Michael Barone, one of the preeminent students of the nuts and bolts of American politics, is rather struck by the exit poll responses from voters — Democratic voters — in the West Virginia and Kentucky primaries:
[S]lightly under 50 percent of these voters said that Obama is honest and trustworthy.
To be sure, these were primaries in which Obama was beaten, and beaten badly, by Hillary Clinton â€” 67 percent to 26 percent in West Virginia, 66 percent to 30 percent in Kentucky. So they would be inclined, one might believe, to think ill of Obama. Yet it is not universally the case that voters who choose one candidate in a hotly contested election doubt whether the other candidate is honest. You can oppose someone who you believe to be trustworthy. Only 38 percent of Americans voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972. But probably a higher percentage believed that they were basically honest.
Which leads me to ask why these voters declined to say Obama is honest.
Well, Barone’s answer is, of course, the Reverend Wright connection. If Democratic voters aren’t buying Obama’s wave-off of his 20 years in the pews of Wright’s church, the question is how is that going to play in the general election.
As I commented when I first examined the Wright/Obama connection a few months ago: the issue is a bottomless well. It is impossible for a candidate offering himself as a racial reconciliationist who turns out to have belonged to a racist, black supremacist church for 20 years (and counting) to be seen as someone who has sufficient character to be President of the United States.
Meanwhile, you have a mainstream media that is trying so hard to see no evil with regard to Obama that it has become a comedy. There’s the sight of Tom Brokaw, for example, attempting to fit the role of grey eminence at NBC News, agreeing to sit down at the same table with the “I’m completely unhinged, they let me go on the TV, and I’m for Obama” Keith Olbermann during election coverage on primary nights.
One might expect that Tim Russert, whose idea of an amusing political analyst is James Carville, would sit still for that, but Brokaw has been burnishing his credentials as a sort of Edward R. Murrow in retirement coming down to the studio to lend heft and wisdom to the network. Instead, he’s being debauched by his own broadcasting outfit, which looks bad enough when it just has Chris Matthews fronting for it. (It is conceivable that Matthews, who apparently believes that the faster he speaks the more intelligent he sounds, might have actually served as Olbermann’s inspiration.)
Olbermann, meanwhile, makes Father Coughlin seem like Will Rogers (try Wikipedia if you missed those references). Each time Brokaw appears anywhere near him it’s not Olbermann who suffers from the association. Of course, the network has sunk so low that nothing could be done to reclaim its reputation.
But the point is that the coverage being given to Obama stubbornly refuses to get at the root of the problem he has with voters because of the Wright connection, and Obermann is just the worst face in that crowd.
The line being pushed now, instead of “you’re a racist if you criticize Obama,” has become “you’re a racist if you don’t vote for Obama.”