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July 13, 2008

Obama's Dilemma

By: Bernard Chazelle

These have been tough weeks for McCain. The only bright spot in his campaign has been Phil Gramm's felicitous quip that Americans are a bunch a whiners. When asked what role Gramm might play in a McCain administration, the Maverick replied: "I think I'll make him US ambassador to Belarus, but I'm not sure the people of Minsk will want him." That was good! Let's see Obama cut out Jesse Jackson's nuts and name the capital of Belarus in the same fucking sentence! Five years in the Hanoi Hilton teaches you those skills. But outside this momentary triumph, it's been pretty bleak for McCain.

And so Obama seized the opportunity by planting his flag right in Center Court, the habitat of that electorally cherished breed known as The-Independent-Voter. A little flip-flop on FISA, a reversal on handguns, a pirouette on the death penalty, a U-turn on campaign financing, and voila, Independents-R-Us.

That was the plan, anyway. The reality is that during his little Mary Lou Retton routine Obama lost 14 points among independents. Oh, dear!

The Obama brand has always been that of a transformative politician. That's how he won the nomination. That he is no such thing is irrelevant. That's his brand. If he now turns around and says "I was just kidding," then people will ask Hillary back . He is stuck with that image. Kerry won the nomination by putting everyone to sleep and he lost the election by putting everyone to sleep. The guy was consistent! Obama can't say now, "I am just Kerry with a cool attitude."

But Obama's problem is that, like Kerry, he has no program attached to his name. Nothing. Clinton had welfare reform. Obama has nothing. He arrived at health care only after everyone else did.

Here's my advice to Obama. It's going to be either/or. Either you adopt a cause. Anything. Say, building an underground tunnel to China that goes through the center of the earth. Then stick to it and explain why it will solve every problem in America. Or say nothing. Don't reverse any of your stands (such as they are). Just smile beatifically and answer every simple question with "it's all about change and hope." If the question is more complex, like say "Should subprime lending affect leveraged Forex positions in non-dollar-denominated durable goods?" then answer: "Americans want change in their pockets and in their hearts: It is time to change hope for change into change for hope so that hoping change will change how hope for change changes change."

That's it. It worked for Reagan. It'll work for you. Just remember: vacuous people are not allowed to change their positions.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at July 13, 2008 05:55 PM

VOTE DIGBY FOR PRESIDENT---VOTE THE INTERNET. One thing about digby--ain't no vacuum between them ears.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 13, 2008 10:39 PM

Wow. Bitter much? When you say "Clinton had welfare reform" are you talking about Bill Clinton? Surely you're not crediting Senator Clinton with the (centrist, mixed blessing) achievements of President Clinton, are you? I think Newt Gingrich gets more credit for welfare reform than Hillary Clinton.

When you say Obama is not a transformative politician, I think you mean he's not as consistently Liberal as you (or I, or most activist Democrats) would like. Has he made some non-progressive decisions lately? Yes. Raising money from high-dollar fundraisers? Check. Still more Liberal than Clinton or Kerry or Gore or Dukakis when they ran? So far, yes.

Do you really want Hillary back? You really want the forced smile and the wooden delivery that makes McCain look human? I know, I know, she had some energy at the end, when she was lampooning Obama - way to fire up the troops with cynicism.

Comparing to Reagan is rough, really. I mean, the guy taught constitutional law. The fact that he's charismatic and appealing doesn't make him a B-movie-actor-turned-politician.

But, you know, keep on truckin. There's plenty of time to lose this one too.

Posted by: dcs at July 14, 2008 12:22 AM


1. right, Bill Clinton.
2. No, I don't want Hillary back. (I voted against her in the primaries.)
3. Reagan was a transformative politician: he fucked up the country beyond repair. That's transformation.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 14, 2008 12:44 AM

dcs:the forced smile and the wooden delivery
A tad surface-oriented there.
Maybe there's a root cause for that sometimes insane-looking mega-tense thing HRC kept doing. A root cause that would frighten you like it did her.
Maybe there's a reason Obama's all about being all about nothing much at all.
Maybe not many volken want to look beneath the surface too far. Might get pretty scary down there.
If somebody took over the country in 2000 and cemented that takeover in 04 and locked it up for good in 06, it wasn't GWB for sure, not even Cheney. You know that.
Think they're still there whoever they are? Expending less energy but maintaining position as fiercely and ruthlessly as they achieved it.
Think they'll go away due to November's election results?
Back to 06.
As the surface orientation indicates these people are sock puppets competing for a hand. We're electing someone else's avatars.
Me I want my heart returned to my pocket toute de suite, along with some finer coinage, chang chang chang chang.

Posted by: Roy Belmont at July 14, 2008 06:40 PM

Please, dcs. Obama's policy positions are and were nigh-identical to Clinton's. Your concern for personal apperance is, frankly, silly. Obama is, and always was, an establishment Dem. And complaining about bitterness is a right-wing meme (lifted, in part, as a response to minorities when they point out a problem caused by a majority). Yours was a fact-free response to a legitimate criticism, but thanks for playing.

And, by the way, it is taking to the center that causes Dems to lose. The last time a Dem Pres. candidate tacked to the left (and lied about it, planning on employing a conservative regime in office) was Bill Clinton. I recall him winning. . . then losing Congress and crushing his own party with right-wing policies once in office.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at July 14, 2008 10:51 PM

explain why it will solve every problem in America
And people keep telling me how great democracy is.

Posted by: TGGP at July 15, 2008 01:02 AM