April 18, 2008
The Post-Modern Candidate
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
Since Barack Obama stumbled so spectacularly in his debate with Hillary Clinton, there has been a fair amount of criticism of the debate moderators and their questions, coming from Obama supporters. Bob Cesca at the Huffington Post resorts to nasty hyperbole and sarcasm in order to attack the messengers:
We like to joke about the "very serious" traditional media. The truth is that while they claim exclusive lordship over integrity and professionalism -- not to mention a corner on the world's supply of pants made of smarty -- they're really a freak show with serious haircuts and suits. They're a wing of the Republican corporatist conspiracy against America. And the very serious moderators of last night's Democratic debate couldn't have been less serious if they had been wearing clown suits made of dildos while simultaneously tickling each other with monkeys.
I don't really even need to write this. The nation has witnessed, firsthand, George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson for who they really are: pandering yellow journalists. Carnival barkers. They're Penn & Teller without the talent or insight.
To wit... 50 minutes without a single substantive question. Fifty.
Beyond the intense snark, the subtext is that we should attend to what Obama symbolizes rather than to what he says. Roger Simon at the Politico, captures the thread:
You know a candidate is really feeling the heat when he starts complaining about the kitchen.
You know a candidate is having problems when he starts complaining about the process.
Wednesday night, in a debate here, Barack Obama complained a number of times about the presidential campaign process and how some people spend way too much time “obsessing” about some of the things he and others have actually said.
Interestingly enough, part of Obama's appeal has been that he speaks so eloquently and his speeches have been models of clarity and intellectually elevated discourse. (Pay no attention to the lack of detail or substance; the words soar!)
Barack Obama wants to be a post-modern Presidential candidate, a triumph of style over substance. His character is an embodiment of all that is good, while the blots on his escutcheon should be glided over by a compliant press. Barack Obama is also the quintessential left/liberal candidate. As noted in yesterday's post, And the Meme Played On, leftists and liberals do not want to engage in debate, they simply want to state their positions, based as they are on elevating emotions and discourse, without having to worry about the pesky details or concerns about character revealing flaws.
The single greatest service our MSM has done for the conservatives and Republicans in the last several years has been to place them under a magnifying glass, looking for each and every flaw and seizing every opportunity to bring those flaws to the public's attention. This has forced the Republicans to return to their ideas and has helped ferret out those candidates whose character flaws were problematic.
The single greatest disservice the MSM has done for the liberals has been to ignore their inconsistencies and gloss over their flaws. This has left the Democrats poorly able to articulate an argument (beyond as hominem arguments, at which they are particularly adept) and unprepared to deal with the inevitable character flaws that would be revealed in the crucible of a Presidential campaign, or worse for all of us, in the crucible of a Presidential term.
What was most revealing about Barack Obama was his obvious lack of preparedness for the questions that were asked of him about his Pastor and his relationship with a 60s unreconstructed radical terrorist. I do not doubt he is arrogant, but I suspect his lack of preparedness did not spring from arrogance but from his hermetic environment where there was a complete lack of recognition that such questions could be, or would be, asked in a Democratic debate.
Bob Cesca should have thanked the ABC duo for asking the hard questions of Barack Obama. At some point, either in the campaign or once in office, he will need to address questions that will be exponentially more difficult than the ones he had trouble with during the debate. Treating their candidates with kid gloves has been a disservice to the Democratic Party and a greater disservice to the American people.