Hawaiian Punch


When the vote is held in November and a shocked world tries to figure out what happened to The Messiah, and how it came to pass that he was crucified at the polls, fingers will point to the Hawaii vacation as a turning point.

Perhaps that will be accurate. Taking a week out to vacation in a spot that seemed to amplify Barack’s differentness was dumb, but the cultural and geographic disconnectedness of Hawaii seemed to define Barack as he failed to seize the opportunity that events in Georgia presented. Images of Barack body surfing, his path defined by forces unknown, and much larger than himself, while John McCain forcefully assumed the role left vacant by a slowed President Bush, may come to symbolize Barack as windsurfing did John Kerry.

Taking a carefully choreographed international tour to prove, via photo-ops with foreign leaders, that one can play the part of president, is not nearly so effective as acting like one during a crisis, and the award for having the instincts and experience to pull that off goes not to Barack, but to his opponent.

As prominent a campaign blunder as that was, will a look back at this week prove as baffling? Here is a week that the Obama campaign should have controlled without contest. The announcement of his vice presidential pick on Monday or Tuesday would have given him a solid week to glow in the loving shine of the media – the campaign back on familiar ground – before rolling into the convention on Monday next for four days of Dancing with the Stars.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he has decided who his vice presidential running mate will be. He refused to reveal his choice.

But, alas, perhaps reeling from the disorientation of having lost their stride, Team Obama is blowing this opportunity, instead sending Barack out for fresh volleys on McCain. While it’s hard to say what exactly is different in Barack’s delivery, if anything, the words sound strained, lacking the confident comfort they would have possessed just a few short weeks ago, when Obama was still the Chosen One.

Now, as Barack attacks, the strain in his voice takes the sting out of the words, like the punch of a boxer who has had his bell rung. To the untrained eye it may look like a score, but to the recipient of the blow, and those at ringside, there’s no doubt the punches carry no impact. They are meaningless motions lacking the power to alter events.

Obama confirmed he has made the decision when questioned by reporters traveling with him today in Emporia, Virginia.

And one must ask why we are witnessing this flailing. Here we are – it’s Thursday – and still we are without a VP nominee. Which means if Barack announces his selection, as expected, before the convention begins on Monday, the news will be in the background as America goes about enjoying one of the last weekends of summer – a day at the beach, another used for back to school shopping – and the latest Obama misstep will leave us wondering; was this a turning point? Will we look back and say – aha, that’s when it all went bad?

`I did say that I’ve made a selection,” the Illinois senator said when asked about a USA Today report that quoted him saying he has made his selection. “That’s all you are going to get,” Obama said when pressed for details.

There is no single point when it all went bad. Candidacies take time to unfold, campaigns sail to a wind that leaves others unmoved. Did he blow it in Hawaii? Sure. Not as badly, though, as he blew it with the arrogance to think that he could carry the weight of Reverend Wright. Was the Berlin speech a failure to see that being eloquent was no longer beneficial? Yup. And as the nation waits for Joe Biden, or someone else, to be named as his choice for vice president, we can know that we have just witnessed another bad week for Barack.

Speculation over who Obama, 47, will choose to run with him against McCain, 71, has focused on Kaine, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. Obama is to campaign with his new running mate on Aug. 23 in Springfield, Illinois.

The decisions that Barack and his campaign make seem to have cockiness as an achilles heel. To have thought that Barack was big enough to carry Wright, that things were going so well that Hawaii wouldn’t matter (we’ll just tell them I miss my grandmother), to think that the reaction of middle America to overseas speeches wouldn’t matter – looking in from the outside, it’s all a bit hard to figure.

Thus, it is woven, the campaign quilt of a presidential candidate. One small step after another – each decision so small as to seem unimportant, but combining to ordain November’s results. There is no one decision. Just the nature of the decider, revealed over time.

Hey! How About a Nice Hawaiian Punch?


One Response to “Hawaiian Punch”

  1. 1 Danielle

    love the title – hawaiian punch- perfect. your analysis is great. i like thebody surfibg mataphor and the parallel to kerry

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