Hitting At Obama's Strengths
By: Mark W Adams

Karl Rove would be proud. Barack Obama's stance on the war was supposedly unassailable, but is now up for debate. Legislatively, ethics reform is his strong suit, yet it too has come under fire. Wishful thinking and good intentions won't change the fact that sometimes failure to address the issues with substantive plans means ... well ... you lack substance.

That's just bad politics.

The reality is that you can be both. You can be "substantive" in the wonkish way that provides white-papers and detailed policy proposals, and still be that transformational leader the progressive blogosphere is looking for. Contrary to what Glenn Greenwald says, Obama is not the only candidate who speaks of true transformational change -- but there is only one candidate who speaks that way and also tells us how it can be done. The sooner our Deaniac Blogfathers realize John Edwards meets their litmus tests, but Senator Obama falls short, the better they'll sleep at night.

I love you guys, you hold outs for a dream candidate, hoping against hope that Gore or Clark will ride to the rescue, or that Obama will eventually find the words to match his voice. I've been that guy, voting for John Anderson in my first presidential election, crushed by Gary Hart's "monkey business." I don't want to see you disappointed, especially when there's already someone out there who fits the bill and is fighting the battle of his, and his wife's life -- for all of us.

The dimmer switch on Barack Obama's shining star is short circuiting across Liberal Blogtopia. (Yes, yes, Skippy, we know.) Call me a concern troll if you must, but constructive criticism never hurt anyone, and Obama needs to start hitting back, hard, with real proposals and facts to counter the myths, or he's in for a very long downward spiral which will bring a lot of good people down with him. That could only foreshadow those dreaded words, "Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton."

The implosion of John Kerry's chances were directly connected to his failure to effectively meet attacks and rumors head-on. The nastiest smear against Obama to date, when Fox News tried to say Obama was the product of some islamist madrassa, was not countered by his campaign, but rather by CNN. The Illinois Senator needs to be more pro-active, more aggressive, and his proposals more professional and comprehensive.

His passive, nice-guy act isn't working. He can shake things up quite a bit if he wins, but he's got to get in the game first. He keeps this up, he'll be torn to shreds one paper-cut at a time.

When I saw him sit down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer as the words "On The Issues" scrolled across the screen, I sat bolt upright in my chair. Unfortunately, there was only one issue discussed, Iraq, which simply has been done to death (and won him few new recruits). Anyone interested enough in politics to be reading this knows where every candidate stands on the war, and knows there's not a whole lot that can be done to stop the neocon nightmare.

Unless about half the Senate Republicans have an epiphany which signals Bush's impeachment is something they might not dismiss out of hand -- the Democrats only real options are either to shut down all war funding (which would be a true gift to the President -- getting him out of the mess while blaming others for the consequences), or to put conditions on the funding.

Holding fast to timetables, and winning the ensuing argument with the public is the best weapon the Democrats in Congress have to force Bush's hand while still surviving the aftermath. By taking the position that Bush will "play chicken" with the troops lives and
pronouncing that the Democrats will give the administration the "clean bill" they want, Obama gives away any tactical advantage we have against an out-of-control White House. Obama fails to even test the bully whose use of the "bully-pulpit" is inept on his best days. Conditions on the funding is the only way to avoid "owning" the war, and ending it with the least political fallout.

Bush has never been seriously challenged since they stopped counting ballots in Ohio. If ever there was an issue worthy of standing up and being counted, it's the war. A true leader isn't passive, whether he wants to be a leader in Congress or of the free world.

I'm confident however, despite his curiously less than spectacular anti-war tactics, that Obama will bring the war to a close should he win the presidency. Likewise he'll try to get more if not all Americans some kind of medical coverage. I have no idea where Obama really stands on Universal Health Care, except in some vague notion that he's for it, what ever form "it" takes and how we get there. Ditto Education, the Environment, Energy, Poverty, etc., but certainly he'll sign off on a Democratic Party Platform.

