Obama’s sum­mer of dis­con­tent

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The lat­est polls ought to alarm Barack Obama. The Illi­nois se­na­tor des­per­ately needs to change the nar­ra­tive of the last few months — and last week’s Demo­cratic con­ven­tion was a good op­por­tu­nity. Since he cap­tured the nom­i­na­tion in June, he has made a string of costly er­rors which have re­sulted in squan­der­ing his pre­vi­ous lead over John McCain.

The lat­est Wall Street Jour­nal/NBC poll re­veals that the race is now a sta­tis­ti­cal tie: Mr. Obama has 45 per­cent sup­port in con­trast to Mr. McCain’s 42 per­cent sup­port. Dur­ing the past month, Mr. McCain has closed Mr. Obama’s six-point lead. This trend is con­firmed in other na­tional polls that in­di­cate the candidates are tied. John Zogby’s lat­est poll even has Mr. McCain lead­ing Mr. Obama by 46 per­cent to 41 per­cent — and Mr. McCain has a nine-point lead as bet­ter able to han­dle the econ­omy, too. Even more strik­ing: Ac­cord­ing to the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton/Bat­tle­ground 2008 poll, Mr. Obama has lost his lead among in­de­pen­dent vot­ers. The Ari­zona se­na­tor is now fa­vored by in­de­pen­dents by a 45 to 35 per­cent mar­gin.

Mr. Obama be­gan to lose sup­port when it be­came clear that he was not the “new kind of politi­cian” he has been tout­ing. His glar­ing flip-flops have led vot­ers to ques­tion his sin­cer­ity and his com­pe­tence. He has ap­peared weak and un­sure of him­self in ad­dress­ing a num­ber of key is­sues.

As he po­si­tioned him­self for the gen­eral elec­tion, Mr. Obama flip-flopped on the The North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, on pub­lic fi­nanc­ing of his elec­tion cam­paign, on his will­ing­ness to meet rogue leaders, on whether Jerusalem ought to be di­vided, on the D.C. gun ban, on grant­ing im­mu­nity to telecom­mu­nica- tions com­pa­nies for wire-tap­ping and on off­shore drilling. He even stated that his Iraq pol­icy, the cen­ter­piece of his cam­paign for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, would be fur­ther “re­fined” ac­cord­ing to events on the ground. Rather than strength­en­ing his can­di­dacy, th­ese re­ver­sals or eva­sions, which came in rapid suc­ces­sion, took the bloom off the rose of his can­di­dacy. His “move­ment” came to a screech­ing stand­still.

Mr. Obama was fur­ther weak­ened by his po­si­tions on for­eign af­fairs. Dur­ing his Mideast/Euro­pean tour, in an in­ter­view with CBS’ Katie Couric, he ac­knowl­edged that the Iraq surge con­trib­uted to de­clin­ing vi­o­lence but that he had not been wrong in his pre­vi­ous op­po­si­tion to it. His re­sponse made lit­tle sense. His speech in Berlin, be­fore a mas­sive au­di­ence, con­tained so many puz­zling ref­er­ences to “world” lead­er­ship and so much flow­ery lan­guage that it pro­vided the McCain cam­paign with a golden op­por­tu­nity: Mr. Obama could be an ob­ject of ridicule. The McCain cam­paign un­leashed an ad in which Mr. Obama is pre­sented as a celebrity — akin to Paris Hil­ton and Brit­ney Spears. The McCain camp also is­sued ads in which Mr. Obama is mocked as “The One”; this makes light of his mes­sianic per­sona. Mr. Obama’s elo­quence is now be­ing used as a boomerang against him: he is be­ing pegged as a light­weight who makes in­com­pre­hen­si­ble state­ments. In re­sponse, Mr. Obama has been un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally flat-footed. He has not yet ad­e­quately re­but­ted th­ese charges, nor has he ad­dressed the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion raised dur­ing his world tour: As com­man­der-in-chief, whose in­ter­ests will come first, Amer­ica’s or the world’s? Is he, in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, a globalist who will be un­able to de­fend Amer­ica’s na­tional in­ter­est?

Mr. Obama’s im­age was fur­ther bat­tered by his re­sponse dur­ing the cri­sis in Ge­or­gia — he ap­peared weak and timid in con­trast to Mr. McCain’s more ro­bust stand. The lat­est Wall Street Jour­nal/ NBC poll, taken af­ter the Ge­or­gia cri­sis, re­veals that 52 per­cent of vot­ers say that Mr. McCain would be bet­ter than Mr. Obama on “in­ter­na­tional crises such as Iran or Rus­sia and the na­tion of Ge­or­gia.” Only 27 per­cent say that Mr. Obama is bet­ter on th­ese is­sues.

Mr. Obama was also not as ef­fec­tive as Mr. McCain dur­ing the Aug. 16 de­bate in Sad­dle­back Church in Cal­i­for­nia, hosted by the Rev. Rick War­ren. Mr. Obama’s re­sponses were long-winded and overly-nu­anced; whereas Mr. McCain was crisp, con­cise and decisive. Mr. Obama stum­bled in re­sponse to the ques­tion of when life be­gins and said that was above his “pay grade.” Again, he ap­peared in­ept.

Mr. Obama has now cho­sen Sen. Joseph Bi­den as his run­ning mate and con­cluded the con­ven­tion with an­other speech be­fore an­other mam­moth au­di­ence. Yet, trou­ble con­tin­ues to loom. His vice-pres­i­den­tial pick is a long-time se­na­tor who con­tra­dicts his anti-Wash­ing­ton, change mes­sage. And the con­ven­tion high­lighted the Clin­tons — who have un­der­mined Mr. Obama at ev­ery turn.

The Illi­nois se­na­tor is learn­ing an im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal les­son this sum­mer. Mo­men­tum, is like youth: once lost, it is very dif­fi­cult to re­cover.

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