Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama backers on the left are doing the wincing now

By John Kass
Chicago Tribune
July 13, 2008

When Jesse Jackson's Castrato-gate or the Barack Obama Nuts Controversy or whatever you want to call it erupted last week—as captured by the hot microphones of Fox News—terrible cries of pain went unnoticed.

Not from Obama, who, as presidential historians will tell us after his inauguration in January, was the great beneficiary of the rhetorical (and never actually attempted) Jacksonian castration, and no cries from Jackson, either.

Jackson's too busy to shriek. He's suffering the ambition of African-American politicos eager to replace him as America's race broker. And he's been hooted down in the style of pre-Revolutionary France, by white liberals who once feared him, though they no longer feel compelled to feign interest in Jackson's ridiculous rhymes.

The cries of pain came not from Obama or Jackson but from the American political left, from scribes and liberal editorial writers and broadcast analysts and eager bloggers. The true believers who evangelized that Obama would transcend politics as we knew it are suffering a Barackian hangover.

Greedily, they drained the kegs once full of sweet Obama Kool-Aid, drained them to the dregs and mopped up the remains with stale crusts. The inevitable happened—the pain that comes as everything finally becomes clear, in the rosy-fingered light of a terrible dawn.

Obama used them to crush the Clintons, but now the left is finally realizing it's been betrayed, on issue after issue, with Obama changing his positions in order to defeat a tired and disillusioned Republican Party in November.

They're at the dance now and he's the one with the keys and he's the only ride they've got. And they don't like it.

He has flip-flopped again and again, on campaign finance, on government eavesdropping of overseas phone calls, on gun control and even Iraq. Future President Obama now says he'll listen to his generals about when to withdraw. He didn't say he'd listen to the commissars of the blogosphere.

And his cheerleaders are beginning to realize that Obama may not be the Arthurian knight in shining armor, that he may not be Mr. Tumnus, the gentle forest faun of our presidential politics. Months after his inauguration, after he makes Billy Daley the secretary of the treasury and Michael Daley the secretary of zoning and promotes Patrick Fitzgerald to become the attorney general of Mars, the political left may figure out that Obama is a Chicago politician.

"Only an idiot would think or hope that a politician going through the crucible of a presidential campaign could hold fast to every position, steer clear of the stumbling blocks of nuance and never make a mistake," wrote Bob Herbert in The New York Times. "But Barack Obama went out of his way to create the impression that he was a new kind of political leader—more honest, less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most. . . . Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He's lurching right when it suits him, and he's zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that's guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash."

This panic of the left—particularly among many political media types—is profoundly instructive to foreigners seeking to understand American character. The American media elite chose to portray Obama as some kind of knight in armor. They're analysts. Yet they were desperate to believe in a political fairy tale from Chicago. Somewhere in this desperate yearning is an answer.

Obama is not their fool. And he's not weak. He got down on one knee to the Chicago Democratic Machine and didn't make any waves and asked that it make him a U.S. senator. He lectured the Africans about political corruption and kept his mouth shut about corruption in Chicago, and the national press ignored the inconsistency and pampered and protected him. He waited and he's ready and now they're worried? Too late, boys and girls.

I don't mean to pick on Mr. Herbert, an elegant writer. His is but one of many voices, stunned on the side of the road, wondering what happened. I felt the same Kool-Aid hangover, and the same whiplash, but from the opposite direction years ago, when I was run down in the middle of a paragraph by a clown car driven by Karl Rove.

The Bush White House became the champion of big government, of big spending, of Jack Abramoff and of perjury under oath. The clowns boiled out of the car and I watched them go, taking the Republican Party with them, dragging it out into the desert, where they'd dug a big hole and stuffed it with Kool-Aid-addled conservatives.

So I have some sympathy for those on the left when it comes to Obama. They feel jilted, and the story was of a growing sense of betrayal, until Rev. Jackson whispered his desire to remove Obama's valuables.

Then the left joined in with the right, and with the viewers of Fox News in the front row—representing those Reagan Democrat votes Obama will need in November—we all pounded Jackson, righteously, in Obama's name.

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