The Blog

Losing It

Democrats despair as Obama's campaign falters.

12:00 AM, Sep 17, 2008 • By MICHAEL WEISS
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

With the economy being the biggest domestic issue, the shtick was to have been embodied by Joe Biden, a true-grit Irish Catholic with prolier-than-thou street cred. But since his selection as a running mate, Biden has been either a cipher or a disaster. His latest blunder, made in an attempt to wrest the feminine mystique away from Palin and restore it in his own party's warrior woman, was to suggest that Hillary Clinton would have actually made the better addition to the ticket. Don't my mind me, I'm just running for vice president.

Meanwhile, Obama can't decide whom he's running against: a longtime senator and Cold War veteran or a first-term governor who derives her sense of internationalism from living next door to our Cold War enemy. (Nabokov on what scenes he would like to have seen filmed: "The Russians leaving Alaska, delighted with the deal. Shot of a seal applauding.") Obama may or may not be better equipped to deal with North Korea, having been born in nearby Hawaii, but he sounds slightly insecure assailing Palin as a beginner in the game of brinkmanship, which is why he's mainly letting others assail her on his behalf. And yet... The real challenger is still McCain, and Vladimir Putin is not a product of the post-Cold War era or cognitively evolved beyond its sham moral equivalences and bullying rhetoric. Obama must know that, following Russia's invasion of Georgia, many even within his own ranks are worried that he hadn't got the sufficient mileage to stare down a familiar adversary.

As to the foreign policy issue that got him nominated, where'd that go? I can't remember the last time we heard those dire and willfully misconstrued words about "100 years" in Iraq. (Instead, there's been lots of fact-checking on a Bridge to Nowhere.) Come to that, we hardly even hear him speak the word "Iraq" these days unless it's to concede to that the troop surge, which he opposed and which was championed most loudly by his opponent, has succeeded beyond "our wildest dreams." Next up: Admitting that it wasn't such a bad idea to remove Saddam Hussein, after all...

There was a moment during the primary when Obama had every mathematical advantage over Clinton yet still seemed somehow overwhelmed by her--almost bowed, really. It began to tell on just how narrow that advantage wound up. Yet we're constantly reminded that one of his great attributes as a politician is his ability to learn quickly and to recover from his mistakes. Why, then, does he seem so behind the curve and so committed to repeating them?

Michael Weiss is a writer living in New York.