Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
AlfredArthur Conan Doyle, “Silver Blaze”
As I watched last Wednesday’s presidential debate, I found myself nodding when John McCain kept reminding us that as eloquent as Senator Obama is, that is when you have to pay him the most attention — because that’s usually when what he is not saying is the most relevant.
McCain chose to bring that up when Obama talked about offshore drilling for oil (“we’ll have to look into it” and abortion (how “health of the mother” has been stretched to be meaningless). But there was another time when Obama spoke at length that I found myself listening to what was unsaid:
MCCAIN:I have fought against spending. I have fought against special interests. I have fought for reform. You have to tell me one time when you have stood up with the leaders of your party on one single major issue.
OBAMA: Well, there’s a lot of stuff that was put out there, so let me try to address it. First of all, in terms of standing up to the leaders of my party, the first major bill that I voted on in the Senate was in support of tort reform, which wasn’t very popular with trial lawyers, a major constituency in the Democratic Party. I support…
MCCAIN: An overwhelming vote.
OBAMA: I support charter schools and pay for performance for teachers. Doesn’t make me popular with the teachers union. I support clean coal technology. Doesn’t make me popular with environmentalists. So I’ve got a history of reaching across the aisle.
The question to Senator Obama was “when did you stand up to the LEADERS of your party on a major issue?”
Obama didn’t answer that one. He knew he couldn’t. Instead, he answered the question he COULD answer — “when did you not act in the best interests of some of your party’s core constituencies?”
Think about that for a second. When challenged to show his independence, Obama instead talked about he was not afraid to occasionally alienate some of his base — in cases where he had overwhelming cover from other members.
On the other hand, at times it seems that McCain has made pissing off his base a major hobby.
The fact is, in Obama’s entire political career, the only time he risked alienating his party’s leadership was when he challenged Hillary Clinton for the nomination. Any other time, he’s either fallen in lockstep with his party’s leadership or, if that was too risky, arranged to “vote present” in one way or another.
Should we presume that once he becomes president, he will suddenly discover his backbone and stand up to those very same party leaders he’s given his loyalty to for so many years? That he will, when necessary, stand on principles and fight against those who have commanded his fealty for so long?
Or will he be content to continue to follow the dictates of corrupt and inept party hacks like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who have managed to lead Congress into approval ratings in the single digits?
We’ve seen Obama’s style of leadership — see which way things are heading, then race to the front and announce that that is the way he wanted to go all along.
When one considers the current state of the Congress, and the projected likelihood that the current leadership will most likely be in an even stronger position after November (god help us), that has to give anyone a cold chill down their spine.
Unless, of course, you’re Chris Matthews.In that case, the shiver starts at the other end.