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Frank Rich on Obama and his GOP Doppelgänger

I’m certainly not in the habit of citing Frank Rich with approval, but there is much to consider in this recent piece of his. And his central thesis--that the appeal of both Obama and Huck can be traced to the degree to which both men seem to be an "anti-Bush" when it comes to Iraq--is probably not as off target as I wish it were. On the other hand, if it were really true that dissimilarity between them and Bush accounts for their popularity, it would seem that Ron Paul’s numbers ought to be higher than they are. So I think Rich may be only half (or three quarters) right about that. Much of Obama’s popularity stems from his desire to pull up stakes and come home from Iraq. It is far from clear, however, that this has much to do with Huckabee’s appeal. For one thing, Huck hasn’t indicated support for a policy like that and, indeed, when he talks about Iraq seems to be pretty supportive of the endeavor. Rich hangs too much on Huckabee’s comment about Bush’s "bunker mentality" in Foreign Affairs--though I do agree (now) that it was shrewd of Huck not to back away from it and apologize (even if, as a matter of right, he ought to have done).

I also think this business of explaining Huck and Obama’s appeal as a reaction against the Bush/Clinton era is more than a bit over-stated by almost every commentator who cites it. It’s less that, I think, than a simple generational shift and a desire for youthful energy in politics. It need not come from an actual youth . . . though I think it helps. It is, as I stated in an earlier post, a longing to be included in something great about America. We want to be given a reason to love our country and to feel as though we can work toward making her even more lovable. This is more of a mood than an opinion, I realize. It is also directed less at Bush/Clinton than at the broad-based boredom we’re all developing with baby-boomer self-absorption. This does not mean that we’re likely to reject self-absorption in a general or a noble way . . . our fascination with self-absorbed people is probably just getting a makeover in the personalities and glittering generalities of Huck and Obama. We also like folks like Bono, George Clooney and such. We like Oprah better than Jerry Springer because she’s "doing something important" with her show. If we liked Bill Clinton because he made us feel comfortable with our vices, maybe we like Huck and Obama because they make us feel comfortable with our self-righteousness.

Also see this report out of Iowa and note Obama’s comment, "You’re the wave and I’m riding it" . . . so much could be said about that. It’s even more generous to history, in a way, than Woodrow Wilson’s suggestion of a river-boat pilot. And it’s also more hip . . . Obama as a surfer-dude? But seriously, the appeal stems from his flattery of the people and the suggestion that he will facilitate their doing something important. He’s their ticket to greatness. If he keeps this up, I don’t see how Clinton can recover.

Discussions - 4 Comments

There is something adolescent like in the call for "change." Thompson threw some cold water on it the other night, which was hilarious. But if you noticed the focus groups thereafter, they ripped Thompson. They didn't much like Thompson throwing cold water on their longing for "change." Nor did they appreciate him reminding them that they're hardly the first electorate with some vague hankerings for "change."

Having said that, there's clearly a rejection of Bush. And that's healthy. Bush should be rejected, root and branch. The American people are rejecting even his name, "Bush," which they've heard too much of late. And that's what we're seeing in the Democrat race right now. The Clinton brand name is old, OLD. It's stale, tired, worn, done, and the Democrats want rid of it. They're even tired of hearing the events of the Clinton years. The Clintons trot out their battles, thinking that's going to get their troops riled up, and all it does is exhaust them, by reminding them of the stale battles of yesterday.

Obama promises something new. And what's more, he delivers. There's none of the scandals swirling about him that they've been forced to endure, AND DEFEND, about the Clintons.

17 YEARS worth of defending the Clintons has left the Democrats with a deep longing for a guy who represents something at least a little pure, a little innocent, a little reminiscent of their FDR glory years. It's the Clintons, WHICH FORCED THE DEMOCRATS to defend them, and defend them, and tolerate them, and rationalize them, and excuse them, and give them one pass after another, who plowed the fields that Obama now works to such effect.

Obama is a Clinton creation. Just in many ways as Huckabee is a creation of the Republican establishment.


Good post, Dan, but may I suggest a friendly amendment? They're not thinking of the FDR glory days. They're thinking of Kennedy. The older ones really are, and the younger ones are thinking of the image.

Good post, Dan; good amendment, Will.

Yea, they're definitely thinking of the "Camelot" years.

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