The same pattern has repeated itself throughout the primary campaign: Hillary’s people look for whatever they think they can hit Obama over the head with, no matter how logically suspect it is, no matter how weak an argument it amounts to, no matter how hypocritical it makes them. Their attitude appears to be: You can’t go wrong by underestimating the intelligence of the American electorate.
Obama’s approach has been the exact opposite. Like in this speech:
Barring a catastrophe for the Democratic Party, Obama will be the nominee. Barring a catastrophe for the country, he’ll be the next president. And you know what? He deserves it. Not because of any sort of entitlement rooted in race, or gender, or personal history. Not because he’s willing to say anything, do anything, to get elected. Not because he’s been bought and paid for by monied interests used to getting their way in Washington.
That’s why Hillary and McCain think they deserve it. Obama deserves it for a very different reason: because he’s earned it. He’s earned it by the way he has conducted himself in office and during the campaign, by the things he’s said and the actions he’s taken. He’s earned it by being, hands down, the best choice to lead the country. Not based on identity politics. Not based on who he is, but on what he has done.
In that sense, as I’ve said before, Obama is the anti-Bush. If there’s anything I’ve seen happen over and over again in this country’s presidential politics, it’s that when the nation is confronted by the failings of a particular kind of president, we will lurch in the opposite direction. The venality of Nixon gave way to the moralizing of Jimmy Carter. The hand-wringing of Carter gave way to the optimism of Reagan. The out-of-touch George H.W. Bush gave way to the feel-your-pain Clinton.
I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the national revulsion at the failings of George W. Bush. And Obama, in every conceivable sense, embodies the opposite of those failings. George W. Bush won the presidency because of who he was, in spite of what he’d done. Obama will win because of what he’s done, in spite of who he is.