stuff be­fore?

The clos­ing act on Aug. 28 was Barack Obama de­liv­er­ing his ac­cep­tance speech be­fore a mon­ster, out­door rock-con­cert-style rally that fa­vors his kind of promisethem-any­thing ora­tory. It was like that gi­gan­tic out­door rally in Berlin, where hun­dreds of thou­sands of fren­zied Ger­mans turned him into a global celebrity that has back­fired on his can­di­dacy.

Mr. Obama re­turned home to dis­cover the vot­ers were looking for an ex­pe­ri­enced leader, not an in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal rock star.

Don­ald Lam­bro, chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent of The Wash­ing­ton Times, is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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