Never trust a campaign slogan that ends in a preposition. "Change we can believe in," reads Obama's pompous promise on his website. A quote from Obama hovering nearby seeks halfheartedly to flatter voters by suggesting this change will enlist their genius too: "I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington...I'm asking you to believe in yours."
A similar song and dance is contained in his bafflingly arrogant mantra: "We are the ones we've been waiting for." That apparently means whoever appears last is best -- the political equivalent to Darwin's theory of evolution.
Offering himself to the nation as the charismatic consummation of uncorrupted liberalism worked for awhile but now leaves an increasing number of people bored and irritated.
Unlike the cynical JFK, who wore his claimed idealism lightly, Obama actually seems to believe his narcissistic slogans, as do his followers, who, like the black novelist Alice Walker, present him as a gift to a racist nation and chance for Americans to prove at long last their entrance into the light.
EVEN IF OBAMA were less deluded and empty, it would still be hard for him to keep a New Frontier-style sham going, given the tedious glare of 24/7 media coverage. Remoteness helped launch JFK's Camelot. Today's multimedia familiarity breeds contempt.
He is an "Ivy League scold," says the Washington Post, quoting a Democratic party observer who gives that as the summary explanation for his recent rough patch. His chip-on-her-shoulder, finally "proud of America" wife and "God damn America" spiritual mentor have hardened this image of him as an elitist and stealth radical.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, who is also an Ivy League scold but first and foremost an amorphous political animal, grows more populist and less elitist by the day. As she learned during her time in the South, political survival often requires liberals to feed parasitically off reassuring conservative themes.
While Hillary no doubt rolls her eyes as she prepares her latest speech of populist gruel about the glories of "hunting and shooting," she figures that is a small price to pay for hoodwinking 300 million Americans.
Recall that after Bill Clinton once lost his governorship in Arkansas -- due in part to Southerners distrusting his Ivy-League-lawyer, arriviste wife who insisted on calling herself "Hillary Rodham" -- she promptly dropped her maiden name.
AND IT WAS HILLARY, not Bill, who called Dick Morris in from the bullpen to pitch triangulation strategies after Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took Congress in 1994. Now as she heads into Indiana she is faking up some enthusiasm for "Hoosier values," an easier task after the ongoing damage from Obama's gaffe in San Francisco.
Also cementing his "Ivy League scold" image is the fact that his attempts to recover from such gaffes are almost as inept and condescending as the original offenses. The analogies and excuses on which he falls back are strained and cowardly, whether equating his grandmother with racist crack-pots or his senatorial colleague Tom Coburn with a terrorist.
So how does he get back on track? What populist prop could Obama use in Indiana to stop Hillary's new appeal to ordinary Americans? Should he start smoking again?
If he doesn't, Hillary could seize on the practice; smoking would be a useful addition to her new enthusiasm for whiskey shots. Or maybe in a basketball-dominated state like Indiana Obama should abandon his bowling shoes and pick up his sneakers, though I noticed from a recent Bryant Gumbel sports segment that even here Obama runs into populist trouble: his style of basketball tends to be ginger and was branded by a black commentator as Yuppyish and "white."
In Indiana, Obama will no doubt continue to deny that he meant any offense by his "bitter" comment. And give him this much: It is true that he likes bitter people who turn to God and guns out of economic and social frustration. The problem is that they tend to be the militant followers of Jeremiah Wright at his church.
The bitterness of benighted, NRA-card-holding Christians and the bitterness of the Malcolm-X-God-and-guns crowd in Chicago are apparently two different categories in Obama's mind. The first group is in need of enlightenment; the second group is the vanguard of it.
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