Victor Davis Hanson: The Obama Enigma





Lame-duck Republican President Bush's dismal poll ratings have descended to those of Harry Truman's when he left office. The Democratic majority in Congress will probably widen after the election. Republican nominee John McCain has not run a dynamic campaign. Gen. Colin Powell, George Bush's former secretary of state, has now enthusiastically endorsed Barack Obama.

The country is in two unpopular wars -- amid the worst financial panic of the last 80 years. Not since prophet of change and newcomer Jimmy Carter ran against Gerald Ford (post Watergate and the lost Vietnam war) have voters been so eager for a shake-up.

Why then is the charismatic Barack Obama not quite yet a shoo-in?

Easy. Voters apparently still don't know who Obama is, or what he wants to do -- and so are still not altogether sure that Obama is the proper antidote to George Bush. After more than a year of campaigning, he still remains an enigma.

Obama promised to be the post-racial candidate who would bring us together. But when asked in March 2004 whether he attended regularly Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, Obama boasted, "Yep. Every week. 11 o'clock service."

The healer Obama further characterized the racist Wright as "certainly someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for." And Obama described the even more venomous father Michael Pfleger as "a dear friend, and somebody I interact with closely."

Obama can dismiss his past associations with Bill Ayers as perfunctory and now irrelevant. But why then did an Obama campaign spokesman say Obama hadn't e-mailed with or spoken by phone to Ayers since January 2005 , suggesting more than three years of communications -- in a post-9/11 climate -- after Ayers said publicly he had not done enough bombing?

Obama's campaign shrugged when legal doubts were raised about the sloppy voter registration practices of ACORN -- an organization that Obama himself has both helped and praised.

Yet Obama once was a stickler for proper voter documents. In 1996, he had all of his Democratic rivals removed from the ballot in an Illinois state primary election on the basis of sloppy voter petitions....

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