WASHINGTON -- As I suggested a few weeks ago, Sen. Barack H. Obama is not going to have an easy time of it. For one thing, Sen. John McCain is a much tougher candidate than has been suspected. Looking over his career, one will note that McCain learned politics before ever entering politics. As a young Navy liaison to the Senate in the 1970s, he worked effectively with Democratic and Republican hawks to reverse the post-Vietnam military decline. He, having managed the largest fighter squadron in the Navy, has management skills of which he can boast, as Sen. Obama cannot -- despite the junior senator from Illinois' prodigious capacity to boast. McCain's budget for his squadron was more than $1 billion. Finally, in this inhospitable year for Republicans, McCain's record of independent conservatism positions him so that he is difficult to attack and poised to pounce.
Thus, I am not surprised to see the likely Democratic presidential standard-bearer slip into a dead heat this week with the likely Republican presidential standard-bearer. What is more, readers of this column might recall that weeks ago, I spotted the darkest of dark clouds glowering down on the unctuous young senator's halo. In a word, he seems to be victimized by the bizarre. As befell Jimmy Carter years ago, perfectly commonplace phenomena suddenly haunt the candidate's campaign. A waffle appears on his breakfast plate while he is waffling . He laments the price of arugula at his upscale Whole Foods store
An even more inventive tactic was tried by a reporter for The New York Times, Bill Carter. His thesis is that it is almost impossible to get a laugh off the suave, erudite, eloquent, highly intelligent, incomparably gifted Prophet Obama. Yes, the same Obama who had so much difficulty several months back with the waffle and the gaffability, and was he attacked by that amphibious rabbit, or was it Jimmy Carter who was ambushed? The Times reporter looked everywhere for drolleries or witticisms about Obama and came up empty-handed.
He sifted through the late-night humor of the talk shows. He interviewed writers for the late-night comics. What he came up with were lines such as this: "The thing is he (the Prophet Obama) is not buffoonish in any way." That is the judgment of Mike Barry, "who," according to the Times, "started writing political jokes for Johnny Carson" and "has lambasted every presidential candidate since." Or savor this observation from ABC's late-night host, Jimmy Kimmel: "I think it's more a problem (writing jokes about the prophet) because he's so polished he doesn't seem to have any flaws."