Liberal pundit E.J. Dionne's column today is meant to cast Sen. Obama in the best possible light. It's title asks: Is Obama JFK or Adlai Stevenson?
But what some Dionne readers will realize is the column inadvertently flashes a warning sign for Sen. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, which is very close to giving him its presidential nomination.
Let's look first at some of the column. Then I'll say why it's an inadvertent warning sign, after which I hope you'll share your thoughts.
Dionne begins - - -
The result of the 2008 election may come down to how voters decide to define Barack Obama. Is he Adlai Stevenson or John F. Kennedy? Is he a detached former law review editor or a passionate agent of change? Is he an upscale reformer focused on process or a populist who will turn Washington and the country around?
One of the central lessons of the Pennsylvania primary campaign is that Obama's personality is now far more important than either Hillary Clinton's or John McCain's. That's true not only because voters have a longer history with Clinton and McCain, but also because so much of the energy and novelty of 2008 is the product of Obama's rapid breakthrough to wide acclaim.
As a result, almost all of the turns in this contest have been driven by how Obama presented himself and how voters perceived him.
When Obama is in control of his own image, his moments of detachment and irony are celebrated as bearing remarkable similarities to those of the cool, shrewd and confident JFK, who won in 1960. When doubts about Obama creep in, those same characteristics are disparaged for resembling the diffidence and distance of Stevenson, who lost in 1952 and 1956.
At its most exciting moments, Obama's campaign has been compared to the great crusades for change in our country's history. His appeal to African-Americans and the young of all races has led enthusiasts to see his effort as the reincarnation of Robert F. Kennedy's brief, glorious and tragic 1968 run for the presidency.
But when Obama falls into the long pauses he is sometimes given to in debate, the wordy answers he periodically offers to questions, or the visible impatience he exhibits toward the less-elevating aspects of politics, he seems far more the law review editor, the professor, the classic good-government guy whose reach to society's hard-pressed is limited.
The entire column's here.
Folks, we can all agree with Dionne that: "The result of the 2008 election may come down to how voters decide to define Barack Obama."
But the voters may not accept the narrow "JFK or Adlai Stevenson" choice Dionne offers.
They may say something like: "Can't we also consider whether we want the most liberal member of the Senate in the White House?"
They may also ask: "Did either JFK or Stevenson have a close friend and pastor like this Rev. Wright we've been watching on You Tube? What's he mean, 'KKK-America?'"
Dionne doesn't mention either Obama's voting record - more liberal than Teddy Kennedy's - or Wright's raving racism and anti-Americanism. And Tony Rezko isn't mentioned either.
Here's the closest Dionne can bring himself to mentioning Obama's extreme liberalism and his close associations with Wright and Rezko - all sure to be problems for him if he's the Dems' nominee:
Without mentioning last week's ABC News debate, much assailed for becoming a staging point for one attack on Obama after another, the candidate was clearly courting a backlash against "a politics that's all about tearing each other down."It's telling that Dionne avoids matters voters will pay attention to in the Fall, and instead suggests voters will consider Obama in terms of Dionne's over-intellectualized characterizations of two leaders who departed the national scene nearly a half-century ago.
And it's a warning sign that neither Obama nor the Dems have faced up to the very real problems he'll carry into the Fall election if he's the nominee.
That's what I think.
Now it's your turn.