Join the chorus

(This is crossposted from Comment is Free, where the comments are always interesting. It repeats a bit of what I said here yesterday and replaces and expands on an earlier post.)

The contrast in Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns — and their voters — is starkly illustrated in their Super Tuesday speeches.

Obama is the orator, Clinton the manager. Obama’s crowd behaves like a devoted cult Clinton’s like a well-behaved class. Obama has succeeded — with considerable help from media — at portraying his campaign as a movement, while Clinton’s is, well, a campaign.

Obama’s 21 minutes:

My problem with his campaign is also illustrated in this speech. Though he catalogues his issues — Iraq, health care, the standard list — his message is made up of little more than stock marketing taglines. He’s not so much running for office as branding himself.

Listen to last night’s medley of his greatest hits: “Our time has come… Our movement is real… Change is coming to America… We are more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America… This time can be different…. Not this time. Not this year…. This time we have to seize the moment…. This fall, we owe the American people a real choice…. We have to choose between change and more of the same, we have to choose between looking backwards and looking forward. We have to choose between our future and our past…. We can do this… We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek…. Yes we can…. Yes we can….” Cue crowd chanting: “Yes we can…”

His supporters, including many New York friends of mine, buy his image and believe he is less political and that he is indeed different. I think he’s more political and his campaign is the greatest example of the selling of the president I’ve yet seen. To state it harshly, I say that relying on these stock phrases — believing that we are going to swallow empty oratory about “change” punctuated with chants of “yes we can” — is a cynical political act.

But then again, I can’t argue with the fact that it’s working. It’s working with voters and it’s certainly working with the media, which have given Obama more attention through much of the campaign. Here’s a chart from Daylife showing Obama getting more coverage even as they racked up equivalent delegate Clinton amasses more delegates.picture-30.png

Media like Obama’s story. It’s a better story, they say. That is, if the real story is about personality and oratory over issues and competence. See this discussion about some Kennedys’ endorsement of Obama (note not about other Kennedys’ endorsement of Clinton) between the Washington Post’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, and political correspondent, Chris Cillizza, on CNN:

KURTZ: Chris Cillizza, you could argue about whether this Kennedy endorsement was a big deal, but what a collective swoon by the media — ask not why this was such a big story. Are they totally buying into Obama as the new JFK?

CILLIZZA: Well, you know, I do think, Howie, that in the Democratic Party, people have been waiting for the next JFK. A lot of people thought or maybe believed it was Bill Clinton. And I think Barack Obama is the next obvious heir to that legacy. It’s a powerful story, and I think as much as the media gets accused of bias, in the decade I’ve spent in it, I don’t think it’s bias as much as it is good storylines. And I will be frank — this is a very interesting, fascinating storyline….

If you are looking for the next John F. Kennedy, I believe he is it.

You can hear him aching to cover to the Second Coming of the Kennedy. That is obviously a better story than the Second Coming of the Clintons.

Now watch the brief clip of Clinton’s Super Tuesday speech posted on YouTube by her campaign. She delivers the same essential message and about the exact same issues but without the chanting and cheering behind her – without the excitement:

When I complained on my blog that I want to hire a manager not a spiritual adviser for the White House — especially after eight years of grossly incompetent management from someone who thought he had a cause — my commenters responded with their dreamy wishes for an uplifting Obama administration instead. Said one: “I don’t want an executive, I want someone to stoke the fires of political engagement so that the people will be involved in thier government again.” Said another: “We don’t want an executive to lead us – we want someone who will amplify our voices and give us the ability to reach into government.” Nevermind the job title is chief executive.

Indeed, commenter Andrew Tyndall argued that management is a turnoff: “The virtue that many Democrats in the party’s base hail as ‘competent management’ is an attribute that many non-Democrats may see as the vice of being ‘wedded to bureaucracy.’ It may be that a liberal Democrat who talks in generalities, rather than specifics, has an easier time persuading those voters who are reflexively against big government that he does not have the heart and soul of a bureaucrat — or ‘manager’ to use BuzzMachine’s less pejorative term.”

So I appear to be the odd man out. Maybe I should just join the chorus. Ch-ch-ch-changes:

(Disclosures: I am a partner at Daylife. And I voted for Clinton yesterday.)

