Patterico's Pontifications

1/27/2008

Thoughts on Obama’s Political Skill

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 10:42 am



[Guest post by DRJ]

It’s hard to evaluate whether Barack Obama has the political skill to take on the Clinton machine but this recent 1-2-3 political punch suggests he might:

* First, he won the South Carolina primary in a decisive manner that pulled in a noticeable amount of non-black votes.

* Second, following immediately after the SC win that was questioned as a racially divided vote, Caroline Kennedy endorsed Obama in today’s New York Times in an op-ed entitled “A President Like My Father.”

* Third, this ABC report states Ted Kennedy will also endorse Obama.

Obama’s spin on the campaign tactics used against him by the Clintons is also impressive:

“In response to Bill Clinton’s comments comparing Obama’s South Carolina win to those of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, Obama suggested Bill Clinton’s “frame of reference” and racial politics may be outdated.

“His frame of reference was the Jesse Jackson races. That’s when, you know, he was active and involved and watching what was going to take place in South Carolina. I think that a lot of South Carolinians looked at it through a different lens. . . As long as we were focused on those issues, we thought those would transcend the sort of racial divisions that we’ve seen in the past,” he said.

The 55 percent won by Obama in South Carolina was more than double the 27 percent of the vote that went to Clinton, with Edwards coming in third at 18 percent.

But Obama did clarify, however, that he did not think Clinton’s comments this week were intended to negatively harm his campaign.

“I don’t think they were trying to demonize me, but I do think that there is a certain brand of politics that we’ve become accustomed to, and that the Republican Party had perfected and was often directed against the Clintons, but that all of us had become complicit in, where we basically think anything is fair game,” he said.

He also reiterated that the “slash-and-burn politics” that exists in Washington today “is not the Clintons’ fault. It is all of our faults, in the sense that we’ve gotten into these bad habits and we can’t seem to have disagreements without being disagreeable. So part of what I think we have to do is to set a new tone in politics. Not a naive one.”

Obama has a lawyer-like ability to take words and ideas and turn them in a different direction. In that sense, he’s like the Clintons but (I think) better at it.

Hmm. Maybe Harvard Law should be #1 instead of YLS.

— DRJ

47 Responses to “Thoughts on Obama’s Political Skill”

  1. Hillary’s campaign methods have been like the political expediency directing all her decisions.

    I believe I have given her the benefit of the doubt far too long. I am not certain about Obama. Even if elected, it would most certainly be by a very narrow margin. His political theme of ‘healing’
    would have been enough to weather the ’80s and even the 90’s.

    But the poisonous political atmosphere which currently exists means, I think, this is not time for a black president. I still support Edwards.

    Semanticleo (aee349)

  2. Obama is not just skilled with words. He backs up his words with substantive proposals on how to move beyond our divisions. And yes, I imagine his training at Harvard Law School prepared him in a lot of ways for the gutter tactics of the Clintons and nother political canditates who will resort to any sort of low-mindedness in order to win an election. I’m grateful that in Obama’s SC victory speech, he so aptly explained why our decisions must move beyond knee-jerk political, class, and social identifications.

    More Credit Please (9e4728)

  3. “It’s all our faults”. I wonder if he *knows* he’s echoing Vaclav Havel?

    aphrael (db0b5a)

  4. I think they are impressive. He is running almost as if he is already in the general election – giving the Dems an idea of what an Obama candidacy would be like so to speak. Hillary is running like a traditional pol and it shows.

    My opinion but in comparison to Bill Clinton, Obama really comes off as the real deal in terms of idealist or visionary. Bill always struck me as a particularly good schmoozer and very few of supporters thought he was a visionary.

    I think the Kennedy endorsements are huge. Ironic that the “Hollywood Dems” that the Clintons were so enamored of may turn out to be their nemisis.

    voiceofreason2 (4419cf)

  5. If Obama is in such a hurry to move beyond knee-jerk political, class, and social identifications, why did he oppose the nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

    ROA (8d9fdd)

  6. The media is in love with him. That’s his “political skill”. They accept his generalizations and platitudes with the devotion of a teenager accepting the sweet nothings whispered in her ear. They sell us the sizzle without pointing out that there’s no steak.

    nk (eeb240)

  7. He backs up his words with substantive proposals on how to move beyond our divisions.

    I’d sure like to hear some of those. Thus far, I haven’t.

