Monday, February 25, 2008

The Winds Of Change

A funny thing happened to Barack Obama on the way to the Democratic nomination; He started getting criticized in the press. I know this is hard to believe considering the unprecedented level of adulation that he has received to date, but if you sample the political headlines, you will see that the number of critical articles has expanded exponentially. Perhaps it just goes with the front runner status that he now enjoys, or perhaps reporters are just responding to the criticisms that that they have been giving Obama a free ride. Or perhaps Hillary Clinton's campaign's talking points are finally starting to take hold (this photo of Obama in traditional African garb was circulated by Clinton staffers this weekend and picked up by the mainstream press).

The Clinton campaign must be thrilled to see that the press is finally starting to turn a more critical eye toward her opponent, but they must be asking themselves, "What took so long"? For months Hillary has been hammering the point about her opponent’s lack of experience, but the press seemed not to care. The articles questioning whether Obama could actually deliver on any of his rhetoric are now starting to appear with much more frequency. There is an actual point to make about whether Obama, with an essentially liberal platform, would be able to somehow bring enough Republicans over to his side to move legislation forward in Congress. The Republicans will no doubt pick up on this tact and try their best to label Obama a typical, liberal, tax and spend Democrat. While Hillary cannot attack Obama for being a liberal, the Republicans will have no problems in making that argument.

I have also read a few articles about another subject, which up until this point has been only whispered about, and that is the subject of assassination. Obama was provided with secret service protection at the earliest point of any nominee for President in history. However the press has been reluctant to even broach the topic. The New York Times broke that unspoken pledge when it ran a front page story about the real concern over the safety of the Senator as he moves further along in the primaries.

There are also articles which try to link Obama to the Presidency of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern's disastrous '72 campaign. Here's just a list of titles of the some the recent articles about Obama, "1972 All Over Again", "Turning Obama into Jimmy Carter", "Inexperience Can Look A Lot Like Change", "Obama, It's about Me", "Hillary has a point, Obama is a Gamble", "Obama, the Messiah of Generation Narcissism". There have always been negative stories about Obama, but it seems to me that the volume has certainly been turned up in the past few days.

Will any of this have an impact moving forward? Undoubtedly it will sway some voters; the real question is how many. Has the press' long standing infatuation with Obama finally come to end? Has that Wizard been unmasked? I don't think so. The last debate showed that Obama has come a very long way in this campaign. He is now able to sit and debate Hillary without appearing to be outclassed. There are very real questions that he has to answer (especially the seemingly conflicted goals of a liberal agenda along with bi-partisan cooperation), but he has managed to fend off every challenge to date (bringing to mind another Teflon candidate, Bill Clinton). Hillary has a chance to bring out some of the concerns that the press has raised tomorrow night in their last debate before "HIGH NOON TUESDAY". Perhaps this is her chance to try and make something negative actually stick to Obama. If she can successfully point out the inherent contradiction in his message, her campaign might just live to see more than one more Tuesday.

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