Obama and McGovern

Visions of a McGovern-style blowout election should Obama be nominated are already dancing through the heads of some Republicans, like children's sugarplums on Christmas eve. Writing in The American Spectator, Robert Stacy McCain extends the comparison to the bungling of a crisis:  Rev. Wright for Obama, and Thomas Eagleton for McGovern.

OBAMA'S PREDICAMENT now resembles nothing so much as that faced by George McGovern in July 1972, after the Democratic presidential nominee belatedly discovered that his vice-presidential choice, Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton, had previously been hospitalized for mental illness.

As with Obama's mishandling of the Wright controversy, the Eagleton disaster was an unforced error on McGovern's part. McGovern and his campaign team had dawdled over choosing a running mate, evidently in the mistaken belief that Ted Kennedy could be talked into taking the No. 2 spot.

When Kennedy finally gave a definitive "no," and other top possibilities also declined, the McGovern campaign scrambled and came up with Eagleton. There was no time for a background check and when Eagleton was asked if he had any skeletons in his closet, he said he didn't -- even though he'd been hospitalized three times for severe depression and had twice undergone electroshock therapy.

It was only after he'd been nominated as vice president that journalists began reporting about Eagleton's history of mental illness. Rather than to take responsibilty for his deception and resign from the ticket, however, Eagleton tried to hang on. The Democratic campaign endured more than a week of agonizing limbo -- at one point, McGovern famously declared he was behind Eagleton "1,000 percent" -- before Eagleton was finally forced out.

McCain points out that Obama's Philadelphia race speech -- widely adored by the Obama media claque -- is the functional equivalent of McGovern's "1000 percent" speech. At least McGovern had the excuse of being in a rush. Obama not only knew the Rev Wright smoking gun was out there (having disinvited him from his campaign kick-off, saying his speeches were "rough"), he also knew that websites such as AT had been examining Wright's radicalism. Perhaps he was able to dismiss websites as too marginal to have an effect. But Sean Hannity took the question of Wright to his vast audience over a year ago now.

There is no excuse for Obama not having a contingency plan to deal with Wright. So we must assume that the he did have one -- the Philadelphia speech. In that case, we must seriously question his strategic thinking. Was it the enthusiasm of his press claque that deceived him into believing that the story would just go away? If so, Obama is revealed as completely unprepared for the responsibilities of defending the nation from its enemies. A man who takes the optimistic view of his opponents, and makes best case assumptions only is not someone we want facing down our real enemies in Tehran, Damascus, and Pyongyang.