  • Jeff, you’re blinded by your loyal support for Hillary. Obama has more delegates now and won more states last night.

    Want to know the No. 1 reason the media isn’t fond of Hillary? The Clintons has shown a distaste for journalists for years, often going after them. Hillary and her campaign are openly combative with the press. And you know what? It makes sense the press is giving it back to her.

    It’s shocking to see a journalist support the most anti-journalism candidate running.

    Now, I’m an independent and I’m not openly supporting anyone right now, but I understand Obama’s appeal. Hillary is a continuation of the Bush-Clinton oligarchy. Obama represents a break with that, and he has energized young voters to care.

    Frankly, it’s no shock that Clinton’s base is old, white voters…

  • People who go to see a candidate speak are citizens engaged in democracy.

    RE “Obama’s crowd behaves like a devoted cult Clinton’s like a well-behaved class.”

    Comparing people to a “cult” is like calling them crazy, and comparing adults to a “well-behaved class” is infantilizing.

  • My screwup on the delegate counts. I was going off the wrong page. Corrected above. 838 v 834, right?

    It’s Clinton I’m criticizing there: Obama and his crowd are far more exciting. I’d say it’s class that’s the insult.

  • Of course it’s marketing speak. Speeches are the political equivalent of a 30 second television advertisement (since they get chopped up into soundbites for tv news anyway) or even the blurb/annotation of a Google adword listing. You get a little bit of meat, but you really need to visit the web site to get the full meal.

    Try to carve out 30 minutes of your week and read over his Issues pages ( and linked from my name above). See if you still feel like he’s light on details.

    Maybe I’m just a sucker, but I spent time after his speech last night looking for places in New York City that I could volunteer (community stuff – not the campaign).

  • Sean Garrett

    Your basic presumption that somehow someone so inspirational and rhetorically gifted much therefore be the most cynically “political” is a sad statement. One of the reason that Obama has touched this Republican is that he has been able to remind me why I cared about politics long ago when I had some idealism left in my heart.

    Your rational reminds me of the classic over thinking in the “Princess Bride” poison in the goblet “battle of the wits” scene.

  • I voted for Obama because I wanted someone presidential — not a manager and not a preacher. I wanted someone who appeals to the better angels of our nature. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, I’ll vote for her in hopes she can extract us from the bankrupting quagmire of Iraq, but my heart won’t be in her fights. My heart would be in Obama’s fights, however, and I think that’s a difference worth noting. Given what this administration has done to our country, there are going to be many struggles ahead and our next president is going to need as many engaged citizens as possible to work through the problems. I just don’t see Mrs. Clinton as the best candidate to bring us — Democrats, Republicans and Independents (such as myself) together.

  • Staten Island guy

    I am STILL waiting for Obama to explain why immediately pulling out of Iraq makes better sense in relation to the same way he says we should be sending Special Ops squads into Waziristan, Pakistan, whether they like it or not, in pursuit of bin Laden.

  • JT Carpenter

    Sean makes an excellent point. Barack Obama will be able to get a lot of Republicans and Independents to vote for him in the general election precisely because they DO find his rhetoric inspiring. And that is support that Hillary Clinton will never be able to get. In fact, I’d say that most Republicans, and a lot of Independents too, would rather vote the ABC ticket (Anyone but Clinton) under almost any circumstances.

    I was eligible to vote for the first time back when Ronald Reagan first ran for the Presidency against Jimmy Carter. I campaigned for Reagan then and voted for him. However, that was the last time I ever voted for a Republican and thereafter instead voted for whoever the libertarian candidate was or Ross Perot when he ran. Now, in this election, for the first time in over 27 years, I intend to break that pattern and vote for Obama IF he is the Democratic nominee. And I will do this for the same reasons that Sean mentioned above. Because he reminds me of why I too “cared about politics long ago when I had some idealism left in my heart.” Hillary Clinton will just drive me back to third party candidates or make me give a lot more consideration to John McCain. And I suspect there are many more people who feel the same way about this as I do.

  • Staten Island guy –

    When did Obama say he wants to immediately pull all US troops out of Iraq?