    Pablo (99243e)

  8. God knows I’d vote for Obama over Clinton, but his bitching about the use of racial politics strikes me as terribly hypocritical. I didn’t see him shy away from Oprah when she talked about how Obama being elected would make real MLK’s dream. So if Obama’s name is spoken in context with a great leader like MLK, it’s cool…but when he’s compared to a loser like Jesse Jackson, that’s racist? As Bubba said himself, “Give me a break”

    Mike (8e0e3b)

  9. Semanticleo says:

    But the poisonous political atmosphere which currently exists means, I think, this is not time for a black president.

    Semanticleo, I don’t understand this comment of yours.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  10. South Carolina had no Democratic Presidential Primary in either 1984 Nor 1988.

    Clinton’s statement has caused most people to believe that Jesse Jackson won presidential primaries in South Carolina in those years. Actually there were no Democratic presidential primaries in South Carolina in either of those years. Jackson’s success in that state was in caucuses (Jackson was born in South Carolina).

    Andy B (caa920)

  11. Pablo: his campaign website contains loads of proposals and ideas for programs. How substantial they are I leave to you to decide for yourself.
    My current interest in him is confined to the fact that he is the Not-Clinton.
    Patterico: Semanticleo’s agenda demands that Obama not become president. Because that would prove that blacks can’t get a fair break, don’t you know? Whereas if he became president, a whole lot of the claims that whites routinely oppress blacks (because they’re whites, don’t you know?) would be exposed as the pile of expletive deleted it is.

    kishnevi (6998fe)

  12. I’m also favorably impressed with Obama. He appears lightly left of the center of the Democratic party and I’m therefore in disagreement with many of his policies, but he seems to be much better either at actual sincerity or faking sincerity than Hillary.

    I don’t think Obama would be a bad president.

    Many of his policies lack hard-ground specifics, but then the only rational guy with lots of specificity in his platform was Fred, and we know where that got him. Detailed specifics tend to undermine candidates as the opposition picks at nits, so they don’t do it all that often.

    Hillary’s got the ad budget in my area of California, though. I’ve seen a dozen Hillary ads and no Obama ads. I am absolutely convinced that an Obama presidency would be better than a Hillary presidency for a whole lot of reasons.

    –JRM

    JRM (355c21)

  13. Over on HuffPo and other liberal sites, there seems to be a lot of anger at Bill Clinton’s recent antics, agreeing with Peggy Noonan’s recent comment that “[h]is divisive and destructive daily comportment—this is a former president of the United States—is a civic embarrassment.” I certainly see his recent behavior, in fact most of his involvement in his wife’s campaign, as “un-presidential.” I’m starting to think that Bill may have sunk his wife’s campaign.

    JayHub (0a6237)

  14. fwiw, this Canadian thinks that the media are going soft on Obama. So too are the R’s, at this pt, partly cuz they’re busy, and partly cuz they know that his policies and associates will handicap him later in a general election and they don’t want it to be old news come November..

    Obama’s presentation skills are excellent, but they may not be enough.

    ras (fc54bb)

  15. Superficially, I prefer Obama to Clinton for many of the aforementioned reasons. But, while it is easy to delve deeper into Clinton’s real motives and try to predict what she would do as president, it is not so easy with Obama. His gleaming shell is far more polished than hers and seemingly impenetrable. I don’t think we really know the guy. For instance, I researched his background and come up a Chicago Democrat with some potential baggage who has attended what could well be a radical church for many years (Obama’s minister presented a lifetime achievement award to Louis Farrakan…). That does not sync with the Obama presented to us. That worries me. He could be the real deal or he could be one of the most calculating politicians we’ve ever encountered. He’s too left for me at best, but those considering voting for him should do more than read his book and accept the glossy images presented of him.

    Having said all that, I rather have a beer with him than Clinton (either one).

