Wednesday, December 13, 2006


This actually isn't about Barack Obama. It's about...BARACK OBAMA. It's about the fact that, if Barack Obama is a presidential frontrunner, the Democratic Party is in trouble. I don't mean they're in electoral trouble because Obama is unelectable. He seems quite electable to me.

I mean that his status as a frontrunner indicates that the party has failed to use the example of the past six years to redefine the paradigm of presidential candidates and electability. George W. Bush won, in large part, because he had (to some people) more charisma than Gore or Kerry. He also won because he knew how to treat the media: Like dirt. Gore and Kerry treated the media as if they deserved respect, which, of course, the media knew not to be true and therefore reciprocated with contempt. Paging Groucho Marx.

Obama hasn't even announced (I'm not convinced he will, either) and already some of the savvier observers out there are giving the media shit for their boosterism. Nicole at Crooks and Liars thinks the media attention is disproportionate to the electoral support. And on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart's "correspondent" Samantha Bee gushed about Obama's Jesusian qualities.

In other words, he's winning on all the things the media wants in a candidate. By now, the Democrats should have changed the way the media and the public think about their candidates. That a senator with two years of experience in national politics is considered a frontrunner tells me that we're still -- despite Tora Bora, Iraq and Katrina -- treating this job as though it were class president.

It's time we started choosing presidents the way we would brain surgeons--based on track record, experience and competence, not on whether we'd want to have a beer with them. If Democrats don't start insisting on those boring criteria, it's only a matter of time until the Republicans whip up a machine that's better at generating flashy, pizzazzy candidates primed to lure away all the voters responding to whatever's sparkly and shiny.

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