Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The "So Be It" Barack

Much has been made about the mantle of inevitability of Hillary Clinton's candidacy, if not her Presidency. I tend to agree with this sentiment, and while I have my reservations about Hillary's abilities to lead this country, from a purely political standpoint, I think she's done a fine job of campaigning for the past six years.

The only other candidate, it seems, with the staying power to compete with Hillary as well as the platform that might topples this juggernaut (including Republicans) is Barack Obama.

Now, I like Obama, too, and should the choice come down to these two at the end of the trail, I'd be hard pressed to choose between them.

On one hand, we have the inevitability factor, as well as far more experience than Obama. On the other, we have the certainty of youth and the creativity of an outsider.

Tough choice. Obama is trying to attack Hillary's experience, tho, and I think that's a really dumb mistake:
"He's basically going to lay out a comprehensive case for why his original opposition to the war demonstrates why he has the kind of strength and experience to lead this country," said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Citing aides to Obama, The New York Times reported he will also propose setting a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world, saying the United States should greatly reduce its stockpiles to lower the threat of nuclear terrorism.
If this is the major theme he's going to attack Clinton on, Obama has some questions to answer, not least of which is why his voting record on the war and war funding since he was elected is nearly identical to Clinton's.

For a strident war opponent, one who nags both Clinton and John Edwards constantly about their vote to authorize, the sense I get from his subsequent votes is that he would have fallen in line right alongside everyone else. I suspect I'm not alone in that impression.

We're Democrats, not Republicans. We can read.

But to go on...:
Obama has tried to turn the tables on Clinton in recent days by saying he has the equivalent experience that her husband, Bill Clinton, had when running for the White House in 1992.

"I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for president," Obama said in New Hampshire on Saturday. "He said, 'The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.'

"Well that candidate was Bill Clinton. And I think he was absolutely right," Obama said.
Yea, he said that...as a two-term governor of Arkansas, with experience running a bureaucracy, balancing a budget and being directly responsible for administering a government.

Barack, you've got two election wins under your belt, the bigger one based solely on a terrific speech you gave at the national convention, running against a guy who couldn't have beaten OJ Simpson. That's all. To be comparing yourself to Bill (Greatest. President. Ever) Clinton is a little...cocky, to put it mildly.

A better, and perhaps more valid comparison to make is Hillary with George Bush: a family member of a former President being thrust into contention based almost solely on name recognition, with the opposition party lying in the bushes (er, no pun intended), waiting to pounce.

And then hope no one bothers to read up on her Senate record. They might not, because this line of reasoning at least rings true for people.

Look, people out here want change. Even I'm uncomfortable with the fact that it's highly likely that, for 36 years, we could have either a Bush or Clinton in the White House (going back to Bush the Mature as Reagan's VP). Dynasties are supposed to be missed in a democracy.

Whether we still have one is in question and is the subject of a different post. To the point at hand, experience matters, to be sure, when a country is as unsteady as this one is, but change matters, too.

For Barack Obama to come from behind and win this thing is going to require a ground-up rethinking of his campaign, starting with, from all accounts, his stump speech, which I'm told is about as mechanical as John Kerry without any of the glamourous war stories. He's a more vibrant speaker than his stump speech let's him be. He needs to connect with people.

John Edwards is challenging in the one must-win state for both Obama and Edwards, despite being handicapped in fund raising, because Edwards can touch people. He has some of Bill Clinton's sympatico and common man feel, despite the haircuts and fancy suits.

Too, Obama's tone-deafness in Iowa can't be helping. Iowa is an old state, with a high percentage of over 50 voters. To slough off an AARP debate is practically suicide, even if you believe your staff that the under 30 vote is being wildly undercounted.

When a 50 year old says they're going to vote, they're going to vote. When a 20 year old says it, you'd better damned well hope the St. Louis Rams aren't in the playoffs or it's not finals week.

By all accounts Obama's fund raising strength plus the broad base of small contributors he's built is formidable, but much of that is from people who just hate Hillary and can't take Edwards seriously added to people who genuinely admire Obama and believe he can win.

It also skews very young, which again doesn't bode well for the commitment to Obama they've made.

He has the stuff to survive Iowa and New Hampshire and perhaps to make a game of it in South Carolina, but he has to start running as opposed to just showing up.