  • Ailssa

    Jeff, my problem with your assault on Obama is that you seem to believe that being an inspirational orator and a detail-oriented country manager are mutually exclusive.

    Obama wants to win the primary, so he’s doing what history has taught him to do in order to clear that hurdle — rally the troops around a common, vague theme. John Kerry was a good one for getting down into the details of his policies, and it gave the Republicans more than enough ammunition to sink him before he even had the nomination locked up.

    You simply cannot communicate a fully formed issues-based platform in 20 minutes AND build a wave of momentum strong enough to beat a formidable opponent with whom you have much in common. He understands that he has to build the following before he can mobilize those people and arm them with the details of his strategy. If he wins the nomination and his the republican debate circuit with details large and small about his policy plans for a wide array of issues, will you feel differently about him?

  • Jeff C

    This is exactly — down to the “Yes we can” tagline – how Deval Patrick campaigned, and won, in Masschusetts.

    It says volumes that even with Patrick’s endorsement, Clinton still whooped Obama in this state. One year after Patrick took office, there is a serious case of buyers remorse going on here. People are starting to realize that slogans, charisma and hope can’t balance the budget or improve the business enviroment – not to mention pay for a wildly underestimated health care program that very well may bankrupt the state.

  • Jeff C

    Eric Jaffa —

    “Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.”

  • Jeff J.,

    You said in the comments above that “it’s Clinton I’m criticizing” when you call Obama’s camp a “cult” and Clinton’s camp a “well-behaved class”? What are you smoking? Or what do you think we’re smoking? “I’d say it’s class that’s the insult.” No, the insult is that you would think we would buy the spin you’re giving us right there.

    And another thing …

    You wrote in your post of Obama’s “greatest hits” speech from last night, “… relying on these stock phrases — believing that we are going to swallow empty oratory about ‘change’ punctuated with chants of ‘yes we can’ — is a cynical political act.” No (again), the cynical act is the one you keep committing of trying to marginalize and discount the surge of thoughtful, hopeful, intelligent Obama supporters who are sick and tired of the cynicism that the Bush-Clinton years have brought us. Obama isn’t the cynical one. I’m not the cynical one. You are the cynical one, Jeff.

    And, as I posted in the comments on the Brave New Films/Young Turks liveblog last night, Obama’s speech was not his best speech of the campaign. It started off as a “greatest hits” medley, weaving in all of the themes he’s developed over the course of the campaign, undoubtedly for folks who were “just tuning in” to the race. But even in the middle of that part, he was 100 times more electrifying and inspiring than Clinton. And then Obama revved up at the end and hit it out of the park — again!

    But you know what? If you want detailed policy plans, go to and do some reading. When he’s giving a rally speech, he’s just giving a freaking rally speech! He’s not going to be announcing some new policy plan, so stop criticizing him for not delivering it in the freakin’ rally speech.

    Clinton bores the crap out of me. And when she’s not boring the crap out of me, she’s scaring the crap out of me. I’m tired of the crap!

    Come on, Jeff, are you really tired of the crap?? Be honest with yourself. Clinton is full of crap.

  • There are two issues.

    Jeff Jarvis complains about the vacuous campaign rhetoric used by Obama. This is true, but his supporters accept it as a way to win the campaign. Let’s grant that it’s an effective advertising effort. The fact that many of his followers are acting like Giants fans shows that there is an effective appeal to emotions taking place.

    The second issue is which candidate would be a “better” president. The picture is cloudy. Neither has been in a real executive position (say a governor, or head of a business). So people have to make an assessment based upon indirect factors. Jeff thinks oratorical skill is a poor measure. This is also true, we have had terrible orators who have been good leaders and the world has had many examples of the reverse. It’s almost the definition of a demagogue that he be a good public speaker.

    Both candidates share similar policy positions. Clinton choses to emphasize hers while Obama does not (at least at present). The small differences they have are magnified by supporters to use as clubs against the other camp. Whatever differences there are will be sorted out during the legislative process in any case.

    The reality is that if either is elected they will face a congress similar to the present one. The house will be Democratic, and the senate will not have a filibuster proof Dem majority. Given the 140 filibusters the GOP used last year we will need to see something more definite from Obama than an appeal to bipartisanship. You can’t have cooperation if one side refuses to negotiate.