    Dr. Deano (3d6c14)

  16. I’m also favorably impressed with Obama. He appears lightly left of the center of the Democratic party and I’m therefore in disagreement with many of his policies, but he seems to be much better either at actual sincerity or faking sincerity than Hillary.

    Lightly left of the center? Are you kidding? What kind of funny cigarettes are you smoking? This is a guy who was at the front of the “retreat and defeat” line, who opposed our remarkably successful surge in Iraq, who openly proposed invading Pakistan, and who has never met a tax increase he didn’t like.

    I don’t think Obama would be a bad president.

    That’s the problem: everything we know about Obama indicates he wouldn’t be a good president either.

    Many of his policies lack hard-ground specifics, but then the only rational guy with lots of specificity in his platform was Fred, and we know where that got him. Detailed specifics tend to undermine candidates as the opposition picks at nits, so they don’t do it all that often.

    Ummm, that’s nice. However, Obama had better start coming up with specifics for his sake; otherwise, the Republican challenger (probably Romney) will verbally abuse him and take his lunch money when they debate next fall. “Change and hope” will increasingly start looking more like “wing and a prayer,” y’know what I mean?

    Hillary’s got the ad budget in my area of California, though. I’ve seen a dozen Hillary ads and no Obama ads. I am absolutely convinced that an Obama presidency would be better than a Hillary presidency for a whole lot of reasons.

    And those “reasons” would be…..?

    MarkJ (8ac3d8)

  17. Mark J – Well said. At least we know what we will be getting with Hillary. The little we do know about Barack is not the least bit inspiring, unless you are a progressive.

    JD (fc7319)

  18. “But the poisonous political atmosphere which currently exists means, I think, this is not time for a black president.”

    What does this mean? When is a political atmosphere not poisonous? They go hand in hand. And why the differentiation between a black and white prez and not a differentiation between a male and female? And do white presidents handle poisonous atmpospheres more efficiently, more adaptable to, or what? Shouldn’t potentially discriminatory statements be equal across the board?

    I cringe at these sorts of statement because it reinforces that we are indeed still mired in an election where color of skin and gender (and what the MSM thinks) influeneces voters more than a candidate’s policies and knowledge of issues.

    Dana (f04f8c)

  19. As long as the Clinton’s were winning, they were/are acceptable to the Dem/elite establishment. Now that the chinks in the armor are being revealed, the media has a new hero, and she is not winning, the exodus has begun.

    Another Drew (a28ef4)

  20. And Dana, the more race matters, the more compelling Obama is, precisely because it would make race matter less.

    Jem (9e390b)

  21. “Race Matters”…
    What does race have to do with character, intellect, policy choices?
    Are we going to go back and refight the election of ’48?
    I would rather have an all-Black Administration and Congress that were Conservatives with character, than the usual collection of Good Old White Boys/Girls whose only policy is personal aggrandizement through the dispensation of pork.

    Another Drew (a28ef4)

  22. Obama is just an average bloke who happened to pop up at an opportune moment when American voters are at their dumbest.
    People have such an inadequate comprehension of what is really going on in the world they are consistently looking for a messiah, whether they know it or not.
    Dictators are not that hard to come by, all they have to do is wait for circumstances to change just a tad and the MOB will come running to their door.
    Not that Barack is a dictator but he is a messiah of sorts and will do just nicely for that overwhelming group of ignoramuses we call the average citizen

    Edward Cropper (b5ca81)

  23. Race does not matter. Substance does. I voted for Harold Washington, the first black mayor of a large city. He worked himself to death fighting against the slimeballs of the Machine and did a lot of good for Chicago while alive despite their opposition. A lot of them found themselves disgraced and in prison later on so he got some revenge after death.

    Obama is just an empty suit. A two-dimensional icon for a two-dimensional media. A crush that they’re trying to push to the rest of us.

    nk (eeb240)

  24. nk – You are an Illinoisan, if I remember correctly. Did Barry Obama do anything to stand out or make a name for himself in the Illinois Senate? I guess I am trying to find at what point he became this figurehead for the Dems, what he did that makes people think he is qualified for, or prepared to be the President. So far, I can find zero, zip, nada, except for his way left of center ideas (with no specifics behind them), being one hell of a speaker, and being all about the change. What am I missing?

