Bill Murchison

There is perhaps one advantage worth noting in having a long, looong presidential campaign: You get to see the candidates react to a variety of circumstances. Though, from Barack Obama's angle, that's not precisely an advantage.

In one week's time, Obama:

1. finds himself deeply embarrassed by his pastor's racial rants and by his own inability to explain how he never heard any of these rants during 20 years of church attendance.

2. signals his economic ideas aren't quite up to the challenge of differentiating himself from the rest of the presidential field while proposing constructive solutions to the mess in which we're stunned to find ourselves.

As for No. 1, Obama demonstrates his probable ignorance of some folk adages: that a man is known by the company he keeps, and that when you lie down with dogs, you may cheerfully expect to arise with a flea infestation. Meaning he never realized, as the Rev. Jeremiah "God D--- America" Wright expounded before him, that this stuff could stir up a storm for a bright young presidential candidate?

Not many people suppose Obama believes the trash Wright heaps before his hearers. You get associated with that trash, nonetheless, by mutely staring as it piles up. What about the trouble George W. Bush got in for speaking at Bob Jones University, which banned interracial dating? Down came the fury of the Democrats and the media upon him. He had to apologize. Obama didn't notice? Thought perhaps a black man enjoyed exemption from the conversational standards imposed on white men? Not intuitive. Not what you'd call good judgment.

As for No. 2, while blood accumulates in the gutters of Wall Street, Obama flashes his economic credentials by spurning President Bush's plans for extension of the tax cuts due soon to expire. His party on Capitol Hill made the same noises last week in laying out their design for the next budget. At least, that was before the weekend drama that saw the Federal Reserve engineer the takeover of Bear Stearns by J. P. Morgan -- to avert the unknowable consequences of seeing so large an economic player simply fall apart.

The call to let "tax cuts for the wealthy" -- as liberals call them -- simply go away and rates rebound shows naivete of a highly beguiling sort. What Obama is saying, in a bid to be taken seriously as an economic thinker, is that the present victims haven't been kicked hard enough -- let's take more money from them as the penalty for having lost so much. Boy, if having their taxes hiked and their social usefulness questioned doesn't inspire them to work harder, what would?

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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