The Problem With Obama

The Problem With Obama is the discussion of the day. I especially liked Stoller's and Bowers' discussion. Stoller quoted an earlier piece:

Obama is scared.  He hasn't had to make choices for a long time . . . We haven't yet seen what a Barack Obama would fight for in a public debate, and it's something I'd like to see. . . .

Fighting. Obama is not a fighter. That is the problem. In July 2006, I wrote:

How did FDR do it and can Democrats defend FDR liberalism today? Maybe not by calling it FDR liberalism but they surely can and do when they have the courage of their convictions. The most prominent of these instances was the fight to save Social Security Faced with Media hostility, Republican demagogy and flat out lies, Democrats rallied to the FDR liberalism banner and crushed the Republican attempts to roll back the clock. FDR would have been proud of Democrats in that fight. No triangulation. Good old fashioned political populism won the day.

And that is FDR's lesson for Obama. Politics is not a battle for the middle. It is a battle for defining the terms of the political debate. It is a battle to be able to say what is the middle.

Obama refuses to fight for Democratic and progressive values. He holds them of course. But he does not fight for them. He believes in finding “common ground” and, in the process, simply does not fight. He does not work to persuade the persuadable. As a politician fighting for issues, he fails (while perhaps succeeding in burnishing his own image.) If you are committed to Obama, you can be pleased with his political style. If you are committed to Democratic and progressive values, I think you can not be satisfied. More. 

In essence, Obama is a politician who has taken high Broderism to heart. A progessive no doubt, but one who believes that progressive goals can be achieved through bipartisan consensus with today's Republican Party. This is consistent with his political style and it is, in my view, an absurd notion. In an earlier post, I wrote:

Unlike Barack Obama who is still searching for “common ground” with extremist Republicans and foregoing the partisan fight for the Party he belongs to, Bill Clinton has realized that his Third Way approach does not work in this climate:

Clinton — who regards Rove with a mixture of admiration and disdain as the most effective modern practitioner of polarizing politics — said in an interview that he has become fixated on the problem of how Democrats can learn to fight more effectively against the kind of attack President Bush's top political aide leveled. Associates of the former president said he thinks that Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) in 2004 lost the presidency because they could not effectively respond to a modern media culture that places new emphasis on politicians' personalities and provides new incentives for personal attack.

While the Foley and Allen episodes burned Republicans, Clinton said in an interview earlier this year that he thinks the proliferation of media outlets, as well as the breakdown of old restraints in both media and politics, on balance has favored Republicans. Without mentioning Gore or Kerry by name, he complained that many Democrats have allowed themselves to become unnerved and even paralyzed in response.

“All of this is a head game, you know. . . . All great contests are head games,” Clinton said. “Our candidates have to get to a point where they don't allow other people to define them as either people or as political leaders. Our people have got to be more psychologically prepared for it, and there has to be more distance between them and these withering attacks.”

Associates said he regards this as his most important advice to his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), if she runs for president in 2008.

On the other hand, Barack Obama is living in a different reality:

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that – regardless of our personal beliefs – constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, some liberals dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word “Christian” describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

Obama the political consultant. What Dems should do is what Obama has been about. Not about electing Democrats. Predictably, Broder and Klein love him.

Me, I'll take Bill Clinton every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

This is what is wrong with Barack Obama. He is running the wrong campaign with the wrong political style for the time we live in. And it is a great shame, for he has the political talent to be the answer for our time. He has decided not to be.


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  1. that he is running a great campaign…..if this was 2004.

    If he and his people can’t see that Hil has the middle sewn up and that there is a HUGE opportunity for an OPPOS(E)ition candidate, not only does he not deserve the presidency but the will fall behind Edwards as things start to heat up.

    This a VERY badly run campaign. Unless he is running to be Hil’s VP. But I also don’t see that happening, to mollify the center Hil will need a White Male on her ticket.

    • Pluto on October 30, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    …is being true to himself.

    He had his electrifying moment at the 2004 convention. He was above the fray. A visionary. An intellectual. A philosopher.

    Such a man is NOT a man for America. America has been assassinating men like Obama since 1963. (Unlike other candidates, has been surrounded by the Secret Service from the beginning for that reason.)

    Obama is too good for America.

    I like Gravel 😉

  2. with what is classified as the opposing party…..they removed themselves from the playing field of real life six years ago and tried to build a new field in the clouds.  Until they return to the earthly field any candidate that we would need to nominate right now will continue to make it known that the base of the existing power structure starts in the clouds….not on earth and I think people are going to vote for the earth bound candidates and their earthly ideas this go around.  Obama can’t find common ground at this time in any respectable way.  Living in hell and being told repeatedly it’s heaven just hasn’t worked out so well for anyone attempting to retire, is gay, is female, taxpayers, the military, the elderly and ill, and anyone attempting to raise children and have reliable decent health care all at once….nobody who really needs common ground wants to find it in this area…we all want to leave this area!  Earth calling Obama, come in Obama.

    • MO Blue on October 30, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    the answer for our time. He seems to have an image of himself as above the fray and he evidently likes that image.

    Personally, I’ve never really understood what all the hype on Obama was all about. As far as I can see, he is great at giving prepared speeches and prior to the war he came out against it.

    Decisive action gets the job done and not pretty speeches. Also, once he was elected to Congress, he never by his words or actions came out strongly to end the occupation of Iraq prior to being pressured into doing so once he became a presidential candidate. He was the media darling right after he was elected. Don’t remember him using his media time to aggressively promote ending the occupation of Iraq back then. He had several chances prior to deciding to become a presidential candidate to vote against funding the occupation. He chose to continue to fund it. He chose in 06 to campaign for one of the strongest war hawks, Lieberman and chose not to campaign for the end the occupation candidate, Lamont.

    Maybe, people took two instances and blew them into the candidate that the wished for rather than view Obama as he really is.

  3. of supporting him. I did not like it when prior to his ‘running’ he came to Dkos an two occasions the first was his lecture on how corporations were groovy and we shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds yak yak

    The second was a harbinger of this friggen mess. A lecture on faith based values. Since I consider these two issues to be the coalition from hell that has for decades caused our downfall, it puzzled me why everybody considered him a progressive.

    In his favor he perked me up when he challenged Hillary about her foreign policy views. What others seem to feel are gaffes I liked. Seems to me that the consultants, machines donors and all the ‘kings men’ that make up the campaigns, do not serve any of us let alone those they market. All candidates are sold to the lowest common denominator.

    Running a candidate who instead of trying to tack to the rights coalitions runs as a true agent of change, you know a Democrat, seems to me a no brainer. However I guess the price to run as a Democrat, is no access to the game show mentality and the hucksters . When did our democracy become a vote by poll. I’m a hard core stop Hillary kind of voter and I freakin feel like Sisyphus at this point. not to mention the damge done to my pocket book flinging money at anyone who shows a spark  of addressing our real issues. 

  4. We need a fighter to oppose the evil of the last 6 – or as Armando says – 12 years of greedy, self-serving, inflated, biggoted, corrupt, torture & war-loving, STUPID (I could go on and on) republicans.

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