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 The Magician 

December 14, 2006 
paragraph indentSenator Barack Obama is a real louse.

Obama the MagicianJust thought I’d say that to shake you up a little, because it’s a sentence I’m sure you haven’t read anywhere else, and I dislike saying what everyone else is already saying. Today's column is "The Magician" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.That’s not what I’m paid for.

Obama the MagicianActually, the young Illinois Democrat himself is startling enough. He manages to excite liberals enormously, especially those in the press, without much offending conservatives. And he appeals powerfully to “moderates,” or people of no particular political philosophy. At the moment he is approximately as popular as the Beatles once were.

Obama the MagicianYet he takes positions definite enough that you can’t accuse him of dodging issues. He has a generally liberal voting record, and he has been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war from Day One. It is not too early to say that he is a master of tone, an essential skill in politics.

Obama the MagicianObama seems to take everything into account before he takes a stand, and he is articulate and charming. He is slicker than Slick Willie, yet one doesn’t really think of him as “slick.” I find myself using the word reluctantly. He is the most disarming politician I’ve ever seen, and maybe the most adroit. He seems to make passionate friends without making a single enemy.

Obama the 
MagicianObserving him is like watching a brilliant magician and wondering how he does it. Do our eyes deceive us? Did he actually do what we just thought we saw him do? But that’s impossible! Isn’t it? Have we all been hypnotized?

Obama the MagicianEven apparent political handicaps don’t slow him down. He is “black” (though he talks “white” and his mother is white), and his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, sounds like that of a Third World terrorist. (A week after the 9/11 attacks, he might not have been allowed to board an airplane.) No doubt he has had to acquire extraordinary tact in order to survive in politics at all.

Obama the 
MagicianPresident Bush used to say, “I’m a uniter, not a divider.” It hasn’t worked out quite that way. He should have taken lessons from this guy. Bush too has tried to straddle the liberal-conservative divide, but he has wound up doing for the image of conservatism roughly what the movie Deliverance did for the image of Southern hospitality. (I just watched the film again and kept thinking, “This is a real Red state!”)

[Breaker quote for The Magician: How long can Obama keep this up?]Obama the MagicianYoung as he is, Obama is already poised to snatch the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton. Maybe his magic was actually a successful gamble. He is almost her opposite. She can’t help enraging conservatives, while her support for the war has badly damaged her appeal to her party’s liberal base. His unequivocal opposition to the war endears him to that base, and yet he avoids antagonizing conservatives; in fact, many of them now admit that the war has been a disaster, so his position looks like a very smart move.

Obama the MagicianWas this just beginner’s luck? Or was Obama shrewd enough to foresee that the war would go so badly that lots of conservatives would turn against it? I don’t know, but as they say, fortune favors the bold. Fortune also favors those who have kept a safe distance from the man Hillary is married to. She has kept her old implacable enemies, while this new kid has quietly stolen many of her old friends. I’ll bet she thinks he’s a real louse.

Obama the MagicianAs a friend of mine once said of Ronald Reagan, when a man is this lucky, it isn’t just luck. In crucial respects Obama is the opposite of not only Hillary, but also Bush — and just at the right time, too.

Obama the MagicianHis greatest strength vis-à-vis Hillary is that he is even more different from Bush than she is, which makes him more electable than she is. Bush has been a worse calamity for the country than 9/11 itself. The 2008 election, like this year’s, will be a repudiation of the worst president, by far, in most Americans’ memory.

Obama the MagicianRight now things are going almost too perfectly Obama’s way. Time will of course force him to make definite and therefore costly choices, even if some unforeseeable disaster doesn’t befall him. Or maybe — cruel fate! — he’ll turn himself into a joke. A single televised gaffe could do it!

Obama the MagicianAs always, time is the mysterious stranger who will have the last word. But for the moment, as long as he is neither Bush nor Hillary, Obama looks mighty electable.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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