Not so fast

Dana Milbank hilariously skewers the presumptive Democratic nominees presumptuousness.

Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, “This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for,” adding: “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

As he marches toward Inauguration Day (Election Day is but a milestone on that path), Obama’s biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris.

And you thought Bill Clinton had a big ego?

He could still lose this and hubris could lose it for him.

Or the media could help him lose it even as they try to help him by being just that much too enthusiastic. I heard journalists talk about “the ovation problem” when Obama came to address the Unity convention of minority journalists. The Tribune’s Swamp reports that he did get an ovation — as we can see from this video, a standing O:

At UNITY, the applause was restrained, after organizers reminded conference participants that the appearance was being nationally broadcast and they should make every effort to maintain “professional decorum.”

Still, Obama received a standing ovation from many in the audience at the start and end of his appearance. There was also a rush toward the stage after his speech, as Obama shook hands and signed autographs.

One journalist was also overheard wishing him luck, while another squealed, “He touched me!” as she left the ballroom.

Before Obama arrived, a panel discussed the question of journalistic objectivity, including whether journalists should clap for politicians when they appear.

: LATER: There are predictable snipes in teh comments — go take a look. My response:

Let’s talk tactically, folks. Gore may not have lost the election (just the Supreme Court) but he did blow a big lead by being – why do you think? – dull. Kerry lost what should have been a victory by being – what? – awkward and dull. Obama is neither of those. But he could still lose this election. That’s my point. This level of hubris is unbecoming. If voters feel as if he is being shoved down their throats, as if he is a fait accompli, then I think there could be a backlash.

Milbank’s piece was a good warning: Hubris is becoming an issue.

  • Neo

    Given the current state of the Obama campaign and Democrats in general in regard to Obama, consider the possibility of John McCain winning.

    swallow hard here and think the awful repercussions ..

    the first black candidate for President losing .. (the 1st woman VP lost .. won’t cut same)
    image it’s close .. it could get ugly (and all those amazing conspiracy stories)

    just let your imagination go for a moment

  • Ryan

    Full context:

    “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

    So, yeah, Jeff, you’re just jumping on something that reinforces your preexisting view of the Hillary-slayer. Move on, nothing to see here (again).

  • Aron S

    Seriously. No politics. You’re a freaking doofus at this stuff.

  • Just too uppity, right Jeff? Keep up the new media drumbeat, not so much the politics.

  • Aron S

    And I’m still not even sure what your beef with Obama is! That’s one of the more annoying aspects of this passive-aggressive political crap you post.

  • tdc

    the more hubris the better.

    i absolutely fell in love with this guy when my son met him one day on a public sidewalk on the campus of the university of chicago. weeks went by and my son was a few rows deep in a crowd of well-wishers and obama reached through the crowd to shake his hand and actually greeted him by his first name.

    amazing considering i can’t remember what i had for dinner last night.

  • sam

    Echoing Ryan. Jeff, you’re unbelievable. You take an Obama quote where he was specifically saying the crowds were not about him, and turn it into ‘Obama has ego.’

    Be honest. Admit the mistake. I look forward to your acknowledgment of your error.

  • Oliver,
    Don’t play the race card. You’ve just said that I can’t criticize Obama without you calling me racist. How dare you? I am offended.

    My beef with him is the same as it has been: I fear he is a cynical politician who feeds rhetoric and feeds off the cheers of the crowd without substance. A little humility would be comforting.

    Ryan and Sam,
    No but talking about himself in such exhalted messianic terms is precisely what this is about. He represents all America? That’s hubris. George Bush thought he did, too. He was wrong.

    Let’s talk tactically, folks. Gore may not have lost the election (just the Supreme Court) but he did blow a big lead by being – why do you think? – dull. Kerry lost what should have been a victory by being – what? – awkward and dull. Obama is neither of those. But he could still lose this election. That’s my point. This level of hubris is unbecoming. If voters feel as if he is being shoved down their throats, as if he is a fait accompli, then I think there could be a backlash.

    Milbank’s piece was a good warning: Hubris is becoming an issue.

  • Danny L. McDaniel

    The electoral map of the United States is against Obama. He might as well take his victory lap now because after the first Wednesday after the first Monday in November he will still be the junior senator from Illinois. If the election was held today Obama would win Illinois and Vermont. Study the Pennsylvania primary for the rational breakdown on how the election will turn. The Democrats are on the verge of nominating the weakest of all their candidates for the general election.

    A year ago James Carville said, “The good news for the Democrats is that the only way they can lose this election is if they talk their way out of it. The goods for the Republicans is Democrats are certainly capable of doing it.” No truer words were ever spoken.

    Danny L. McDaniel
    Lafayette, Indiana

  • Brian O’Connell

    Oliver is repeating the Obama-supporter response (I’ve heard it elsewhere) to charges that Obama is arrogant and elitist: that calling a black man arrogant is the same as calling him an uppity n*****. So the problem isn’t him, it’s you. Oliver’s just doing some battlefield shaping, trying to make a line of criticism off-limits.

