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Hillary, Hoosiers, and Hating America By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Although she promised to go “full speed ahead” last night, there was precious little to boast about. After weeks of campaigning against a scandal-plagued Barack Obama in a culturally conservative state where she enjoyed a late lead, Hillary Clinton could only eke out a 23,000-vote margin of victory, approximately one-tenth the number of votes he walloped her with in North Carolina the same night – and her margin was almost certainly produced by Rush Limbaugh. The disastrous performance proved to superdelegates that her campaign is futile and her raison d’etre mythical. All this has occurred despite the fact that Obama has yet to answer the hard questions about his two-decade-long association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Bill Ayers story has yet to fully emerge, and no one is certain what other skeletons will clamber out of his closet. The problem is the base of their party, which determines the nominee, views Wright’s pronouncements more favorably than mainstream Americans.

No One Left to Cry To

In her address, delivered when she appeared to have won by a more respectable margin, Hillary tried to put on her best game face, but even then it proved a thin disguise. She insisted it was “full-speed ahead on to the White House” – then immediately begged her supporters for money. Following Obama’s rousing, general election-themed speech, she made her case for staying in the primary fight – and it was a case the voters had heard countless times before. Damaging Obama’s chances in November, she touted herself as “a president who is ready on day one to take charge as commander-in-chief.” She brandished non-existent foreign policy and defense credentials, cajoling Myanmar to accept U.S. aid and mentioning 9/11 to a roomful of Democratic primary voters. (I would have loved to see Frank Luntz’s dials on that.) She honed her image as a three-testicled “fighter” for white trash values, capitalizing on her transformation into Joanna Six-Pack in Pennsylvania. She dubbed it “a little strange to have a nominee chosen by 48 states,” recycling her plea that Michigan and Florida’s delegations be seated, contrary to her party’s rules. Until now, she had argued that she had won big states, while Obama could claim only “red states” that would never vote for a Democrat. Last night, Obama won the tenth largest state in the union, a pivotal state Democrats hope to turn blue; Hillary won one of the reddest states in the union, which last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1960 and whose statewide elected Democrats are of the milquetoast, Evan Bayh variety. She won two of her other “big states” – Florida and Michigan – by campaigning against no one. A third, Texas, last went blue in 1976 for a Born Again Southerner campaigning as a conservative. Last night’s results left her with no case to make.

Hillary and George Wallace’s “Block Vote”

Both last night’s contests came as a blow to Mrs. Clinton. By election eve, Hillary had narrowed Obama’s lead in North Carolina to eight points. Yesterday, a Clinton staffer recognized impending defeat and, like George Wallace in 1970, stirred fears of the black block vote. “Look,” the staffer said, “we worked hard and gave it our best shot, but the demographics, well, they are what they are.” After all, the First Black President stated months ago, “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88.” Subtext: And we know who his constituency was, don’t we?

If She Can’t Make It There, She Can’t Make It Anywhere….

But there could be no blame-shifting in the Hoosier State. Indiana should have been a blowout. Indiana has a much different set of demographics and history of race relations, and one poll showed Hillary with a 12-point lead just days ago. If she couldn’t convincingly defeat B.H. Obama in a state of Caucasian conservatives a week after Rev. Wright’s press tour – barring another massive scandal or superdelegates handing her the nomination – she can’t win.

Gas Tax Suspension an Indiana Democrat's Idea

She certainly did not lose by promising to suspend the federal gas tax this summer. National talking heads, averse to the ways and history of flyover country, not only failed to realize her proposal was not a gimmick but that it was borrowed from a successful Indiana Democrat: late Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon. O’Bannon temporarily lifted part of the state tax on gasoline from June 2000 until just before he won a smashing re-election that fall. Unlike Hillary, O’Bannon did not call for a “windfall profits tax,” but the measure had a successful recent history in the state.

Nor did she lose it because of talk radio. Registered Republicans made up 11 percent of Democratic primary voters in Indiana yesterday, with more than half (53 percent) voting for Hillary.

Why She Lost

Hillary’s tie in Indiana is more troublesome to the other leitmotif of her continued campaign: Obama has too many flaws to win in November, particularly following his comments about “bitter” rural Christians and, most importantly, his ties to Wright and Ayers. None of these impacted Obama, because the base of his party is untroubled by them.

Even in Indiana, by far the largest block of voters by religion was neither “Catholic” nor “Protestant” but “Other” – presumably a large portion of whom do not “cling” to any Opiate of the People. Few rural areas went for Obama, but few rural areas have voted Democratic in recent elections.