    Clinton has not been any better. She has also failed to explain how she will get any bills past a deadlocked senate. Perhaps primaries are not the time to go into legislative tactics (it seems hard enough to get people to consider policy goals), but this is the issue that should be the determinant for voters.

    If you candidate gets elected, how are they going to govern in the face of an unyielding minority party?

  • With all due respect, Mr. Jarvis, you – more than most – are basing the entire reasoning behind your support of Senator Clinton on rhetoric. Your problem with Obama – at least so far as you’ve made evident on this site – is that you don’t like his speeches. If you care so much about the issues, where’s the beef, Jeff? Where’s the substance in your words? I don’t see it, and it feels like hypocrisy, sorry. You claim to hate the general concept of empty oratory, and yet your entire position is based on exactly this.

    I get that you like Clinton’s style better than Obama’s, but you must realize that you’ve simply bought into her message, too, and are very much voting with your heart, not your mind. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but it’s worth thinking about the underpinnings of your own argument.

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  • The contrast in Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns — and their voters — is starkly illustrated

    – the most powerful woman in the world has to loan herself money to keep running for the Restoration of her dynasty

    – a person who 12 moths ago had less than 10% in polls in his home state, leaves Super Tuesday (built to annoint Hillary as the Dem nominee) with the delegate lead & hundreds of thousands of people contributing their money

    Jeff, how can you possibly describe Obama as the “greatest example of the selling of the president” and a cynical political act when you look at people like Mark Penn (worldwide CEO of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller ) as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chief strategist for her 2008 presidential campaign ?

  • Jeff, I’m still waiting to see the evidence that she’ll be a better manager than Obama. What is it exactly?

    Health care task force 1993?

    Or her vote on Iraq?

    Or her attention to detail? Like failing to read the full NIE on Iraq before she voted?

    Or the management of her campaign?

    Would love to see a detailed post from you about what exactly she has done that suggests she’d be a good manager. Really.

  • I pretty much agree with Jeff when it comes to the Obama vs Clinton debate. I did an informal analysis of the two on the blog and came to the conclusion that while Obama is inspirational, Clinton is the practical choice.

    Good oratory skills and one year of experience does not a President make. Pretty much everyone voting for Obama is making the same leap of faith that everything will work out that republicans made with Bush back in 2000. Considering how that worked out, I think its foolish to do the same thing again hoping for different results. This country cannot afford another 4 years of on the job learning.

    Let Obama get some more experience and then try again. As Vice President (espeically with its expansion under Cheney) it could give him everything he needs so next time he isn’t just the inspirational choice, he will also be the pratical one.

  • On the point of Clinton as a manager, you seem to be suggesting that Clinton appears to dispassionate and bureaucratic in comparison to Obama’s rhetoric. The truth is, however, that the Clinton campaign has struggled to contain their anger and emotion over Obama’s candidacy challenging theirs. A lot of that can be attributed to Bill Clinton, but Hillary has also demonstrated that in many ways this contest is more personal for her than an oppertunity to lead and “change”. In many ways Obama’s continued successes have been seen as a personal affront to her and her husband’s legacy.

    I agree that there are certain aspects of his campaign that are probably more cheerleading than leading, but I think that’s just campaigning. I feel like Obama has a greater potential for bipartisan support. On the flip side I worry that Hillary Clinton would use the tactics of the Bush administration to push through liberal policies.

    Again, I’m an Obama supporter and I voted for him yesterday so there’s my disclosure. I feel like this blog is an interesting experiment in transparency, since we all know you’re openly supporting Clinton. That means I need to prejudge anything you post about the campaign based on your acknowledged biases. While there are other individuals in the media who seem to play favorites they usually at least try to acknowledge the other side. I feel like by being transparent, however, you’re starting to only take a one-sided approach to the campaign.

  • Cooler Heads

    The president is a chief executive, not a manager. The president hires managers, who in turn hire managers. And so on. All of these underlings actually do the managing of government.

    Is the best CEO one that micromanages details, and can recite chapter and verse on every policy statement? Or is the best CEO one who lays out large agendas and sets broad policies, and who also creates a cultural climate in which management takes place?

