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Even Oprah can't save Obama

By Michael M. Bates
web posted September 17, 2007

Oprah Winfrey can shill for Barack Obama.  She can host glitzy events and collect cash for him.  She can campaign with him, maybe even do some commercials for him.  What she can't do is take a candidate who's clearly not ready for the big leagues and make him a president.

Barack ObamaMrs. Obama's recent revelation that her husband stinks was just one in a series of missteps.  Earlier, there was Mr. Obama invading Pakistan, and meeting various dictators with no preconditions, and stating that as president he wouldn't use nuclear weapons to fight terrorism "in any circumstance."

Then there was his declaration that he'd immediately call the president of Canada to try to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement.  That could be tough, as Canada doesn't have a president.

Barry blames some other fumbles on campaign workers.  It's just so hard to find good help these days.  Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, is an enthusiastic Obama Girl, going so far as to lament her inability to follow him into the East Bank Club's locker room.  Yet even Ms. Sweet noted in a June column about one other slipup, "This is the third time Obama has blamed staff for mistakes."

I'm not surprised Mr. Obama is tripping over his empty suit.  He may well be a rock star to his fans in the mainstream media, but his history as a candidate isn't all that impressive.

After punching his ticket as a state senator for several years, Obama decided it was time to move on up.  He ran against Democratic incumbent congressman and former Black Panther leader Bobby Rush in 2000.  Breaking with his customary practice of remaining neutral in primaries, Bill Clinton endorsed Rush over Obama, who lost by a 2-1 ratio.

Four years later, Barack decided he'd make a darn fine U.S senator.  Among seven Democratic candidates, Obama was tied for second place with 17 percent of the vote according to a Chicago newspaper poll taken three weeks before the primary.

The frontrunner in the race led his two closest opponents by 10 points.  His campaign imploded shortly after.

As a general rule, it's not good when a candidate needs to refute press accounts that he threatened to kill his wife.  That's what Obama's opponent had to do.

Barack was on his way after winning the primary.  The only person who could stop him was the Republican candidate, who by the spring had cut down Obama's lead in the polls to just eight percent.  His campaign imploded shortly after.

As a general rule, it's not good when a candidate needs to refute press accounts that he pressured his wife to have sex in public.  That's what Obama's opponent had to do after, in a great victory for freedom of the press, the Chicago Tribune and TV station WLS sued to have the man's divorce documents made public.

The estimable Alan Keyes, former deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was recruited in August as a last minute substitute.  His campaign imploded shortly after.

As a general rule, it's not good when a candidate needs to refute press accounts that he's an extremist.  Mr. Keyes and his views were quickly deemed "ultraconservative" by the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Springfield Journal-Register, the Rockford Register Star, and other media outlets.

With a little help from his friends and a lot of luck, Mr. Obama went to Washington.  A star had been born, or at least crafted by an adoring press, which fawns over him.  An example, from a nationally syndicated report the day after the election:  "But anyone who has seen him speak will find it hard to be untouched by the charisma of his personality and the maturity of his intellect."

But now that he's under the microscope of a presidential campaign, the fact he's not ready for prime time is all too apparent. Not ready for prime time at the top of the ticket, that is.

I think there's a reasonable possibility that Mrs. Clinton may take Mr. Obama along for the ride after she secures her party's nomination.  Vice presidential candidates don't receive as much scrutiny as their running mates do.

A Clinton-Obama ticket won't offer the balance that so many politicians think is essential.  They're both, more or less, from Illinois, so there won't be a geographical balance.  They're both liberals, so there won't be an ideological balance.  They both take contributions from questionable sources, so there won't be an ethics balance.

Then why would Mrs. Clinton choose Mr. Obama?  Because in a world where symbolism transcends almost everything, the world of most liberals, the sheer, undiluted ecstasy of voting for a woman for president and a black man for vice president at the same time cannot be denied.

Clinton-Obama would energize the Democratic base.  He could help her by bringing favorable coverage, money and votes.  And just imagine how pleased Oprah would be. ESR

This Michael Bates column appeared in the September 13, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.


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