- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

White flag

“For those of us who monitor the political currents to discern direction in the nation’s life, this was one of the biggest weeks in the campaign,” Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger writes.

“Remember the culture wars? This week the Democrats sued for peace,” Mr. Henninger said.

“On Friday evening, e-mail queues lit up everywhere with people reacting to Barack Obama’s thoughts on life being nasty, bitter and short in small-town America. Time was not long ago that a Democratic candidate could have said such folk cling to guns and religion and are hostile to ‘diversity’ with nary a peep from his party. Not now. Obama was repudiated. Crushed. Media analysis suggested the damage could last til November.

“Before midnight, Hillary was paddling down Whiskey River with the boys at Bronko’s [bar in Crown Point, Ind.]. Then on Sunday evening, the white flag really went up over the culture war’s battlefield.

“Hillary and Obama were both at an event in Grantham, Pa., in Cumberland County. That’s south of Mechanicsburg and east of Boiling Springs. John Kerry took Pennsylvania by 2.5 percent in 2004, but Cumberland gave George Bush 64 percent of its vote. Hillary and Obama were appearing on a CNN event called the ‘Compassion Forum.’ They were at a place called Messiah College. Connect the dots. …

“Set aside the controversies over the name-brand religious-right leaders. Whatever one calls these people — Reagan Democrats, the religious right, values voters — their main beef was not with the election returns but with the manifest evidence that the big-city elites thought their beliefs and their lives were stupid. That is what died this week.”

Debating points

“You only had to watch [Wednesday] night’s Democratic presidential debate to understand why Hillary Clinton stays in the race,” Fred Barnes writes at weeklystandard.com.

“She’s losing the nomination fight to Barack Obama in both the delegate count and the popular vote. But if bad things happen to her in a debate or while campaigning, she’ll be no worse off. She’ll still be losing. Her prospects of winning may be slightly more remote, but they aren’t exactly bright now,” Mr. Barnes said.

“But if bad things happen to Obama, that’s another story. In a debate, he’s bound to be asked questions about matters he’d rather not be front and center in this campaign. And indeed those matters were dwelled on last night: his pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his week-old putdown of small town voters, the American flag pin he no longer wears. No good can come to Obama when these issues dominate a nationally televised debate, as they did [Wednesday] night.

“Sure, Clinton had a tough time dealing with her lie about having been under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1995. But so what? She’s already suffered whatever hurt that episode may have caused her. For now, all Clinton has to do is stay in the race and hope Obama makes more rookie mistakes. No Clinton candidacy, no TV debates, far less pressure on Obama.

“He made a few mistakes last night under questioning by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos — but not egregious ones. He compared his association with a former left-wing bomber to his friendship with a Republican senator. He said he hadn’t signed a questionnaire in which he advocated a ban on guns, though it’s been widely reported that his signature was on the document. He said he might raise the capital gains tax even though a higher rate might reduce the revenue it takes in.”

Rough night

“Just how bad was Barack Obama’s debate performance [Wednesday] night?” the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Dick Polman asks at www.dickpolman.blogspot.com.

“Not as bad as Britney Spears‘ song-and-dance routine at the MTV Awards. Not as bad as Bill Buckner’s legendary error during the ‘86 World Series. Not as bad as Bob Dylan’s music during his God phase. Not as bad as John Travolta’s Scientology cinema experiment in ‘Battlefield Earth.’ Not as bad as Mike Dukakis‘ fateful ride in a military tank,” Mr. Polman said.

“In other words, Obama could have done worse. Nevertheless, if he still harbors any hopes of driving Hillary Clinton from the Democratic race by scoring an upset victory in Pennsylvania, he might be wise to get real. It’s hard to imagine that he won over the working-class, culturally conservative Democrats who constitute the swing vote; if anything, his performance during the first 45 minutes of the debate may well have cemented their suspicions.

“Obama’s devotees will no doubt complain … that the ABC News inquisitors were grossly unfair, that they focused their fire on Obama while leaving Hillary Clinton relatively unscathed, and that they asked too many dirtball questions at Obama’s expense. (George Stephanopoulos to Obama: ‘Do you think Rev. Wright loves America as much as you do?’) Whatever. Whining about the media is the last resort of losers. The bottom line is that Obama didn’t successfully adapt to the environment.”

Hopping mad

“Remember when Sen. Hillary Clinton’s supporters complained NBC had been unfair to her during a debate — in Philadelphia — that marked a major shift in the presidential race?” reporter Christina Bellantoni writes in her On the Democrats blog at washingtontimes.com.

“Well the tables have turned, and now Team Obama — and many bloggers who are backing his candidacy — are excoriating ABC’s moderators.

“HuffPo has been ripping ABC, and Daily Kos has been jamming on anti-ABC posts in the aftermath of the debate all day,” Miss Bellantoni said yesterday.

Award winner

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation announced yesterday that one of four 2008 Bradley Prizes will be awarded to Victor Davis Hanson.

Mr. Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson senior fellow in residence in classics and military history at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services, and an author.

Mr. Hanson will be presented the award during a ceremony to be held at the Kennedy Center on June 4. Each award carries a stipend of $250,000.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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