In a campaign of almost continual surprise, shock, and even awe, we have just turned a corner that might prove Barack Obama either a political genius or someone very close to that. The Republicans may have mistaken their adversary for just another Democrat sleeping under a shade tree and looking like a mark. Not. In real terms, that assumption might prove as costly to them as Robert E. Lee underestimating Ulysses S. Grant. This man is a brawler but a quiet one. He may use a scalpel instead if a broad sword but the jugular doesn't know the difference
This past Friday, Obama made a decision that either he had conceived himself or recognized the importance of with the sudden kind of clarity necessary for superior leadership. Bob Bauer, the foremost legal representative of the campaign, fired off a letter to the Department of Justice asserting that all of the recent hissing and howling about ACORN by Republicans in many places, and John McCain specifically in the final presidential debate, should be taken off of life support. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey was advised to put Nora Dannehy, special prosecutor, in a position to investigate the possibility of collusion between the Republican Party and the Justice Department. This could clear away all of the claims of voter fraud that might result in gumming things up with unnecessary investigation.
If this Obama brings this off, we will have witnessed an exceptionally shrewd part of a grand strategic vision.
The particular intelligence of this strong move by the Obama campaign is that it comes before the election and is timed so perfectly that the Attorney General is put in a very hot position. The Supreme Court has just squashed a Republican attempt to pollute the waters with claims of vote fraud in Ohio; it upended a lower court order to challenge the registration of 200,000 voters. If that wasn't enough sand in the Republican vaseline, the concerted baying at the moon of ACORN has been met by repudiation of the Republican governor of Florida. All of this tightens Michael Mukasey's hat band. He may well have to move quickly and in the way requested by Bauer. One of the reasons that Alberto Gonzales left Washington is that the former Attorney General removed nine federal prosecutors from their jobs for not following the game plan laid out by the White House, which was to lead the troops in charges of voter fraud. The order that Gonzales made clear but not explicit was easy to interpret: Play ball or put your backside in the U-Haul. Mukasey was given the big task of proving that the Justice Department is more than a partisan GOP tool. No small job, given the man he replaced. That weight should work in Obama's favor, because if Mukasey does not take the request seriously and make decisive moves he will be seen, true or not, as but another of the clay-footed statues faithfully waiting to be put in the White House slingshot and used to create a concussion. On the surface, the Alberto Gonzales affair should validate some of the tenets Republicans use against affirmative action. After all, Gonzales showed to all that diversity is no automatic solution to the recurring problems of governmental corruption, troubles against which we must always remain vigilant. If the charges against former HUD Secretary Alfonso Jackson are true, that he abused his office by favoring friends and cronies, then what we will have learned from all of this is that George W. Bush may have friends across ethnic lines but too many of them prove no more than the old blues fact of what Jorge Luis Borges called "universal infamy." In such a national mood of so much reasonable distrust of almost everything, Obama's decision has a particular brightness to it because it rivals the ability of the Republicans to achieve victory through the psychological manipulation. If this campaign's commander in chief brings it off, it will probably have been as important to what seems his inevitable victory as any slogans or promises. We will have witnessed an exceptionally shrewd part of a grand strategic vision. That is just what Robert E. Lee got from Grant, a fighter who was thinking of ways to get beyond the thunder of battle: about how all of those strands of combat could be knitted into a noose of victory.