09/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nice Point Hillary, Now We'll Just Wait for McCain to Make It

The legendary cartoon -- I think it was the New Yorker -- had a bunch of men and one woman sitting around a conference table. All eyes are on her, but it is the man at the head of the table who is speaking. "Nice point, Mary," he says. "Now we'll just wait for some man to make it."

Six months or more ago Hillary Clinton's campaign made two relatively obvious points about the candidacy of a young African-American, fresh from the Illinois state Senate and coming off a wildly popular televised address. She said he could not beat John McCain among key (read, white) demographics and she said his rhetoric filled orations to filled stadiums were empty calories.

For these relatively obvious observations, Clinton, and the people who supported her, were regularly treated as selfish morons standing in the way of the new millennium. Writing in these pages, Mark Kleiman said

"The hand-wringing about whether Barack Obama is "electable" has reached the point of absurdity. The claim that Hillary Clinton's 9-point win over Obama in Pennsylvania "proves" that Obama can't carry the Rustbelt in a general election is completely baseless. But that hasn't kept the Clinton camp, the Rightwingosphere, and a bunch of TV talking heads just parroting the currently fashionable line of patter from pretending to believe it." These people are so crazy they are thinking McCain might actually win. How ridiculous is that, Kleiman asks: "A McCain Presidency is indeed a horrible prospect, but then so is an asteroid strike."

As of this moment, the latest PA polls show Obama holding a 5 point lead over McCain with a 3.7 margin for error, and the national polls show Obama ahead by around 3 trivial points, half of last month's lead. And why is that? Why a man finally said what Hillary had been saying all along: he's not a good candidate for a crucial Democratic demographic and his charisma is no more substantive than a Paris Hilton miniskirt. Contrary to the dreadful Dowd, this is not, um, Hillary's fault. I have the strong feeling that the McCain campaign team could probably have figured out Obama's weaknesses unassisted. After all, they did manage to beat every Democratic candidate who's run for President in the current millennium. So there was no positive payoff to silencing all criticism of the primary candidate.

But by deligitimating criticism of Barack Obama his supporters did manage to silence a lot of people who might have been helpful. Case in point: When the Obama campaign announced its plan for a stadium-based acceptance speech weeks ago, long before the Paris Hilton affair, I emailed a bunch of people privately warning them that there would be images from Leni Riefenstahl's movies all over the Internet, and thus all over TV, and screw Michael Godwin. In place of a triumph, a Triumph of the Will. Now there's a great convention kickoff for you. Followed by the presentation of the millionaire conservative John McCain as, may he rest in peace, Harry Truman. But I did not write of this in public, despite my well-earned reputation as a flame thrower, because the blowback to criticizing Barack Obama is so distracting and also because, well, they would probably wait for a man to say it. But I have grown increasingly uneasy as the time approaches, so today I decided that someone has to say it, so it might as well be me. After all, I was the first one to speak ill of the dead after the unbelievably destructive Tim Russert departed the planet before he could singlehandedly determine the outcome of yet another election. This stadium thing looks like a really bad idea. At best no harm, at worst, a debate about why he's not Hitler, to succeed the debate about why he's not Paris Hilton. They'd better have a lot of footage of John Kennedy's stadium speech to run alongside it.

Maybe Mark Kleiman is right, and the gifted orator will make a speech so inspiring and the visuals will be so brilliant that the pre-convention fretting may all prove to be small-bodies-from-space-aphobia. Kleiman's biography says he's a professor of decision making under conditions of uncertainty and a government advisor and maybe a McCain victory is as unlikely as an asteroid strike. I'm not a professor of decision making. But in a country as closely divided politically as this one, all decisions are made under uncertainty, and one thing I'm certain of is it does not help the process to shoot the messengers.