Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Can Barack run away from his past?

Despite yet another eloquent speech yesterday, Barack has not done a great job of explaining his relationship with his past in a way that fully aligns with his professed faith in "hope", "real change", and his purported opposition to so-called "old politics."

In truth, everybody has all manner of "skeletons" in their closets and has associated in the past with people whose background, behavior, or speech is now... inconvenient. Hillary certainly has skeletons. McCain certainly has skeletons. The rest of the former Democratic presidential hopefuls all had skeletons. But the difference here is that Barack was trying to come across as if he had no skeletons in his closet, that he was somehow new, and different, and clean. He did take a positive step forward yesterday by publicly admitting, albeit indirectly, that even he, the great "hope" of the left-wing liberals, also had some skeletons in his closet. His great (political) sin has been his hubris at presenting an image that he has been without (political) sin. His claim that he is completely above "old politics" can now be seen for what it always has been: a great fraud. Sure, plenty of people will "forgive and forget", but no longer can he credibly claim that he represents anything other than more of the same "old politics". He certainly represents a slick, new, re-packaging of "old politics", but he simply is not credible at claiming that his politics is somehow something "special" far above and far beyond the politics of any of the other leading Democrats, whether they are still in the primary campaign or not.

We should of course praise Barack for being as honest and candid as he was yesterday, but that does not grant him a free pass to claim that he has no past to hide from. He failed to stand up to his pastor when he should, when he had the chance, even in an environment where he himself acknowledges that people are expected to jump up and express themselves freely and loudly whenever the spirit calls them. Why didn't he stand up and call out his pastor over all of those years? Was it lack of energy? Did he not feel "the urgency of now"? Or, maybe, more likely, he is simply yet another cynical politician who saw great short-term advantage to simply smiling, nodding his head, and otherwise keeping his mouth shut. None of that would make him any worse than your average politician, but any of it certainly savages his claim to some moral high ground beyond the reach of any of his fellow Democrats.

His speech showed that he would not be running away from his past, but did show us that he would continue trying to walk briskly away from it, that he would keep it at an arm's length, and that he is really simply "one of us" and not something so super-special as his supporters keep insisting.

By all means, let us focus on real problems and real solutions, but we cannot do so as long as Barack and his supporters -- his cult -- continue to strut around in the plumage of being something far above and beyond "old politics." By all means we should focus on good politics, but to disparage so many people all in the name of trying to separate themselves from the rest of us, Barack and his supporters -- his cult -- have done all of America a very grave disservice.

My simple message to Barack is that he did well by showing a little humility yesterday, but now he and his supporters -- his cult -- need to follow that up with a lot of humility and on a regular basis.

So, now, the main question is whether Barack can in fact run away from his past, namely his past lack of humility. Yes, he can, but is he too addicted to ungrounded "hope" to give feet-on-the-ground humility a chance?

-- Jack Krupansky


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