Howard Fineman gets closer to the mark in diagnosing the nature of Barack Obama’s stumble than did Lynn Forester de Rothschild today. From refusing to debate John McCain in town-hall forums to public financing, Obama has a problem the Greeks would have easily recognized, even sans Barackopolis. Fineman says that Obama’s pride has created a perhaps insurmountable obstacle to his success:
For two years, Obama played the golf course of presidential politics with the ice-cold self-assuredness of a Tiger Woods. But since securing the Democratic nomination, he’s made a series of strategic errors that could jeopardize his chances in November.
After traveling with him on the trail, watching him in Denver and talking to Democratic operatives and insiders, here’s my list of his errant shots …
Forester de Rothschild also had a similar list of transgressions as Fineman’s, but Fineman understands the root cause better. The pass on the town-hall debates? He was flying high in public opinion and didn’t see the need to risk it. Public financing? He gave in to the adulation, and the money. The 50-state strategy (which Fineman limits to a 22-state strategy)? Obama saw himself as a Second Coming and wanted a national mandate.
Perhaps Fineman makes his best case, though, when analyzing Obama’s rejection of the Clintons. It’s no secret that he wants his own imprint on the Democratic Party, but that was more or less assured when he won the nomination. Instead of embracing the Clintons, Obama has gone out of his way to sideline them — and their considerable clout within the party and at least Bill’s more-than-considerable political talents. At this point, the Clintons will barely lift a finger now to assist Obama, and for good reason; he couldn’t even bring himself to add Bill to the list of Democratic presidents who defended the nation in his acceptance speech, a glaring snub that no one in the country missed.
Fineman says that Clintonistas would swoon if Obama picked up the phone and asked for their help. At this point, I’d suspect that Fineman overstates their ability to be swept off of their feet by Obama, but the gesture would have meant something as recently as two weeks ago. Now, with Obama sinking, it will smell like desperation, and an eleventh-hour bailout by the Clinton crowd will be perceived as a rescue of a failed candidate — and perception in this case would match reality.
The real problem for Obama now isn’t pride at all, but the sense that he’s nothing more than an empty suit. The fake seals, the fake Greek temple — all of that façade has given American voters a sense that the façade is all there is.