Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The damage is done

I e-mailed my American Spectator article to lots of bloggers, but forgot to put Powerline on the list. Great minds think alike, I guess:
In his widely lauded Philadelphia speech, Barack Obama declared of Reverend Jeremiah Wright: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." It wasn't quiite up to George McGovern's expression of "1,000 percent" support for Thomas Eagleton as his running mate after revelations of his shock therapy, but it left Obama and Wright closely joined. Something about the revelation of Eagleton's shock therapy made his ultimate dumping by McGovern inevitable. Something about Wright's frank racism, among other things, now calls for some further response by Obama.
It's too late for Barack Obama to have his own Sister Souljah moment with Reverend Jeremiah Wright. After Wright's performances before the NAACP in Detroit and before the National Press Club in Washington, however, it may be time for Obama's own Thomas Eagleton moment. As with Eagleton, the brain may be critical.
What's most interesting, by the way, about my apparent mental convergence with Scott Johnson is that he focuses on the same quote from Obama's Philly speech that I saw as crucial -- and links NR's Byron York, who highlights the same quote.

From convergence to divergence: Both Johnson and York put themselves in the position of advisors, telling Obama what he should do next. Frankly, I think that ship has sailed. It seems to me that the damage done by Wright is, at this point, beyond remedy.

The question is not how the damage can be repaired, but rather how bad is it? The problem is, we don't have enough recent polls in Indiana or North Carolina to be able to judge the impact in any concrete way.

So we won't know until next Tuesday, when primary voters go to the polls in those states. My gut hunch would be that Hillary wins Indiana fairly handily, although Obama's lead in North Carolina may be insuperable -- and neither of those results will be significantly different than they would have been before Wright went on his Farrakhan Lite Tour.

In politics, however, perception is reality, and a Hillary win in Indiana would be perceived as some sort of referendum on Wright.

It isn't hard to picture the TV pundits and commentators sitting around their "Decision '08 HQ" sets next Tuesday, asking each other how much Wright hurt Obama among working-class voters in Indiana. And if Hillary wins Indiana, her spin team will point out that, combined with Obama's defeats in Ohio and Pennsylvania, this shows that he can't win crucial swing states (or crucial swing voters). That goes straight to the "electability" argument Team Clinton is using to sway super-delegates.

The damage is done and, at this point, I don't know what Obama can do to undo it.
UPDATE: At the American Thinker, Thomas Lifson assesses the situation:
Was it the enthusiasm of his press claque that deceived him into believing that the story would just go away? If so, Obama is revealed as completely unprepared for the responsibilities of defending the nation from its enemies. A man who takes the optimistic view of his opponents, and makes best case assumptions only is not someone we want facing down our real enemies in Tehran, Damascus, and Pyongyang.
I'm not sure that Obama's handling of the Wright controversy necessarily implicates his Commander-in-Chief capabilities, but Lifson's point that Obama (or his campaign staff) may have counted on a sympathetic MSM to squelch the controversy is interesting. The Philly speech was the key blunder -- nearly 5,000 words, and yet not enough to close the controversy.

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