'Toujours de l'audace'

Editor: "Ever more audacity," the French motto for doubling down your bet when losses mount, has a mixed connotation, but it more often suggests the nerve of a burglar than the daring of a hero. Ken Davenport had in mind the former meaning when he put that title on this analyis of Mr. Audacious himself, the Democratic presidential candidate. 'Toujour de l'audace'

It is has always been clear that Barack Obama has a huge ego. After all, how else can a half-term U.S. Senator with little relevant experience convince himself to run for president of the United States? You have to have a very high opinion of yourself, to say the least – an opinion that has no doubt been considerably raised by the cult-like following he has engendered among those who seek a Messiah rather than a president.

Obama clearly believes he is the “one we’ve been waiting for” – and it doesn’t hurt when the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi recently introduces him as a “gift from God”. That’s a strange thing for a liberal to say, I admit – but it has to go to your head when everyone keeps telling you how unique, brilliant, scholarly and intellectual you are (etc. etc. etc.).

In any event, he certainly got the title of his recent memoir right, for there is no better word to describe Barack Obama than “audacious”, which is defined as “recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law and the like”. He certainly has defied convention with his grass-roots campaign that was able to slay the Clinton dragon, and his comments on the campaign trail have often violated a sense of propriety, at least in the opinion of all those working class voters clinging to “guns and religion”.

His most recent performance in the Saddleback Church debate against McCain, for example, was nothing if not lawyerly; in the great tradition of Bill Clinton (remember his famous “it depends on the meaning of the word ‘is’”?), Obama attempted to split the middle on virtually every answer, hemming and hawing in an effort to be the perfect accommodator. The result was that he appeared to be vague, indecisive and unsure of himself.

In fact, his meteoric rise has made him famous, but when you push him on the issues, his answers are painfully shallow. When compared to John McCain, the difference was quite striking. McCain was concise, concrete and clear. He so obviously knows what he thinks and believes, and isn’t particularly interested in splitting the atom to make sure he covers all his bases.

When Rick Warren, the moderator of the Saddleback event, asked both candidates whether evil exists and if so, what should be done about it, McCain said three words: “yes” and “defeat it”. Obama, on the other had, gave a rambling answer that shows both his shallow understanding of the world, and more importantly, his true feeling about America. He said that evil does exist, citing Darfur and “the evil in American cities”. No mention of Islamic terrorists who fly airplanes into buildings, or suicide bombers who blow up innocents. He then went on to say that we must be careful in confronting evil, because in the name of opposing it, America has often committed evil acts itself – a prototypical response from the left, which is enamored with blaming America first. It was an appalling answer for a man who would be president.

Of course, such an answer fits perfectly with the previous comments of both Barack and Michelle Obama, and with their former pastor Reverend Wright and friend William Ayers – the former Weather Underground terrorist. It’s a familiar narrative, now – even if it is being conveniently ignored by the mainstream media. And it provides a striking contrast to John McCain.

McCain’s personal story is well-known, as was his willingness to go against public opinion and argue in favor of the surge in Iraq. While Obama still can’t bring himself to admit that the surge has worked and America will win in Iraq, McCain rightfully deserves credit for both his courage and judgment, and his willingness to make the tough decisions in order to safeguard our interests. McCain knew then (and knows now) that our defeat in Iraq would be devastating to America, to our military and to the Middle East.

Obama, by contrast, seems strangely invested in our defeat – maintaining his intention to withdraw our combat forces upon taking office, irrespective of events on the ground – a position that he reaffirmed most recently in an August 19th speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It is also a policy that ignores the success of the surge. It’s a denial of reality, and it’s audacious given the very serious American interests involved.

Recent polling seems to suggest that the American public is catching on. The most recent Rasmussen poll shows McCain now with a five point lead over Obama in the wake of the Saddleback debate – reversing what had been a 3-5 point deficit. It is still early, and Obama will get a bump out of both his choice of Veep and his well scripted speech at the Democrat National Convention this next week.

But McCain will get a bump as well the following week, and if he moves to solidify the Republican base with a strong VP choice, he will have a lot of momentum going into the remaining three months of the campaign. My bet is with McCain, because Obama can’t be protected from himself, no matter how well scripted he is 99% of the time. It will only take 1% of the real Obama to come out to turn the election.

One final note: it was particularly telling when Rick Warren asked both Obama and McCain about their personal failings. While McCain copped to infidelity in a failed first marriage, Obama answered (after a long pause) that he is “sometimes focused too much on himself” (I’m paraphrasing here).

How appropriate that answer is given the fact that his campaign is all about him, and not about us. And how interesting a contrast it is to McCain, who has given a lifetime of service to this country and was rewarded with a broken body as a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton”. McCain has his foibles, to be sure. But he’s been tested. And he hasn’t been found wanting.