Big bad Barack flinches

-By Michael M. Bates

Democrat Senator Joe Biden described Barack Obama last year: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

Biden received justifiable grief for his artless observation.

Nevertheless, the view that Obama is a smart, eloquent communicator enjoys widespread currency.

There’s no denying the man gives good teleprompter. If you turn down the volume on the TV it looks like he’s watching a tennis match, but with the sound up he does a yeoman’s job of reciting what’s been written for him.

The unscripted moments are problematic. Like in the debate when he condescendingly conceded, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary,” in a way that made him appear haughty. Or when he asserted last month that 10,000 people had died in Kansas tornadoes. The actual number was 12.

In Oregon a few weeks ago, the Illinois senator said:

“Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go. One left to go. Alaska and Hawaii, I was not allowed to go to even though I really wanted to visit, but my staff would not justify it.”

Aside from his obvious problem with what he calls “numeracy,” I have to wonder about a would-be president who is only allowed to do what his staff justifies. Change we can believe in indeed.

Last month in a Virginia town hall gathering, Obama’s oratory soared. It’s now on YouTube for all to scrutinize:

“What they’ll say is, ‘Well it costs too much money,’ but you know what? It would cost about… It, it would cost about the same as what we would spend… It – over the course of ten years it would cost what it would cost us… (Giggle) All right. Okay. We’re going to… It would cost us about the same as it would cost for about – hold on one second. I can’t hear myself. But I’m glad you’re fired up, though. I’m glad.”(Giggle)

To his fanatical followers, Obama is a giant of messianic proportions, a savior who will bring us hope and change and all that other good stuff, a man who is so bright, so articulate, so clean…

Yet, as we see, Barry can bumble badly. So perhaps surprise isn’t an apt reaction to learning Obama has turned down John McCain’s request for ten joint town hall meetings.

The concept of presidential candidates confronting one another face-to-face on a stage without media interrogators isn’t new. Barry Goldwater and President Kennedy entertained the notion for the 1964 election. Sadly, Kennedy didn’t live long enough to follow through.

When McCain’s campaign suggested the proposal a few months ago, Obama termed it a “great idea.” “Should I be the nominee, if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that’s something I’m going to welcome.”

Apparently, he ditched the suggestion right after welcoming it. When McCain formally requested ten town hall sessions, the Obama response was to agree to only one. Barack – or his staff, since they seem to do the heavy lifting – thought a good date would be July 4, when, hopefully, few folks will notice. Then again, it would give Obama a chance to sport that American flag lapel pin that he refused to wear last October.

The Democrat also offered to participate in a structured August debate on foreign policy and the (yawn) three standard, regimented, perfunctory, let me read to you my last press release debates we’ve come to expect.

Obama has specialized in speaking at college campuses and other staged venues filled with brain-dead zombies. Robotically reading his script invariably is met with lusty cheers and fainting spells. In recent days, we’ve seen big bad Barack get downright pugnacious, saying things like, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Gee, I didn’t think he even liked guns. This is a new and bellicose Barry we’ve not seen before.

Yet he’s afraid to face a little, gray-haired Arizona senator? A little, gray-haired senator not known for his eloquence or clever repartee. John McCain is no more riveting a speaker than Jerry Ford. He can, however, occasionally string together a sentence or two without notes or a teleprompter or his staff’s justification.

The Democratic candidate voices his willingness to meet face-to-face, and with no preconditions, with the world’s most despicable dictators. When it comes to confronting McCain, however, Barack folds like the Cubs in September.

The reason is, for all the vague babble about change and hope, Barack Obama’s lack of depth, inability to think on his feet, and inexperience will be all too evident. Not that it’ll matter to the Obamamaniacs.

(This Mike Bates column appeared in the June 19, 2008 Reporter Newspapers)
Michael M. Bates has written a weekly column of opinion – or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint – since 1985 for the (southwest suburban Chicago) Reporter Newspapers. Additionally, his articles have appeared in the Congressional Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Mensa Journal. He has been a guest on Milt Rosenberg’s program on WGN Radio Chicago, the Bruce Elliott show on Baltimore’s WBAL, the Jim Sumpter show on the USA Radio Network and the New Media Journal’s Blog Radio. As a lad, Mike distributed Goldwater campaign literature and since then has steadily moved further to the Right. He is the author of “Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths.” In 2007, he won an Illinois Press Association award for Original Column.

His presence on the web can be viewed at And he can be reached at

One thought on “Big bad Barack flinches”

  1. Sen. Obama obviously has good speechwriters. But his intellectual mediocrity and poverty of knowledge betray themselves when he has to speak without a script.

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