    We can predict what kind of management will be in the White House by looking at the few things Hillary managed while there before (health care reform) or by looking at the managers her husband hired when he was there. The old managers or their progeny will take up places in Hillary’s administration. How do I know that? Because there are Clintonistas serving in her campaign, at executive levels.

    At the same time, we also know that the Clintons have in the past (and continue in the present) to engage in a divide-and-conquer strategy. They play the 50-plus-1 scenario well enough. And they quickly slipped into dividing the Democrats over race and gender when the South Carolina primary campaign was underway.

    So knowing what I know about the Clintons past management, I am concerned.

    But the reason I think Obama might be right is because he is not a micromanager. He sees the office of the president for what it is–an executive perch with the power to hire people who create an administrative climate and carry out policies. It’s up the president to create the climate and set the agenda, not parse out the details of tax rebates or social security reform.

    I want a president who will try to create a culture in Washington that values compromise and appeals the better angels of our nature. I am quite certain that Hillary Clinton is not the person to do that. I suspect that Barack Obama might be able to.

  • chico haas

    When Ted Kennedy looks at Obama, he doesn’t see Jack or Bobby. He sees Eliza Doolittle. We don’t need another President being led around by mentors. We’re just finishing eight years of that.

  • Jeff,

    I’m still waiting for the post where you explain why YOU SUPPORT Hillary Clinton, instead of these sideswipes attempting to convince us why Barack Obama should not be our candidate.

    Or maybe you’re still trying to convince yourself that Obama is the wrong candidate? It sure sounds like it to me.

    Please, tell us why Hillary is so great. The “better manager” stuff just seems totally out of character for a guy like you who is usually out there on the “bleeding edge.” I just don’t get it.


  • I’m going to go against the tide here and agress with Jeff. Something bothers me about Obama, actually more than one thing.
    I was gung ho Obama after the last Democratic convention, but seeing him in action makes me more and more leery every day.
    One term in the senate does not a president make.

    He swells with over-cofidence when I see no substantial reasons for that confidence.

    How can he expect to work well in office when the main premisis of his campaign seems to be “throw the bums out”? I don’t believe in political favors, though I do know it’s what makes the Washington world go round, but how can you even get on the merrygoround while you’re yelling “you and everything about you stinks”?

    It does seem to be all about marketing and the Kennedy comparison, of course, doesn’t hurt.

    I was in high school when Kennedy came in to office and even though I couldn’t vote, I campaigned and marched for him. Sorry, but I don’t see the comparison, though I do admit Kennedy was a persuasive speaker, seemed to hold a torch of inspiration, etc. Perhaps that’s the point. I’m older and white … maybe I’m too jaded for Obama.

    I can and will vote for Hillary with few qualms and though she has little more experience in the Senate, I do think the years in the White House have made her aware of what it’s like, if nothing else.

    You know, for several elections my choice was to write in Barbara Jordan. I’m sorry she’s gone and sorry John Edwards bowed out already.

  • Steve K —

    You are being unfair to Jarvis. He has explained why he likes Hillary…He likes her because she is is not likable.

    His argument is clear: any politician who charms and inspires the voters, who talks in generalities and abstractions, is engaging in what he calls the cynical politics of celebrity marketing, turning himself to into a product.

    The way for voters to guarantee that a candidate is not being manipulative is if she is unattractive. So the fact that Rodham Clinton is: a subpar orator; can be so interested in the managerial that she can be tagged with the “bureaucrat” stereotype; is tough and practical; is “specific to a fault” as Jarvis put it — are all reassuring signs.

    And I think it is true that Rodham Clinton’s core of support on Super Tuesday was precisely from the part of the Democratic base that relies on the concrete, pragmatic, specific support of a federal bureaucracy to get by, especially the micromanagement that could be offered by a universal healthcare system. Poor and elderly and female and immigrant voters (apart from African-American ones) tended to agree with Jarvis; younger, more affluent, better educated voters, and non-Democrats, tended to take the other side.

