Saturday, March 08, 2008

Obama's response to Clinton's attacks

Although he's now racked up another huge caucus win (in the nation's least populous state), it's been a bad couple of weeks for Barack Obama. The Clinton campaign, coming off slim wins in Ohio and Texas that they have succeeded in spinning as significant comebacks, has drawn Obama into a series of mini media frenzies. Obama's responses to attacks about his connection to the developer Tony Rezko, and the off-record comments of one of his advisers, were inept. Although pundits are egging Obama to respond in kind to Clinton's increasing negativity, if he does it will detract from his main message that he can bring a new politics to Washington, DC. Obama needs to stay above these sorts of manufactured controversies.

He can respond to them by being honest about what they are: silly non-issues designed to churn up a few media cycles and distract people from the larger issues in the campaign. And, of course, the big issue of the primary contest math: There is virtually no way Clinton can catch up in delegates. By continuing to contest the nomination through negative tactics (such as suggesting that only she and McCain have crossed the "commander-in-chief threshold") she is showing that she prefers a weaker Democratic party to a stronger party without Clinton leading it.

Obama's promise is that he can help restore to our politics the dignity and grand purpose that have drained away during the twenty years of petty squabbling under the Bushes and Clintons. He should stick with that message, which has already carried him to the primary lead, and not let the Clinton campaign drag him--and the rest of us--back down into the bickering over inconsequential issues that has dominated politics for so long.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How Hillary Clinton could win my vote

It's not with silly attacks on Obama, like the 'red phone' ad she's currently airing. (Obama's response to that was spot on, by the way.) And it may be too late for her to make any convincing argument at all at this point, but here is what I see as her main advantage over Obama, and how she could have capitalized on it.

She could say something like: "Obama talks a lot about wanting to restore bipartisanship in Washington DC. That's great, but what I want to do is get some good legislation passed--whether the Republicans like it or not. The Democratic party has been pushed around by the Republicans for a long time. When I'm president, the Democrats are going to do some pushing back! Like Obama, I'll extend my hand across the aisle to work with the opposition. But we're likely going to have Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2009, and if the Republicans aren't willing to work with us, we'll work without them. I'm not going to bend over backwards to work with them, just so I can say I've 'changed how Washington works.' As you know, my family has been on the receiving end of some of the worst the Republicans can dish out. We survived. In 2009, if they are still determined to pander to the right-wing extremists of their party, we--the Democratic majorities in Congress and me in the White House--will show them (and Senator Obama) that Washington DC can work just fine, as long as there is the will and discipline in Congress, and a strong, determined leader in the White House."

[updated to spell Hillary's name correctly in the title, and a couple other minor edits.]