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Old Whine in Old Bottles

Barack Obama's pathetically outdated conventional wisdom.

12:00 AM, Jun 25, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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IT'S UNLIKELY THAT I'll get to talk to Barack Obama during this presidential campaign. Since he keeps even friendlies in the media at a distance, I probably have no chance of getting an opportunity to bend his ear.

But if I could ask Barack Obama one question, it would be this: "We haven't suffered a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. Are President Bush's policies at least partly responsible for this? If so, which ones? If not, to what do you attribute our run of luck?"

Okay, that's more like three questions, but you get the point. I'm not confident that even the non-loony left as personified by the very sober and thoughtful Barack Obama can honestly assess the current administration. Yes, the administration has made errors in a thousand different areas. But if you surveyed the public right after 9/11 and suggested there would be no more attacks on American soil in the next seven years, the percentage agreeing to that proposition would have been nil.

Of course, Obama and his campaign could never give the Bush administration any kind of credit. Obama exclusively hews to liberal conventional wisdom, and there's no room in liberal conventional wisdom for even faint praise of the current White House.

This leads to one of the big problems with Barack Obama--he is very comfortable believing and repeating "conventional wisdom," even if that conventional wisdom has grown moldy. Take the war in Iraq. According to the website Icasualties.org, there have been 312 civilian and fatalities in Iraq in June as of yesterday. That means June is on a pace to have roughly 375 Iraqi casualties. To date, the best month in that regard since the start of the war was the preceding month, May '08, which saw 506 such deaths. In other words, the situation continues to improve.

But as blogger Tom Maguire points out, if you go to Barack Obama's website, they're still partying like it's 2006. "The goal of the surge," BarackObama.com lectures, "was to create space for Iraq's political leaders to reach an agreement to end Iraq's civil war. At great cost, our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006. Moreover, Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war." (Emphasis added)

We keep hearing how web savvy the Obama campaign is, so presumably it could figure out how to edit its website if it wanted to do so. Factually, one can hardly imagine a group of assertions more at odds with reality. Regarding the lack of political progress, the Obama campaign is pathetically singing from last winter's hymnbook. In terms of casualty counts, the Obama campaign is risibly mistaken or simply dissembling.

The site insists that the casualty figures have not come down to the levels of mid-2006. Let's see--in May '06, there were 1,119 civilian deaths. June '06 saw 870, July '06 1,280. Lest you think I'm cherry-picking data to embarrass the Obama campaign (something that the campaign and candidate are perfectly capable of doing on their own), I'm doing the precise opposite. August '06 had 2,966 casualties while September had 3,539.

Once again, this month Iraq is on pace to have 375 civilian casualties and last month had 506 civilian casualties. It takes a peculiarly strong disregard for the facts to insist that the 2008 figures are worse than the 2006 figures, as the Obama campaign persists in doing.

You have to wonder whether Obama is trying to deceive or is just unaware of the most basic facts. Me, I'll be consistent--I'm going with the latter option as I have throughout the campaign. Obama is a supremely conventional thinker with a paucity of intellectual curiosity. Rather than taking the time to figure out what's really happening with a given situation, he simply repeats clichés. For instance, he has repeatedly lamented on the campaign trail that Iraq caused us to take our eye off the real fight, which was in Afghanistan. As president, he promises to return the focus to Afghanistan where it ostensibly belongs.