    This is beginning to look like a familiar Democratic primary showdown, a contemorary rendition of the party splits that brought us Walter Mondale v Gary Hart, Bill Clinton v Jerry Brown, Al Gore v Bill Bradley. The major difference this time is that Barack Obama happens to be black, so a huge section of the Democratic working class vote that would normally side with the bureaucratic machine over the progressive rhetorician is aligning differently this time.

  • Very cute, Andrew, but I expected better of you. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that British irony doesn’t fit in America. We’re not ironic. Anyway…

    I have written why I support Clinton.

    I believe (as did Krugman to days ago) that she has the better health care plan and I believe this is a critical issue not just for our wellbeing but also for our economy, as people are now trapped in jobs because of health care.

    I think she will do a better and more reasoned job on Iraq. Just pulling out to say you pull out could cause more problems we will regret. We need to take this process on responsibly and I believe she will.

    I have more confidence in her economic plans, which is issue No. 1 now. And it matters that her husband did well with the economy.

    I have more confidence in her ability in foreign policy; the easiest recent measure of that is that I think her answers in the debates were better than her opponents, especially Obama’s.

    I believe her Washington experience will be useful. She has weathered every tough storm with the Republicans and will know how to work with them. It’s fine for Obama to say that he’ll hug them all but that’s not what politics is like.

    She has more of a track record. I agree with what she stands for. She has been specific in her pronouncements on policy.

  • Jeff, you’re good to respond and to catalog your reasons. You prefer her health care and economic policies, fine; I respect that though I disagree with you. Note that Brad Delong think’s there is hardly any daylight between them on these issues.

    But I would urge you to delve a little deeper before you write off Senator Obama and his campaign as a lightweight gimmicky marketing machine. A speech at a rally does not the candidate make.

    In fact, on your point that she has more of a track record, I offer you this:

    The claims that Clinton is more “substantive” and has “more of a track record” are, in reality, bogus. Look hard at her Senate record, please. There is not much there. I’d strongly encourage you to read this piece by James Fallows in late 2006:

    Rather, the notion she is more substantive or experienced is just the marketing line that the Clinton campaign has emphasized, and one that the media has repeated without much questioning.

  • FirstAve

    Listen up Jack. Obama planned, stategized, for a long time, about a long term plan for a successful campaign against a formidable opponent. If his campaign is any indication of what his administration will be like – bring it on baby. What in the hell are we waiting for?

  • Disenfranchised Voter

    Jeff makes good points about his support for Clinton. I would be likely to agree with him, except for one key point:

    The Clintons are masters of the divide-and-conquer politics. How will Hillary manage to get compromise and agreement on these thorny policy questions when she is most well-known for spouting off about the right-wing conspiracy and such?

    Or when her husband, the former president, used race-baiting in South Carolina to help her campaign?

    Honestly, I was on the fence until that vile and shameful performance in SC by the Clintons. The was orchestrated and approved of by Hillary. And that turned me off to them entirely.

  • My tongue is now out of my cheek. Forgive a somewhat detailed response.

    I believe (as did Krugman two days ago) that she has the better health care plan and I believe this is a critical issue not just for our wellbeing but also for our economy, as people are now trapped in jobs because of health care.

    Absolutely. When I talk to Rodham Clinton supporters, this seems to be an overwhelming reason to support her. For many Democrats, universal healthcare is a point of principle not a nuance of policy.

    I think she will do a better and more reasoned job on Iraq. Just pulling out to say you pull out could cause more problems we will regret. We need to take this process on responsibly and I believe she will.

    Conversely, when I talk to many Obama supporters, her vote for the war seems to be an overwhelming reason to oppose her. Rodham Clinton’s vote makes many Democrats fear that she lacks a reflex distrust of the neocons. For many Democrats, opposition to the use of military invasion and occupation to achieve regime change in Iraq without an unambiguous United Nations mandate is a point of principle not a nuance of policy.

    I have more confidence in her economic plans, which is issue No. 1 now. And it matters that her husband did well with the economy.

