>OBSERVATION: Obama is a’bombing

>Barack Obama, the supernova of political candidates, is starting to look like a “white dwarf.” (Okay, for you who got your education in public schools, a white dwarf is what remains after a star bursts on the scene as a spectacular supernova, and then collapse into a tiny mass. We are not making racists allusions here.)

Just a few short months ago, there was a general public and pundit consensus that Obama was about to trounce the field of Democratic candidates. He was afforded Paris Hilton-level coverage in the press – even more and better coverage than the woman whose name sounds like a French Hotel. Without any discernible positions on issues and a obvious inadequacy of experience, Obama was declared to be the perfect candidate – a compassionate reformer without political baggage. It appears that impression is going up in smoke. (Had to find an excuse for the smoking Obama pic.)

That was the national image – carefully crafted. Those of us closer to the wellspring from whence Obama rose were not so convinced. Perhaps it was our awareness that the political “wellspring” of his advancement is more like a cesspool – arguably the most corrupt political environment in America. If you do not believe that, just start counting the number of public servants and office-holders doing time in the hoosegow. One does not rise from the muck of Illinois politics with pristine garments.

The association with indicted wheeler-dealer Tony Rezko clings to Obama like a Pit Bull with lock jaw. Though Obama once described his relationship with Rezko in distant minimalist terms, it has become increasing clear that the association was long and deep. As the candidate, and his spin meisters, trivialize each newly revealed dealings between Obama and the indicted influence peddler, a new and more damaging revelation appears on the horizon. Most problematic for Obama-the-White-Knight (ß not racial) are the news stories making it appear – almost beyond any defense – that Obama has been … ah …fibbing.

Obama says the purchase of land from his new neighbor (Tony Rezko) was foolish. Just a mistake. Obama ‘fessed up some questionable campaign donations in the few thousand range only to have it revealed that Rezko has funneled hundreds of thousands into the campaign.

Then there is the issue of the real estate development. Obama says he never helped Rezko in any deal. Ooops! The emergence of a letter from then State Senator Obama begging for government assistance for a Rezko real estate project shows that Obama did use his political influence to get Rezko and his partners a lucrative deal – a deal that later lead to accusations of massive taxpayer abuse.

Obama’s self praise as a citizen activist for public housing is not only disputed by the grassroots activists in positions to observe the significance (or in this case the alleged insignificance) of his contributions, but it turns out he was associated the guys accused of being slum landlords and bilking the public. Obama initially confirmed his participation in the business, but claimed ignorance of the abusive and illegal practices. Later evidence indicated that he was much closer to the controversial projects than he would have us believe.

All of this is doubly damaging because of an early decision to make Obama the candidate of reform. He preaches reform. He is the point man on reform in the Senate. This was a strategic mistake. His credibility was immediately compromised by his participation in, benefit from, and the ignoring of the massive home town corruption of the Illinois Democrat machine. He floated his political future on the cesspool of corruption best personified by Rezko. Lacking the ability to turn his reform spotlight on his Illinois buddies, he became a strident partisan, seeing only GOP corruption. This will not fly with an electorate which has a bipartisan disdain for corruption in both parties.

His glowing autobiographical works have come under scrutiny, and it appears he has taken license with some of the facts – even to the point of his carefully crafted transformation from a cultural and social white guy of privilege to a gritty in-the-‘hood African-American activist. Many candidates re-invent themselves, but not usually their ethnic, social and cultural background. Experientially, it was said that Bill Clinton was the first “African American” president. If that is so, then Obama comes to office in the tradition of such Brahmans as Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and the almost John Kerry.

Obama indignantly deflects questions of his religious background, from his early Islamic schooling to his participation in a strident left-wing Christian church. But like the Mormon affiliation of George Romney, the “beliefs” are causing concern. This is not the type of issue that will be challenged in open public by a society claiming tolerance, but it will have its negative influence in the darker corners of the electorate’s heart. Religious radicalism from the left is canonized in the press, but not so with the grassroots citizenry. (Don’t you just love the Saint Obama treatment on the book cover. I mean, really!)

Obama has entered into the “what next” portion of his descent, where the unrevealed future casts ethereal shadows over his candidacy. With federal blood hounds bringing down his closest associates and political patrons, the voters are wondering if there will be more bad news in the future. It is a reasonable suspicion, and one that provides its own drag on the campaign.

Not all of Obama’s problems are sordid. He is the least experienced and most ill-equipped of the national candidates, and it shows. His performance in the debates was not good. Under the glare of national attention, he showed his lack of political credentials. His rise to prominence was on the hot air of empty rhetoric. That can rise only so far. Debates success requires more than slick comforting phraseology. Among his presidential peers, Obama appear like a high school debater who accidentally got put up against the Oxford team.

Some note that even if Obama is not successful this time around, his youth gives him many opportunities in coming presidential years. The theory sounds good, but the history of such candidacies is much drearier. Chuck Percy and Ted Kennedy were presidential contenders in their politically youthful years. Their early near misses, however, where as close as they ever got to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Harold Stassen was a real contender as the youngest governor in America. His subsequent runs were Quixotic.

Politics is full or surprises. If you play the odds, however, Obama could well wind up as a foot note in political history, along with Gary Hart, Jack Kemp, Gene MaCarthy, and all the other early front runners. His one distinction is that he is the first almost African American candidate to be in the senior ranks of contention, and to actually have led the field in polls not taken by his won campaign.

At the early stages, when Obama’s rise to the presidency was spoken of in inevitable terms, I predicted in this very blog that he was foredoomed. The public finds him fascinating as a candidate, but not convincing as the President. He is not the first to be blind to the distinction.

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