Sometimes when I’m not carefully it’s easy to forget that Barack Obama is not the president. As I’ve joked previously, this election sometimes feels like a St. Louis mayoral race where the only battle that mattered was between the Democrats slugging it out. The Republican nominee is usually so neutered by the Dems’ massive political prowess in the Lou (this is a virtual one-party city), that all GOPers have been sans testicles since the 1940s. But this isn’t a St. Louis mayoral campaign and the race is close, but you wouldn’t know it from the attitude, the coverage or the visuals this election season.
And it seems I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. There was a great Op-Ed in Sunday’s New York Times penned by Frank Rich on how Obama pulled off the magic trick of becoming the de facto president of the United States in a time where everyone hates the current president and the Republican nominee is way off his game.
“Mr. McCain could also have stepped into the leadership gap left by Mr. Bush’s de facto abdication. His inability to even make a stab at doing so is troubling,” he writes.
Rich covers John McCain’s bungling of his own message, campaign, everything and likens him to Mr. Wilson of Dennis the Menace fame.
Hey you kids! Get away from my presidential campaign!
The Obama stampede is forcing Mr. McCain to surrender on other domestic fronts. After the Democrat ran ads in 14 states berating chief executives who are “making more in 10 minutes” than many workers do in a year, a newly populist Mr. McCain began railing against “corporate greed” — much as he also followed Mr. Obama’s example and belatedly endorsed a homeowners’ bailout he had at first opposed. Given that Mr. McCain has already used a refitted, hand-me-down Obama campaign slogan (“A Leader You Can Believe In”), it can’t be long before he takes up fist bumps. They’ve become the rage among young (nonterrorist) American businessmen, according to USA Today.
“We have one president at a time,” Mr. Obama is careful to say. True, but the sitting president, a lame duck despised by voters and shunned by his own party’s candidates, now has all the gravitas of Mr. Cellophane in “Chicago.” The opening for a successor arrived prematurely, and the vacuum had been waiting to be filled. What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.
Rich, quite prophetically, wraps up the piece with his vision that win or lose, this country is going in the direction Obama is campaigning for.
The election remains Mr. Obama’s to lose, and he could lose it, whether through unexpected events, his own vanity or a vice-presidential misfire. But what we’ve learned this month is that America, our allies and most likely the next Congress are moving toward Mr. Obama’s post-Iraq vision of the future, whether he reaches the White House or not. That’s some small comfort as we contemplate the strange alternative offered by the Republicans: a candidate so oblivious to our nation’s big challenges ahead that he is doubling down in his campaign against both Mr. Maliki and Mr. Obama to be elected commander in chief of the surge.