Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 10, 2007
POLITICS: The Temptation of Barack Obama
Already his habit of seeing every side of every question--the writerly habit that rescued his memoir from stereotype and cliche - has begun to frustrate many of his would-be allies. The liberal journalist Joe Klein, writing in Time, says he "counted no fewer than 50 instances of excruciatingly judicious on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-handedness in The Audacity of Hope." Articles in the New York Review of Books and Harper's quote the book and fret over his tendency to "equivocation."
The conclusions, though, are another matter. Those frustrated would-be allies like Joe Klein shouldn't worry. On one practical issue after another, at the end of long, tortured passages of chin-pulling and brow-furrowing, after the unexpected praise for Ronald Reagan and for the genius of the free market, the disdain for identity politics and for the overregulation of small business, there's never a chance that Obama will come down on any side other than the conventionally liberal views of the Democratic party mainstream. It turns out that much of his on-the-one-hand judiciousness is little more than a rhetorical strategy.
I caught some of Fox and CNN covering Obama's announcement speech this morning, and it was hilarious because both of them were using the news crawl at the bottom of the screen to report whatever Obama was saying - "Obama: ____." The problem is that what he was saying was an endless parade of cliches, so the breaking news crawl was annoucing things like "Obama: America is a land of hope" or "Obama: Together we can do great things." The effect was positively parodic.