Barnett: Game Over
9:19 AM, May 7, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
At the risk of stating the obvious, the fight for the Democratic nomination effectively came to an end last night. Barack Obama has won. My suggestion for grieving conservatives? Deal with it.
I've been saying all along that the long primary fight was the best thing that could have happened to the Democrats. The process revealed Obama's weaknesses, and he had to address them. Were it not for the long and competitive Democratic race, Jeremiah Wright would have become a household name around Columbus Day (which is a legal holiday in Massachusetts and a paid day off for state workers) instead of St. Patrick's Day (which is also a legal holiday in Massachusetts and another paid day off for state workers, although it's called Evacuation Day). Obama's dithering on the Wright stuff might well have ruined his general election chances if he had won New Hampshire like he was supposed to.
To get one last shot in at Obama just for old time's sake, obviously he needs his hand forced before taking action. He gladly let the Reverend Wright thing hang over his head for over a year until circumstances forced him to take action, and even then his action was an ostentatious attempt to change the topic by beginning a national conversation on race. How's the nation's race-relations chatfest going, anyway? I've been too busy following the NBA post-season and American Idol to keep tabs on it.
Obama's natural reluctance to act seems like a not-so-wonderful characteristic for a wartime president. The flip side for anxious Republicans is that I don't see in Obama the transformative figure that his supporters behold. He may speak in sweeping terms, but he moves in baby-steps. Actually, standing still seems to be his default preference.
As for the political implications of Obama's triumph, there's a dark lining there as well for the overjoyed Obama-philes among us. For reaction to last night's events, I turned to my one-stop clearinghouse for state-of-the-art Obama swooning, Andrew Sullivan's blog. Flush with the thrill of victory, Andrew wrote, "Wright is a grenade that will fizzle. The right will try other gambits - the Ayers crap and if that doesn't work, look for them to take aim at Obama's wife. But Obama's survival - or rather the voters' refusal to make this election about the Freak Show - suggests that Newt is right. This will not work this year."
The biggest threat that the Obama campaign faces on a tactical level is its (and its followers') proclivity for hubris. Once again, at the risk of stating the obvious, while Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination fight, the nation's moderates and swing voters have yet to make their voices heard. Inferring from a narrow victory in the Democratic race that the issues that were only almost-fatal there will be non-factors in the general election doesn't make any sense. There may be reasons why moderates and swing voters won't care about William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright and Michelle Obama's strange anger at America, but last night's results aren't relevant to a serious analysis of the matter.
The worst thing that could have happened to Obama this week was that memorable CNN clip where CNN anchor John Roberts kicked off an interview with Obama by pronouncing that CNN would become a "Wright Free Zone." Obama smiled, again showing his stark preference for inaction over action. In fact, Obama would be much better off handling potentially damaging matters on his own terms, and friendly interviewers like Roberts could help the process. Even if Obama decides to ignore his liabilities, his opponents are unlikely to also ignore them.
I know many conservatives are disappointed by last night's results. Perhaps a brief walk down Clinton Memory Lane would remind them that they should not lament the Fall of the House of Clinton. Indeed, instead of fretting this morning about an Obama ascendancy, conservatives should take a bit of pleasure in the fact that we won't have the Clintons to kick us around anymore.
It's all but officially Obama vs. McCain. Game on.