    JD (fc7319)

  25. Obama had a very mediocre career in the Illinois legislature. My cousin, who still lives in Chicago, was talking about this last weekend. The Illinois people are astounded at his success so far

    Dick Morris has posited a theory that the Obama victory in South Carolina hurts him in the long run. He believes the Clintons have provoked the black voters to make him the “black candidate” who will not be acceptable to white voters. We should know the accuracy of that soon.

    I think he wold be a very weak president, sort of like Carter. Clinton was not much better but we were not at war then.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  26. JD #24,

    He was a lawyer who went into politics because he could not hack it as a lawyer. His very short legal career was undistinguished to say the least. A relatively short stint at essentially a pro bono firm which was glad to hire whomever wanted to work there.

    While in the Illinois Senate, there is no evidence that he was anything more than a Chicago Machine hack doing what he was told.

    He became a U.S. Senator because the Illinois Republicans self-destructed. And I don’t mean just George Ryan. I mean Jack Ryan, his opponent. Jack Ryan was married to “Seven of Nine”. During their very bitter divorce trial, she filed papers which accused him of wanting to have sex with her in public. Those records were sealed in California. Jack Ryan’s disgruntled opponents in the Republican primary leaked it to the Chicago media — if I remember correctly The Chicago Tribune and the CBS affiliate. They brought suit in California to unseal the records. Ryan caved, did not appeal, and withdrew from the race. The Republicans brought in Alan Keyes to run against Obama and he got his behind kicked as well he should have. Essentially, Obama was running unopposed so he had time and energy to participate in the Presidential election including the speech at the Democratic National Convention.

    The way I see it, he is a creation of the media which first destroyed his opponent for the U.S. Senate and has continued since to lionize him. His relationship with Tony Rezko would have been the subject of daily articles and TV stories for everyone else. For Obama, it will only be “newsworthy” if he is indicted on Rezko’s testimony.

    nk (eeb240)

  27. nk – That is what I understood as well. My family lives in Springfield, and even being staunch lifelong Dems, they had similar impressions.

    I thought that Hill/Bill would be polling better in Illinois than they are.

    JD (fc7319)

  28. I thought that Hill/Bill would be polling better in Illinois than they are.

    They might still get the super delegates. Unless Bill Daley and Rahm Emmanuel have switched loyalties. They might even get a majority of the declared delegates even if Obama wins the “beauty contest” (the raw primary vote). The Machine is sophisticated. The precinct workers’ palm cards might not ostensibly endorse any candidate, in order not to offend black Chicago voters, but if they recommend Hillary’s delegates …? Voters might find later that they voted for Obama on the top of the ballot and for Hilary’s delegates in the middle.

    nk (eeb240)

  29. Has The Daley/Michael Madigan/Rahm machine endorsed anyone yet?

    JD (fc7319)

  30. Not that I know of. With the primary only nine days away, I have only gotten literature for State’s Attorney, Congressman and judges. I am in Lipinski’s district but I have contact with Emmanuel’s district. I have not seen anything there either. Even the yard signs are for Metropolitan Water Reclamation Commissioner and such. (There are several for noR lauP, though.)

    nk (eeb240)

  31. nk – If I remember my Illinois political days correctly, Chicagoland might be the only place in the country, or the world, where the Water Reclamation Commission seats are hotly contested (at least in the Dem primary).

    JD (fc7319)

  32. #29, I don’t know about the others, but given his staunch opposition to our moron govenor, I’d be inclided to actually consider anyone Madigan endorced…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  33. The Daleys are with Obama. And it’s an old story. So my previous two comments are “inoperative”. I must be going senile.

    nk (eeb240)

  34. There’s an element of local pride, that some Chicagoans who were rivals of Obama when he was in the legislature are plenty happy to have him as President. Whatever else one thinks of Obama, he’s not real tight with the corrupt aspects of the Chicago machine.

