April 15, 2008


For Obama and McCain, the Bitter and the Sweet (Dana Milbank, April 15, 2008, Washington Post)

To shed the elitist label and regain his common-man credentials, Obama picked an inauspicious venue -- the annual gathering of the media elite, the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The result is likely to make the Democrat even more bitter. On the same day, the two media darlings of the presidential election cycle came to address their base -- and McCain easily bested his likely opponent.

McCain's moderators, the AP's Ron Fournier and Liz Sidoti, greeted McCain with a box of Dunkin' Donuts. "We spend quite a bit of time with you on the back of the Straight Talk Express asking you questions, and what we've decided to do today was invite everyone else along on the ride," Sidoti explained. "We even brought you your favorite treat."

McCain opened the offering. "Oh, yes, with sprinkles!" he said.

Sidoti passed him a cup. "A little coffee with a little cream and a little sugar," she said.

The dueling appearances by McCain and Obama nicely captured the current dynamic in the presidential cycle. McCain, his nomination secure, had the luxury to joke and pander. Obama, wounded by the Democrats' internecine fighting, was defensive and somber.

Singleton, Obama's moderator, pointed out that a new poll showed the Democrat had lost the 10-point lead over McCain that he had in February. "The fact that our contest is still going on means that John McCain comes in here, and he's feeling pretty good," Obama answered. "He can be a little more deliberate and pace himself. And that probably explains the close in the polls."

McCain was indeed in high spirits as he entered the ballroom and invited the editors' "questions, comments or insults." Reading from a teleprompter, McCain said he was among friends. "I made a decision to be as accessible to the press as the press would prefer me to be, and perhaps even more than they would prefer." Accepting the doughnuts, McCain had a gift for the editors, too -- his support for a law shielding reporters from identifying their sources.

This left everybody in a good mood for the criticism of Obama that McCain tacked on the end of his speech. Americans don't "turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment," he said. The candidate then took a seat with the two AP reporters and crossed his legs casually for the questions. Asked about his advanced age, he pretended to nod off in his chair. "Watch me campaign," he challenged. "Come on the bus again, my friends, all of you."

McCain got a standing ovation -- an honor Obama did not receive when his turn came two hours later.

The room and crowd were larger for Obama. The atmosphere was colder (this time, editors had to pass through metal detectors) and more formal (wine on each table and flowers on the dais). And the candidate was uncharacteristically flat.

"I know that I've kept a lot of you guys busy this weekend with the comments I made last week. Some of you might even be a little bitter about that," he joked, before plodding his way through an earnest apology ("I regret some of the words I chose"), an angry countercharge ("If I had to carry the banner for eight years of George Bush's failures, I'd be looking for something else to talk about, too") and a recitation of his commoner bona fides ("My mother had to use food stamps at one point").

But the combination failed to change the subject. The first question: "Can a Democrat talk about guns, God and immigration without getting in trouble?"

"I actually think it's possible," said the candidate.

Recent experience, however, argues otherwise. And Obama couldn't hide his pique -- particularly when the moderator asked if Clinton should "step aside."

It would be easier to feel sorry for the Democrats if they ever learned anything from their mistake--singular, because it's the same one almost every time. While the Republicans nominate the guy whose turn it is next, a well-known and battle-tested veteran, the Democrats repeatedly serve up a neophyte Northern liberal and then act stunned when he's not ready for primetime and voters dislike him once they get to know his political views.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2008 9:53 AM

The LA Times is running a series on McCain's life story and those who think that the MSM is going to try to tear him to pieces now are going to be sorely disappointed. In fact, I wouldn't be completely shocked if they end up endorsing Maverick...

Posted by: b at April 15, 2008 11:09 AM

"My mother had to use food stamps at one point".

So? Americans are not as heartless as Obama say, they take care of the poor? Or some Americans are spongers, young and educated, but refuse to work and sponge on America's welfare system? Or, even from a welfare mother, Obama rises up and takes two degrees from two most prestigious educational institutions in the world, but Obama and his wife still feel being short shrifted and could not be proud of America?

Posted by: ic at April 15, 2008 1:53 PM