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With a Little Help From His Friends By: S.E. Cupp
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 01, 2008


The Maariv daily, an Israeli newspaper, published a prayer allegedly left by Barack Obama in the cracks of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he visited this past week.

The decision to publish the note has drawn some fire in Israel and elsewhere, as prayers left at the Wall are considered private and sacred, and certainly not for public consumption.

But wherever Barack Obama goes, someone seems to sabotage him. It's likely the Obama camp will deliver a response in the coming days criticizing the newspaper for invading his privacy and using the prayer note to sell papers. The publication will then likely issue an apology. After all, why should this week be different from any other?

When a cartoon depicting Barack Obama as a sandaled, turbaned Arab sheik and Michelle Obama as an Afro-ed, gun-wielding terrorist appeared on the cover of this month's New Yorker, the fortified, yet utterly tony, safe-haven for the left-leaning literati, some were confused.

Although the magazine assured its constituents the cover was satirizing the scare-tactics it believes the right is using to bring Obama down (so as not to lose every single one of its subscribers), the Democratic presidential hopeful’s camp was none too pleased…or was it?

Bill Burton, Obama’s spokesman, was quick to criticize the magazine, authoritatively declaring the cover “tasteless and offensive.” John McCain’s camp was obligatorily just as quick to agree. But the New Yorker flap might just have been another in an increasingly long line of so-called mishaps designed to help the Senator clinch the presidency.

Consider the following. Over the past six months, Barack Obama has earned unsolicited apologies from a long list of opponents and supporters, and for an uncanny variety of snafus. On the list are fellow Democrats Joe Biden and Bob Kerrey, a number of Hillary Clinton staffers, Hillary Clinton herself, Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson, Condoleezza Rice, Obama supporter Jesse Jackson, CNN, and Canada. Yes, the country.

And in the same span of time, John McCain has accrued just one noteworthy mea culpa, from Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, for suggesting McCain is an uncaring warmonger because he served in Vietnam.

So is Barack Obama the unluckiest guy in America, the picked-on, hapless wimp to the country’s meany school-yard bullies? Or is he the unlikely benefactor of bizzarro-world promotion, where up is down and catty back-stabbing is a vote-getter?

Obama supporter Jesse Jackson told UnitedHealth Group executive Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, and the rest of the television-watching world, that he thought Obama was talking down to black people. He suggested (both in words and with an alarmingly well-studied hand gesture) that he’d like to remove Barack’s testicles. This, from an Obama insider, a fellow Democrat, an African-American spiritual leader, an endorser and a so-called friend.

Yet, the near-unanimous consensus on the left and the right was that Jackson’s crude and almost comical comments were sure to help the Senator. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said, “Obama has a supporter who creates a gaffe, and it's a gift. It distances him from the brand of black, angry, resentful, grievance politics, which has alienated a large majority Americans.” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman wrote, “All Obama has to do is hope the story doesn’t fade too fast, and he might even want to try to keep it alive.”

Anywhere else, and the malicious gossiping of a friend behind another’s back would spell certain doom. Jackson’s comments, though tactless in their delivery, pointed out one of Obama’s genuine weaknesses – his elitism and condescension – and by someone with a perceived authority, albeit waning.

Snitching, whistle blowing, and telling tales out of school, like Jackson did, can usually reveal the cracks in seemingly impregnable organization, and the more valuable the confidante delivering the news, the worse it is for the group. Whether it was Peter (who denied even knowing his boss not once but thrice), or Brutus (who actually did the dirty work himself), history is full of relevant examples.

But one doesn't even have to travel as far. When New York Mets relief pitcher Billy Wagner criticized his under-performing teammates to the press, essentially bringing the public into the cloistered sanctuary of the clubhouse, the story floated on the talk radio airwaves for days, and earned him a scolding by then-manager Willie Randolph. The team’s infighting would later be one of the reasons many would claim for Randolph’s eventual firing. This kind of public betrayal was hardly a boon to the organization.

But at camp Obama, where no one believes the Senator and Jackson are really friends anyway, the shady gossiping by a teammate is a coup worthy of pennant-clinching champagne toasts and high fives. It’s certain that many GOP insiders wish Scott McClellan had a similar impact on the party and the Bush Administration.

Many similarly suggest that Obama’s friendship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright hasn’t hurt him nearly as significantly as it could have, or should have. While pundits on the Right regularly resurrect Reverend Wright (and Bill Ayers, and Rezko) as reasons not to trust him, and rightly so, Obama still somehow maintains a slight (or more than slight, depending on your poll of choice) lead over John McCain.

And now The New Yorker, which would likely run itself into the ground before it appeared to support anything remotely right of center, has “angered” the Obamaniacs. Their rationale is somewhat unclear though, since the cartoon is lampooning the magazine’s favorite target: ignorant Republican rubes in the square states. Liberal radio talk-show host Laura Flanders even said the Obama camp should have endorsed the cover…strongly. “This isn’t a jab at them, terrorist or any other kind. It should be cause for our conversation to focus on the kind of fear mongering that the media and people on the right have engaged in.”

Whether the Barack-as-apology-collecting-victim phenomenon is an inexplicably convenient series of happy accidents or a considerably clever strategy, only he and his friends know.  But eventually, if he wants to appear deliberate, in charge, and at all presidential, he'll have to start producing his own news. This week's world tour has helped on that front.

But it’s clear he and his advisors don’t want anyone to stop talking, and why would they? The only question left is, who’s next in line for a mishap? His mother? His wife? Maybe the ultimate in self-promoting “gaffes” is yet to come: “Barack Apologizes to Self for Benefiting From So Many Campaign Blunders.”


S.E. Cupp is author of Why You’re Wrong About the Right, with Brett Joshpe.


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