Saturday, February 10, 2007

IS HE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OR VEEP?

I hope you all were watching MSNBC or CNN today at 10:00 a.m. central time, when Barack Obama officially announced that he’s running for President. It was a nice speech, full of soaring rhetoric, and yet not without a clear sound bite: all troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

The best thing about the speech was that the dude implicitly compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, and he actually pulled it off. Seriously -- he did go from Columbia University, to being a poor community activist in South Chicago, to being the first African American President of the Harvard Law Review, to being a legislator in the same place where Lincoln cut his political teeth, to becoming – unless I’m mistaken – the only African-American U.S. Senator. Pretty compelling story, I’d say.

But we’ve all heard the story before. Many of us have also heard the soaring rhetoric. We knew how smart he is. We knew his gifts as a unifier – at once spiritual and progressive. We knew his potential to make history – to show that, even if American hasn’t completely gone past its racist past, at least it has made a major stride.

We knew all that. And yet, in the polls, Barack still remains well beneath Hillary Clinton.

I support Barack over Hillary not primarily because I think Barack is more electable but rather because I think (a) Barack could actually unify our nation as a President and accomplish some very significant achievements, and (b) Democrats should stop obsessing about “electability” and go instead for the person who they could envision being most effective as President. Hillary has such a cold, divisive personality that I don’t see her getting much done. Moreover, her health care proposal back in the day was so screwed up that I don’t see her making any progress in that area – her ideas would be too easily lampooned by their opponents. In addition, I have trouble trusting any so-called Democrat who was in favor of the Iraq War, refuses to apologize for her vote, and actually supported a bill to ban flag burning. Finally, I have trouble relishing the prospect that two families might control the White House non-stop for a period of literally 28 years. That doesn’t sound like a democracy to me.

But … while I might not think much of the idea of Hillary as President … I won’t for a second underestimate her chances of winning that office. And I really won’t underestimate her chances of winning her party’s nomination. She has bucks coming out of her ears, gobs and gobs of support from power-brokers who either owe her or her husband big time, and last but not least, both tremendous experience and superior intelligence as a politician. She’s also calculating enough that I don’t anticipate her making the huge gaffe that has destroyed many other would-be Presidents on the campaign trail.

Hillary has already started making comparisons to the other candidates. She has touted her own experience relative to that of her competitors. Gee, do you think maybe, just maybe, she was calling attention to Barack Obama and his neophyte status as a national politician?

You need only look at Hillary for five minutes to understand this woman will go for the jugular if she has to. If she’s willing to advance her ambitions by supporting anti-flag burning legislation, she’s probably willing to tear into her opponents if that’s what it takes to get elected. I have to say, as little as I think of her as a potential President, I like the fight in the woman. And I think the American public would like it too. They don’t want divisive politicians, but they really don’t like guys who get swift-boated and don’t know how to fight back. Of course, right now, Hillary doesn’t need to swift-boat anyone. She can just stay put, on top of the political version of Mt. Olympus, take the occasional swipe at her opponents’ lack of experience, and let the bags of money roll in by the tons.

The one who needs to fight is Barack Obama. He’s the challenger. He’s the one behind on points. He’s the one who has never demonstrated to the American public that he has the aggressiveness needed to stare down a belligerent dictator. Heck, he’s never even demonstrated to the nation that, as a politician on the national stage, he has the courage to take an unpopular stance on a controversial issue.

For Barack to be the “Tiger Woods of politics,” he would have to be superior in virtually all aspects of the game. We’ve seen his majestic drives (the equivalent of the soaring speeches), and we’re beginning to see signs of promise in his iron play (the equivalent of putting together specific plans to address hot-button issues). But does he have Tiger’s short game? In other words – if I am permitted the chance to mix a metaphor – what kind of in-fighter is Barack?

Is he willing to explain to the American public not only why he would be a great President but what differentiates him from Hillary? Is he willing to explain that he is a unifier and she is a divider? Is he willing to explain that she can never lead this nation in a war against poverty or global warming – which requires broad support from across the ideological spectrum? Is he willing to explain why we should care that he was an early critic of the Iraq War and she was an unapologetic supporter?

Let me ask the question differently:

Barack, we know that like Hillary, you’re “in it to win it,” but for which office are you really campaigning, President or Veep?

If you aren’t willing to wrestle a bit in the mud, do me a favor and go away for four years. I don’t ever want to see Tiger Woods carrying the bag for Phil Mickelson.

3 comments:

Finding Fair Hope said...

If only there were a political party that sought to stand for something instead of the two we have, to whom getting the high office seems to be the only goal. Republicans like to vote an empty suit and keep the power to themselves, behind the scenes; Democrats will put forth anyone they think can get elected over the Republican opponent. It seems Mrs. Clinton will get her party's nomination, thereby offering the Republican opponent the job of President on a silver platter.

I'm almost afraid to say Obama is my choice, because that seems to be the kiss of death to the candidate. I feel Hillary will win the Democratic nomination, probably because she's the one I'd least like to see get it. but what the hell, I'll say it: Obama is my choice, but for now I'd go with anybody but Hillary. And I disagree that her hardness and ability to go for the jugular are assets; I don't like men like that and I don't like women like that. And I don't think that would make them better Presidents.

As for the Swift-Boat guys, they'll dig up Rose Law firm documents and Whitewater personalities to haunt her. They're working in John McCain's campaign this time.

Grammie said...

Wow....great post!

Daniel Spiro said...

Yes, "anybody but Hillary" sounds like a sound plan.

I certainly didn't want to make "going for the jugular" sound like an asset for a President. But I think it is one for someone who wants to maximize their chances of winning elections.