Sunday, February 10, 2008

# Posted 5:37 PM by Taylor Owen  


1. The rhetoric versus substance argument between Clinton and Obama is starting to wear thin. It simply isn't the case that she has a more developed policy platform. He just choses not to talk policy as much as she does on the stump. They both play to their strengths. I do tend to lean more to his policies than hers, particularly on foreign policy, and on many issues, they are simply so similar that it is irrelevant. On others, I don't know enough to judge. But I find myself more willing to trust him, and the people around him, than her. I do know, however, that he looks at policy through a lens that I am sympathetic to. In the end, this is what choosing a political leader is about.

2. People often conflate Obama's talk about, and display of, a new tone, with an over-reliance on rhetoric. The two are very different. In Audacity of Hope, he goes to great lengths to explain how he strives to bring a new tone to politics. One that doesn't demonize either the left or the right, points out the absurdities and inaccuracies on both, and moves forward a pragmatic progressive platform. He is also very clear on his plan to use a new coalition, rather than a base mobilization, to enable policy. A coalition that requires not just new policies, but a new vocabulary and style. These are not superficial, and cannot be written off as mere rhetorical excess. Maybe I'm delusional, see point 4, but I think he can pull this off. What's more, the brand of progressivism that he depicts, in his writing and in his policy positions, is one that I think is far better suited to the moment than Hillary's rehashing of 90's dynastic feuds.

3. A lot of people like Hillary because they want to pick a fight with the right. I get it. How sweet would it be, they argue, if the right was penalized for Bush with what they hate the most, a Clinton! The problem is, I am not convinced this will work this election. People aren't mad at Bush like they were in 2004, they are simply sick of him. They are tired of the acrimony on both sides, and want something new. Not just a change from Bush, but a change from the divisive ideological battles of the past 20 years. If Clinton wanted to pick a fight with the right, she should have ran in 2004. She missed her chance, and her moment.

4. I'm well aware that I am becoming a bit of a broken record on Obama. I tend to be a bit of a sap about these sorts of things. There is certainly a derangement that takes over when one gets absorbed in a certain type of politics. Joel Stein nailed it perfectly a few days ago, when in response to a Hillary supporting Obamamania-naysayer (boo) he stated:
Thing is, I've watched too many movies and read too many novels; I can't root against a person who believes he can change the world. The best we Obamaphiles can do is to refrain from embarrassing ourselves. And I do believe that we can resist making more "We Are the World"-type videos. We can resist crying jags. We can resist, in every dinner argument and every e-mail, the word "inspiration." Yes, we can.
yes i can...

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(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

In Amity Shlaes's new book "The Forgotten Man", she describes the arrival of FDR into office. One can see that this blind faith of the multitudes in Roosevelt's wreaking of "change" - no matter the details, who cares as long as there's change - must be a model for the Obama campaign.

Not that Roosevelt wrought any miracles in his first years in office - other than to create some of the nasty partisanship, particularly the demonizing, that the Democratic Party has relied on ever since. But he sure changed things, whether for better or worse.

And it's dubious that an Obama administration would continue with its idealistic posture of healing the right-left split once it attempted some actual policies (has he got any?) and ran into resistance, whether principled or not. The left has all too frequently fallen back on coercion or worse, when its predictions of peace and love for everyone - or else- fail, for whatever reason. And by Obama's voting record, he aint no rightie.
It's a little unclear to me: what else is there to divide the two than "substance vs. policy" when Sen. Obama doesn't talk about his policies? How else are we supposed to make an informed decision? Sen. Obama's entire campaign is based on his style. Sen. Clinton's entire campaign is based on her substance. Shouldn't we debate that?
But Daniel, with even the slightest bit of research, one can find his entire policy platform. It is there for people to see, assess, debate.
That being said, for the first half of the campaign, he spoke a lot about policy. As his campaign became more of a movement, however, the obvious political strategy against Clinton's ground organization became mobilization, and the stump speech correspondingly turned to more inspirational messages. BUT, the policy platform didn't go away. Also, and not insignificantly, the fact that their platforms are so similar, means that there is a greater value added in staying with meta themes, rather than debating small details. The only real exceptions to this are health care and iraq, which have both been debated rather extensively.
Look, I'm a policy wonk. Policy is the first thing i look to when assessing a political candidate. But it is not the only thing, particularly when someone so clearly posses such unique, and remarkable, additional qualities.
What bothers me is that no one - neither the candidates in debates, nor (worse) the MSM in its reporting - has attempted to summarize the policy differences for those of us who have limited hours for reading books and memoranda.

By simply summarizing Hillary as 'experienced' (dubious to claim that for her White House years: she wasn't making the decisions), and Obama as 'charismatic' (lacking a record, he's largely a creation of the media which dotes on charisma), our journalistic sensory organs are failing us again.

Obama's votes don't show much difference from a socialist approach to government. How are we to square that with his promises to heal the rifts, when a good fraction of the US population still recoils from such policies?
His policies may be on his website (and I have perused them), but those are written mainly by aides and they are read only by the most dedicated political junkies. If Senator Obama isn't promoting his policy platform when he's out on the stump, then why should anyone else promote it? (and to follow with Insufficiently Sensitive - why would anyone report on it?) If Senator Obama doesn't care about his policy enough to try to convince me that it is the right policy, then why should I care enough?
The people around him (Austan Goolsbee, Cass Sunstein) are encouraging, if to the left.

I've been doing my best to resist Obamamania, but I'm not totally immune. Still, it's depressing to see folk basking in logical fallacies.

Exacerbated doesn't mean what you think it does.
nice catch cerebus. thanks, missed that. TO
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