Most damaging to her chances, Democratic primary voters did not feel Obama’s associations were extremist. More than half viewed Obama’s relationship with Rev. Wright as unimportant. (No polling firm asked about Ayers, in part because the full extent of their association has not yet come to light.) This is the truly troubling aspect of Obama’s victory – for the Clinton campaign and for the nation if Obama secures the nomination, which appears increasingly likely.

Obama Pulls a Lewinsky

Barack Obama gained four points since “distancing himself” from Wright – but the “distance” seems minute and unconvincing. In March, Obama initially claimed the sermon snippets had been taken out of context and vowed, “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” (He followed that by equating Ayers, a Weather Underground terrorist, with Sen. Tom Coburn, a pro-life Christian senator and family doctor.)

Only when Rev. Wright told the National Press Club that Obama had acted like “a politician” by disingenuously disowning him did Obama condemn Wright’s words – of that day. The senator, who spent decades in Trinity United Church of Christ and had seen his pastor thunder “God d-mn America” on national television, said Wright’s performance at the press club was “offensive.” Yet Obama’s “distancing” raised more questions than it answered. Nothing Wright said promoting his book – including the allegation that the government created AIDS as an instrument of black genocide – had not been screamed from his pulpit or printed in his church bulletin. Why did Obama listen week after week? Why did he seek out a pastor who had visited Qaddafi and praised (and praises) Farrakhan? How did the would-be president miss Wright’s extremism or fail to leave his church when Oprah Winfrey caught on and left?

Rather than admit either that he was wrong to mention Wright in the same breath as his grandmother, or that he had not actually spent much time in church, Obama pulled a Lewinsky. On April 29, Obama stated, “[I]f Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. Based on his comments yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.” This eerily echoed Monica Lewinsky’s reaction after Bill Clinton publicly denied their affair; she wondered if she ever knew “the jerk” at all.

Of course, Lewinsky was an attention-starved naïf in her early twenties miffed when her co-conspirator did not keep his end of their private understanding to deceive the public about the full extent of their relationship.

One-fifth of Democrats Say Wright’s Sermons are “Pro-American”

The controversy staggered the Obama campaign following Super Tuesday, and it appears likely to harm him in November. According to a Rasmussen poll, 56 percent of voters overall said Rev. Wright’s comments made them less likely to vote for Obama. FoxNews set the number at 44 percent of all voters – but only 36 percent of Democrats agreed. An astonishing 18 percent of Democrats said Wright’s tirades were pro-American!

This is precisely the crux of the problem: Obama resonates with the Blame America First party. For them, Wright is not a fakir, conspiracy-hound, or hatemonger; he is a prophet.

“Fake Controversy”

Having done enough to win the Democratic primaries and probably the nomination, Obama forecast last night precisely how he will deal with the Wright/Ayers/Patriotism issue in the fall: he will ignore it and demonize his opponents for having the temerity to raise it. He predicted the GOP ’08 campaign:

Yes, we know what’s coming. We’ve seen it already. The same names and labels they always pin on everyone who doesn’t agree with all their ideas. The same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy in the hope that the media will play along.

Ah yes, that famous conservative media bias...such as the ultra-conservative National Journal naming Obama the “Most Liberal Senator in 2007.” This is a “label” he seeks to avoid, knowing specific knowledge of his platform erodes the mileage purchased with rhetorical platitudes.

These were on display last night in his acceptance speech, in which he repeatedly praised his country and the flag. He referred to “the simple truth I learned all those years ago when I worked in the shadows of a shuttered steel mill on the South Side of Chicago.” He failed to disclose he learned this while working for Saul Alinsky’s radical vision. “I know the promise of America,” he said, “because I have lived it.” In an apparently unscripted moment, he added, “Michelle has lived it.”

Michelle Obama’s American Dream

But if she has lived the American dream, she is not telling anyone. In addition to saying she has never been proud of her country before this year, Michelle Obama gave a less-than-flattering portrait of America at a rally in Charlotte, NC, on May 2. She stated the campaign had learned about passion on the stump:

But we’ve also learned something else this year. Something that we’ve all sort of felt at some time in our life. We’re still living in a nation and in a time where the bar is set – I talk about this all the time – they set the bar…and then you work and you struggle, you do everything that they say, and you think you’re getting close to the bar, and you’re working hard, and you’re sacrificing. And then you get to the bar. You’re right there. You’re reaching out for the bar. You think you have it. And then what happens? They move the bar. They raise it up…it’s always just quite out of reach…The sad irony is that’s exactly what’s happening to most Americans in this country.

America: a nation constantly screwing its citizens.

Given the visceral prejudices of the Party of Defeat, it’s no wonder Obama handily defeated Hillary last night.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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