Gravity Takes Bite Out of “Obama Wind”

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John Kerry Wind Surfing.jpg
On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, conservative commentator George Will can generally be counted on to offer a stoic, offshore perspective of the internecine Democratic battles. Today, he made the point that Barack Obama has not won a single ‘major’ political contest against Hillary Clinton since Wisconsin on February 19th. He noted what many other observers have: Barack Obama’s campaign is losing steam.
All hats off to those who correctly say that ‘mathematically’, it’s very hard to see how Hillary Clinton shifts enough superdelegates to win — but there is something afoot really trying to make this happen. As Maureen Dowd just said on Stephanopoulos’ show, “Hillary Clinton has successfully repainted Obama from being incandescent to ineffectual.”
In my own view, Hillary Clinton has run a sometimes terrible campaign and has lost a dramatic lead over her opponent, but what is beginning to happen very late in the process is that “gravity” is finally taking hold on the former gravity-defying campaign of Barack Obama.


Obama is juggling a number of challenges simultaneously, and to be honest with my readers, I don’t understand why all of these issues of religious patronage and friendships with people on non-profit boards (even if they were one-time radicals) are issues at all. I realize that they are to some and that these candidates need to somehow try and show that they are the most American of all Americans — and that radicalism is somehow something to avoid. I have a different view and think that radicalism should be heard, often celebrated (with care), sometimes embraced. I don’t believe in the infallibility of a president and don’t want spotless pasts. But in public policy at this time, I care more about the future of the country’s national security position and its conduct as a principled globally-engaged nation that does more good than harm in the world than these other social squabbles.
My dilemma in supporting either of them is that Barack Obama for the most part articulates a vision of American engagement in global problems that jumps out of the dangerous incrementalism that Bush, McCain, and even Hillary Clinton seem driven by. But my enthusiasm wanes for Obama when I note that when one scratches the surface, his proposals are far less inspiring in detail than rhetorically.
One case in point is Obama garnering credit from The Washington Note and later by notables like Fareed Zakaria for his then seemingly courageous willingness to recraft some of America’s self-damaging foreign policy tangles — like US-Cuba relations. Cuba through its embargo stifled relations with the U.S. seems to be the only place on the planet where the Cold War actually got colder in the last decade. Obama had proposed opening up family-related travel between Cuban-Americans and relatives in Cuba and increasing the financial amount that these relatives could send into Cuba.
The problem with this gesture by Obama is that it lacks the principles he himself speaks to so frequently. First of all, his proposal does not go back to the status quo that existed during the first three years of the George W. Bush administration. Even Bush before 2004 permitted non-tourist people to people exchanges and travel. This kind of engagement would seem a natural for Obama’s foreign policy template — and yet, when I asked senior foreign policy advisor, Susan Rice, about Obama moving to this pre-2004 status quo, I was told on an official Obama campaign conference call that he would not move there until certain conditions were met inside Cuba.
Since this exchange, I have heard through friends and acquaintances that Susan Rice felt I misquoted her. I have my exact notes and don’t feel that was the case at all. In fact, I have a great deal of respect for Rice and listened to her views as expressed on behalf of her candidate very, very closely. The campaign has never told me formally that I misquoted her. However, I did hear from one of the other top foreign policy advisers to the Obama campaign — on par with Rice but who we will leave unnamed — that he has looked at the transcript and feels that “the truth lies somewhere between what she said and I said.” I have asked the campaign for the transcript of that discussion, or the recording, which they keep on file — but have not received it.
This kind of triangulation is frustrating to many — because it plants doubts with people like me as to the seriousness and depth of Obama’s positions on many issues. I still believe that Barack Obama is far ahead of Clinton in imagining a different set of institutional arrangements between America and the rest of the world, and I largely support these — but I want to know details.
And frankly, while I disagreed with and was disappointed by Obama’s timidity in going back to the Bush administration 2001-2003 status quo on Cuba, for tactical political reasons, I could understand why his campaign held the posture it did. That’s politics — and I have to keep playing my civil society role of trying to argue about the need for Obama to move further, and he needs to do what he can do.
But for the Obama camp to say one thing and then to whisper another — one formally and another through informal assertions that a campaign principal was misquoted — is not something that inspires trust and confidence.
In my view, US-Cuba relations are important because the way in which the next US president deals with Cuba could telegraph to a waiting, pensive world what the general contours of American behavior will be. Will we upend and change strategy with a nation in which we have had five decades of a failed policy — or are we going to maintain the type of incrementalism that will neither win us friends globally nor fix the US-Cuba problem?
