Friday, February 01, 2008

What's Good for One's Endorser is Not Good for One's Opponent

I wrote last night that Barack Obama's attempts to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton by his 2002 opposition to the Iraq War is not and ought not be the factor it once was in contrast to Clinton's votes to support the Iraq policy (in fact, once he took office their Iraq voting records are remarkably similar).

While thoroughly liberal is impressed that Obama's original opposition makes a qualitative difference, there's another piece of reality floating out there now about the different judgment that Obama had of 2004 party nominee, John Kerry:
Here's what Obama said at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in his keynote speech endorsing John Kerry as the Democratic nominee for president:

And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.
When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world

So, which is it Senator Obama? Being deceived by fudged numbers and shaded truth, or bad judgement? He can't have it both ways. Why has he changed his position? Why did he support Kerry and excuse his vote for the war, and attack Clinton for hers?
This contradiction renders Obama's one-time opposition vs. Clinton's vote a distinction without a difference. I believe that most voters, especially independents, do not care who voted for what and why at this point. We have moved on from the knee-jerk anger stage of two or three years ago. If he wants to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton, he should take a page from John Edwards on domestic policy, which might, however, soften the zeal-to-vote.


  1. John Edwards didn't budge in the national polls for over a year...he remained steady, largely getting many of the same supporters he had in 2004.

    Obama has gone from the low 20s to neck and neck with Hillary Clinton. Why Obama should abandon his campaign themes, and take on Edwards' populist campaign, really does defy logic.

    Also, it wasn't just that he opposed the war in Iraq, it was that he accurately predicted most of what would happen after a "successful invasion," namely that we would be stuck in an intractable position and an open-ended occupation.

    Its a question of judgment, perhaps Obama used poor judgment in seeking to defend John Kerry, but Hillary used poor judgment in authorizing a war, pretending as if it wasn't an authorization, while people ranging from Lincoln Chafee, to Robert Byrd, to Al gore, to Russ Feingold, were saying otherwise.

    The issue is important because it speaks to what the candidates will do when faced with tough decisions in the future. To be sure, domestic policies are extremely important too, but foreign policy decision making is an issue.

  2. I would be interested to see how many of those who moved to support Obama would specifically mention his 2002 stance on the war vs. Clinton's vote as the main reason they started supporting Obama.

    I happen to believe that Obama generally surged in the polls because of his inspiring, charismatic speaking style. And his self-comparison with Reagan isn't so far off in that respect. Reagan did all kinds of things (raising taxes, etc) that should have pissed Republicans off but did not. Why? Because he was personally likeable, as is Obama.

    Finally, Obama was helped big time by Bill Clinton's self-centered stupidity before and after South Caroline. The race would not be as close if it weren't for BC, and Al Gore is looking like a genius now for never asking BC to campaign for him in 2000.

    I do believe Obama's pre-Senate stance on Iraq appeals to the the Moveon liberals, but not to the cross-over voters or Republicans that you keep claiming he is pulling in. I haven't seen any evidence that would suggest that they are coming over to him because of Iraq. I think it is all his inspiration and that talk about him being an "international" candidate, along with the historic aspect of this election.

    We didn't even talk about all of the money he has raised or the generally favorable and focused press he gets.

  3. Oh, without a doubt, his personality and ability to come off as authentic is a major reason for his ability to rise in the polls.

    However, ultimately he has to draw distinctions between himself and Hillary besides just speaking style...and his early position on Iraq is a big distinction, and one that goes to the topic of judgment.

    As for his ability to raise money, I don't know that it was all press, because Ron Paul has been able to get more in donations than most of the Republicans, and he had far less press coverage than McCain or Romney.

  4. ability to come off as authentic

    Ostensibly, it looks like he may have teflon qualities like both Bubba and the Gipper had. During the controversy over his house purchase last year he told different media sources contrasting information about what he knew and when he knew it, but the charge of not being entirely forthcoming about it didn't seem to stick.

    I'm not debating the merits of the deal itself. I'm only talking about his back and forth on the issue with the press.

  5. Thanks S-townmike for being objective in this debate. It's scary when people want to vote a person into the highest office in our country because of their "star" appeal. Being President is not a made for TV drama but it seems to be portrayed that way. But I guess that's just politics and the media. I really liked John Edwards and believe if Elizabeth had had her full health it would have made a huge difference.