  • Tom B.

    I agree with your earlier commenters. Stick to the media, you’re bias on Obama comes through every time you try and write about him. If you think “hubris” is a new issue, you’re seriously not paying attention to the campaign.

  • And by the way, folks, the attempted rhetorical trick of saying that I am not good at politics (because I don’t agree with you) is tired and insulting and doesn’t go to discussing anything of substance. You’re not wounding me with it. You’re boring me.

    You’re also not seeing the subtext here: I want to vote for the guy and I want a Democrat to win but I fear he’s blowing it (again). You’re arguing against the wrong side.

    Oh, that’s right, I’m not allowed to criticize the home team? We would have been a lot better off if people had given Kerry the right criticism to get his act together.

  • Ryan

    Hubris is becoming an issue because the media (ahem, you) are making it an issue. Absolutely nothing in that quote speaks of hubris unless you’re looking for it. Is Obama a confident guy? Sure. But why wouldn’t he be? He beat the Clinton machine, raised more money than any candidate in history and is on the verge of the presidency as a black man named Barack Hussein Obama.

    “If the election was held today Obama would win Illinois and Vermont.”

    You’re really not very informed, huh? Check this site out when you get a chance: If you’re too lazy or just want to shield yourself from inconvenient facts, here’s the net/net: Obama 303 projected delegates, McCain 234.

  • Aron S


    re: Hubris, I still can’t really gauge what should count as hubris. He’s running a historic campaign as a historic candidate and doing it amazingly well. His campaign beat the biggest brand in democratic politics. He’s been on the national political stage, what, four years? Given his rocketing ascendence and rock star status, he and his campaign still come off as relatively grounded to me, at least compared to the sense of frustrated entitlement that seems to ooze off of McCain constantly.

    What’s really annoying is that a lot of the time it feels like everyone wants him to apologize for winning or doing anything well.

  • Ryan,
    Milbank explains it far better than I. I’d suggest reading that link. He hasn’t won yet and acting as if he has could lose it for him.
    And, no, I don’t think media is making hubris the issue. He is. Media’s problem for him is allied: the ovation problem that will let McCain play media victim.

    Thank you for now talking substance instead of insult. I’d say to you, too, that Milbank does a good job showing the problem.

  • You’ve just said that I can’t criticize Obama without you calling me racist.
    No, I’m saying the paper, conservatives and now you are buying into the notion that while every politician in America has ambition, when Sen. Obama does it it’s somehow “hubris”. Who does this guy think he is, right? I mean, the nerve of the guy, thinking he can run the country! What kind of person does that?

    Oh, right, a presidential candidate.

    Jeff, for someone who follows the press as you do, you’re stunningly naive on these things. Obama is acting the same as he always has, it is the right and the press who are making it an issue when to normal people it isn’t. Regular people know that people like Obama and McCain have egos. They would have to to even run for office, let alone president.

  • Mike G

    You know what will lose this real fast for him?

    If he takes one more step toward the idea of slavery reparations.

    That’s the shortest route to “I, John McCain, solemnly swear…”

  • Mike G

    Oliver, don’t be a doof. Yes, every politician has to be borderline sociopathic in his conviction of his unique importance and our need for him, but you gotta find a way to hide it and act humble and honored. A puffed-up peacock is just too much fun to shoot down.

    “Who does this guy think he is, right? I mean, the nerve of the guy, thinking he can run the country!”

    Unfortunately, the brevity and thinness of his actual record makes those more than merely rhetorical questions.

  • Yes, Oliver, he’s acting as he always has and I’ve always had the same problem with him. I fear he is an empty if grand vessel.

    And don’t try to sidestep what you did. You called me racist. I resent it. It was wrong of you. I am insulted and angry and serious about that.

  • Do peacocks fly? Just wondering.

  • Ryan

    Read the article earlier. It’s riddled with half-truths and out-of-context quotes. I mean, do you really think that Millbank reflects the true meaning of his statment by snipping it like that? And don’t you think that Millbank should have made it clear — as Marc Ambinder does today in his blog — of the following:

    “The Capitol Police and the Secret Service, not the Obama campaign, closed the halls for Obama to pass yesterday. If you’re inclined to think Obama presumptuous for this, then John McCain is also on your list; last week in Columbus, the police department there gave him full intersection control during rush hour.”

    The other “evidence” of hubris — the TBA meetings, the distant or even punishing treatment of the press — may be signs of a less-than-transparent management style. Or it might just be discipline. Either way, I’d find a story on that to be a whole lot compelling and fact-based than “hubris.”

    Regardless, it was a hack-tastic piece of “journalism.” If this kind of hatchet job was done on Hillary, you would have been rightfully furious. Instead, you greet it with a “Job well done!”

