Three gifts this week for Barack Obama:
Jesse and the genitalia. The folks at Obama headquarters should be turning cartwheels. Jesse Jackson, by running his mouth on Fox News, has done Obama a tremendous political service.
Fairly or not, there are millions of white voters who need to feel more comfortable with Obama before they can commit to supporting him. If they somehow perceive that Obama is in thrall to Jesse and the old-guard civil rights leaders, they will not support him. They have never been comfortable with Jesse's style, or his victimhood ethos. And they weren't fans of Jesse when he ran for president; back in the 1988 primaries, Jesse drew only 12 percent of all the white voters.
This is why Jesse's off-camera outburst ("See, Barack's been talking down to black people...I wanna cut his nuts off") is such a gift to Obama. It's vivid evidence that Jesse has been politically marginalized, that time has passed him by, that his large and tender ego has been bruised, and that all he can do is lash out from the sidelines. Heck, even his own son publicly repudiated him. And wary white voters can now say to themselves, "If Jesse is this ticked off at Obama, that's a big compliment to Obama."
McCain without a clue (again). The other day, McCain surrogate Carly Fiorina tried to rally women voters to the Republican candidate by assailing the health insurance companies that cover Viagra for men but refuse to cover birth control for women. But when reporters caught up with McCain on his magic bus, and asked him whether he agreed with Fiorina's remarks, he didn't have the faintest idea what to say. (Don't take my word for it. Just watch.) Amidst all the writhing and grimacing, he also had no idea how he had voted on the issue in the past. But he did come up with this: "I certainly do not want to discuss that issue...I don't know enough about it to give you an informed answer."
To refresh McCain's memory: In the Senate he has twice opposed measures that would have required insurance companies to cover birth control prescriptions. These votes occurred in 2003 and 2005. (Granted, McCain has cast thousands of votes, and cannot be expected to remember them all. But I bet he has far less trouble recounting his votes on obscure defense appropriation measures. Because that's the stuff that most interests him.)
Hence, another gift to Obama. His Republican opponent just demonstrated that he is out of touch with many of the female voters he badly needs to woo. He twice voted against their interests, he can't remember doing it, and he'd prefer not to discuss the subject at all. Apparently, joking about bombing Iran is so much easier.
And lastly: McCain and his headshrinker. Did you know that the sharp economic downturn, the loss of jobs, the housing foreclosure crisis, and $4-a-gallon gasoline, are all mere figments of your imagination? So says John McCain's chief economic adviser.
Can there be a more effective way for a Republican campaign to convey the impression that it is out of touch with the lives of average Americans, than to have Phil Gramm (the ex-conservative senator, currently vice president of the giant Swiss bank UBS) declare in a newspaper interview that we are "a nation of whiners" suffering from "a mental recession?"
McCain naturally felt compelled yesterday to distance himself from his own economic guru, and insist that he disagreed with Gramm about the current state of affairs. But that merely prompts a new question, to wit:
If McCain doesn't buy Gramm's fundamental diagnosis of our (supposedly alleged) economic ills, then why is Gramm still serving as his chief economic adviser?
The Obama people surely hope that Phil Gramm stays on the job.