It's time to throw my hat in the ring as regards predicting
theelection results. So here it is: Barack Obama will be defeated.
Seriously and convincingly defeated. Not due to racism, not due to the
forces of reaction, not even due to Karl Rove sending out mind rays
over the national cable system. He will lose for one reason above all,
one that has been overlooked in any analysis that I've yet seen.
Barack Obama will lose because he is a flake. I'm using the term in
its generally accepted sense. A flake is not only a screwup, but
someone who truly excels in making bizarre errors and creating
incredibly convoluted disasters. A flake is a "fool with energ y", as
the Russian proverb puts it. ("A fool is a terrible thing to have
around, but a fool with energy is a nightmare".)
Barack Obama is a flake, and the American people have begun to see it.
The chief characteristic of a flake is that he makes choices that are
impossible to either understand or explain. These are not the errors
of the poor dope who can't grasp the essentials of a situation, or the
neurotic who ruins things out of compulsion, or the man suffering
chronic bad luck.
The flake has a genius for discovering solutions at perfect right
angles to the ordinary world.20It's as if he's the product of a totally
different evolutionary chain, in a universe where the laws are
slightly but distinctly at variance to ours. When given a choice
between left and right, the flake goes up -- if not through the 8th
dimension. And although there's plenty of rationalization, there's
never a logical reason for any of it. After awhile, people stop
Obama's rise has been widely portrayed as a kind of millennial Horatio
Alger story -- young lad from a new state on the outskirts of the
American polity, a member of once-despised minority, works his way by
slow degrees to within arm's length of the presidency itself. That's
all well and good -- we need national myths of exactly that type.
But what has been overlooked is the string of faux pas marking each
step of Obama's journey, a series of strange, inexplicable actions,
actions bizarre enough to require some effort at explanation, through
such efforts have rarely been offered. It's as if the new Horatio made
it to the top by stepping into every last manhole and open trapdoor in
his path. And we, the onlookers, the voters who are being asked to put
this man in the White House, are supposed to take this as the normal
career path for a successful chief executive.
What are these incidents? I'm sure many of you are way ahead of me,
but let's go to the videotape.
Here's a young man who graduated from Columbia with high marks, with a
choice of position
s anywhere in the country. He comes from a state
generally held to be a close match to Paradise. One, furthermore, that
can be characterized as the most successful multiracial society in the
world, with harmonious relations not only between whites and blacks,
but also Japanese-Americans and native Hawaiians as well. To top it
off, a state controlled in large part by a smoothly-functioning
Democratic machine. So where does he choose to go?
To Chicago. One of the windiest, coldest, most brutal cities in the
country. One that is also infinitely corrupt in a sense that Hawaii is
not. One that remains one of the most racist large cities in the U.S.
(Cicero, Al Capone's old stomping grounds, a suburb that is
effectively part of the city, is completely segregated to this day.)
It would be nice to learn which of these aspects most attracted young
Obama to the city. But if you'd asked at the beginning of the
campaign, you'd still be waiting.
And what does he do when he reaches the city? Why, he joins a cult.
Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church has been turned inside out
since the videotaped sermons appeared early this year, without anyone
ever quite explaining exactly what Obama was thinking of when he
joined up in the first place. Street cred, so it's claimed. But there
are a plethora of black churches that would have provided him that
without the taint of demented racism that Wright's church offered.
Obama apparently had to swear an oath
of belief in "black liberation
theology" when he joined the church. (It is the little touches of that
sort that make it a "cult", and not simply a "church".) Did the
thought of his caree r ever cross his mind? Didn't he realize that
church would inevitably cause him trouble somewhere down the line?
That he'd be required to repudiate it and its ideas eventually? We can
ask -- but we won't get an answer.
Back at school, Obama got himself named editor of the Harvard Law
Review. This is a signal achievement, no question about it. The kind
of thing that would be mentioned about a person for the rest of his
life, as has been the case with Obama. But then... he writes nothing
for the journal.
Now, let's get this straight: here we have one of the leading
university law journals in the country, one widely cited and read.
Entire careers in legal analysis and scholarship have been founded on
appearances in the Review, including some that have led to the highest
courts in the country. Yet here's an individual who, as editor, could
easily place his own work in the journal -- standard practice, nothing
at all wrong with it. But he fails to do so. And the explanation?
There's none that I've heard. We can go even farther than that, to say
that there is no explanation that makes the least rational sense.
We follow Obama down to Springfield, where as a state legislator, he
voted "present" over 120 times. What this means, as far as I've
able to discover, is that he voted "present" nearly as much as he
voted "yes" or "no".
Now, statehouses work very simply: a member approaches his colleagues
and asks them them to vote for his bill. Some comply, some do not.
Some ask, "Is it a good bill?" and some don't. Either way, they
customarily, except in unusu al circumstances, vote "yes' or "no". All
except for Barack Obama. And how did get away with it? How did mollify
his colleagues? How did he square himself with the party bosses? Echo
(A good slogan could be made of this: "You can't vote present in the
Oval Office." I hereby commend it to the McCain campaign.)
