As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama struggle toward resolution of their tedious nominating contest, they are outdoing themselves in rhetorical stupidities.
Early on Senator Clinton said she and Chelsea were in a blaze of sniper fire on the tarmac at Tuzla. More recently — in May — Senator Clinton offered (1) the Robert Kennedy assassination reference and (2) extensive talk about the white vote. For instance, in an interview with USA Today she referenced an Associated Press story, saying: “Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again,” and “whites” in Indiana and North Carolina without college degrees are “supporting me.”
Then (3), most hilariously, she has attributed her lagging effort to sexism in her genderistic party and in that ol’ Hillary-hating, chauvinistic press: “It does seem as though the press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by comments and reactions of people (i.e., leftists and Democrats) who are nothing but misogynists.” Maybe they’re all closet members of her imagined “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
Yet Barack Obama likely will take the nomination, so — given these two gaffers — he is the more important.
Who can forget (1) his wife Michelle testifying to her lifelong lack of pride in being an American? Or (2) his San Francisco observation that lower-class Americans cling to guns and religion in ignorant bitterness over their plight? Or (3) the Rev. Jeremiah Wright whom Obama calls “uncle” — the reverend clearly a loose-tongued ethnic nationalist who delights in combining the name of the incumbent Secretary of State with a street term for prostitute (“Condoskeeza”) to refer to Condoleezza Rice?
Senator Obama has a tall tale matching Senator Clinton’s oft-told story about the origin of her first name. She frequently has related that her mother decided on “Hillary” after Sir Edmund Hillary scaled Mt. Everest — albeit years after she was born.
Obama has a similarly dubious story. On this year’s anniversary of Selma’s bloody Sunday civil rights march, he said: “There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So (my parents) got together and Barack Obama Jr., was born.” Trouble is, Obama’s 1961 birth came four years before Selma’s 1965 Bloody Sunday march.
And now, his idiot teemings on issues and policy.
— Suggested that because he and John McCain disagree about the affects a proposed college-benefits measure for three-year military veterans would have on military retention, McCain is insufficient in his support of veterans. (McCain has responded that he will not listen to veteran-related lectures from an Obama “who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform.”)
— In effect offered this quid pro quo to the Teamsters, a union operating under a federal consent decree since 1992: union endorsement of his candidacy in exchange for his backing of an end to federal oversight of the union. (Obama also favors ending the secret-ballot in unionist elections — a change long at the top of Big Labor’s wish-list.)
— Offered a one-day reversal of his gauzy position toward Iran (toward Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea as well). In Oregon he said Iran and the others “don’t pose a serious threat to us.” The next day, in Montana, he said: “I’ve made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave.”
In Obama’s case the last — if not a true gaffe then certainly a switcheroo — likely is the most telling. For it suggests Obama is finding a major preachment (unconditional, no-strings talks in the first year of his presidency with Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, Hafez Assad, and others of that ilk) may be a detrimental to his campaign success. As it should be.
Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democratic friend of Republican John McCain, has written pointedly on the subject of making nice with one’s declared enemies. He notes he grew up in a party “unafraid to make moral judgments about the world . . . a party that understood that either the American people stood united with free nations and freedom fighters against the forces of totalitarianism, or that we would fall divided.”
In the 1960s, he notes further, the party changed “around the war in Vietnam” to “a rival political philosophy (that) saw America as the aggressor, a morally bankrupt, imperialist power” with enemies we had somehow provoked, we had threatened, we had “failed to sit down (with) and accord them the respect they deserved.”
And finally, about his fellow Democrats:
“Far too many Democratic leaders have kowtowed to these opinions rather than challenging them. That, unfortunately, includes Barack Obama, who, contrary to his rhetorical invocations of bipartisan change, has not been willing to stand up to his party’s left wing on a single significant national security or international economic issue in this campaign.
Gaffes? Switcheroos? Or stupidities naive and profound?
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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