Saturday, May 17, 2008


You know that old saying: A liberal (or a Democrat) is someone who's too polite to take his own side in an argument. Well, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president clearly isn't following that script, and he's getting backup from fellow party members.

The right-wing response? "Hey, that's against the rules!"

Here's the extremely self-important right-wing pundit Mark Steyn discussing the response by Barack Obama (and other Democrats) to President Bush's decision to use a speech at the Knesset to score cheap domestic political points:

"That's enough. That -- that's a show of disrespect to me."

That was Barack Obama, a couple of weeks back, explaining why he was casting the Rev. Jeremiah Wright into outer darkness. It's one thing to wallow in "adolescent grandiosity" (as Scott Johnson of the Powerline Web site called it) when it's a family dispute between you and your pastor of 20 years. It's quite another to do so when it's the 60th anniversary celebrations of one of America's closest allies.

President Bush was in Israel the other day and gave a speech to the Knesset.... Sen. Obama was not mentioned in the text. No Democrat was mentioned, save for President Truman, in the context of his recognition of the new state of Israel when it was a mere 11 minutes old.

Nonetheless, Barack Obama decided that the president's speech was really about him, and he didn't care for it. He didn't put it quite as bluntly as he did with the Rev. Wright, but the message was the same: "That's enough. That's a show of disrespect to me." And, taking their cue from the soon-to-be nominee's weirdly petty narcissism, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Joe Biden and Co. piled on to deplore Bush's outrageous, unacceptable, unpresidential, outrageously unacceptable and unacceptably unpresidential behavior.

Honestly. What a bunch of self-absorbed ninnies....

First, the question of what Bush meant. I suspect right-wingers may be reading, so, to compensate for their slow learning curve, I'll try to use small words.

CNN, just after the speech was given, told us:

The president did not name Obama or any other Democrat, but White House aides privately acknowledged the remarks were aimed at the presidential candidate and others in his party.

On Hardball just after the speech, right-wing radio host Kevin James, just before he showed his complete ignorance of history, had this exchange with Chris Matthews:

JAMES: Well, I don't know who [Bush] was talking about for sure, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Take a wild guess.

JAMES: --but if he wasn't talking about Barack Obama, he
should have been talking about Barack Obama. I hope he was talking about Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: Do you think there was any doubt he was? Was there any doubt he was, though, sir?

JAMES: Not in my mind.

MATTHEWS: Is there any doubt?

JAMES: No. Not in my mind.

And Steyn himself does a wee bit of damage to his own thesis that the speech wasn't about Obama and other Democrats when he points out that, in fact, it was about Obama and other Democrats:

It says something for Democrat touchiness that the minute a guy makes a generalized observation about folks who appease terrorists and dictators the Dems assume: Hey, they're talking about me. Actually, he wasn't -- or, to be more precise, he wasn't talking only about you.

Steyn says Bush was also talking about other people -- among them ... er ... "the leader of Canada's New Democratic Party." Yeah, that's it -- that's the ticket! Silly Obama for thinking, in an election year, that he might be in the center of the bull's-eye! What about that Canadian over there?

But this a red herring. What's really bugging the right is that hit jobs like this on Democrats are always supposed to work -- Democrats are supposed to say, "Yessir! Hit me again, sir! I'm a miserable worm, sir!" Obama seems calm and non-combative, but he fooled these guys. He gets his back up. He defends himself. And that last word needs to be stressed -- he defends himself.

It's not narcissism. It's not arrogance (Karl Rove's favorite charge; talk about pots and kettles). It's just something internal that makes him believe that, even on hot-button issues, he can mount a defense of his own position. It's self-respect.

I like it. I like it that Republicans are fuming -- ineffectually. Among Democrats, maybe it can catch on.

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