    The 90s were indeed a period of prosperity that Democrats would love to replicate. The budget surplus made it easy to defend Social Security and Medicare. The boom fueled job growth, innovation and productivity. President Clinton’s multitude of carefully crafted policy initiatives ensured that the working poor and the lower middle class participated in the boom. The problem with these achievements is how evanescent they turned out to be. All of that progress was easily repealed when the Republicans came to power. Clinton’s achievements were tactical not structural. Rodham Clinton repeats her husband’s preference for wonkish, targeted, small government programs and incentives. He resorted to them as a defensive measure in the face of Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Those skills and that approach may not be required under Democratic control. Furthermore, as I argued earlier, that economic style may look like diligent management to the Democratic base but it reinforces her image — a holdover from Hillarycare — as a bossy bureaucrat to many others in the electorate.

    I have more confidence in her ability in foreign policy; the easiest recent measure of that is that I think her answers in the debates were better than her opponents, especially Obama’s.

    This point mystifies me. When I think of the major foreign policy issues facing the next administration, I have no idea what the major differences in priorities and approaches will be between Rodham Clinton and Obama. What are their distinctions on…
    …global warming climate change?
    …globalization and free trade?
    …Third World poverty, aid, development, healthcare?
    …pursuing or modifying the Global War on Terrorism?
    …nuclear proliferation prevention?
    …the reach of the US military in maintaining permanent bases overseas, nation building, intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, muscular defense of human rights?
    …Mexican economic, border, immigration issues?
    …Cuba’s transition from a Fidelist regime?
    …relations with China? Russia? the Islamic World? Europe?

    I believe her Washington experience will be useful. She has weathered every tough storm with the Republicans and will know how to work with them. It’s fine for Obama to say that he’ll hug them all but that’s not what politics is like.

    This is crucial. And it is the area where my teasing comment about their contrasting styles was not facetious. On all issues — but especially on healthcare and the economy, mentioned above — the question is not what sort of President will either candidate be but what sort of government will either candidate run in conjunction with the Congress. Obama argues that a President Rodham Clinton will subscribe to the 50%-plus-one, winner-take-all, Rovian mentality that ensures continuing tough hyperpartisan government. Obama argues that his style — you call it the spiritual advisor as opposed to the manager; I say those are euphemisms for the orator as opposed to the bureaucrat — offers the chance for a change. He argues that his coattails will be longer; he is more appealing to non-Democrats; his party will be larger in both houses as a result; Republicans will not only have fewer votes they will also not have their bete-noire in the White House around whom to organize their obstructionism. You say he offers to hug his opponents. He says he does not incite knee-jerk antagonism simply by his presence.

    Now you may be right and Obama may be all packaging and no substance. But either way, I argue that the crucial difference between him and Rodham Clinton is at essence one of style not of policy. The question is whether or not his style will be effective at realigning the coalitions that the two parties represent, as he implicitly claimed when he singled out Ronald Reagan as a President to emulate. If Obama gets nominated and ends up with another blue-red 51%-49% split anyway, then he is the wrong choice. If this is the year for a Democratic sweep, then Rodham Clinton is the wrong choice. A choice of Rodham Clinton may make the 51%-49% split a self-fulfilling prophecy. A choice of Obama may make the possibility of realignment more likely.

  • Jake

    I could not agree more with your assessment. He is nothing but a hype. I hardly know the guy until two or three years ago and he was not even noticeable as a senator. He is very good speaker but that’s just about it. Can we for once check his background? He definitely plays with his strenght. In this world where celebrity matters and substance fails he plays it very well. But the truth is people voting for him under the perception that they know him so well. I don’t know him well to lock my vote for him but I surely like him. But, Republican will spend millions over black propaganda over him. We might surprise ourself come the general election when the real game begins and all the hype about him subsides and real issues emerge. If we democrats would like to regain the whitehouse, we must pull our act together or we will just going to be in thesame situation in 2004 or 2000. Hilary, we know her so well that nothing surprises us any more. She runs her campaign talking about the issues with the specifics instead of the flowery imagery of obama. We respect her despite her flaws and definitely she has done more to this country than Obama.

