As you'll recall, last week, in the 21st Democratic candidates' debate, the press finally got around to asking Obama repeatedly about some of the evidence that he is (or, perhaps, was) farther to the left than his expensively honed public image would suggest.
Personally, I was bored with attempts to discern differences in their platforms, but I thought that was just me. But now Team Obama has pulled out of the planned North Carolina primary debate. This follows Obama's statement that he's bored with debates too. CNN reported:
Sen. Barack Obama suggested Thursday that he doesn't see any point in having another debate with Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton.Of course, the reason he doesn't want to do a 22nd debate is because in the 21st, he finally got asked tough questions about the central conundrum about Barack Obama: Who is in charge: his head or his heart?
Clinton has agreed to a debate next week, but Obama has not accepted the invitation.
At an appearance in Raleigh, North Carolina, Obama said he has a lot of campaigning to do in a limited amount of time.
Obama said he had agreed to an earlier debate, but Clinton declined that one.
"I'll be honest with you, we've now had 21," he said. "It's not as if we don't know how to do these things. I could deliver Sen. Clinton's lines; she could, I'm sure, deliver mine."
Like me, Obama is essentially a writer, not an extemporaneous speaker. He needs a few drafts to work things out. So, he developed a conversational style where he doesn't try to persuade anybody in unscripted conversation of anything other than that "I have understood you," knowing that most people assume that the only reason anybody disagrees with them is because they are too dumb to understand. Obama watched how fast people got sick of Newt Gingrich. Americans like to imagine their leaders know more than they are saying.
And even though debates are mostly precanned speechmaking, where he can use his writing skills to come up with verbiage ahead of time, they aren't his strength because of the time restrictions on his answers. Obama needs a lot of words to work his special Baroque O'Blarney magic, to lull his readers and listeners into forgetting whatever it was they wanted to know from him and just stand their in awe of his thoughtful nuances.
For example, his March 18th speech on his two-decade long relationship with Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. was instantly proclaimed a masterpiece by the press because it was 5,000 words long.
But, to the surprise of many reporters who watched it, it didn't end the Rev. problem for him, especially not among the kind of Pennsylvania voters who aren't going to read 5,000 words of nuanced thoughtfulness. Obama's problem is that when you try to sum up his March 18th explanation for his 20 years of following Rev. Wright in a few syllables, you just come up with something like: "It's okay because I'm black."
Obama's plan appears to be to try to run out the clock on the Democratic nomination, then hope that the elderly McCain decides to run a gentlemanly campaign that will meet with the approval of his admirers in the press rather than go to the mat with Obama, 1988-style, and actually try to win.
Clearly, Obama is a brilliant politician who has spent a long time thinking about how he would someday be elected President. Still, his bet that his opponents and the press will be too intimidated by his being black to take the gloves off is a risky one.
Leaving aside race, Obama's problem is the same as Mitt Romney's was. We had two pictures of Romney at two different times: the liberal Republican governor of Massachusetts a few years ago and the conservative Republican candidate in 2008. And Romney didn't provide us with any kind of narrative explaining how and why he went from Point A to Point B. Romney was a Heisenbergian electron materializing in different orbits with no way for us to know how he got from one to the other.
So, a lot of people decided that Romney must be a big phony who determined his standards by political expediency. And thus the nomination went to John McCain, who may blow up the world, but at least he'll do it in an authentic, straight-shootin' manner.
Like Romney, Obama, despite being a gifted memoirist, has never provided us with a plausible narrative explaining how he got from Rev. Wright's politics to being the post-partisan conciliator he claims to be now.
Romney, being white, especially being Mormon, which a lot of people associate with Donny Osmond's big-toothed perpetual smile, couldn't get away with that. So far, Obama, being (nominally) black, which Americans associate with authenticity, has gotten away with it.
But, he's losing momentum. He's lost three big state primaries in a row.
Obviously, it's presumptuous of me to offer Obama political advice. The man has thought longer and harder than anybody about the many advantages of being black in America today. He figured out that black Democrats would abandon the Clintons out of pure racial loyalty. And he figured out that white Democrats (and maybe white Republicans too) have been trained to turn their brains off when it comes to anything touching on race. He may very well win the Presidency because his opponents and the media are intimidated by his race.
Still, he's playing defense now. He'll increasingly have to hunker down, away from the trickle of tough questions that has started.
If he wants to go back on offense, though, he should play to his strength. He should give another 5,000 word speech. This one would be on: "I used to be way to the left, but now I'm not, because ..."
Aye, there's the rub: Why?
Therefore, let me suggest one for him:
"I used to be way to the left, but now I'm not, because I had kids."