  • Tom B.

    Don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t say you weren’t good at politics because you disagree with me, I said you’re not paying full attention to the campaign. And if you think Obama’s act isn’t together, I think I’m proven right.

    The line was clipped and it was pretty clear from the full quote that he was talking about a yearning for something different than George Bush, which he is a symbol of by all accords. OR, if you did see that and you chose to highlight Milbank’s smart alecky story w/o that context, you’re being disingenous. I read plenty of righty blogs for that sort of stuff.

    And let’s also talk hubris for a second and what he thinks of himself versus what he thinks of people. Go back to his Knox college speech and find the line about how people achieve more when they do it in groups, a guiding philosophy of his. If you’ve ever heard his campaign speeches, they have always been sprinkled with inspiring stories from people he has met on the trail. He very well knows that there are more interesting things out there than himself.

    Barack Obama was wisdom of crowds before Joe Trippi ever stepped foot in California.

    Back to my larger point. Hubris/elitism/holier than though Obama have been an issue since HRC went nuclear on Bittergate. All of which have not worked and have not dipped him in the polls. If you think McCain-led criticism of clipped lines in private meetings are interesting and proof of a growing media meme of “the arrogant Obama,” then I say you’re wrong.

    I, like I’m guessing many of your readers, am here for the conversation on new media, the new model of consumer interaction through blogs, twitter, Iphone, RSS and the occassional screeds against Comcast/Dell/Evil Corporations that piss both you and us off. So, when I agree with other readers about I like reading your media observations over your political ones, I’m just trying to express why I read your blog.

  • Tom B.

    And I’m with the others on this. Oliver, using the word “uppity” certainly implies racial tone. If you didn’t mean it that way, you certainly left it up to the readers’ interpretation, which was an awkward way to criticize what Jeff is getting at.

  • Tom, I appreciate both the criticism and the defense.

  • No, I meant it the way I said it. It’s pretty amazing that nobody speaks about John McCain’s “hubris” at running for president or thinking he could be Commander In Chief, but then Barack Obama does the same and the drumbeat begins. It couldn’t possibly be that some think that Sen. Obama’s too big for his britches and acting uppity, is it? I mean that’s what a top person at the AP pushed out a few weeks ago.

    Jeff, I seem to remember you being a supporter of Sen. Clinton, who thought she had the skill to be Commander In Chief. And she shouldn’t have been running unless she thought that was true. Your support for her turned out the same way as your support for the Iraq War (though with less collateral damage) but I don’t seem to remember you lecturing her on hubris. Again, every presidential candidate thinks much of himself. Only in the case of Barack Obama is it now being made a federal case.

    My distaste with Jeff’s political musings isn’t because I disagree with him, but because they are so ill-informed. Jeff and I are on the same side of the aisle, yet I’ve found conservatives who don’t fall for the latest GOP/media meme of nonsense the way Jeff keeps doing hook, line, and sinker. For a guy with such wide knowledge of the old media, new media, and the intersection of the two, Jeff is surprisingly succeptible to the Republican outrage du jour and doesn’t seem to think critically before he posts very declarative things.

    Before it was that the Iraq War was a good idea, then that Howard Dean would be a disaster at party chair, now its that Barack Obama has “hubris”. I mean, maybe there’s something to filling the Zell Miller/Joe Lieberman role for conservative bloggers to link to (“See, this liberal agrees with me”) but it doesn’t make for very smart observations.

  • Jimmy

    So, I read Millbank’s piece twice and yet I come away with nothing that makes me think Barak Obama is presumptuous or whatever the heck you want to call it. What I see is that this guy can’t win no matter what he does, but then he’s not trying to win the media vote, he’s try to win the people’s vote. Quite frankly, I don’t think the people are quite so ready to the swallow the usual crap coming out the media these days. Seriously, hubris?!

    I hope Obama and his staff are taking notes because if he wins, and it’s still a big if, this is what the next 4 years will probably look like.

  • sam

    You keep falling back on that article, which is riddled with errors and incorrect reporting. The quote is butchered. The Capitol Police, not the Secret Service, shuttled Obama in through a side entrance. Obama made the micromanage comment to Cameron Davis, not Gordon Brown. And as it turns out, all of the inaccuracy is stilted towards reinforcing Milbank’s thesis, which you’re parroting.

    So now you get to say ‘hubris is going to be an issue, and look!, it’s cropping up in the media,’ when in fact the evidence in this column is invented. Basically, Jeff, you and Milbank are justifying your gut reaction with phony, made up nonsense.

  • Glyn

    Are you American Democrats going to be indulging in name-calling like this until November? I guess discussing policy differences is much less fun.

    By the way, people do not have the right not to be offended.

  • Mike G

    “It’s pretty amazing that nobody speaks about John McCain’s “hubris” at running for president or thinking he could be Commander In Chief”

    Perhaps because it ISN’T hubristic to run after 22 years in the Senate and some time in the House before that, a record that includes at least one piece of legislation which is a household name (McCain-Feingold)?