    With respect to the Dick Morris/Bill Clinton plan to let a SC victory mark Obama as the “black” candidate, that would have worked better if they’d held him to about 40-45 percent. He got way too many white votes for their version of the story to pan out.

    To my mind, the biggest remaining question is how Obama runs in the California Hispanic community.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (b142a3)

  35. Is there anyone left that supports Blagojevich? I met him when he was a State Rep in Springfield and he was as ambitious as they came. He has turned out to be a complete disaster as Governor. Too bad people like Harold Smith aren’t still around running the Republican party. They have not done anything since election night 1994.

    JD (fc7319)

  36. Whatever else one thinks of Obama, he’s not real tight with the corrupt aspects of the Chicago machine.

    Not real tight with Daley? Rezko? Or, do you have an alternate definition of the Chicago machine? You know, you are not required to be so consistently wrong every time. There is nothing the matter with doing a little checking prior to throwing shit against the wall.

    JD (fc7319)

  37. Pablo: his campaign website contains loads of proposals and ideas for programs. How substantial they are I leave to you to decide for yourself.

    I’ve looked. They’re not. He’s great at elucidating problems and declaring that they’ll he’ll fix them. Discussion of how that’s going to happen is lacking. I see a list of hopes and intentions, but not a list of specific solutions. I can’t help but think of the Underpants Gnomes business model.

    And I’m thinking there’s more than a couple of things that haven’t really been thought through.

    Official site for the presidential campaign features My.BarackObama.com (MyBO) for supporter networking…

    Pablo (99243e)

  38. Step 1 – Collect underpants (sounds like Bills campaign).

    Step 2 –

    Step 3 – Profit

    JD (fc7319)

  39. Just Like Her Daddy and Worse

    The Princess Royal of the Kennedy clan, who has herself accomplished nothing in life except being born to wealth and privilege, has draped her father’s moth-eaten cloak on Barack Obama, who, in her father’s White House, would have been a footman or cook. Say what you will about Obama, he got there himself without the benefit of a rich daddy or corrupt political machine. He may be more unprepared to be president and more disastrous for this country than was JFK, but we hope, at least, that he will be impervious to “love notes” from middle-aged political camp followers who are still trying to be influential without ever being relevant.

    Tomorrow the black sheep of the family, Sen. Ted Kennedy, will follow in his niece Caroline’s footsteps and endorse Obama at American University. It is still possible that some Kennedy cousin might endorse Hillary; perhaps the other murderer or the rapist.

    http://reviewofcuban-americanblogs.blogspot.com

    Manuel A. Tellechea (c36902)

  40. Obama is a bright, young, inexperienced politician with no record in the Senate. He voted for and against Iraq War funding. As an Illinois State Senator, he often voted “present” rather than take a position. His foreign policy address, in which he suggested invading Pakistan – an ally and nuclear power – was either naive or stunningly stupid. One of his foreign policy advisors has made some radical remarks about Israel.

    Hillary has been on the presidential campaign trail since 2000. She was my US Senator for 6 years and to my knowledge, never met a single promise made to the citizens of Western New York. She too has zero legislation or management experience. And, leadership? She would need to hang pork chops around her neck to get dogs to follow her. Vindictiveness, ruthlessness, arrogance and ambitiousness are not presidential attributes.

    The single moment of clarity among democrats is that Bill Clinton lies! Who knew?

    arch (56e5bf)

  41. “…and more disastrous for this country than was JFK, …”

    I can’t testify to tis, but I’ve a feeling the war in NAM would have NEVER escalated to where it did if John was pres.

    LBJ was a total patsy for the mill indus complex. And that can only exist and thrive in an area of open warfare.

    Oh though daddy Joes money was still wet with ink, it was and remains large. But I’d bet ole Teddy can’t swim as good as he used to, float like a cork, of course.

    I think, that John was a pretty good kid. The rest are nothing but white trash with illegal gotten gains supporting them. I wonder where they would be today if the war on booze was as enterprising for the cops then as is the war on drugs is today?

