WASHINGTON -- As I noted several weeks back, some very bizarre happenings began to haunt the Obama campaign in April. The candidate -- taking his breakfast in a Scranton, Pa., eatery -- was asked by a reporter for his reaction to a meeting former President Jimmy Carter had just concluded with a thug from Hamas. Clearly annoyed, Sen. Barack Obama refused to answer the question. In a word, he waffled. Worse, he actually was eating a waffle -- a Belgian waffle. It was not even an American waffle. That is not the only bizarre element in this story. Despite all his vaunted political acumen, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination actually blurted out to the nonplussed reporter: "Why can't I just eat my waffle? Just let me eat my waffle."
I also cited another bizarre story reported at about the same time. In San Francisco, which should be safe territory for Obama, one of his supporters released the candidate's confidential remarks made to a closed meeting of donors. The remarks were posted on a friendly Web site for all to admire. Of a sudden, they created a nationwide furor that has troubled his campaign ever since. It was in those remarks that Obama confided his conviction that religion is the opiate of the gun nuts, who, he claimed, have been unemployed and living in jerkwater for "25 years." At the time, other odd phenomena were cropping up around the theretofore suave and invincible junior senator from Illinois. Some went unreported. Others merely were dismissed as gaffes.
I perceived a more serious problem mounting for the candidate. There was a fundamental weirdness in these episodes that reminded me of a condition President Jimmy Carter found himself in not long into his presidency. He was suffering some sort of diabolical infestation. Supernatural pranksters had made their way from heaven or hell to trip him up. What was happening to Jimmy when he claimed to be attacked by a huge amphibious bunny or during numerous jogging mishaps was not normal. Now the paranormal has settled upon the Obama campaign.
Along with the bad luck of eating a waffle while waffling and of having his elitist prejudices exposed to public scrutiny, there is an accumulating junk pile of gaffes that seem to be beyond Obama's control. On Memorial Day, he declaimed in one of those august orations of his that suggest an aide is burning incense offstage: "I had an uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps." Truth be told, the Russian army, not the U.S. Army, liberated Auschwitz; and Obama has had no such uncle. It was a gaffe. The glib and affable candidate is becoming gaffable.
There have been many signs of his gaffability. For instance, he has been caught at least twice claiming -- as he did in Selma, Ala., a year ago -- that his "very existence" was the result of a Kennedy-funded program that airlifted his father from Kenya to America. His father arrived in a 1959 airlift. The Kennedy family grant actually was made for a second airlift in 1960. Also in Selma, he claimed to be born "because of what happened in Selma, Ala., because some folks are willing to march across a bridge." The march took place in 1965. Obama was born in 1961. A year ago, he smugly observed: "In case you missed it, this week there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died." He was off by 9,988 casualties. More recently, he has claimed he's campaigned in 57 states. During a know-it-all assessment of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, he blundered into saying that the Iraqis and Afghans speak the same language.
Now, people who know Obama have been telling me for months that he is a very likable fellow and very clever. The problem he has, they say, is that things come easily to him. So easily that oftentimes, he simply wings it, expecting his facile mind to get him through. That makes sense. The tendency to wing it is encouraged all the more by Obama's insufferable arrogance.
Yet I fear his problems are more complicated. He is in the mess Carter has been in ever since the 39th president's ill-starred administration. Obama's campaign is haunted by supernatural mischief-makers. The fates are against him. Ghosts and goblins want to have fun at his expense. His gaffability will continue, and soon the Democratic leaders will be wincing. Yet they have no alternative to Obama. Hillary's recent gaffes have been as abominable, and she is not as likable as the young man from Illinois or Hawaii or Indonesia or wherever else he claims to hail from.
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