Barack's Botched Joke

Barack apologized yesterday for revealing his true feelings toward ordinary people, saying "obviously, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that."

But he followed the Barack formula for dealing with this type of situation, and that is to reaffirm the truth of what he was intending to say rather than simply running from the entire thing, as people caught in the spotlight of misspeak so often do. They apologize, say they were stupid, and then never speak of it again.

Barack went for the cute move rather than the brave one. "The underlying truth of what I said remains, which is simply that people who have seen their way of life upended because of economic distress are frustrated and rightfully so.''

Well, yes Barack, people are frustrated. But no, that's not what the controversy is about.

What's significant about Barack's words, and where he spoke them (in front of a group of rich San Franciscans who've already maxed out in gifts for Obama) is that they show where he sits as he looks at the frustrated ones and contemplates their frustration.

Barack was raised as your run of the mill indulged suburban liberal. This reality has been shrouded by his skin color, tricking folks into seeing him as more exotic and sophisticated and in possession of some sort of unique understanding of the human, and American, experience. They don't see the prep school indulged Columbia/Harvard kid whose entire "career" has not been so much about having a career but rather finding a way to become president. Anything that threatens to crack that veneer and allow folks to see him for what he is - a more appealing John Kerry who is substantially less qualified to be president - does risk unraveling the whole fantasy.

This misdirection trick looks like a mistake to me. You'll remember that it was used effectively with Pastor Wright. That controversy there wasn't one of race, it was one of judgment, but Barack knew that liberals, who are obsessed with race, would be so thrilled with his "courage" for addressing race head on in a speech they wouldn't even notice that it was a nice answer to the wrong question.

The downside of misdirection is also demonstrated by the Wright situation. The question of Barack's judgment vis a vis Wright remains unresolved, lying dormant until the general election, when it will again call into question on a very deep level just what kind of man Obama is. This is the failure of the strategy - while it might allow one to dodge for the moment, the doubts that are raised about the candidate remain unanswered.

Perhaps the Obama campaign doesn't quite get the significance of Barack's Botched Joke. The Washington Post today reports that campaign insiders say Barack is stunned by the uproar. Or maybe they feel that since there's only poor quality audio rather than nice vivid video like with Pastor Wright, the newscycle will be quick and the damage minimal.

Most likely, though, the Obama campaign is assuming that primary voters are easy enough to dupe, so they'll dupe them, and deal with the general election when it gets here. They're taking it one step at a time.

If the American public starts to get a sense of the true Obama story - bright guy, great marketer, but inexperienced in life and in politics - someone who makes very ominous judgments about the people he surrounds himself with and someone who appears to share his wife's very radical and elitist disdain for this country - then Barack's autumn will not be a happy one.