Obama’s disparagement of Jimmy Carter for reaching out to Hamas was another such point. Obama needs someone of stature to try and do what can be done at developing an “internal solution” to Palestine’s current civil war — and needs to turn this new construct into something that might be able to be negotiated with. Obama will have to confront this as President — either directly or through proxies. A senior Obama strategist told me that he didn’t really disagree with my views — but asked “If I were president, would I want Jimmy Carter to be my emissary?”
The point with Hamas is that it was not Obama’s credibility on the line. He should have wished Carter well — and should have said that if someone can pull off an arrangement that ends the killing, strife, and occupation in Israel/Palestine, then all the better.
Now the liberal netroots are frustrated with Obama as they sense him slipping away from them and towards a deference to other organs of political power, like Fox News. After Fox had run stories that lied about Obama’s past relationships and positions and distorted a number of Obama’s political stands, many in the netroots were shocked he would agree to appear. But then, much like President Clinton did two years ago with Chris Wallace, Obama’s people promised that their candidate “would take on” Fox News. Instead, he pretty much acquiesced and promised not to be “a stranger.”
None of this solves the problems with Hillary Clinton — who seems to have outstanding policy expertise, practical level federal experience, and a level of articulateness and clear vision that Obama does not have when it comes to concrete policy debates. But in foreign policy and national security, Hillary Clinton believes in a brand of ‘coercive diplomacy’ and incrementalism that I find to be recipes for the ongoing disaster we are experiencing in our national security portfolio today.
Hillary Clinton was wrong in her views about the China Olympic Games ceremony boycott, wrong to not even address Israel/Palestine in her recent major foreign policy speech, and wrong to intimate that she would “obliterate” Iran — implying the application of nuclear weapons to a conflict with Iran — given hypotheticals between Iran and Israel that we are no where near close to. She was right during the recent Philadelphia debate to talk about security throughout the entire Middle East and not just Israel — when Obama said “Israel’s security is paramount.”
Obama’s relations with Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers seem to me to be sideshows — and I don’t care much about them. Frankly, Ayers sounds like a fascinating guy, and it would be better for Obama to have such relationships and to see the good and bad in great people than to try and cover those past relationships. And as the Obama campaign has said, Obama was just 8 years old when Weatherman was doing its thing.
I don’t want an infallible president — who has done nothing wrong or lived life in a bubble only with the best in society. I do want someone with a clear-headed vision who will do his or her best to chart a proactive American strategy and not triangulate at the first sign of head wind.
Obama does lack a lot of experience — but the guy has lots of vision. His vision had me hooked for a while, and I could be hooked again.
But triangulating on principles like getting US-Cuba relations on a completely new and different course — and getting the side products of stealing from Hugo Chavez a major boasting platform in Latin America and showing the world that there is a new, more enlightened “decider” in the Oval Office — raises my concern level about Obama and his team.
I still feel Obama is going to win at the end of this race. But I have high expectations of the next presidential candidates — and this blog plans to be as tough as it can be on Obama, McCain, and Clinton. The notion that he should be supported because of rhetoric and because we can’t have four more years of a Bush-like presidency is not enough.
He must be for something real. He has had little federal level experience so needs to show us how that experience will both be requisitioned — and then reorganized — because having experience with old problems and applying old techniques is not enough in a time of significant historical discontinuity.
Obama’s politics of hope in US-Cuba relations are just one example of running short when details surface. His political approach to Israel/Palestine also comes up short — and in my view, he can talk all he wants about meeting Iran’s leaders, but unless he is able to simultaneously resolve the serious outstanding issues in achieving an Israel-Palestine deal, he can’t confront Iran with anything that Iran cares about in those discussions, which primarily is the spread of its influence and hegemonic role in the region.
Obama, at the beginning of his campaign, talked about the interconnectedness of our foreign policy challenges. Now, like Hillary Clinton (until her recent highly constructive comment on the need for a broad Middle East approach in the Philadelphia debate), John McCain, George Bush, and others — Obama is talking about foreign policy in silos — today Iraq, tomorrow Israel/Palestine, then Iran, then Syria. They are tied together — and I used to think that Obama got that. I have doubts at the moment.
America needs a new deal not only in the Middle East but with the world — a “grand bargain” to borrow my colleague Flynt Leverett’s term — and optically, at the level of veneer, Barack Obama is there more than Hillary Clinton or John McCain.
But his failure to talk through a new global grand strategy that synthesizes national security and American interests — and talks realistically about the crippled situation America is in today — leaves me disenchanted with him and at a loss with McCain and Clinton as well.
This is turning out to be a contest between least worst options for some — not the mystique of seeing campaigns run desperately against a historically-important new “wind” — with the wind as Obama as Howard Fineman termed him.
Gravity has set in on Obama — and there are six months left until November.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

