"That is why McCain will win in November, and by a landslide, barring some unforeseen event. Obama is the most talented and persuasive politician of his generation, the intellectual superior of all his competitors, but a fatally insecure personality. American voters are not intellectual, but they are shrewd, like animals. They can smell insecurity, and the convention stank of it. Obama's prospective defeat is entirely of its own making. No one is more surprised than Republican strategists, who were convinced just weeks ago that a weakening economy ensured a Democratic victory. "
I sat in on a session (in Denver at the Convention) with three leaders of Veterans for Obama, a group of retired young officers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of the New Republic's writer on the scene, David Samuels. With passion and enthusiasm, these young people spoke of their hopes for nation-building in Iraq. The George W Bush administration should have put twice the resources into the beleaguered country, they harangued me - not just soldiers, but agronomists, traffic cops, lawyers, judges, and physicians. The Department of Agriculture should have mobilized, along with the Department of Justice.
Nation-building? Doubling down on the US commitment to Iraq? Isn't that trying to out-Bush the Bush administration, while Obama campaigned on getting out of Iraq and spending the money on programs at home? Unblinking, one of the soldiers said, "That's what we think Barack will do." They believed in a more expensive version of the administration's program, and faulted Bush for half measures - and somehow they believed that Obama really agreed with them, all the public evidence to the contrary. And they believed in Barack with perfect faith.
Gandalf's warnings about the irresistible voice of the wizard Saruman in J R R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings come to mind. If these battle-hardened veterans of America's wars fell so easily under the spell of Obama's voice, who can withstand it? Obama's persuasive powers, though, are strongest when channeled through the empathy of his interlocutor. Everyone believes that Obama feels his pain, shares his dream, and will fight his fight and heal his ills. But that is everyone as an individual. Add all the individuals up into a campaign platform, and it turns into three-quarters of an hour worth of promises that echo all the ghosts of conventions past.