[Breaker quote: The Hopeless Hopefuls]
When Bill Buckley ran for mayor of New York in 1965, he offered the
voter "the internal composure that comes of knowing that there
are rational limits to politics." It was the most sublime campaign
promise of all time, and he wound up with 13 percent of the vote. He
could take pleasure in knowing that Aristotle would have endorsed him.
The U.S. presidential race of 2008 is not a fight in which Aristotle
has an obvious dog. It may have hit its low point early when Hillary
Clinton suggested ever so tactfully the other day, in a decidedly non-Aristotelian
moment, that Barack Obama may yet be assassinated. You go, girl!
Obama missed the opportunity to make a telling riposte: "In my
administration there would be no bimbo eruptions." Instead, he
has remained cautious and doggedly "inspirational." What
he inspires is anybody's guess; for an alleged idealist, he is still
annoyingly vague about his ideals.
One knows that he issues from Chicago's socialist, even pro-Soviet,
matrix of yesteryear -- a fact he is trying to conceal, with the free
assistance of the news media. He has adopted the old strategy of appearing
moderate in his manners while being extreme in principle. He has been
the most left-wing member of the U.S. Senate since his arrival there.
He has also supported the most grim and grisly late-term abortions
-- while calling himself a Christian and denouncing dog fighting, an
irony noted only, as far as I know, by the conservative Washington
I presume that if Obama actually watched an abortionist dismember
a viable child, he would get violently sick. However, to snare certain
votes and endorsements he is willing to pretend that such savagery
is protected by the U.S. Constitution. And the press keeps treating
him as the very incarnation of all the better angels of our nature.
No wonder Hillary is so furiously frustrated by his hypocrisy. Takes
one to know one, and he's beating her at her own game.
Obama's ballyhooed speech on race at the end of April, when he had
to distance himself from the rabid Pastor Wright, was the sort of bombastic
performance that gives rhetoric a bad name. Even so keen a satirist
as Maureen Dowd of The New York Times was awed by its supposed profundity
-- though there wasn't a single fresh insight in it.
After eight years of the bumbling Bush, 2008 should have been the
Democrats' year, but they are reduced to a pathetic pair of presidential
aspirants -- two hopeless hopefuls. Obama's popularity in his party
is merely the inverse of Hillary's unpopularity. John McCain is nothing
to write home about, but either of these two should be duck soup for
him in November. The big money, which usually favors war in the Middle
East, will flow to him.
This could still become -- though it probably won't -- the year of
President Other, of an alternative to the usual sorry selection between
twin mediocrities. Obama has no discernible political philosophy except
More, Much More of Same. Nobody has ever accused him of being "right-wing," which
would imply that he had some sort of principle other than socialism.
(As we have often remarked, "right-wing" can mean anything
of which the speaker disapproves: anarchism, libertarianism, monarchism,
caesarism, conservatism, militarism, racialism, fascism, what have
Since nobody seems to be very clear about what he stands for, you
might say that Obama is running on his Otherness. His meaningless mantra
is "Change." Change from what? And into what? Never mind.
Just "Change." That word alone signifies the hysterical enthusiasm
he generates, but doesn't explain it. He's a suave young blank the
voter is invited to fill in.
Being unknown and undefined is part of his appeal -- the essence of
it, in fact. He is not Hillary, whom we know only too well. He is not
white, but neither is he very black. He isn't identified with any scandal,
or even gaffe. He has no vivid personal history to specify him. He
eludes identification with a studied, inoffensive blandness. He's as
close to being a Mr. Nobody as a politician can get. Though his last
book was called The Audacity of Hope, if there is a single word that
fails to describe him, it's surely that one: audacity.
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