62 comments on “Gravity Takes Bite Out of “Obama Wind”

  1. ... says:

    ain’t gonna happen with mrs obliterate…

    Reply

  2. bangzoom14 says:

    Obama has not turned out to be the candidate that many thought he would be. He does not do well under pressure as in debates and seems to prefer to not answer questions from the press, etc. That is why he has turned down any more debates before May 6 prefering to do more general campaigning. McCain is way too much tied to the military. That might have worked well maybe 40 years ago but not now. Many Americans are looking to get away from all this U.S. military influence around the world which is causing us more and more problems. Hey, who’s left here? Oh yeah, what’s her name? Wasn’t she married to what’s his name? Oh yeah, Bill. Remember him? Remember the good times? HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT 2008.

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  3. Tahoe Editor says:

    HRC = comprehensive short-term + medium-term + long-term energy strategy
    BHO = “she’s pandering. put me in and i’ll ‘change’ things”
    “benefit of the doubt” — what a joke! he used his pastor until it was no longer expedient. where’s the unity in that? “i never heard that stuff” — where is the credibility in that?

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  4. ... says:

    by all means, do all the republican talking points and make it biz as usual in washington d.c. get your candidate to suggest a gas holiday to win political brownie points with anyone naive enough to think it matters – it doesn’t, but if you are looking for some extra votes, say anything to get elected – exactly what hillary does… i would say though that to step away from those kind of bad habits is as hard as stepping away from the pastor you have given the benefit of the doubt to for the past 20 years.. he has, and she hasn’t.. vote for her, but don’t expect to convince others of yours or her b.s.

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  5. Kathleen says:

    All three “leading’ candidates have less candor and courage than I would like to see.
    Unqualified
    By Mark A. Goldman
    01/05/08 “ICH ” — – Barack Obama has finally done it. Obama now claims that statements by Reverend Wright “rightly offend all Americans and should be denounced.”
    Well Reverend Wright’s comments don’t offend me. I would have found them refreshing had his answers and demeanor been less defensive during the question and answer period at the National Press Club. What I do find disappointing though is Obama’s inability to deal with the issues raised. He’s afraid that telling the truth will lose him the election. Maybe it would. But now we all can see, that for him, winning the election is more important than telling the truth.
    Winning the election is more important than telling the truth for the other two front- runners too. That’s why none of them are qualified to be President of the United States. http://www.gpln.com/citizen.htm
    Certainly reconciliation between different ethnic groups or any other kinds of groups cannot happen without all parties recognizing and eventually taking responsibility for uncomfortable truths on all sides of any relevant issue. Obama spoke eloquently about race earlier in his campaign but was unable to do the same with these new issues raised by Rev. Wright, and that’s too bad. Instead of facing them, he ran for cover behind mainstream illusions.
    We should be thankful that Americans are getting the opportunity to see these candidates for who they are now, in terms of their state of consciousness and how they deal with problems, rather than after the election.
    McCain who claimed he was against torture, is no longer bothered by the reality of torture as long as he can point to his name being on a piece of empty legislation that offers the illusion that he deeply cares. He has no problem with Bush’s signing statements, public statements, policies of unending torture, or any of the many other Bush administration abuses of the Constitution.
    Clinton’s level of intellectual integrity comes through loud and clear as she attacks Obama for associating with the good Reverend, so we know from just this issue, which is one among many, that she is just another Bush light when it comes to telling the American people the truth as to why this country is in the mess we’re in. In all fairness, she appears not to have any idea why we are in the mess we’re in, or what part failing to tell the truth plays in the decline of America’s place in the world. http://www.gpln.com/howiseeit.htm
    So now it is ever more clear that there is no hope at all among the leading three candidates that any one of them has the courage, the consciousness, or the capacity to lead this country out of its quagmire. http://www.gpln.com/whotovotefor.htm
    What we need are citizen leaders and leaders in government who have a high degree of moral courage and intellectual integrity. Where are they? http://www.gpln.com/nooneisleading.htm
    I’ve not read up on specifically why Reverend Wright charges that the US government has or had a direct role in spreading AIDS in the Black community, but knowing what I know about other atrocities committed by our government, I would trust Reverend Wright now before I would trust any of the three leading candidates to talk about it.
    And there’s no doubt at all in my mind that the good Reverend was dead on correct when he said that the attack on the World Trade Center was a case of chickens coming home to roost. http://www.gpln.com/childrenofiraq.htm For Obama to attack Wright for telling the truth… calling Wright’s comments ridiculous and offensive is in itself a bit ridiculous and offensive.
    I suppose Obama agrees with Bush that we were attacked because of our freedoms and democracy. How Bush’s nonsensical statements can be spoken in public and accepted by the media and other institutions, or believed by the American people, just shows you how much of our national honor and integrity has been shoved down those American rat holes called greed, hypocrisy, hubris, stupidity, and treason.
    http://www.gpln.com/standupforfreedom.htm
    Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his own words: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19836.htm

