Bob Herbert: voice of reason? On economics and the role of government, no. On the dynamics of the Dem nomination race? Actually, yes. In both his TV appearances and columns, Herbert, a military veteran who grew up largely in a comfortable New Jersey suburb, comes across as more clear-eyed and down-to-earth, less angry and ideological, than his NY Times confreres like Paul Krugman or Frank Rich.
Take Herbert's column of this morning, Heading Toward the Danger Zone. My sense is that, at heart, Herbert backs Obama. But that doesn't deter the columnist from offering an unblinking assessment of the very perilous electoral path on which Obama finds himself. Let's work backwards from Herbert's stunning conclusion [emphasis added]:
One of Senator Obama’s favorite phrases is “the fierce urgency of now.” There is nothing more fiercely urgent for him right now than to reassure voters and superdelegates that an Obama candidacy will not lead to a Democratic debacle in November.
Herbert attributes Obama's parlous political state in part to attacks from the Clinton camp. But he also readily recognizes that many of Obama's wounds are self-inflicted: the Rev. Wright "fiasco," Bitter-gate, and "sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides." Above all, though, Herbert blames Obama for his unwillingness to fight. As the columnist puts it: "there is such a thing as being too cool."
And consider Herbert's other ominous-for-Dems observations [all verbatim]:
- You can almost feel the air seeping out of the Obama phenomenon.
- Democrats are filled with anxiety about their prospects in November. A nervous operative told me on Friday: “If we lose this election, it would be like Johnson losing to Goldwater.”
- The share of Clinton voters who have been telling exit pollsters that they will not vote for Senator Obama if he wins the nomination is inching toward the red zone.
- What we’re witnessing here — in what was supposed to have been a championship season for Democrats — is a potential train wreck.
So credit Herbert for a candid evaluation of this most amazing race. Republicans have only a very limited ability to influence this Dem steel-cage match. But that won't stop them from sitting back and observing/enjoying the most remarkable political spectacle in recent American memory.