Not just once, but twice in the same debate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney got potential Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama mixed up with terrorist Osama bin Laden.
At worst, Romney was being devious, suggesting that a Democratic presidential candidate is a terrorist. Perhaps he’s carrying on a silly “slip of the tongue” game that Republicans and Democrats tried playing earlier in this campaign, pointing out that Obama’s middle name is Hussein and wrongly tried to associate his candidacy — and religion — with being Muslim and, as a result, anti-American.
Still, even if you give Romney the benefit of the doubt, his slip goes a long way to confirm that he is one of the same-old-white-guys-in-suits that make up the GOP lineup.
This was the gang whose front-runners wimped out of a scheduled GOP debate before a predominantly black audience at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Are Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson scared of spending 90 televised minutes in an auditorium with hundreds of black folk? Are front-runners like Giuliani terrified because they will have utter sentences with more than a “Noun, a verb and 9/11″? And if so, well, what are they going to do if they have to confront real enemies with even more unusual names?
But it’s not just the Republicans giving Obama trouble. Big foot political pundits looking at the Democratic field need remedial help in getting a few facts and theories straight about the junior Senator from Illinois. Obama’s captured the imagination of young, optimistic voters. His blackness is non-threatening to many whites and authentic to most blacks. In fact, last summer’s inane refrains, “is he black enough?” were mostly lazy questions from faux militants and political hacks.
Still, so-called experts try to marginalize the senator. A repeated campaign narrative is that Obama is not experienced, like Democratic competitor and frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Senator from New York.
Excuse me? Clinton has been a U.S. Senator for six years, since 2001. Obama has been senator two years, since 2005. But he has he has more legislative experience than Clinton; he served seven years from 1997-2004 in the Illinois senate.
Don’t you dare dismiss state experience. Fifteen years ago, political pros said Clinton’s husband, then the governor of a small Southwestern state, did not have the proper credentials to be president. He completed two terms in the White House, right?
Anyway, the cries for experience are overrated. Examined the resume of “the decider,” the U.S. Commander-in-Chief President George W. Bush? As governor of Texas, Bush was a weak executive. That wasn’t his fault; state law made the office soft. The Texas governor is the third most-powerful position, after lieutenant governor and speaker of the house, Roland S. Martin, a former resident of the Lone Star, familiar with its politics, informed me.
There are voters who made a terrible mistake and chose Bush over Gore in 2000 because these voters assumed the “play Texan,” as the late Molly Ivins loved to tag Bush, would hold office under “adult” supervision with former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s counsel and the experience of White House hands Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in the respective roles of vice president and defense secretary.
That’s why Obama likes to remind anyone who will listen that Cheney, Rumsfeld and company had experience, but also had bad judgment. When I met the senator last August, he reminded me and two dozen colleagues of all the disasterous foreign policy decisions experienced hands such as Cheney, Rumsfeld and company made.
An Obama flaw could be his campaign style. Last week he promised to go after front-runner Clinton at the debate, but in realty, he mildly scolded her. Democratic contender former Sen. John Edwards was on the attack with a lot more to prove; he’s almost a second-tier Democratic presidential candidate at this point in the race.
Obama has lost a little ground to Hillary Clinton yet he still looks like a viable presidential candidate as we approach the prime-time campaign season.