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Obama's dinner with the wimpy (?) right

Until I read this Michael Wolff piece, I hadn't known that Barack Obama recently sat down to dinner with George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, and Bill Kristol. So: thanks to Wolff for that.

What's perplexing, though, is Wolff's description of Obama's dining partners:

By dining at George Will’s house with New York Times columnists William Kristol and David Brooks, and the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer, he’s single-handedly revived these guys' careers. (Too bad he can’t help revive newspapers.)

Indeed, undoubtedly with design, he picked this special, print-centric, lap-dog group of conservatives with which to start his rapprochement, guys so out of touch with the current Republicanism as to make them almost irrelevant.

The Obama message is a crafty one: He’s choosing these fretting, parsing, neurotic, limp-wristed, desperate-to-be-liked print guys, over the crass, spitting, scary, voluble guys on television and  
radio, the Ailes-Rove-Limbaugh wing of the Republican Party [emph. added].


I get that Brooks is every liberal's favorite conservative. Last I checked, though, Kristol was still a pretty big star in the Republican/conservative firmament. The same goes for Krauthammer and Will.

Also, what's the evidence that Kristol, Will and Krauthammer are "lap dogs," or "desperate to be liked"? To cite just one counterexample to Wolff's thesis, here's how Krauthammer riffed on the Obama-as-egoist meme back in July:

Americans are beginning to notice Obama’s elevated opinion of himself. There’s nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted “present” nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself....

For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?

We are getting to know. Redeemer of our uninvolved, uninformed lives. Lord of the seas. And more. As he said on victory night, his rise marks the moment when “our planet began to heal.” As I recall — I’m no expert on this — Jesus practiced his healing just on the sick. Obama operates on a larger canvas.

Pretty hostile, that.

The key to Wolff's analysis, I think, lies in the descriptive terms he's chosen to use, with "limp-wristed" as Exhibit A. Basically, Wolff seems to be starting with a stylistic divide between the manly conservatives and the pussies--and then assuming that, because Will et al. don't act (in his estimation) like tough guys, they must be ideological accomodationists, too.

Which, to state the obvious, makes absolutely no sense.

(Via Romenesko.)

  • Dan Kennedy said:

    Adam - Agree with you completely. Brooks and Will are not right-wing nuts. I wouldn't be surprised if one or both voted for Obama.

    January 14, 2009 9:30 PM

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