Friday, March 07, 2008

is Obama running for Messiah-in-Chief?

Watching the Today show this morning (something I never do, but a visiting friend watches it), the top news story of the morning was not deaths in the Iraq War, a shooting at a Jerusalem seminary or bad economic news. It was Andrea Mitchell's story on an Obama adviser calling Clinton a "monster" that will stoop to anything in an interview with a Scottish newspaper (she asked for it to be off the record- oops).

In the story, probably spoon fed by her buddies in the Clinton camp, Andrea Mitchell reports that Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize winning author (the brilliant A Problem from Hell I read in 2003) and Harvard professor "posed for Men's Vogue."* She also points out that Power said the Obama campaign effed up in Ohio, which is a correct assessment. Deep within the story it is mentioned that Clinton's people had compared Obama to Ken Starr the day before.

While I think it is unwise to tell a reporter Clinton is a monster, I understand the frustration surrounding the Obama camp, trying to be above the gutter politics of the Clintons who will stoop to anything to win, even sacrificing their party and unity in the process. However, it is an indication of the media's connection to the Clintons (and not to Obama) that this is a lead story while the Starr comments were buried in the evening news. Plus, does this even compare to the outrageous comments of Bill Clinton and other Hillary supporters?

It is ridiculous that Obama is held to such a standard unlike any politician in history. She can snipe and stab in the back, yet he can not point out her record. She can bring up race as an issue or play the Muslim card, while her supporters intimate that he has smoked crack in the hood. She can use her husband's speeches and follow the commercials of failed presidential candidates (the tacky 3AM phone call commercial copied Mondale in 1984) while telling us he is a plagiarist. Yet, he is unable to respond to her attacks without playing her game (read David Brook's ridiculous assessment in today's New York Times).

While he is talking about a new kind of politics, it is still politics and Obama is not running for the office of Jesus. Heck, he is not even running for the office of Gandhi or MLK Jr. You cannot be president without getting a little dirty.

My advice to Obama is play hard ball, just be truthful. Show us you can be tough and right!

* please notice the article she "posed for" from Men's Vogue. It is a profile piece (don't all profiles have a posed picture?). Read this and be impressed with her. It is a testament to Obama that she is on his team.

5 comments:

kidpositive said...

i don't know if you used the word "ridiculous" to describe Brooks' editorial because you thought it was worthy of ridicule or because you found it ridiculously insightful. i'm in the latter camp, but you've probably already figured i'm a big fan of David Brooks.

anyway, he hits the nail on the head, in my opinion:

"Besides, the real softness of the campaign is not that Obama is a wimp. It’s that he has never explained how this new politics would actually produce bread-and-butter benefits to people in places like Youngstown and Altoona."

the is the glass jaw of Obama's campaign. hope and ideals will only take you so far, just as church camp will help you feel good about God for a few weeks. however, once that feeling wears off, there has to be some deliverable, some agent of change that results in actual differences in policy, etc. so far, the only real deliverable i've seen from the Obama campaign has been this idea that things need to change. i'm glad he's singing this song, but i didn't need him to teach it to me because i already knew it.

i want to see Obama really step up to the plate and incarnate this "new" form of politics while he's in this race. but so far his rhetoric has done nothing to change the political landscape in this race, besides making people feel good. you can argue that this is because of the media, and Clinton's election machine and constant nagging which drown out Obama's message, but in the end it's up to Obama to deliver on his message, and I don't think he's done it thus far. the way in which Obama handles this next stage will really prove to the public whether or not he is made up of the stuff he talks so much about.

Rick said...

I am going to write 2 comments, first on Brooks, second on the rest...

as you might guess, I am in total disagreement with your assessment. First of all, I found the Brooks article shallow and lacking any insight (which I do expect from him- even if I disagree regularly with his political POV). This is completely wrong:

"As the trench warfare stretches on through the spring, the excitement of Obama-mania will seem like a distant, childish mirage. People will wonder if Obama ever believed any of that stuff himself. And even if he goes on to win the nomination, he won’t represent anything new. He’ll just be a one-term senator running for president.

In short, a candidate should never betray the core theory of his campaign, or head down a road that leads to that betrayal. Barack Obama doesn’t have an impressive record of experience or a unique policy profile. New politics is all he’s got. He loses that, and he loses everything. Every day that he looks conventional is a bad day for him.

Besides, the real softness of the campaign is not that Obama is a wimp. It’s that he has never explained how this new politics would actually produce bread-and-butter benefits to people in places like Youngstown and Altoona.

If he can’t explain that, he’s going to lose at some point anyway."
------------------------

He has bought into the media narrative given by the Clinton machine and swallowed whole by the media (and I am guessing you).

His excitement will not fade if he enters the ring. His followers understand, like me, that you can be talking about hope and change, yet still fight. You just have to fight fair, which is what separates someone like him from Clinton. Brooks does not see this as the case, which blows his entire argument out of the water. He is relying on conventional wisdom, which a columnist should never do.

