Barack Obama is seen by some as the savior of US politics. Literally, the bi-racial/former constitutional law professor/community organizer/best selling author/US senator is raking in the cash. Did I mention he’s black? Bi-racial to be more accurate. Literally, I’ve just listed Barack Obama’s formal qualifications to be the President of the United States.
Call me a cynic, but I want to see more substance in a presidential candidate. However, this post isn’t about my personal views on Barack Obama. Rather, it’s about an interesting article on a great source for political opinion, realclearpolitics.com . The author Blake Dvorak, explains that
It might not seem possible for a candidate to appeal to both the far left and moderate independents at the same time, but Obama is uniquely positioned to do just this. With the far left, Obama has the distinct advantage of having been against the Iraq war from the beginning. But while Iraq remains the single most important issue with the far left, it also believes Obama is at heart a true liberal. The left will tolerate a certain amount of politicking; what it won’t tolerate is a candidate who might betray its core principles once in office, as it feels Bill Clinton did all too often and as Hillary did in 2002 with her war vote.
On the other side of the “Anyone But Hillary” coin are the moderate independents who are drawn to Obama’s innate political gifts and his call for a new kind of politics. When they see Obama, they don’t see, as the left does, a true believer; they see a break with the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynastic succession. Obama hasn’t come out and said it, at least not yet, but the underlying message of his “vote for change” themed campaign is whether average, non-ideological Americans really want even four more years of a cycle that began in 1989.
Thus, Obama’s campaign has an interesting dynamic of appealing to two distinct voting blocks: independents/Reagan Democrats, and those on the far left. On issue after issue, many moderates would be alienated at Obama’s voting record and public stances, yet on style, he wins them over. So, Obama has to stylistically appeal to independents through lofty rhetoric about how there’s no white or black or red or blue America (maybe purple), or about talking through partisanship and etc… while at the same time, forcefully call for a withdrawal from Iraq and using Iraq to separate Hillary Clinton from the Democratic base.
The problem lies therefore in his attempts to attack Hillary Clinton. If he attacks her, he risks ruining his golden boy image and his reputation for bipartisanship/consensus builder. If he doesn’t attack her, then it’s a lot harder for him to raise his poll numbers.
However, Obama’s campaign is unusually well run and well strategized for a candidate with limited experience and roots in the DC beltway. In the recent Youtube/CNN debate, Obama, proclaimed that if president, he wouldn’t shy from meeting leaders of rogue nations (Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Mahmound Ahmadinejad in Iran, Kim Jon-Il in North Korea, Peter Griffin of Petoria etc). Hillary, like a shark smelling blood in the water, pounced on his statement calling it “irresponsible and frankly naive“. Instead of retreating from his assertion and trying to erase the differences in his foreign policy views from that of Hillary, Obama uses the opportunity to create alot of buzz about the substantive disagreement he has w/ Hillary. The Washington Post explains that
Clinton advisers quickly cast Obama’s answer as a rookie mistake, and in an interview with the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, Clinton referred to Obama as “irresponsible and, frankly, naive.”
But Clinton’s direct criticism of Obama gave him an opening to shift the focus to their differences on Iraq. He called the newspaper and said what was “irresponsible and naive” was Clinton’s 2002 vote for the resolution authorizing the Iraq war, a pointed reminder that he opposed the war from the start.
Clinton advisers believed the episode would end there. They thought they had scored at least a tactical victory that demonstrated not only Clinton’s foreign policy experience but also the campaign’s effectiveness at leaping on what was viewed as an opponent’s mistake.
Instead, the issue continued to spiral, thanks in large part to Obama’s decision to keep it going. Yesterday morning, during a conference call in which he received the endorsement of Rep. Paul W. Hodes (D-N.H.), Obama pressed the argument that his approach to dealing with hostile governments represents real change.
“Nobody expects that you would suddenly just sit down with them for coffee without having done the appropriate groundwork,” he said. “But the question was: Would you meet them without preconditions? And part of the Bush doctrine has been to say no.”
Thus, the trick for Barack Obama is to seize upon substantive policy disagreements w/ Hillary Clinton that don’t alientate independents. So in the coming months, expect for Obama/Hillary to dispute a number of issues ranging from the deal to help India’s nuclear ambitions to global warming. This serves two purposes for Obama,
1) it boosts his foreign policy credentials by articulating a foreign policy vision that is distinct from the Bush Doctrine (which he says a Hillary presidency would continue) so that he can assuage the doubts of the far left over his relative inexperience.
2) denigrates Hillary’s “experience” advantage by portraying her views as a continuation of the Bush Doctrine. After all, she did vote for the war in Iraq, and that is the biggest advantage Obama has.