Ross Mackenzie
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So, despite his loss to Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, isn’t it time to begin taking Barack Obama seriously?

Absolutely. And he is indeed a serious candidate. He’s a fabulous rhetorician capable of rhythmic, repetitive, almost hypnotic speeches virtually empty of substance. Because Hillary oddly chose not to challenge him in countless caucus states, it’s hard to see how he won’t be the Democratic nominee.

But . . .

But on the issues, when you can get him on the issues, he’s a joke.

A joke? A serious candidate a joke? Come on.

Look. He’s perhaps nothing so much as a latter-day Jimmy Carter — a well-intending, Kumbaya-humming leftie. He preaches a leftism that says it’s all (or mostly) America’s fault, that would retreat before Islamofascism, that would raise taxes in yet another Marxian exercise to spread the wealth.

Yet he terms himself a “transformational, post-partisan” candidate seeking to move beyond “the politics of division and distraction.”

Rhetorical bilgewater, that’s all that is. And on race, he mouths the platitudes and “liberal pieties that have done so much damage to blacks in America” — to borrow from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ compelling autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son.” His positions and behavior on key issues, as much as he may try to conceal them in an inky cloud, give away his ideological game.

How about some specifics?

There’s the Barack Obama who sat for 20 years at the feet of a black separatist minister he calls “uncle,” a minister who has purveyed the view that the AIDS virus is a whitey plot against African-Americans.

There’s the Obama who long refused to wear an American flag lapel pin — whose wife has said she is only now, with his candidacy, proud to be an American.

There’s the patronizing, elitist, “bittergate” Obama who — at a San Francisco fundraiser — disdained the small-town values of voters in Pennsylvania and the Midwest.

There’s the Obama who announced his Illinois state senate candidacy in 1995 from the home of William Ayers, an unrepentant domestic terrorist and the husband of fellow Weather Undergrounder Bernardine Dohrn. Said Ayers, in The New York Times in 2001: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”

You’re going negative.

The “hope,” “change,” and “unity” stuff — and the globaloney — gets very old very fast. Since when is it “going negative” to bring up — merely to list — the issues? Consider these.

Obama wants to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and to attack Pakistan. He has equivocated about Carter’s discussions with Hamas and about the larger issue of Israel. With Hillary Clinton, he abjures as offensive the phrase “Islamic terror” and any of its variations.

He opposed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, lopsidedly passed by the Senate and signed by Bill Clinton. Three years later Obama was the solitary Illinois state senator opposing a measure denying early prison-release for sex offenders. Also as a state senator, he refused to take a recorded stand on bills to ban partial birth abortion — voting “present” twice.

He’s all over the place on affirmative action. On guns, too — though he has opposed (a) private possession of pistols and (b) concealed-carry laws; he believes D.C’s pistol ban (now before the Supreme Court) is constitutional. On free trade, he has favored withdrawing the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has deplored the proposed agreement (now before Congress) expanding free trade with our closest South American ally — Colombia.

Uh huh. And what’s the fundamental question facing the Democrats?

Who can best beat John McCain?

Obama is ahead in delegates, popular vote, and states carried. Isn’t he the one?

Hard to say. He outspent Hillary 3-1 in Pennsylvania, yet lost by 10 points. Except for Illinois, he has failed to win a single big state often essential to Democratic victory — not New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Missouri, or California. Many of the states Obama took in the Democratic primaries and caucuses are states that traditionally go Republican.

What does all that say about Democratic voters?

That a lot of them don’t like smug, supercilious elitists who present as “just folks.” They didn’t like it for instance in 2004, when Howard Dean (now National Democratic chairman) said — as Kimberly Strassel has reminded in The Wall Street Journal — that “Southerners were so riveted on ‘God, guns, and gays’ that they wouldn’t acknowledge the brilliance of his plans for education or health care.” And they don’t like it now.

So if you were Howard Dean or one of his “super delegates” who — given the closeness of the Democratic contest — likely will determine the nominee, what would you do?

Worry more each day about losing to John McCain with either one of these dedicated leftie jokers — and call for another round of Chardonnay and brie.

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Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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