In fact, his assessment is as childish as you can be. To think that he is running on nothing besides change and words is to believe the Clinton camp. He has shown as much depth in his speeches and given as much policy initiatives in his speeches and position papers as Hillary. However, she uses her rhetoric, "I have 35 years of experience" which is untrue and unchallenged. She says I can do it, while he says it, which is untrue. She does not show how she has done it and how she will do it, she just says, "I can get things done" over and over and people like Brooks believe it.

He has as much real experience as Clinton, unless you want to dismiss his work in the IL legislature (the same leg that Lincoln had his experience in). During his time there, his record shows he worked across party lines and got a lot done (as much as Clinton). For Brooks to say Obama does not have the impressive policy experience is to betray his lack of insight. When compared to Clinton, he does. When compared to McCain, neither does.

Look at the article from the posting before this on experience.

Brooks believes the rhetoric of the Clinton and media and does not challenge it. this is sad. None of the candidates are showing how they will deal specifically with the issues of Altoona. It is all pipe dreams until each sees the Congressional makeup.

I cannot believe how lacking this article is.

Rick said...

craig,

i am not sure how obama can deliver on his message apart from getting into office. to expect him to deliver while simultaneously not expecting the same of clinton and mccain is not helpful.

it is impossible to incarnate his message more than he has, in the present arena, look back to his time in Il and see how he crossed partisan lines to get things done. that is more incarnational than what i have seen from others.

can you tell me how he can deliver in a presidential context? can he meet with other heads of state? No. can he try to meet across the aisle with other leaders? he has in the past, but cannot during the election cycle.

has his rhetoric struck many republicans and given them hope that they can work together? yes.

who else has done that? without starting there, no bipartisanship will happen.

up until last week when his campaign made a misstep of ignoring clinton while she went for the knees, has he stumbled?look at how he has run a campaign and how his people have responded to him. then, look at the constant chaos of the clinton campaign. does this not tell you how they will govern? does this not show you skills at incarnating his message? that is exactly what it tells me!

i must say i am surprised because i feel you are saying exactly what the media narrative fed by the Clinton campaign has said. don't believe that she has better policy because she says so. don't believe her rhetoric about experience, with nothing to back it up. 35 years my ass. she was a corporate lawyer part of that time.

we can choose what we want... a person with less experience, but very good experience that inspires people and gives words to our longings. a person that has policies but knows that does not stir the soul. a person that has experience but knows that the bully pulpit of the presidency gets more done that late night arm twisting, especially with those across the aisle. that person knowing that stirring americans to action will cause change.... or a proven quantity that is good at policy and will do anything to get her way. one that is abrasive and angers the other side by her presence. a person that fights tough and dirty and has more baggage than accomplishments. someone competent and managerial.

choose which you want. i know my choice.

hope that is not too harsh sounding. but, i feel a clinton presidency would be bad for america and her campaign has confirmed that for me. i am not sure how an obama presidency would be, but it has a higher up side than hers.

kidpositive said...

hi rick...

sorry to not respond sooner...been too busy with trying to get out of school.

First, let me say that when you write stuff like "He has bought into the media narrative given by the Clinton machine and swallowed whole by the media (and I am guessing you)," I'm not sure if I should spend my time responding at all. Are you really suggesting that I'm just hearing something on the news which I find insightful, not critically thinking about it, and then spouting it off somewhere else? Do you REALLY believe my thinking is that shallow? Do you really think David Brooks is that shallow of a thinker? Look, i might disagree with a bunch of your viewpoints, especially in politics and basketball, but I still respect and believe that you think for yourself and don't just repeat the stuff you read and hear. I thought you extended the same respect to me, but when you write crap like that, it makes me question your objectivity. I hope that you use comments like this as pure hyperbole.

Second, your visible disdain for Clinton has been obvious for so long that I have to remember you don't really have an objective viewpoint in this race (or if you do I'm not sure where it is). You hate Clinton. Why don't you just say that? (maybe you already have) I know this, so really it's my fault for responding to your posts and expecting any modicum of a balanced discussion regarding this issue.

Third, I LIKE both candidates. Unlike you, I am fine with either Obama or Clinton in the White House. I don't think it's going to be the end of the world if the other one gets elected. In fact, I think our country will be better off with either one of them running the show. I love Obama's oratory style and the inspiration he brings to people. However, I know that these qualities are not the only component of successful leadership...you also have to fight to get work done. Just because Obama inspires *some* Republicans, does not mean that if he gets elected we're all of a sudden going to have peace and happiness across the aisle. It will still take a LOT of hard work, and probably a decent amount of late-night deal-breaking, because that is how Washington currently works. To think that an Obama presidency will *automatically* change all this, JUST by inspiring politicians, seems naive (of course i realize your viewpoint is deeper than that).

Now, to consider the issue we've been discussing: How can Obama incarnate his message further during the presidential race? You say that there's nothing else to be done except him getting into the white house. However, I disagree. Obama is constantly talking about change, yet when he gets attacked in this race, none of his responses ever seem to fully embody this "new style" of politics. Instead he makes a half-hearted attempt to respond in the "old way". Which one is it going to be? If he really believes in this new, paradigm-shifting way of running the country, then WHY doesn't he display more of that in his campaign, beyond the rhetoric? I think this is the point that David Brooks is making in his column. Obama can talk as much as he wants to about how he's going to change the nature of politics in Washington. But it has to be more than just talk if he wants to win. He has to visibly show this change, and what better place to start than in his own political campaign?

