Sunday, June 01, 2008

Obama the negotiator

When asked about his lack of executive experience, Obama often says, "look at my campaign" -- which combined unmatched analysis of the delegate map with equally impressive execution when it came to getting out the targeted vote/caucus. Others have countered that historically, running a brilliant campaign does not correlate particularly well with governing effectively.

This campaign is unprecedented, however -- in length, in candidate exposure, and in the relative strength of the opposition that Obama first overtook and then held in check. And while the campaign's vote-targeting tactical brilliance is not in itself sufficient to predict effective use of executive power in office, a more fundamental aspect of Obama's performance in this most gladitorial of nomination fights bodes very well for the way he's likely to govern.

What we've seen is the way Obama handles aggressive opposition. Now, in the credentials fight, we've had a good look at his negotiating style. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Obama had the votes to force an even split in the halved Michigan delegate delegate count. Instead, he instructed his supporters to allow a split that gave Hillary a proportion reflecting most of her "victory" margin against unnamed opposition. Obama also authorized a means of splitting the Florida halved delegation that cost him an extra handful of delegates.

Obama gave up something he could afford to lose.: a total of 19 delegates in Florida and 10 in Michigan, which won't slow his march to the nomination. That gave him a strong majority for halving both delegations. How many negotiators willingly leave something on the table? By doing so, Obama may have closed out the match. He undercut the basis for any Clinton challenge and exposed, to the point of absurdity, the self-serving sophism of the Clinton campaign's continuing crocodile tears over allegedly disenfranchised voters. Set off against Obama's magnanimity, Harold Ickes and Tina Flournoy's continuing carping looks simply unhinged:
We strongly object to the Committee’s decision to undercut its own rules in seating Michigan’s delegates without reflecting the votes of the people of Michigan.

The Committee awarded to Senator Obama not only the delegates won by Uncommitted, but four of the delegates won by Senator Clinton. This decision violates the bedrock principles of our democracy and our Party.

We reserve the right to challenge this decision before the Credentials Committee and appeal for a fair allocation of Michigan’s delegates that actually reflect the votes as they were cast.
Obama allows Clinton a victory margin in a vote that wasn't supposed to count, in which no other name appeared on the ballot, and which can never be reconstituted to reflect the will of the Michigan voters as an untainted contest would. And the Clinton camp begrudges Obama the remainder, proposing an allocation 73 delegates to Clinton, 55 remaining uncommitted. The Obama camp initially proposed a 64-64 allocation but then supported a compromise that basically split the difference, giving Clinton a 69-59 margin. Obama's people held out against the the 73-55 split because acquiescing would have entailed keeping the 55 uncommitted. Yes, there's illogic in the way the votes were allotted. But to count Clinton's votes with no counterbalance is the sound of one hand clapping.

The same soft-touch mastery is clear in Obama's decision to actively discourage his supporters from demonstrating outside the RBC meeting, leaving the unleashed Clinton partisans to make an hysterical spectacle of themselves. earlier, in wildly overcharged rhetoric Hillary had equated failing to seat the full Florida delegation with cutting off the Florida recount in the 200o election. Yesterday, her supporters, with their cries of Denver Denver, and McCain in November, evoked the Bush camp's goon squad deployed to intimidate the election officials executing the recount in Florida's contested counties.

Those who fret that Obama lacks a "killer instinct" take note: he has beaten the Clinton machine. He is diminishing the authority and credibility of her continued opposition every day. And he's doing it in a way openly calculated to bring all but the most intransigent Clintonites back into the Democratic fold.

Somehow I get the feeling that he'll handle multi-directional opposition to the health plan he unveils with rather more nuance than Hillary mustered in '93. And I'm comfortable with him going eye-to-eye with whatever world leaders, rogue or otherwise, he determines it makes sense to meet.


  1. Barack is just great, he's generous, I can't even imagine the opposite situation. If Hillary was ahead and he was behind, she would have never done what he did. from the very beginning, she clearly said that MI and FL wouldn't count because they had moved their primary dates, she even repeated it in New Hampshire, when she lost the Super Tuesday and understood that the nomination was slipping away from her, she started to change the rules to make these votes count. How can we trust a woman who changes the rules of the games when they aren't in her favor and just count what favors her ? How can we trust this woman ? when she wins everything is ok, when she's behind everyone else is wrong and she changes everything in her favor, that's explicit of the dishonest and despicable woman she is. I can't even imagine what they would have done or said or thrown at Barack if the situation was reverse, Clinton's the most dishonest woman seen in our recent political history, her behavior is really it's shameful.

    Glad she's away now, let's move on and fight the real fight agaisnt McBush...

  2. This is not the news they are reporting. The media is focused on the negative things only. They are reporting as if Obama took 4 votes from Michigan and ignoring that he gave 19 to Florida in the interest of party unity.
    All media seems to forget that Florida and Michigan broke the rules. Senator Obama could have demanded a 50/50 split but instead he went along with committee's recomendations.

  3. Good post!
    I think Senator Obama's soft-touch is also visible in his policies - witness the lack of a mandate in his health care plan, which should take the sting out of any GOP attacks on Big Brother-style universal health care. So he may well be a new kind of Democrat... a winning Democrat ;-)

    I have also compiled a list of links on the fight over health care, FYI: