Monday, March 10, 2008

Debunked! Obama spanks the Clinton Kids again

That magnificent clip circulating in which Obama punctures the Clintons doublespeak that he is "unready to be commander in chief/a dream candidate for vice president" left off the best part, the finale:
I am not running for Vice President. I do not believe Senator Clinton is about change because in fact this kind of gamesmanship, talking about me as Vice President, but he maybe he’s not ready for Commander in Chief. That is exactly the kind of double speak, double talk that Washington is very good at. That people who spend a lot of time in Washington have a lot of experience at, but is not gonna solve the problems of the country.
Here Obama builds on the retaliatory strategy he used to shut the Clintons up the last time they got down-and-dirty, in the run-up to the South Carolina primary. Back then, he argued that when the Clintons distort the truth with Rovian attacks, they undercut voter trust and so cannot build the "working majority" that Bill failed to build during his presidency. Here's how he framed the Clintons' truthiness problems in the January 22 CNN debate:
Now, this, I think, is one of the things that's happened during the course of this campaign, that there's a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton, as well as her husband, that are not factually accurate. And I think that part of what the people are looking for right now is somebody who's going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we've seen in Washington...the larger reason that I think this debate is important is because we do have to trust our leaders and what they say. That is important, because if we can't, then we're not going to be able to mobilize the American people behind bringing about changes in health care reform, bringing about changes in how we're going to put people back to work, changing our trade laws. And consistency matters. Truthfulness during campaigns makes a difference.
That approach won Obama 5-6 weeks attack-free weeks, during which he became the frontrunner.

Obama's back to saying that the Clintons are part of the problem, and their attacks are Exhibit A. But now the diagnosis has a new layer of depth and authority. He's not just saying that the Clintons distort. He's saying (with weary there-they-go-again humor) that they play mind games:
See I was trying to explain to somebody a while back, the okidoke. You all know the okidoke. When somebody is trying to bamboozle you, when they are trying to hoodwink you.
And most damningly of all, he ties the Clinton mode of political attack to Hillary's policymaking:
And I believe that I have shown better judgment than Senator Clinton. I believe I offer a clean break from the policies of George Bush. Because Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on the war in Iraq. Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on her willingness to try to saber rattle when it came to Iran. She has gone along with many of the conventional ways of thinking about foreign policy that have gotten us into trouble. That is what I intend to change when I am President of the United States.
"Conventional ways of thinking" are of a piece with conventional ways of campaigning. Broken politics, which relies on distortion and deception, leads to broken policy. Political style shapes judgment. When you'll "say anything to get elected," as Obama in his fiercest attack mode so far has accused Clinton, you will also take positions calculated to benefit you politically.

Obama has stopped short of saying about Hillary what John McCain never tired of saying about Bill, that " the President, in his poll driven approach to his every responsibility, fails to distinguish the office he holds from himself" (Floor Statement on Kosovo Resolution, May 1999). But that's the subtext here. The Clintons are using "the kind of double speak, double talk that Washington is very good at." And Hillary has "gone along with many of the conventional ways of thinking about foreign policy that have gotten us into trouble."

A few days ago (March 7), at Obama's darkest moment in the campaign so far, David Brooks spoke for many when he set up what I regard as a false choice for Obama: get down in the dirt with Clinton, or fold up like Kerry before the swiftboat attacks. He characterized the Obama campaign as thinking they could square a circle: "they can go on the attack, but in the right way. They can be tough and keep their virginity, too."

I wrote in response: "'Virginity' is a snidely charged way of casting what he stands to lose. I believe that he will highlight Clinton's weaknesses without losing his integrity. " Three days later, he's already done it.

Related posts:
Changing "The Rules" on Clinton
Audacity of Respect: What Obama Owes to Reagan II
Truth and Transformation
Obama: Man, those Klinton Kids are Something
The Lying Clinton Meme

1 comment:

  1. There's also the double-speak regarding how they demanded the resignation of Samantha "Clinton is a monster" Power, yet didn't do anything about Geraldine "he's only here because he's black" Ferraro. Both made comments belittling and insulting their rivals. One had to go, but the other was okay to stay.

    It's funny how CNN, MSNBC, etc. talked about the red phone ad and Clinton's McCain-is-ready comments ad nauseum, but they give little play to things like this. Then they have entire conversations framed as "Is Obama ready to be commander-in-chief?"

    I'm not saying that they're biased in favor of the Clintons, but rather that they like to stir things up rather than clarify and probe. At least that's my take on things.

    Oh, and maybe they're a little scared of being accused of bias at this point.