We turn eagerly to learn what his term in the U.S. Senate will reveal,
only to be disappointed. But it's not surprising, really. After all,
he was only there for 143 days.
And there lies one of the keys to Obama's rise. David Brooks pointed
out in a recent New York Times column that Obama spent too little time
in any of his positions to make an impact one way or another. This is
what saved him from the normal fate of the flake: he was never around
long enough for his errors and strange behavior to catch up with him.
But a presidential campaign is a different matter. A man running for
president is under the microscope, and can't duck anything, as many a
candidate has had reason to learn. If Obama is a flake in the classic
mode, now is when it would come out.=2
0And has it?
The case could be made. Here we have a campaign with everything going
for it -- the opposition party in a shambles, a seriously undervalued
president, the media in the candidate's pocket, the candidate himself
being worshiped as nothing less than the new messiah. And yet the
results have compr ised little more than one fumble after another.
First came the Wright affair. Obama apparently thought he was above it
all -- a not-uncommon phenomenon with flakes -- and allowed the
revelations to take on a life of their own before bothering to
respond. Even then, his thoughtful and convincing explanation (that he
hadn't been listening for twenty years) did little to settle the
crisis, which instead guttered out on its own after nearly crippling
his campaign. Even months afterward it threatens to pop back up at any
time. The latest word is that Wright -- now a deadly enemy of his
onetime protÃ(c)gÃ(c) -- has written a book. I can't wait.
Obama learned his lesson, and confronted the next threat immediately,
tackling The New Yorker cover with the avidity of a man having
discovered zombies in the basement. A development that could have been
defused with a chuckle and a quip (the customary method is for the
politician to ask the cartoonist for the original) was allowed to
explode into a major issue. The campaign's relentless attacks on one
of the oldest liberal magazines extant merely perplexed the country at
large. After all, any Rep
ublican has had to endure far worse.
Almost simultaneously, the birth certificate saga was unfolding. On no
reasonable grounds, the campaign blew off requests for a copy of the
document, at last releasing it through one of the least reputable
sites on the Internet, and so badly copied that literally anything
could be read into it -- and was. I'm not one of those who believes
that Obama was actually born in Indonesia/Kenya/Moscow/the moon, but I
still have plenty in the way of questions, almost all of them arising
from how the matter was handled. Well played.
The latest pothole (or one of them, anyway) involves Jerome Corsi's
"The Obama Nation". Corsi has been given the full New Yorker
treatment, with the campaign hoping to avoid John Kerry's "error" in
not challenging Corsi's 2004 book, Unfit for Command. What Obama
missed was the fact that Kerry's major problem was not with Corsi but
with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who were disgusted with
Kerry's hypocrisy in running as an experienced military veteran, and
set out to take him down. Corsi's effort dovetailed with the veteran's
campaign and to a large extent was swept up with it. No such campaign
is in operation against Obama. The smart method of an swering Corsi
would have been to allow the media to handle it, instead of drawing
attention to the book and raising it to level of an issue. This
appears to be a real talent for the Obama campaign.
We could go on. The victory tou
r of Europe, and the speech in which
Obama declared himself "citizen of the world", a trope guaranteed to
focus the attention of Middle America. His inept handling of Hillary,
in which he wound up appearing frightened of the opponent he'd just
beaten. Allowing Hillary (and her husband there, what's-his-name) a
starring role in the Democratic convention is not a solution any sane
individual would be comfortable with -- much less a roll-call vote.
This threatens the near-certainty of turning the entire affair into
BillandHillarycon, with the nominee winding up as a footnote. But it's
all of a piece with the campaign Obama h as waged up until now.
We've never had a flake as president. We've had drunks, neurotics,
cripples, louts, and fools, but never a career screwup. (I except
Jimmy Carter, whose errors arose from sincere, misguided goodwill.)
And I don't think we're going to get one now. Another three months of
flailing, incompetence, and a collapsing image will do little to
assure voters concerned with terrorism, the oil crunch, a gyrating
economy, and a bellicose Russia. (Anyone doubting that Obama will go
exactly this route can consider the Saddleback church fiasco, which
unfolded as this piece was being wrapped up. Evidently, the campaign
goaded NBC news personality Andrea Mitchell into al l but accusing
John McCain of "cheating" by failing to take his place within the
"cone of silence" during Obama's part of the program. The grotesque
element here is that Oba
ma's people and much of the liberal
commentariat -- including Mitchell -- apparently believe that the
"cone of silence", a gag prop for the old Get Smart! comedy series,
actually exists and was in use at Sad dleback.)
Many of us have dealt with flakes at one time or another, often in
settings involving jobs and careers, and not uncommonly in positions
of some authority. We all know of the nephew, the fiancÃ(c), the
boyfriend, whose whims must be catered to, whose reputation must be
protected, who must be constantly worked around if anything at all is
to be accomplished, always at the cost of time, money, efficiency, and
In the fullness of time, we will inevitably see such a figure in the
White House. But not this year, and not this candidate. Such acts of
national flakery occur only when there's no real alternative. In this
election, an alternative exists. Whatever his shortcomings, nobody
ever called John McCain a flake.