Here, first of all, is the written version of the Dean Barnett’s argument, to which I alluded in a previous post. Barnett makes three points; I agree with two-and-a-half of them. First, Obama is much less impressive without his teleprompter. Yup. Second, his style is to "respect" those with whom he disagrees without moving an inch in their direction. Yup; for Obama, working across the aisle means luring his opponents to his side, not compromising. Third, when he adlibs, Obama reveals the angry, backward-looking partisan beneath the cool, conciliatory exterior. Well, sort of. Barnett is right that his adlibs are more partisan; it was a partisan crowd, after all, not a "big tent" Obama rally. I’d want to see him really pushed and tested in a debate (by McCain) before I came to Barnett’s conclusion.
Daniel Henninger tries to penetrate Obama’s rhetoric and finds John Edwards:
Listen closely to that Tuesday night Wisconsin speech. Unhinge yourself from the mesmerizing voice. What one hears is a message that is largely negative, illustrated with anecdotes of unremitting bleakness. Heavy with class warfare, it is a speech that could have been delivered by a Democrat in 1968, or even 1928.
I am not saying all of this is false. But it is a depressing message to ride all the way to the White House.
Unease about the economy is real, but Sen. Obama is selling more than that. He is selling deep grievance over the structure of American society. That’s the same message as John Edwards, or Dennis Kucinich for that matter.
Henninger draws a contrast with McCain’s classically conservative (in the American sense) belief in the efficacy of initiative. So we have angry hopefulness against hopeful anger. Let’s see how this plays out.
I don’t think Obama can get much better. In the general election campaign, he’ll have to pay attention to his opponent and start managing the policy and vision debates. It would be a mistake not to try very hard to pin him down, or not to show how evasive he is when you try to pin him down. Can McCain do it? I hope so.