Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rise of the Obamacons

Robert Novak discusses the rise of the "Obamacons", and a couple who may very well join their ranks – Colin Powell and Chuck Hagel.

Their ranks, though growing, feature few famous people. But looming on the horizon are two big potential Obamacons: Colin Powell and Chuck Hagel. Neither Powell, first-term secretary of state for George W. Bush, nor Hagel, retiring after two terms as a U.S. senator from Nebraska, has endorsed Obama. Hagel probably never will. Powell probably will enter Obama's camp at a time of his own choosing. The best bet is that neither of the two, both of whom supported President Bush in 2000 and 2004, will back John McCain in 2008…

The prototypal Obamacon may be Larry Hunter, recognized inside the Beltway as an ardent supply-sider. When it became known recently that Hunter supports Obama, fellow conservatives were stunned. Hunter was fired as U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief economist in 1993 when he would not swallow Clinton administration policy, and he later joined Jack Kemp at Empower America (ghostwriting Kemp's column). Explaining his support for the uncompromisingly liberal Obama, Hunter blogged on June 6: "The Republican Party is a dead rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of 'Weekend With Bernie,' handcuffed to a corpse."

While he never would use such language, Colin Powell is said by friends to share Hunter's analysis of the GOP. His tenuous 13-year relationship with the Republican Party, following his retirement from the Army, has ended. The national security adviser for Ronald Reagan left the present administration bitter about being ushered out of the State Department a year earlier than he wanted. As an African American, friends say, Powell is sensitive to racial attacks on Obama and especially on Obama's wife, Michelle. While McCain strategists shrug off defections from Bruce Bartlett and Larry Hunter, they wince in anticipating headlines generated by Powell's expected endorsement of Obama.

While Powell may not be a legitimate Obamacon because he never was much of a conservative, that cannot be said for his close Senate friend Hagel. He has built a solidly conservative record as a senator, but mutual friends see no difference between him and the general on Iraq, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, George W. Bush and the Republican Party. In a speech today at the Brookings Institution, Hagel is expected to urge Obama and McCain to reach out to each other. At the least, Hagel is not ready to strap on armor for his longtime political ally and office neighbor, John McCain.

The Daily Dish dives a little deeper:

I think Novak is right when he notes that Obama's appeal among some conservatives has much to do with a reaction against the direction of the Republican Party. By exclusively relating it to this, however, he misses a key aspect of Barack's appeal for some conservatives, which is that Obama's story confirms what conservatives have always believed about America.

He is the black son of an immigrant, raised by a modest single mother and yet despite the obstacles inherent in this background he is approaching the pinnacle of American success. Isn't he the poster boy for what conservatives have always assured us is possible here in America? Conservative perseverance, not liberal victimization explains Obama's rise. He is a black Horatio Alger whose life adds to the long list of American success stories that began with Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. He personifies the American exceptionalism which is at the heart of American conservatism. If he wins conservatives, even those that vote against him, can justifiable take pride in their nation and say, "Only in America."

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