    If you can’t see the difference, hell, you might as well support a one-term personal injury lawyer for president.

  • Yes, if my “achievements” in the senate were supporting an ill-conceived and executed war along with a reform package that has opened up the political system to even more money… I might call that a little hubristic.

  • The desperate denials by many commenters here show that this observation has hit a nerve.

    When Hillary suspended her nomination campaign, Obama said “This was the moment that the oceans stopped rising and the planet began to heal.”

    Nope, no hubris there.

  • Actually, Sen. Clinton had not suspended her campaign yet. The occasion was the night he secured enough delegates for the nomination, and what he actually said was:

    The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

    But don’t let the facts get in the way of the narrative. You’ve got a future in the mainstream media!

  • Mike G
  • Mike G

    The election of 2008 in a nutshell:

    “So what has this Obama guy done?”

    “You wouldn’t dare ask what McCain has done! I guess what you’re hoping he’s done is eat fried chicken and watermelon while sharecroppin’ so you can sip mint juleps all day! I guess you’d like to see Stepin Fetchit run for president with Moms Mabley as his first lady! I guess long as he’s shuckin’ and jivin’ fo’ Massa, then it’s okay, but let a black man run for president, and you’re looking for a rope to hang him with!”

    “Excuse me, I’m going to go talk to someone… sane.”

  • I stand corrected.

    On the occasion of securing enough delegates for his nomination, Obama said “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

    Nope, no hubris there.

  • I am not an Obama supporter. I fear he is a cynical politician masquerading as an American messiah. I reject the lesser of two evils argument — that’s how the slope keeps slipping to shoddier candidates — so I don’t intend to vote for him or McCain. McCain deserves all the respect that can be given a man who called George W. Bush a coward who was unfit to serve as commander in chief and then campaigned for him in order to line up support for this 2008 run.

    Yet I have to agree with many of the people here. Political analysis is not your strength, Jeff (I’m trying to be kind). But it does bring comments, unh?

  • Mike,

    This is why I love the internet.

  • I’m an Obama supporter and even ran to be one of his delegates. I don’t agree with Jeff on most of his political posts, and he did take that quote out of context, but I do agree with him that Obama has to walk a very fine line between confidence and cockiness. Today I was happy to hear him address McCain’s attack ads. For a moment I was worried that the Obama campaign had gotten complacent and, as Jeff said, were going to get lazy and find a way to lose this thing.

    Obama needs to take it down a notch, and I would prefer that he start going back to speaking in terms of “we” instead of “I.” The reason Obama has been so successful is by getting we – his supporters, to believe that we can come together and try to bring about change from the grassroots. Which reminds me, time to donate another $25 before the end of the month!

    The real action, the stuff people need to pay attention to, will be the debates. Obama was a terrible debater until late ’07 or early ’08. McCain is worse at debating than Obama was back when he sucked at it. Obama has far greater depth of knowledge on a lot of the big issues. McCain will get a few good digs in here and there but I expect Obama to clean his clock come debate time.

  • David

    As Ollie said, every election cycle Jarvis likes to criticize the democrats for every little thing he sees them doing wrong. He hated Kerry, Corzine, Dean, Gore, Pellosi, Ford, embraced Lieberman (while attacking the netroots for trying to get this traitor out of the party), supported Hillary, supported the Iraq war because the Moustache Of (mis)Understanding told him it was the right thing to do…then once the **** hit the fan he blamed Friedman for misleading him. He attacked the

    With Kerry Jeff waited till the end to “endorse” him as if anyone cared who he was going to vote for. He’ll do the same with Obama…he’ll post negative comments till the end of October…get a few appearances on Howie Kurtz program as the liberal pundit who has doubts about Obama then he’ll endorse him…as if anyone cares who he is going to vote for.

    Jarvis is the Republican’s favorite blogger every election cycle because of posts like this…I’m sure Howie Kurtz has already called Jarvis to come on his Sunday program to do a hit piece on Obama…which was probably the reason for this post…the blog daddy wants his few minutes of fame on CNN.

    Stick to the media reporting Jeff. That’s why we come here.

  • Jeff, it was a racist assertion. Mike G., you too. Evil Pundit… g-d what a crew. Look who you have in your corner, Jeff. As a white baby-boomer male, your support of Hillary is understandable, and not just because she looks good in a suit. There’s a comfort in the thought of a return to the right-centrist Dem administration of the ’90s for you. You get this old and the thought muscles start to freeze up. Imagination and a willingness to risk change yield to quiet conservatism.

