Thrill is Gone; So is the Alternative

Published on
by
The Albany Times-Union (New York)

Thrill is Gone; So is the Alternative

by
Bob Franken

What were they thinking? What possessed his strategists to decide to make President Barack Obama's re-election effort official on the same day his administration was making its final surrender on Guantanamo Bay?

Is their campaign slogan "Cave You Can Believe In"? It certainly won't be "Change You Can Believe In."

Given how it's widely believed Obama will be the first candidate ever to raise and spend a billion dollars in a presidential election campaign, "Big Bucks You Can Believe In" might be more appropriate. It looks like he'll need every bit of that treasure to turn burnout into turnout.

The danger for him is that so many Obama supporters have joined the ranks of the formerly ardent. They are disgruntled by what they perceive as an abandonment of lofty promises. Instead of raising taxes on the rich, they see him kissing up to corporate interests.

He's done little, they feel, to rein in Bush-era hard-line national security practices and now he's buckled under political pressure to wimp out on his pledge to close Guantanamo.

So the world still has the American Devil's Island to despise and will witness military tribunals there instead of civilian courts. The decision amounts to a vote of no-confidence in the Constitution. The brutal terrorist defendants get to be tried not as the low-life violent criminals that they are, but as warriors and martyrs.

Yes, the landscape has changed from 2008, when candidate Obama inspired millions with his message of politics unusual. The thrill is gone, their idealism deflated by a leader who has succumbed to harsh reality and expedience, who's all too willing to make his bargains with the defenders of the rich-get-richer status quo.

They still thirst for leadership to take the nation out of the same old partisan cynical desert. Obama, they fear, has intentionally moved to the center of that wasteland.

Sulking progressives contend that he has settled for bits of his big picture that are too small or illusory, perhaps playing into the hands of those special interests whose biggest interest is removing him and regaining full control.

The Democrats seem to have one major factor in their favor. That would be the Republicans. Some of those on the GOP presidential list range from kooks to nuts, with too few candidates offering more than sound bites.

While it is true that an unpredictable future makes presidential matchup polls silly at this stage, let's be wild and crazy and cite one anyway. A week-long Farleigh Dickinson University Public Minds survey of 800 registered voters nationwide, released March 31, shows that Obama runs statistically even with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, while he is 15 percentage points ahead of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 20 in front of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

However, Public Minds had a glaring omission. It overlooks Donald Trump. How does one overlook Donald Trump?

As of April 5, a different firm -- Public Policy Polling -- did a survey that shows Romney in the lead among New Hampshire Republicans who took part, but, get this, Donald Trump has moved to within six points 27-21. PPP has Huckabee at 15 percent in the state, Gingrich at 13, Palin at 10, tied with U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., have 4 percent each.

Obama probably should use some of his campaign money to sponsor Republican debates, so voters can hear just how loopy some of those candidates are and see that they have a choice between undelivered promises and the opposition's dangerous plans.

What a dreary message. Perhaps the all-encompassing slogan for the election should be, "It's mourning in America."

Bob Franken writes for Hearst Newspapers. His e-mail address is bob@hearstdc.com.

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