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The Man They Love By: Rich Lowry
New York Post | Monday, June 09, 2008


In the end, the Democrats fell in love.

At least, half of them did - and the party establishment, as represented by the superdelegates, wasn't going to deny them their inamorata.

The Democrats have always yearned for another Kennedy, and here is Barack Obama promising the stylish cool of a Jack, inspiring the frenzy on the campaign trail of a Bobby and sporting the endorsement of Ted.

The last fresh new thing in Democratic politics, Bill Clinton, never truly had the imprimatur of the Kennedys (even if he brandished a youthful photo of himself shaking Jack's hand at the White House as a kind of Excalibur moment). Clinton the centrist was always compromised as a liberal paladin by his compromises.

Obama represents a rejection of triangulating Clintonism. He had no Sister Souljah moment during the primaries. Indeed, he initially embraced his Sister Souljah, in the form of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, introduced to the public in videotaped anti-American rants. Nor did Obama make any creative policy departures, like Clinton's advocacy of welfare reform in 1992.

Obama is the fullest flowering of liberal orthodoxy since George McGovern.

And yet his candidacy might not be electoral suicide.

He has formidable gifts as a politician; he's eloquent, winsome, a quick study. He confronts a Republican Party that, beset by intellectual exhaustion, congressional scandal and an unpopular incumbent president, teeters on the verge of a Watergate-style meltdown.

So Democrats contemplate the delicious prospect of having their purity and victory, too. It's as if the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964 - and won.

Everyone remarks on Obama's crowds and his stirring rhetoric, but the other, no less significant hallmark of his primary campaign was its organizational prowess. He had a cohesive team, with none of the destructive back-biting of Hillary Clinton's; it conceived and executed a strategy of relentless focus on delegates, even from tiny caucus states, that proved decisive; and it raised the astonishing sum of nearly $300 million, outspending Hillary three to one in February, when Obama all but clinched the nomination.

With the flush of good feeling over his historic victory, Obama will barrel down on the Straight Talk Express like a runaway train. On Tuesday night, he easily filled the arena in St. Paul, where Republicans will hold their convention, whipping the crowd of 17,000 into a rapture of hope and change.

John McCain delivered a counter-speech in New Orleans that felt as if it were held in someone's garage. The Republican reactively riffed off Obama's signature lines in another sign that - one way or another - it's The Year of Obama.

The race will be about him. Despite all the hype and crowds, Obama could kick away what should otherwise be an inevitable Democratic victory. Half - or maybe a little more - of Democrats voted against him. Hillary Clinton dealt him 10-point defeats in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and crushing 30-point losses in West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico that highlighted demographic vulnerabilities that will tell in the fall.

If his newness on the national scene has fueled Obama's rise, it also makes him an unsettlingly unknown commodity. Who is he really?

His close association with Rev. Wright and assorted other Chicago left-wingers calls into question his soothing image as the candidate of transpartisan unity, and he's been dishonest in explaining away his membership at Wright's radical church.

He arrives at the doorstep of the presidency with no national-security experience to speak of, except - as Clinton scathingly put it - one speech in 2002 opposing the Iraq war.

Finally, there's ideology. Has the country really lurched so far left since 2004 that it will swallow a Democrat who voted against funding the troops, takes his orders from the unions on trade policy, has said he'll meet with practically every American-hating tyrant the world has to offer, operationally favors gay marriage and partial-birth abortion and, at his worst, gives off a sense of elite cultural condescension?

Democrats are ready to find out. They have the man they love - for better or worse.




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