    Racism of course is another issue separating you from Obama, and the complexity of being able to offer support to the woman candidate while rejecting the ethnically black ought to be between you and your analyst. It was perhaps rude to call you out on your racism — impolite if not inaccurate. White baby-boomers (and their elders) were raised in a cultural context of accepted racism. Many of us have tried — successfully — to deal with that through introspection, self criticism, and consciousness raising. Others are more comfortable in proud denial. Jeff, I think you’re coming from hubris and denial when you say, “You called me racist. I resent it. It was wrong of you. I am insulted and angry and serious about that.” To be honored by the support of Mike G. and Evil Pundit here in this comment thread is of course no honor at all. To have inferred that Oliver was calling you a racist when he was really simply calling your argument fallacious is a tell, a tic, a betrayal of some inner issue.

    And holding up warnings that it ain’t over until it’s over, that this thing could still be lost if Obama isn’t somehow suitably humbled, is less than perspicacious. Right now we’re looking at a fifty state sweep, give or take Wyoming where the Libertarians are threatening a strong John Perry Barlow write-in campaign.

    We can change this country. We must, actually. And I fear that Obama won’t be fast enough or radical enough to pull us out of the economic slump, but he’ll certainly make more and better progress than ANYONE else would or could, whether or not they look good in a suit. Let go of Hillary and get on board, the train will soon leave the station.

    And by the way, you are not good at politics. Obama and Gore are entirely different men with affects and public presences so dissimilar that you’re comparison of them shows you don’t know what is happening this year. Obama does not have an “ovation problem.” He has charisma, a strong following, and the ability to inspire people. People like him and trust him.

  • jay

    Jeff, why won’t you comment on Milbanks taking O’s last sentence of the quote as a stand alone comment thereby skewering the context of the comment intentionally? Kinda low for someone that considers himself reputable (Milbanks)

  • eew, I said “you’re comparison….” wish I could fix it

  • roger rainey

    Jeff, don’t let these idiots get to you. They are perfectly symptomatic of the Obama phenomenon. Let no one speak ill of the anointed one, lest he have his tongue cut out. We are at a point where legitimate, accurate and perfectly normal criticism is ruled out of bounds. This activity would rightly be called fascism if it emanated from another quarter.

  • Carson

    It’s frustrating that every time the issue of arrogance or experience or track record comes up, instead of supporters arguing that Obama is not inappropriately arrogant is, perhaps, relatively inexperienced, there is, instead, this immediate recourse to some kind of high-handed put-down: race bias or lack of information or lack of political maturity or “go back to discussing what you know, you’re in over your head” kind of patronization. McWhorter and Lowry discuss (on bhtv) some of these same issues and ironically get some of the same responses.

    For the record, anyone who had access to him in his days at UofC will confirm that long before he was a presidential candidate he suffered no lack of self esteem. There are a lot of people like that — he doesn’t have to be perfect to be a good presidential candidate (or president). He may be arrogant — the fact is that he is a great teacher, a charismatic personality, he’s gifted intellectually and he is aware of all these gifts and he isn’t shy about it. This isn’t a secret and it isn’t something the MSM or the press or the “Right” have “made an issue,” it’s just a fact. He was great at UofC and he was aware that he was great – people still flocked to his classes, even at 7 in the morning. And they’ll still vote for him.

    It’s the amazingly high-handed — hubristic — dismissals of the arrogance comments (“go back to new media — you’re not good at politics” — yikes!) that actually make it an issue.

  • Darivond

    If the comments thread here says anything definitively, its that you might do everybody a favor to lay out your feelings, less enigmatically, on the current presidential race. It felt like you had all your cards on he table during the primary – you were open about the fact that Hillary was your candidate, and you were genuinely frustrated by the campaign you saw defeating her.

    Since that campaign wrapped up, however, your posts on Obama have continued at about the same tone and pace, but Buzzmachine never re-calibrated to the very different general election campaign. Can you really blame people for seeing either the Hillary v. Barack battle enduring in your psyche, or everything short of a McCain endorsement? Perhaps you really do feel like you have Obama’s ear here, and you’re trying to help…but these “look what so-and-so has to say about him” posts are a lot less personal and explicit than everything else on your blog.

  • Obama is black? Does that even matter?

    The guy’s got three main problems:

    1. He has zero respect for the military, a real issue for a would-be commander-in-chief. His judgment was simply wrong about the surge, something he just can’t admit, for whatever reason. Let’s finish the fight so that the Iraqis can have a sustainable democracy and then come home.

    2. His “plans” will force our kids and our kids’ kids to suffer a tax burden that will eat them alive for their entire adult lives – because all of those plans will need a revenue source. It’s a math challenge he doesn’t seem capable of grasping.

    3. He’s wayyyyy over-hyped. Talk about leading expectations. The guy’s just a rookie politician and nothing more. Smooth-talker, looks good in a suit, likable in many ways, but he’s missing some needed depth of some of the main issues he’d confront.

    I agree with Oliver that anyone running for president has some serious ego. Of course they do.

