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Popeye v. The Pretender: Obama’s Big Debate Duck

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Supporters of Senator Obama have to be deeply disturbed by Obama’s decision to duck Senator McCain’s invitation to change American political debate via a series of one-on-one townhall meetings across the U.S.

Here was a chance to genuinely reinvent how presidential elections are conducted –to raise the conversation and empower voters, and Obama ran away. So much for the Obama rhetoric of change and a new era: Obama’s a machine pol afraid to get too far from Axelrod’s script.

The big duck is an admission by Obama that the scars from his late primary season debate battles with Hillary still smart. She creamed him in the late rounds, again and again, and since then the Obama gaffe machine has been in high gear, culminating this past week with “inflate your tires to energy freedom” prat fall. Off-prompter, Obama is revealed as a pretender –a lightweight who can’t make coherent arguments or sustain even short exchanges with hostile questioners.

Senator McCain has gone Popeye, which is just fine. “I yam what I yam” makes a lot of sense to Americans, and the doggedness and patience of the old warrior shine brighter every day as it contrasts with the smoke machine around Obama. Pushing back hard on the bogus charge of racism by Obama and his surrogates at the New York Times was exactly what the voters needed to see –the old fight and yes, the old temper. McCain’s great strength has always been his reliability on national security issues, and in an age of punks with nukes and oil –Ahmadinejad and Chavez– a tough old guy looks pretty good, especially measured against a lightweight fighting way above his weight class.

Obama’s big rallies and celebrity turn have had their effect, but now they are at least a wash as Americans on Main Street begin to wonder what Obama thinks he is running for, and what exactly he is bringing to the table. Stanley Kurtz’s examination of Obama’s hard left voting record in the Illinois state senate answers the second question, and the refusal to stand by his commitment to “anytime, anywhere” debates with McCain underscores the impression that Obama thinks he is owed the presidency.

Obama may have peaked in Berlin, and the sudden recognition by millions that “there is no there there” will be solidified by Obama’s big debate duck.

All hat. No cattle. And no spine.


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