September 10, 2008

Barack Obama: Jerk?

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My initial reaction to Bacongate was, "Well, it's just another gaffe. Obama couldn't possibly be dumb and mean enough to call Palin a pig." Yeah, she mocked him during her convention speech, but it was all about his record (or lack thereof) and soaring rhetoric. Which isn't nice, perhaps, but that stuff is fair game in a political campaign. Could he really be so thin-skinned and self-serious that he'd start hitting back with personal insults?

At first I thought it was a mistake for the McCain camp to demand an apology. As I told my close personal friend Glenn Reynolds, I thought they should have said something like:

"We're pleasantly surprised by Senator Obama's newfound sense of humor, and look forward to watching it develop over the coming weeks and months."

You know, rise above it, while still reminding everybody that Obama is a stiff, humorless, gaffe-prone scold.

But now I'm having second thoughts. I think he meant exactly what the crowd obviously thought he meant, because it fits a clear pattern of behavior.

Putting aside the astonishing smear campaign against Palin, which is definitely not grassroots, just look at some of Obama's past antics. In no particular order:

  • What was the Obama camp's initial reaction to Palin's announcement?
    "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies -- that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same."
  • Yeowtch! And her palmprints on the podium were still warm. (Quite a contrast to McCain's ad, less than 24 hours earlier, congratulating Obama on his achievement.) But then, later that same day, Obama walked it back:
    "I think that... campaigns start getting these hair triggers and the statement that Joe and I put out reflects our sentiments," he said, according to the pool report, apparently criticizing his staff for going overboard, as he did occasionally in the primary.
    So he's not the hostile, panicky jackass. It was his staff's fault. Yes We Can... Pass the Buck!

  • Speaking of McCain's congratulatory ad, which as far as I know is unprecedented, how did Obama return the gesture? By finally going on The O'Reilly Factor, after months of begging by O'Reilly, on the night of McCain's speech. Your opponent goes out of his way to show some class on your big day, and you thank him by trying to steal his thunder?
  • After Bill Clinton, ahem, swallowed his pride and endorsed Obama at the DNC, what song did they play afterward? "Addicted to Love." Classy!
  • During a campaign event last April, Obama emphasized a point about Hillary by scratching his cheek. With his middle finger. Innocent, offhand gesture? I thought so at first. Now I'm not so sure.
  • The "dirt off your shoulder" thing. At first I thought it was funny, and I like that Jay-Z song, but in retrospect the gesture seems -- much like Jay-Z -- arrogant and deeply unpleasant. And based on what we've seen from Obama over the past week, it's obviously delusional. Not only can't he brush the dirt off his shoulders, but he's piling even more on them as he digs this deep, deep hole.
  • And to go beyond mere jerkiness: What's up with putting out an "Obama Action Wire" to try to shut down a Chicago radio station for talking about his ties with William Ayers? If Ayers is just a guy in Obama's neighborhood, why launch thousands of phone calls and e-mails at the station, all spouting the same talking points? You can download an MP3 of the show in question here. It's one thing for MoveOn or Kos or Media Matters (at the risk of redundancy) to do that kind of crap, but this came from the official campaign site. Does it bother anybody else that a presidential candidate is openly trying to stifle dissent? Doesn't Obama know that as president, he would be criticized every minute of every day? Does he plan to shout them all down?

But hey, I could be wrong. These could all be coincidences and/or innocent mistakes. Maybe it's everybody else's fault. Maybe he isn't really throwing rocks and hiding his hand.

P.S. And before you start? In the words of the immortal Harvey Keitel: "I didn't make a statement. I asked a question."

P.P.S. A couple of other examples people have pointed out: Obama ignored the fact that Palin is the governor of Alaska and called Wasilla "Wasilly" (which was what triggered her "community organizer" comeback, which in turn apparently triggered his ongoing meltdown), and he called that female reporter "sweetie." Again, those both can be passed off as innocent mistakes until you fit them into this pattern of behavior. I guess for his fans, it doesn't count as rude, immature behavior as long as he has a serious look on his face.

P.P.P.S. Mocking McCain's war injuries and alienating everybody older than Obama would certainly qualify. Either it's on purpose, which goes way, way beyond jerkiness, or they didn't do a simple Google search to learn why McCain has trouble using a computer keyboard, which means they're panicky idiots.

Posted by Jim Treacher at September 10, 2008 01:35 PM