Sunday, April 13, 2008

Uh-Obama

Sen. O. appears to have contracted an advancing case of foot-in-mouth disease. I have zero doubt that his now infamous "bitter" remarks are a true reflection of his real feeling but they must have been clearly off-the-cuff since it is hard to imagine any campaign operative signing off on phraseology that will easily be worth several million bucks in campaign funds to Senators Clinton and McCain. Of such gaffes are careers, political and otherwise, laid waste. From the ever more tiresome "truth to power" perspective his remarks might have a whiff of truth in them but to say so out loud shows a serious lack of rhetorical discipline.

Presumably Obama is attempting not only to win the Dem. nomination but also to win the national election. His "bitter" remarks may thrill the core Dem. base by reinforcing his anti-gun anti-religion bona fides but he seems to not realize that he can't specifically target his remarks to the people directly in front of him without the rest of the political world hearing his every word. Maybe you could get away with that before the age of ubiquitous mass media but not for the past 50 years at least. So regardless of how targeted or closeted a remark might be it will be used as fodder by opponents. All now bend under the weight of this arrangement so it can hardly be said that the punditocracy is picking on him exclusively.

His staff apparently needs to "Mirandize" him before each public venue. "What you say can and will be held against you by your political opponents." I am reminded of much commentary after the 2004 general election to the effect that Democrats really really need to figure out how to "package" their messages as effectively as the Republicans seem to be able to manage. The assumption being that the "message" is perfectly acceptable it just needs to be articulated in more palatable and effective ways. Problem is that the messages, of both parties, are what they are and no amount of Madison Avenue style repackaging and "rebranding" is going to substantively change that in the minds of most of the electorate.

The Dems seem to think, in their heart of hearts, that their messages are so obviously and inherently correct that even the gun-totin' god-fearin' red-state rubes will see the radiant light of muti-culti progressivism if it can be couched in terms that will resonate powerfully enough to get them to pull the Dem. lever in the booth. That approach doesn't seem to be working out too well so far. Democratic inroads into the red state vote have been possible this time around only because of dissatisfaction with the current administration and have little to do with defections from the center-right bulk of the electorate to "progressivism".

The recent attempts at the rebranding of post 1960s leftist Democrats into "progressives" have been mostly a flop so far in terms of increased voter acceptance on philosophical grounds. They may well win the November election but they should be extremely wary of translating that win into mandates for a massive expansion of the welfare state. "Bitter" may indeed describe the electoral fruit of dissatisfaction with Republican governance when assorted trillion dollar progressive legislative thrusts crash in flames.

Obama appears to have not been made aware of rebranding efforts and can be heard on occasion to, you should excuse the expression, call a spade a spade. Fine, fine, maybe even admirable and rare these days, honest. He can only hope that this putatively honest product he is selling won't be marked down and on the remaindered shelf by November.

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