    TC (1cf350)

  42. TC:

    Kennedy sent SF troops to Vietnam. The real idiot of the Vietnam era was Robert McNamarra, who is now trying to rewrite history. I don’t know which way I would bet on the war had Kennedy survived. He was brighter the LBJ, but lacked his political skills. Also, he failed to support the Bay of Pigs which may have caused the Soviets to test him during the missile crisis. All the Kennedys seem to have a reckless attitude – driving, skiing, swimming, piloting or commanding a PT boat.

    BTW, the Kennedy money came from Joe Kennedy, Sr as a stock broker. He and his buddies used to practice stock pooling – buying a worthless stock and talking it up to customer then dumping it before it collapsed. FDR, when he formed the Securities & Exchange Commission, nominated Joe Sr as the first chairman saying, “It takes a crook to catch a crook.”

    arch (56e5bf)

  43. Joseph Kennedy made his fortune running rum from Cuba during Prohibition.

    Manuel A. Tellechea (c36902)

  44. More Credit Please wrote (bold his/hers): Obama is not just skilled with words. He backs up his words with substantive proposals on how to move beyond our divisions. And yes, I imagine his training at Harvard Law School prepared him in a lot of ways for the gutter tactics of the Clintons and nother political canditates who will resort to any sort of low-mindedness in order to win an election. I’m grateful that in Obama’s SC victory speech, he so aptly explained why our decisions must move beyond knee-jerk political, class, and social identifications.

    I didn’t see or heard his speech, and found a transcript here.

    I didn’t find anything resembling “substantive proposals on how to move beyond our divisions” unless what you mean is that he said everyone should vote for him.

    I welcome an explanation of what “substantive proposals” Obama spoke of in Saturday’s speech, or, for that matter, in any of his other speeches. As I have written before, to me Obama is Tony Robbins with a tan.

    L.N. Smithee (e1f2bf)

  45. “[The Media] accept[s] [Obama’s] generalizations and platitudes with the devotion of a teenager accepting the sweet nothings whispered in her ear.”

    – nk

    That they do. In re: Sizzle + Steak(?), I’m not sure.

    I think it’s hilarious that Ted Kennedy, as much a Good Ole Boy as they come, said that “it is time for a new generation of leadership”. I’ll believe he believes that when he retires.

    Leviticus (35fbde)

  46. Obama is the rich son of privilege — his wealthy grandparents paid for his exclusive Hawaiian education (prep school) plus Harvard etc. His father was a “big man” tribal chief in Kenya and his cousin the leader of the Luo tribe fighting with the Kikuyu tribe for ownership of the Kenyan Presidency.

    Obama is about as down to earth ordinary guy as Ted Kennedy.

    Secondly, he won only 25% of the white vote in SC. He’s the Black Candidate, and now with his “hispandering” on Illegal Alien drivers licenses, the La Raza candidate. He’s backed “reparations” for Slavery aka a “tax on white people” to give to Black people. His nutty pastor is a fountain of Black Nationalism and his autobiography contains several anti-White statements.

    Clinton’s positioning will work because it’s true. Working class white voters won’t vote for Obama. Not because of “racism” but that they’ll lose as Obama transfers wealth and opportunities from the White majority to his Black (and he hopes, Hispanic coalition).

    Spoils politics ain’t it ugly?

    As Whites decline in population percentage, the cost of lost opportunities: their kid has less chance of admission into a good University, less financial aid, less employment opportunities for Whites, increases since the same cost is now spread over fewer White people. Affirmative Action means making winners out of selected minorities and losers out of whites. Again, spoils politics with all it’s brutal nature.

    This explains the success of CA’s 209, MI’s anti-Affirmative Action initiative, and the placement on the ballot of the same in many other states. Obama nailed his colors to that mast, and that alone will doom him. In the Primary very likely and in the General for sure.

    [Obama will draw wealthy whites who don’t worry about Affirmative Action — but lose decisively on working class whites, which tracks with polling data out of NH, IA, NV, etc.]

    Jim Rockford (e09923)


  47. He backs up his words with substantive proposals on how to move beyond our divisions.

    That was one of the biggests snorters of the year.

    JD (fc7319)


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