"Who Among You Will Not Embrace Emptiness?"

Obama has a signal advantage, that is also a signal problem: he is empty. He is the first Presidential candidate to attempt, successfully so far, the strategy that is now usual in getting a Supreme Court Justice approved. He is a stealth candidate.

It is fairly clear that his rhetoric, lofty but without specifics, is serving as a vessel. Many are pouring their hopes into that vessel, imagining it to be full of whatever they want it to contain. Other people are pouring in their fears.

Hillary Clinton has started to try and force his hand by pushing several lines of attack; this is the wrong approach. It will not work because (a) voters, as a whole, cannot and will not follow several lines of attack at once; and (b) it will therefore be easy for him to simply step aside of the arguments, not respond to them, and carry on giving speeches about Hope and Brotherhood.

A vicious, but strategically sounder, approach is to pour just one very bad thing into the vessel, to see if he spits it out. If he does not, he owns it and -- it being the one thing people can now know about him -- it can destroy him; if he does, then you have at least forced him onto the record, and can press him to define just what he does believe if it isn't what you suggest. Getting further and further details from him, you can tie the debate down to actual facts, rather than empty rhetoric.

This appears to be the approach his political opponents from the right have settled upon. The attacks against Obama are in one sense absurd to the point of being offensive. Yet, in another sense they seem perfectly fair: if he is to have the good of being unknown and undefined, he must also have the bad. If he does not want to be defined by his opponent, he can tell us for certain who he is.

Is this Obama?

Or is this?

Or is neither? Are both costumes, as seems likely? Then who is he really?

I don't mean to be vicious; I read Richardson's anecdote also.

But I wasn't paying any attention! I was about to say, 'Could you repeat the question? I wasn't listening.' But I wasn't about to say I wasn't listening. I looked at Obama. I was just horrified. And Obama whispered, 'Katrina. Katrina.' The question was on Katrina! So I said, 'On Katrina, my policy . . .' Obama could have just thrown me under the bus. So I said, 'Obama, that was good of you to do that.'"
More than anything, that leads me to believe that Obama is probably a pretty decent guy, deep down. The flag-pin thing is silly. His mother clearly was a Communist; that doesn't make him, as Spengler put it, "a mother's revenge against the America she despised."

His wife has a lot of rage against America; that doesn't mean he does. My wife and I disagree about a few things, even a few fairly basic ethical issues (like the morality of suicide). Obama's wife and mother don't necessarily define him.

But I would like to know what does. If he is going to be President, as is not unlikely -- the field has narrowed quite a bit of late -- we need to know, and now, not next January.

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