Michael Hirsh, in Newsweek has a piece up about what he's calling the "Kerryization of Barack Obama." It's a terrific example of the myopia of the media toward the role they play in the public perception of candidates. That's not what he's talking about, mind you--he's acting as though this stuff just happens and the media is there to report on it.
The specter of John Kerry in 2004 is beginning to haunt the Democrats in 2008. It is the specter of wimpy campaigns past. It showed up, like Banquo's ghost, at the debate Wednesday night in Philadelphia, particularly when Hillary Clinton joined with ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson to nip away at the edges of Barack Obama's patriotism. Between the questions about Obama's meager association with William Ayers, a former Weatherman, and the suspicions raised by his lack of a flag lapel pin, the likely nominee is slowly being turned into John Kerry. He is becoming, in other words, a candidate who may be mostly right about national security but who will lack the Red State street cred to carry his point—and the election.What do you notice about the above paragraph? First of all, even though it was Stephanopoulos and Gibson who moderated the debate, Clinton got foregrounded in the sentence, as though she were the one who generated the questions (as opposed to Sean Hannity) that focused on such inanities as the flag pin, William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. Also note that the premise of the article--that Obama is being turned into Kerry 04--fails to acknowledge the role that the media played in Kerry's demonization by the Swift Boaters (by treating their claims as though they had some merit).
There's a whole book to be written about what the media has done to Clinton in this campaign, by the way, but that's not discussed in this article so much, so it's going to get short shrift here as well. But even in an article as focused on Obama as this one, Hirsh still continues to push the blame for this situation on Clinton.
Obama is being placed on the defensive on flimsy grounds as well, and there he's likely to stay, rendered permanently suspicious by association thanks to questions about Ayers and the "anti-American" statements of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. As Clinton said helpfully during the debate, "It goes to this larger set of concerns about how we are going to run against John McCain." She's right, but her fears are self-fulfilling. The more damage she does to Obama, the harder it will be for him to take the offensive against a bona fide patriot and war hero like McCain. Safer just to talk about the economy and health care.Not a word about how Wright would be a non-story by now if Hirsh and his cohorts hadn't continued to push it, or how Ayers really is a non-story all the way around. Not a peep about how Stephanopolous and Gibson spent the first 45 minutes of the latest "debate" talking about this kind of crap instead of anything resembling an issue. No--it's Clinton who's doing it all. How powerful she is!
And when it's not Clinton, it's the party.
But the party's peculiar pathology could yet drag Obama down. He's getting Kerryized. At a time when he should be taking on John McCain, he's being forced to talk about lapel pins.Who's forcing that issue, Mr. Hirsh? Who's asking inane questions about lapel pins? Who's talking about that instead of health care or the Iraq War or the economy? It's you and yours, not the party. Don't complain about how Obama is being turned into Kerry '04 and not accept the responsibility for that transformation.