    But the American people don’t care much for self-inflated windbags, and we expect our presidents to be unafraid to get dirty and to wrestle issues head-on. Or make us feel like they are. I voted for Bill Clinton twice for that reason – he had depth, he would do whatever it took to address the issues at hand, and he at least understood math. Ego? That guy had it in spades.

    If Obama’s supporters can’t see the difference, the rest of us in the cheap seats can and as Jeff points out, it can cost Obama the election. He’s already lost my mother, a lifelong Democrat who is allergic to Republicans. She and all of her friends – all Hillary supporters – now volunteer their passion for McCain.

  • People sometimes get thrust into roles that they didn’t pick for themselves. Obama understood what running for president would look like, he couldn’t have anticipated the screaming teenybopper phenomena any more than could the Beatles when they were scuffling along in small clubs.

    He seems to be trying to cope with the sudden fame and trying to do so while appearing somewhat modest. He may take some time to get this balancing act down right and some will never believe that he is sincere in trying to deflect some of the adulation from and towards the “cause”.

    But criticizing a politician for ambition and having a big ego seems a bit naive, who else would be willing to go through this process? You have to believe in yourself and believe that you are so special that you are the best person out of 330 million to do the job.

    What Obama’s fame provides is a moment when those with a progressive agenda can attempt to push him in to a more liberal direction than he has shown so far. The argument goes something like this:

    “Your appeal is so great that you can afford to risk losing some centrists and stake out a more bold position. This is your shot at history, do you want to be seen as another in a long line of mediocre leaders, or do you want to take some risk?”

    People have been pushed or inspired to be more bold than they would otherwise by enthusiastic backers, it just take courage.

  • Mike G

    Jesus Christ, Frank, could you possibly be any more the stereotype of the smugly superior liberal. In one paragraph you manage to dismiss everyone else as racist, senile and afraid of change. It’s a wonder you didn’t use the word “sheeple.”

    Why don’t YOU try clearing your sclerotic cranial vessels out long enough to look at what people actually said, not what’s easiest for you to slam them with. There’s nothing easier than throwing accusations of racism around– and nothing cheaper, either.

  • Mike G., Dude, you’re still invited… The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. Obama faces the challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of his own limitations. But he also faces it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then we can be absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

  • Mike G

    Substitute “L. Ron Hubbard” for “Obama” in that post and that’ll tell you how it sounds to me.

  • Amazing comparison… so I take it you are a McCain supporter?

  • Mike G

    Even if I was an Obama supporter (and I actually did vote for him in the primary, but that has more to do with the fact that only one primary matters in Illinois), it would never ever occur to me talk about any politician in such quasireligious terms. In fact, it frightens me.

    “Mike G said he was frightened by a black man running for office!” –Oliver Willis

  • Glyn

    Look, instead of calling Senator Obama “black”, why don’t you just call him “white”? (since he’s 50-50)?

    Would that solve the problem?

    Puzzled, from London.

  • Kirk Caraway

    This is hilarious. You all are arguing about a partial quotes that Dana Milbank took wildly out of context and and erroneously based an entire column on.

    The full quote was posted at the beginning of this thread, but it bears repeating since so many here seemed to have missed it:

    “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

    Get that? Obama said it’s not about him, it’s about America.

    There’s an undercurrent of racism and hurt feelings (by Jeff) over the primaries. After all, you have a candidate who wears $500 shoes, owns seven homes and has a $100 million trophy wife with her own private jet, and he’s calling the other guy an elitist?

    A black man wants to be president (and a majority of Americans support him) and you accuse him of being egotistical? Compared to who? The ex-drunk, draft-dodging failed businessman who’s in charge today?

  • Thanks Glyn, but American racism is special… on a par with South African apartheid in terms of classifying people with progenitors of native African descent as black, and stigmatizing that classification. Fortunately fewer and fewer of the young white people in this country are so prejudiced.

    Mike, Dude, regarding “The journey will be difficult…” I simply restated in the third person the rhetoric from the campaign speech that you Republicans have insisted on bastardizing and misquoting in this comment thread. It’s rhetorically compelling because it marks the point when it became clear that there is a chance for change this year, that we can again hope for more from our leadership than a dumbed down TV Guide world-view. I understand why you and Jeff are upset and conflicted enough to vote for someone like McCain simply to help block the choice of millions and millions of Americans who are stepping up to take ownership of the political process. It’s the reactionary thing to do.

    We used to call our position progressivism, and we used to classify guys like you and Jeff as elitists and reactionaries. Now, in a marvelous reframing, you maintain your posture in support of the wealthy, the moneyed class, while name calling and categorizing those who support the democratic process as “smugly superior liberals.” The good news from my perspective is that people’s positions are becoming quite clear early on.

    Excuse me, I’m off to tax and spend, tax and spend.

  • I think that a candidate who thinks the oceans rise and fall in response to his progress may have an ego problem.

