When I ran cross country as an undergraduate, our team lost its big race of the year to one of our chief rivals. On the (victorious) JV team, I offered some words of consolation to a friend on the varsity squad. “They ran a better race than we did,” he replied.
He didn’t blame the weather, the conditions of the course or his shoes, but did look forward to the rematch the following year when he would run a better race.
I might have a better opinion of Senator Obama and his supporters if instead of blaming the moderators for asking “gotcha” questions at this past week’s Philadelphia debate, they had just said, “He had an off night; he’ll do better in the next debate.” And then added, “Yeah, the questions were tough, but par for the course in a presidential campaign.”
And while the questions may have been tough, the answers the Democratic frontrunner offered were revealing about the candidate himself, providing yet another measure that he’s far from ready for the White House.
I mean, he’s running to be president of the United States. Maybe the questions were unfair, but heck, sometimes a president has to deal with situations that might seem unfair. Shouldn’t the presidential campaign allow us to measure the quality of the candidates to show how they’d handle unexpected situations and other such crises?
Watching how someone reacts to harsh questioning provides a window into how he holds up under fire, in difficult negotiations with Congress or in tense situations with our adversaries and allies when the security of the nation is at stake.
That a candidate complains about harsh questioning suggests he is not up for the challenges of the presidency. And that his supporters whine about his treatment suggests that they may not recognize the qualities required of a Commander-in-Chief.
As David Brooks wrote, “The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable.” And when the journalist makes a politician uncomfortable, we learn how he reacts in difficult circumstances.
It wasn’t just Senator Obama’s withering under fire that caused me to question his fitness for the White House, it was also how he answered certain questions. His attempt to establish moral equivalency between his frienship with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers and his conservative Oklahoma colleague Tom Coburn suggests he doesn’t understand the difference between an advocate of violence and a peaceful proponent of opposing ideas.
On Iraq, he showed that he preferred pandering to the anti-war base of his party than listening to the generals in the field. As Peter Wehner puts it:
Obama reaffirmed a rock-hard pledge that he will withdraw our combat troops and leave no permanent bases. He is wholly uninterested in what General Petraeus or anyone else has to say on the matter of our mission; our troops are coming home, come what may. And if as a result of a precipitous withdrawal we see mass death and genocide, a revitalized al-Qaeda, a strengthened Iran, and massive instability in the region, the withdrawal would presumably continue. There is, it seems, no scenario that would cause Obama to change his mind.
Here, we don’t see some great post-partisan unifier, but someone who puts ideology before politics.
This debate may not have been perfect. And the questions made indeed have been tough. But, they didshow us how Senator Obama holds up under adverse circumstances. And show that many of his supporters would rather whine about the circumstances than think deeply about their candidate’s qualities.
My college cross country buddy didn’t whine about the race our team lost. He knew he needed to run a better race. He didn’t give up and kept up with his training. The following year, we won the rematch.
A lesson for Senator Obama. And his supporters.
UPDATE: Looks like a bunch of liberal journalists wrote to ABC News “to whine about its handling of Wednesday night’s debate.” (Via Instapundit who has more.)
But there was nothing like the piling on from journalists rushing to validate the Obama criticisms and denouncing ABC’s performance as journalistically unsound. . . .
If Obama was covered like Clinton is, one feels certain the media focus would not have been on the questions, but on a candidate performance that at times seemed tinny, impatient and uncertain.
The difference seems clear: Many journalists are not merely observers but participants in the Obama phenomenon.