  • I am fascinated but not surprised to read your different blog entries re. Clinton and Obama. Prior to Super Tuesday I received the Will I. Am/John Legend et al video “Yes We Can.” I was so inspired that I spent all evening forwarding the video to my list. In my email I said, “even if you don’t vote for Obama, this is very inspiring.” I received many responses, some agreeing with my sentiments, and some vehement responses explaining in great detail why they would not vote for Obama. My position right now is this: I believe Clinton would make a better manager and she is more experienced for the job, however I think Obama is needed in this campaign right now because he is waking up and shaking up the American public, and is sending a wave of inspiration that resonates with those who are already spiritually-minded, as well as with those who have been waiting for a call from above. He is fresh and intelligent and is current with today’s zeitgeist. He is not a Hitler-type, so even if some people may be sheep following, it is not toward maniacal destruction. His campaign is clear and simple, just as any advertising campaign should be. Whether he has substance or not behind his cheerleading, it has gotten people out of their zombie states and changed their energy into something alive and breathing. It is still February, and a lot of change can happen in this election on a consciousness level. The collective state of consciousness is where real change happens. If we each take responsibility to change our OWN state first, we will be able to band together to move our political environment in a more positive and productive way, If Obama recedes from the race right now, I think it will deaden the senses of the American public with the choices we would have left. At this point, I think it is important for people to become educated about what is behind each candidate outside of the mass media events. We have so much access now more than ever before to alternative media, we can actually diffuse the propaganda machine to a point where we feel that we DO have the power as individuals and concerned citizens to voice our opinions intelligently and to share information that will help other interested voters to make educated, non propaganda-laden decisions. I believe it is our responsibility as thinking and enlightened beings to encourage, inspire and engage others to participate in the democratic process.

    The other point I would like to discuss is about how the Democratic Party is going to handle the dead-split between Obama and Clinton. Yesterday Obama swept the primaries. He is continuing to gain momentum. Clinton has the electorate in the two most important states of California and New York for Democrats. They both are bringing out new voters. The turnout on Super Tuesday was strikingly high in comparison to the Republicans. According to exit polls from last week, 7 out of 10 people would vote for either Hil or Ob. Nonetheless, neither candidate may have enough delegates for the Democratic Convention unless there is a revote in Florida and Michigan. The other option, as it was stated in New York’s Daily News today, is that Howard Dean could broker the deal. Will the continued back-and forth with detail-bashing between Hil and OB be good for the party? It will just add fuel and fooder for the Republicans in the general election. Perhaps the question should be “who would be on top, and who would be the running mate?” Any thoughts on this?

  • Jeff, can you speak to her management skills in the context of this campaign ?

  • Jeff, Obama’s comments yesterday regarding how he has run his current campaign:

    “But keep in mind – if you look for example – at how I’ve conducted this campaign – I started from scratch, and was up against an operation that had been built over the course of 20 years by a former president, with the bulk of the Democratic establishment on their side. And after setting up a hundred-million-plus dollar operation, with hundreds of employees across the country, it looks like we’ve played them to a draw so far.

    “I think that gives you some sense of how we run a campaign, There hasn’t been a lot of drama in my campaign. You haven’t seen a lot of turnover in my campaign. And the culture of my campaign is one in which I think everybody feels a great sense of ownership.”

  • Jeff,

    You’re right about this one. Obama is not only selling dreamy messages, he is playing low-ball politics. Obama is happy to be the primary beneficiary of the right-wing anti-Hillary attack machine. To serve his purpose, he continually reminds us of Hillary’s supposed “baggage” — baggage that was largely a fabrication of the right wing.

    Here is what I said about it on my blog today:

    We are in the end game of the right-wing strategy to deny Hillary the presidency. And Barack Obama has willingly emerged as their primary tool.

    What will happen when she is out of the way and they turn their weapons on him?

    Best wishes,

  • Deny Hillary the Presidency ? As if she is somehow entitled to it ?

  • @ Bob Carlton:

    Don’t be silly. Every candidate tries to deny the presidency to every other candidate. Don’t look for hidden meanings where there are none.

  • On the theme of Obama’s ties to the anti-Rodham-Clinton vast right-wing conspiracy, this is grist for the mill on a Fox News Channel link. The leading anti-Rodham-Clinton conservative to champion Obama is, of course, Andrew Sullivan.

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  • demetrius b

    well just a few days he was sworn in as your new president. listen up people he not the president of the black race but the president of the united states of america that means all natualities that had the right and voted. president obama needs to be given a chance to succeed but in your mind he has failed already.

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