  • Mike G

    Frank, there’s me over here… and there’s the straw man about a mile down the road that you are wailing on mercilessly.

    For starters– “you Republicans.” Hmm, which primary did I state that I voted in? (Somewhat equivocally, admittedly. Still, surely one definition of a Republican is NOT “voted in the Democratic primary.”)

    And you’re too wrapped up in Barackientology to even get the irony of repeating that empty gas about “change”… and saying it’s the alternative to dumbed-down rhetoric! No, the alternative to dumbed-down rhetoric is deeds– having a record of positions you’ve fought for.

    But then I live in Chicago. Barack Obama had a chance to effect change here. He ducked it because his political boss told him to. Good luck with that change stuff!

  • So, this video is an example of hubris? I think you are so used to 8 years of a leader who Cant. Even. Speak. The. English. Language. that an eloquent ambitious senator becomes an “articulate” and “egotistical” candidate, terms that I will argue ARE the 21st century code words for uppity. Oliver called you on a flawed observation, Jeff. He didn’t call you a racist. Incidentally, Oliver’s right.

  • @Glyn, because this is America. One drop rule, dear.

  • Pingback: Jeneane Dot Net » Blog Archive » 3 Years Later, Jarvis Is Still Playing the Reverse-Race-Card()

  • kat

    I planned to watch the UNITY thing but when Suzanne Malveaux was fawning all over him and giggling like a school girl with a crush, and Obama was eating it all up, I turned the TV off. There is nothing I’d like better than to have his ego deflated and for him to fall flat on his face. This guy thinks he is God.

  • Yes. Let’s go for the guy who calls his wife a cu*t and a trollop. That’s waaaay better than someone with confidence.

  • PSGInfinity

    Jeff, by all means, blog away about politics, news, springer spaniels, or whatever else suits you. Dana may have been trying to gently chide Obama, but wound up scoring a direct hit. You can tell by the level and vehemence of the flak.

    (Reaches out and pats Frank on the head)

  • I sense panic in the ranks.

  • Mike G
  • (Slaps PSGInfinity with three day old dead trout…) There’s really no political issue here, nor is there a question of who will win in the fall. You old farts aren’t used to being confronted regarding your ill humor and hidebound ways, so you misinterpret.

  • beachmom

    And if Obama didn’t do a foreign trip, he would have been attacked as well. Didn’t you hear that the McCain campaign had an two ads ready for if Obama did or didn’t visit wounded troops at Landstuhl? I mean, can’t you see what is going on? No matter what Obama does he will be attacked. I think it was important that he do a “try out” as leader of the free world, so people could visualize it. Otherwise, he would have been attacked as too inexperienced and not ready for the world stage. I think Milbank pretty much never has a point. His columns are mean spirited and snarky. Our problems are too important for sarcasm and “wittiness” to be taken so seriously.

  • kat

    Yes, I heard that leftist lie about McCain having two ads ready. Those spreading the lie owe him an apology. It has already been retracted by the original purveyor of untruth.

  • Professor Jarvis,
    I respectfully disagree with your take here. Is Obama ambitious? Certainly. So is McCain and so was Clinton (anyone who thinks they should be leader of the free world probably thinks fairly highly of themselves). However, the problem with Milbank’s piece, to my mind, is that it’s based around the use of an incomplete quote (the complete quote alters the intent considerably) and leaves out some other competing facts that would take much of the air out of the article. Basically, Milbank went into the piece designed around a specific, predetermined line of attack (Obama is “presumptuous”) and shaded the piece to confirm that line of attack. I found it to be fairly shoddy (and I think his reader response column today in regards to the article (“whine enthusiast”) is the product of somebody who doesn’t seem to think too much of being accountable to the public or the readers of his paper.

  • lulz

  • PSGInfinity

    (Pats wee widdle Frankie pn the head again)
    (Now, where’s the boy’s diaper bag?)

  • Dude. I’m chastened!

    (slaps PSGInfinity up side the head with another dead trout)

  • Pats

    Man, I heard the couch critic had a blog. I didn’t want to learn he was more passive aggressive as my mother. Thanks, reality!

  • Where’s the source on the Millbank money quote? How is Obama’s ego really an issue when polling shows only 37% consider him arrogant (vs. 34% for McCain)? I think your post is wrong both in detail and in general thrust. If you’re genuinely worried that this is the kind of narrative they’ll use to pin Obama, then fight it with facts instead of public worrying. Your post really is concern trolling without digging deeper to find that, no, he didn’t really say that, and no, people don’t actually find him arrogant (yet).

