Barack Obama floats like a butterfly, even if he lacks the verbal facility to sting like a bee. He was lucky to draw the befuddled John McCain as his opponent in the 2008 presidential race. Rather than exposing Obama's bloated ego to the ridicule that it so richly deserved, McCain decided to make nice -- adding his voice to the hosanna chorus greeting the young Messiah. "And, finally, a word to Senator Obama and his supporters," McCain said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National convention. "We'll go at it over the next two months -- you know the nature of this business -- and there are big differences between us. But you have my respect and my admiration."
At the convention McCain left it to his running mate to throw the only serious punches at his Democratic rival. Then, if not later, Sarah Palin rose to the challenge -- providing the only moments worthy of inclusion in a highlight reel of great convention speeches.
She set up the first knock-down of the president-to-be with a self-deprecatory account of her own background:
A writer observed: "We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity." I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind when he praised Harry Truman.
I grew up with those people.
They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America… who grow our food, run our factories… and fight our wars.
They love their country, in good times and bad, and they're always proud of America. I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town.
I was just your average hockey mom, and I signed up for the PTA because I want to make my kids' public education better.
When I ran for city council, I didn't need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too.
Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown.
And since our opponents in this presidential race seem to look down upon that experience, let me explain what the job involves.
Then came a lightning combination of punches:
I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.
We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.
Her second knockdown of the president-to-be was almost as good. This time she began with a backhanded compliment ("We've all hear his dramatic speeches before devoted followers. And there is much to like and admire about our opponent") before getting down to the business of making fun of the mistaken ideas combined with the phony theatrics and stagecraft that went into the Obama acceptance speech at the Democratic convention a week earlier:
But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state senate.
This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed… when the roar of the crowd fades away… when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot -- what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing our planet? The answer is to make government bigger… take more of your money… give you more orders from Washington… and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.
What has the onetime community organizer learned since the last election -- with nearly four years of on-the-training as president of the United States, which happens to be the first real executive position that he has held?
The policies are no different today than they were four years ago: he still wants to make government bigger… to take more of your money… to give more orders from Washington. The one things that is truly surprising here is how far and how fast he has moved in turning the Democratic Party into the party of all-encompassing government.
I was somewhat disconcerted when I read this comment from Mitt Romney in the latest Time magazine: "My campaign is focused on his policies and on the failure of those policies, in my view. But I will not waste a campaign attacking him as an individual."
That seems to me too impersonal and non-judgmental. It is not just that Obama's policies have failed. He himself has failed and proven himself unworthy of the office he holds. He learned nothing from (or cares nothing about) the failures of policies. He presses forward (the campaign slogan) with the same conceit and the same absence of any sense of personal responsibility that have propelled him throughout his life.
Since when does government have the right to tell private companies -- and even religious institutions -- what they will be required to offer in their health plans? Of course, that's already happened. His Health Czar, Kathleen Sebelius, has told all employers, including religious institutions, that they must offer their workers free contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs.
Nothing he said he would do has turned out the way he predicted or promised.
He said the biggest stimulus bill of all time would result in a swift and robust recovery. It obviously didn't.
He said in his first state-of-the-union address that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Instead the national debt has skyrocketed -- going from $10 trillion to $16 trillion.
He said that Obamacare would allow all those who liked their current health plans to keep them and that it wouldn't add a single dime to the deficit. And that's absolutely untrue. Millions will be forced off their current plans in the next couple of years as Obamacare takes effect and the slew of new mandates will inevitable cause costs to spiral and the medical profession to spend more time catering to the wishes of government masterminds and less to tending to their patients.
He promised great transparency in government and he has delivered a black hole -- where hopelessly long and complex laws are passed before anyone reads them and where government bureaucrats are empowered to make rules as they see fit.
And through it all, Obama somehow remains "likable" to half or more of the American people -- if you believe the polls, which I do.
At a dinner party the other night with a dozen old friends from both sides of the political spectrum, my wife happened to mention a run-in that she had had with a certain "commie" -- this being the president of a condominium association in which we own and let one of sixteen apartments.
My wife was ticked off at the way the president of the association took it upon herself to tackle the problem of a buildup of personal junk in common areas outside of the fenced-in spaces reserved for individual owners. The president decided to call for a "free haul" day to be paid for out of association dues to get rid of the buildup of personal junk in the common area.
My wife objected to making all owners pay -- including those with no spill-over material in the common areas -- for the junk that had accumulated there as a result of the willingness of a few tenants or owners to violate the by-laws.
As it happened, the various people who assembled at the apartment complex for this meeting were all in a hurry to get to another event -- a neighborhood meeting of reelect Obama acolytes.
But you could almost hear the intake of breath when my wife used the verboten word "commie" at the dinner party with old acquaintances! Oh, what an evil word -- any lefty will tell you. Shades of a new McCarthyism stoked by Tea Party sentiment! How dare anyone stand up for property rights!
My friend James Delingpole, the English author and columnist, has written, "My problem with Barack Obama isn't that he's a black; my problem with Barack Obama is that he's a white liberal."
Actually, Obama is both of those things -- and those two things taken together account for the unwillingness of many people either to criticize and even to tolerate sharp criticism of his presidency. They give him a new kind of "untouchable" status -- being above serious criticism both as consequence of the mere fact of his race and as a consequence of his being a leading light in the Ruling Class that defines the perameters of political correctness.
John McCain -- who has always craved the good opinion of the news media -- may have been unwilling to put that at risk in mounting a strong attack on the values and leftwing political beliefs of his opponent.
Let's hope Mitt Romney doesn't make the same mistake. I don't think he will.