If I buy into what you say, and believe that we really are at the junction of a crucial paradigm shift in our country's political process, then it would make sense that the NEW way (Obama in this case) has to decisively put a nail in the coffin of the OLD way (Clinton in this case). Obama has failed to do this yet, which is why Clinton is still alive in this campaign (by all accounts she has rebounded multiple times when everyone expected her to fade out). If you really want the OLD way to die, then your knight in shining armor has to really kill the dragon....he can't just talk about killing it, and he can't expect the dragon to just lay down and die. Judging by the fact that even you are offering advice to Obama, "My advice to Obama is play hard ball, just be truthful. Show us you can be tough and right!", demonstrates that he still has ground to prove, even to his supporters.

Look, I love Obama's oratory style. It makes me feel so good. But feelings can only take you thus far, same with words. In the end, policy has to be drafted into Bills, then debated and voted on by members of congress who all have differing and often opposing interests. I would love to think that inspiration alone could change Washington and cause everyone to magically get along, but that's naive. In the end, it WILL take late-night arm wrangling and deal-brokering to get policy pushed through congress. That's the way it is. Just because a candidate talks about the vision he has for America, does not mean that America will fulfill that vision. If Obama could show me some real evidence in how he's gonna bring about that change (starting with the way his campaign operates in the media), then maybe I would consider supporting him.

Rick said...

I know you, Craig may never read this. However...

I am sorry you felt insulted. I do not think you are a shallow thinker. I do think Brooks has a tendency to offer up conventional wisdom in an intelligent manner. I do not think you are shallow for liking him. I like Maureen Dowd. She can be snarky and insulting. It does not make make me snarky and insulting (wait a minute) .

In his article I saw the same thing I had in many articles that day (and on the Sunday talk shows). it struck me as a "you can do so much better than this" type of article. I stand by that.

I believe it is easy for all of us to find a media narrative and run with it, especially if it is hammered into our subconscious persistently. There are narratives I have chosen to hold onto, sometimes without noticing it. I do not think you should assume this could not happen to you.

Again, I strongly disagree with your assessment of Obama and his style. Hillary Clinton has done nothing more in her legislative career than Obama. She has only SAID she has done more. because she has met more leaders means nothing.

She has chosen to talk about her experience, brokering peace deals (which never happened), getting deals made (which she did not as first lady), etc. I can continue. but, an objective look at her record, shows differently. she is a good senator with decent experience. that is it. on the experience front, she is not in McCain's department. if we wanted real experience, we would have chosen Dodd, Biden or Richardson.

When we look at the way their campaigns are run, we can see how their presidency may work. One has shown leadership. One has created a brilliant system unlike any other in US history. One has created a new style of politics already and motivated huge numbers of people in a new way (read about the organization). The other has had a campaign in disarray and destructive. Just read the accounts from inside and outside.

you say that I am not objective. Are you saying that you are? I feel that is insulting also. I can be as objective as anyone on this race. I am sure you did not mean that you are being objective because you like both candidates while I am blinded by hatred.

I have chosen to speak out against Hillary Clinton not out of hatred. I do not hate Hillary. I hate what she has chosen to do as a candidate. I hate that she has chosen to run a Rovian campaign. I hate that she has run a campaign that shows what type of presidency she will have (if you do not believe this- look at Bush's campaign and presidency).

If I look at campaigns, I vote for Obama. I never vote for Clinton. According to what I have seen there is the distinct possibility that she will have Nixon's paranoia, Bush's closed system and "if you are not with me" attitude and her husband's lack of discipline. I can give hard examples of each. That is a dangerous combo in an unsure future.

Everything I have seen from her gives me pause. She has chosen to attack in such a way that Obama must respond. But, is it possible to respond in such a new way that has never existed? If he responds at all he is attacked for playing "old style politics." So she can be as dirty as she wants and he must always be perfect. That is the point of my posting. We are holding him (yes, I believe you are too) to a standard no presidential candidate can attain.

Clinton is not held to the same standard. Since she is not, she can play by whatever rules she wants (like Rove) and it is okay. It is not okay. How you play the game is important. It is destructive. yes, it is a winning formula sometimes. However, like Bush, she is not winning on her own merits. She is winning by tearing the other person down. She is winning by lying. She is winning by putting herself above the good of her party and country. If I believe that is just the way politics goes and accept it, I am more cynical than I want to be.

yes, I believe that. not because I am fed it. i have believed this for a while. the media has chosen to catch up to me:)

I do not vote for people that do that. Ever.

p.s. you may think i am just spouting opinions that are unfounded and uninformed, based upon subjectivity. but, i know as much about politics as an accountant knows about math. i studied it for years. i am very informed on these things. there is a reason the very seasoned journalists and politicians are going for obama and many dislike what hillary is doing. it is not just blind hatred. we are not all buying into some good speeches. we know how the system can work. we know what it takes to actually make changes. we see it in obama, based upon history... not emotion.

i hope someone reads this. It took too long to write if no one does.