  • kat

    -“That’s how slaves and abolitionists resisted that wicked system and how a new president chartered a course to ensure we would not remain half-slave and half-free.
    -That’s how the greatest generation—that’s how the greatest generation, my grandfather fighting in Patton’s army, my grandmother staying at home with a baby and still working on a bomber assembly line, how that greatest generation overcame Hitler and fascism and also lifted themselves up out of a Great Depression.
    -That’s how women won the right to vote, how workers won the right to organize, how young people like you traveled down South to march, and sit-in, and go to jail, and some were beaten, and some died for freedom’s cause. That’s what hope is.
    -I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”
    This arrogant man is comparing his campaign to overcoming fascism, abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage. Oprah has the gall to call him “THE ONE” and he has deemed himself a symbol–like what–the second coming of Christ?. That scares me–are we going to be asked to worship him like dictators demand they be worshipped? What evil is he comparing to Hitler–those that don’t buy into his crap? Does that make me evil? It won’t be long before he will be comparing himself to Jesus.
    People who can’t see his arrogance choose not to see it. It is there in plain sight and his words reek of it but we country hicks turn to guns and religion and don’t understand the true meaning of his parables.

  • Well, the GOP claque, the so called “Audacity Watch,” would like you to believe there’s something frightening in these observations. And perhaps for them, for the likes of Dick Cheney and Ann Coulter and their boosters, there is something to be afraid of.

    But when Obama says, “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign — that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol,” then I think there is room for a more generous interpretation.

    The American people, the American democracy, this election will not be subverted by the Public Relations media echo chamber propaganda machine that Jarvis here enables and that is so adroitly manipulated by corporate hired guns.

    Media manipulation has become laughable and most of us are laughing. There are a few who have been so frightened by the Bush administration’s War of Terrorism, the color coded fear alerts, the absurd homeland security screenings in and out of the country, the seven year investigation of an anthrax scare that looks like it was at least used by a leadership more interested in manufacturing evidence and guiding public opinion than in finding truth and administering justice — and those few can be led by the PR specialists who plant hints and releases and word of mouth campaigns designed to create an up-swelling of indignity around the latest synthetic rallying point manufactured to provide some focus for opposition, no matter how absurd.

    Milbank’s column was one of dozens and dozens media mentions of Obama’s “hubris,” in the July 29 – 30 timeframe. It was less than original. It was inaccurate. It was a puff piece bolstering an attempt to frame Obama as “uppity” in comparison to that humble servant of our country, Johnny Mac. Milbank’s column and Jarvis’ wink and nudge, slap and tickle reference to it were just part of a well managed PR play. Kat’s comment reads like one of those bizarre emails that circulate amongst the Lawrence Welk fans, the kind that are easily debunked at Snopes and serve as an electronic equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and saying loudly to others with differing perspectives: LALALALALA… I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!

  • Mike G

    “When you’re a Scientologist, and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you’re the only one who can really help… We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures.” –Tom Cruise

  • Cool. Creative way to keep the spin moving. Did you get one of these?

    * * *

    To: Interested Parties

    From: Rick Davis, McCain Campaign Manager

    Date: July 30, 2008

    Re: Barack Obama’s Celebrity

    Barack Obama is the biggest celebrity in the world, comparable to Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. As he told Congressional Democrats yesterday, he has become the “symbol” for the world’s aspirations for America and that we are now at “the moment … that the world is waiting for.”

  • Mike G

    No, I came up with the opinion that he and his followers are dreamy-eyed and full of hot air by myself.

    You’ll never guess how.

  • “Followers” is a twitter thing. Here in the real world, in our democracy, many of us are proud (I underscore PROUD) to be Obama supporters. IPolls suggest we constitute a majority. Followers are more what you have when party discipline and a consistent spin is more important to you than a candidate who demonstrates appropriate self-regard, self-respect, and a presidential bearing. Senator McCain has followers. Senator Obama has supporters.

    (Frank exits to his own blog with no illusions that he’ll actually have the last word humming “Bomb, bomb, bomb — bomb, bomb Iran…”)

  • LTB,0,2648035.story

    “So apparently the verdict is in: Sen. Barack Obama, too confident to govern…So here are a few lessons for would-be commanders in chief: Inspire attention, but not too much. Act presidential, but not like you already have the job. Be confident, but in an obsequious kind of way. — It’s really not that complicated.”

    I am thinking that the closest that we have had to humility in a president, in my lifetime, would be Jimmy Carter. And that was more a matter of manners than mentality.

    I can’t fault you too badly, Mr. Jarvis, for any baiting of party loyalists and blindered idealists. God knows that Barack Obama is just more proof of bone deep corruption in the system, and we’re all weary of choosing “lesser evils” – but I remain flummoxed by the idea that anyone who sees their values even a little more aligned with social liberalism than with the current administration, would take a lifetime of upholding feminism, human rights, privacy rights…and then help put John McCain in the White House. The next President will be appointing a Supreme Court Justice or three, will continue to press the scope of the powers of an executive presidency, or not — how does punishing H. Clinton’s detractors stack up to that?

  • eric

    Bush is an idiot, yet he won election and reelection. Give me a man who is truly smart and confident over a patrician pretending everyman like G. W. Bush any day.