The comparisons of Barack Obama with Muhammad Ali and his famous rope-a-dope fight strategy have flown fast and furious in the past week. Last week and even as late as Wednesday, the discussion was whether Obama and the Dems had been too passive in responding to Republican smears. With Barack Obama's landmark acceptance speech last night, and today's desperate gambit VP pick by John McCain, it leaves no doubt that Obama knew what he was doing by letting the McCain camp overreach and punch themselves out of the round.
The vid clip below highlights the rope-a-dope in full fruition. Ali sagging back on the ropes in a defensive stance, letting George Foreman throw punch after punch, only to find himself getting knocked out when Ali suddenly unleashes a fierce and targeted counter attack.
As mentioned, other rope-a-dope comparisons with Obama have been made.
When Obama began hitting back on how many homes the McCains own, this bloggerthought that was a sign that Obama had been toying with McCain since June. And this was written a full week before Obama's acceptance speech.
No one really knows where this presidential campaign will go from here. Today’s return salvo on the utter absurdity of a man who thinks $4 million a year is middle class and can’t remember how many homes he owns might be a one off. But one gets the sneaking suspicion that Barack Obama has been rope-a-doping John McCain since June. And today’s right hook is just the beginning.
Let McCain think he’s getting a free pass. Let McCain punch and punch and punch. Make everyone think Obama is out of gas, Obama has nothing left in the tank, Obama is too weak, too nice, too wimpy. No way any man can withstand such a sustained barrage of negativity, body blows against the ropes, cheap shots, below the belt, pummeling. Barack Obama’s gonna go down. He’s not gonna fight back.
Boom. Turns out John McCain is out on a limb. Kinda even looks like Barack Obama let him walk out onto it. Maybe even punch himself out. Maybe Obama’s got a rope-a-dope. The dope being John McCain.
But, even after Obama hit back last week, the apprehension among the Dems returned over the weekend, and began to dominate the coverage of the convention. With the media desperately trying to find signs of division, and manufacturing them when they could not, they instead settled on the meme that the Dems were not attacking McCain hard enough and thus squandering Obama's chances. This did create quite a bit of concern among Democrats.
The presumption and common wisdom was that the surrogates on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday would use the prime time window to incessantly bash McCain over and over. And after that was all over, Obama would take the high road, because the prevailing common wisdom was that Obama was too post-partisan, too high minded.
Nobody thought that Barack Obama would be the Democrat to wield the hammer that knocks John McCain off his perch. But, it turned out that Obama was the perfect messenger, and in the process, he made it very clear that he knows the Karl Rove playbook better than McCain himself does, and will not back down.
Make no mistake, last night's speech took every line of attack and smear that the McCain camp has used against Obama for the past month, and threw them back into their collective faces. It was a precise and devastating counterattack, defusing the smears and then going on the offensive against McCain's perceived strengths. This was a political speech made of the mettle that I think neither the Republicans nor most Democrats expected.
Other bloggers have now invoked the rope-a-dope comparison. This one comes from the Huffington Post.
Like so many Democrats, I've fretted this past month as the McCain campaign seemed to land punch, after unanswered punch on Obama and his poll numbers started to slip. I wrote a blog in these pages last week with some advice on how Obama could turn Rovian tactics back on McCain to redefine himself and redefine his opponent.
We needn't have worried. Tonight Obama came off the ropes and landed a series of thunderous blows to John McCain's jaw, as Ali did to George Foreman's in the famous "Rumble in the Jungle". To mix metaphors, Obama conducted a magnificent symphony, calling on every instrument in the orchestra to play its part. He simultaneously accomplished all 5 major goals which he needed to accomplish, and more.
The McCain campaign's tepid form letter response and the propaganda smear stenographed by the AP could not nullify what 38 million viewers saw for themselves -- an epic speech that changed the political playing field and has now forced McCain to adjust.
And now we see how they adjusted ... enter Sarah Palin!
By selecting Palin, McCain is now fighting the fight with blinders on and doing away with any strategic plan that the campaign might have had. It's now all about appeasing the most reactionary voices in the GOP, and presuming that disaffected Hillary voters will blindly vote ANY woman (and ignore the reactionary anti-feminist agenda that Palin represents). This is nothing more than a cynical embrace of both identity politics and social wedge issues.
Taking the boxing analogy to the extreme, McCain scored some early points, but Obama has now delivered the first standing-eight count. McCain has been staggered, and indeed made a punch drunk choice for veep that veers away from his strategy. But, the fight is far from over, and there are plenty of rounds to go. Yet, Obama has now effectively demonstrated that it will take more than petty smears and obfuscation to beat him. The GOP can still try to bribe the judges or pay off the refs, but Obama can still deliver the knockout that eliminates any uncertainty.