Of course, so will any nominee.

It's one thing when the occasional blogger infers that Senator Obama is all flash and no bang. It's even expected that human garbage like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Morris will just outright lie about his record.

You've got a problem, however, when a leading progressive voice like Barack Obama is diss'd by Mother Jones of all publications. Picking up on a backhanded swipe by Slate's John Dickerson about a possible candidacy by actor/Senator, Fred Thompson; Mother Jones noted that "like with Obama, there are questions about whether Thompson has the substance to back up all his style."

Worse, in terms of how this is perceived by the blogosphere, is when Jermome Armstrong questions whether Barack's style itself is all that. Certainly this "emboldened" KOS to declare Obama surrendered to Bush -- all but declaring the equivalent of cyber war on Obama supporters (and visa-versa).

Come ON! Barack! Get it together man! Even Chris Dodd is taking pot-shots at you!

There are over two-thirds of Democrats out there who, right now, have no intention of voting for Obama, but will have to pull together if somehow he gets the nomination. Give us something to work with, dude. Give us some fire. Show us you got some fight in you -- and the ammo to back it up.

As an Edwards supporter, I'm more than receptive to the liberal ideals I think ... maybe ... Obama hopefully represents. I'm a natural fit for him, demographically, since I'm a white-collar male with a post-graduate degree. His trouble seems to be with women and blue-collar voters. But, to resurrect Walter Mondale's old slogan: Mr. Obama, where's the beef? (Okay, maybe not the best slogan ever.)

The most troubling thing I've seen is not the battle over the supplemental war funding, but The Hill's jab at Obama on his lobby reform record. You can criticize him for being vague on Health Care, (he is) or that he's not making the environment or poverty as big a priority as Edwards, or that like Hillary, he's not so much against a "residual force" (permanent bases?) remaining in Iraq after Bush leaves office. But I really thought he "owned" ethics.

Obama has been a leader in trying to change the Senate's relationship with the lobbyists who have owned Washington for so long. You know you're on the side of the angels when you team up with Russ Feingold on ethics reform. When you read Obama's website, this stands out as some of his best accomplishments to date.

Yet I've seen nothing to indicate The Hill article is an obvious hit job using a tactic perfected by Karl Rove -- exposing the weakness of an opponent's perceived strength. To complete the tactic, the bona fides of the attacker are usually highlighted to complete the picture. But no one has stepped up so far to show their ethical purity (thus taking advantage of the smear), nor has Obama smacked down the idea that his network of lobbyists is "as large as the Clinton list." Whoever put this out there doesn't have the Rove thing down yet, but Obama certainly has not risen to the occasion either.

Desiring a new kind of politics does not mean you ignore the old tactics that can work against you -- unless the reality is that you. got. nuthin'.

I really don't want to think that Obama is a "cynical poseur." I'm hoping The Hill article explaining how Obama is letting lobbyist money and influence through the back door while locking the front gate is just plain wrong, a lie, something Bill O'Reilly cooked up. I want very much to believe the real reason Obama's positions on so many important issues avoid specifics is because it's early and he simply hasn't had the time to do his homework because he's been busy doing his job as a Senator. -- not that he's holding out for the highest bidder.

Unfortunately, I haven't heard much from Camp Obama to disabuse anyone from this notion.

Lobby and ethics reform, plus being against the war from day one aren't Senator Obama's only true strengths. His real power is in his "aura" that he IS special, something different, unspoiled, that he has intangible quality that sparks inspiration. However, if he thinks that his halo doesn't fade if it's perfectly acceptable to hold himself out as a champion of cleaning up government by refusing PAC and Lobbyist money -- but
hypocritically hits up the lobbyists' wives for cash on the sly -- then he's just another politician with his hand out.

Nothing to see here, nothing special at all.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, Mark, this isn't the "transformational change" I'm looking for:

"Once these steps have been taken, requiring all American residents to get insurance."

Not even close.