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  6. Tahoe Editor says:

    Talk about running a negative campaign. He talks a “new kind of politics” but walks in a different direction entirely with his Harry & Louise ads.
    Now he can’t even maintain good relations with the pastor who married him, baptized his children, gave him Chicago street cred and the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”
    If bridges are burning in his own camp, why shouldn’t we question his professed and untested ability to build miracle bridges all over the world?

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  7. Tahoe Editor says:

    Talk about running a negative campaign. He talks a “new kind of politics” but walks in a different direction entirely with his Harry & Louise ads.
    Now he can’t even maintain good relations with the pastor who married him, baptized his children, gave him Chicago street cred and the title of his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”
    If bridges are burning in his own camp, why shouldn’t we question his professed and untested ability to build miracle bridges all over the world?

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  8. ... says:

    i like how you do her talking points.. sort of like penn doing one thing and her saying another.. that is the way she has run and continues to run her campaign.. read this and give yer head aa shake
    Sidney Blumenthal Uses Former Right-Wing Foes To Attack Obama http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/sidney-blumenthal-uses-fo_b_99695.html

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  9. Tahoe Editor says:

    Give me a break! Asking me to respond and then getting indignant when I do is rich.
    Hillary has run a positive campaign, and she has the true record of reaching across the aisle to get things done.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/29/AR2008022902784.html
    Who’s really interested in tearing the party apart? You decide:
    HILLARY:
    “Anyone — anyone — who voted for either of us should be absolutely committed to voting for the other. I’m going to shout that from the mountaintops and the valleys and everywhere I can, no matter what the outcome of the nominating process is.”
    BARACK:
    “I have no doubt I can get her votes. The question is, can she get mine?”
    MICHELLE:
    “I’d have to examine her tone.”

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  10. ... says:

    i will say one thing about hillary supporters.. they usually always preface all there positive comments on hillary with negative ones on obama… too bad there isn’t the strength of character or conviction to say all the positives and leave it at that.. it does reflect badly on hillary supporters and hopefully is not a reflection on hillary..

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  11. Tahoe Editor says:

    He’s trying to make some distinctions for himself now that he’s in trouble, but Hillary’s willing to act on a gas-tax holiday + windfall profits tax as short- & medium-term solutions to compliment her overall long-term energy policy.
    Obama offers more talk.
    Voters decide.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/106945/Gallup-Daily-Clinton-49-Obama-45.aspx

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  12. ... says:

    tahoe editor, i guess the ‘get out of jail for one day’ gas holiday is another example of obama cribbing for hillary.. i think you need to step back and rethink your analysis..

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  13. Tahoe Editor says:

    BO has been cribbing Hillary’s ideas while poo-pooing the Clinton years and using the GOP’s Harry & Louise attack ads.
    He’s been denouncing Hillary’s “old-style politics” while employing the same behind the scenes.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2189485
    BO says has what it takes to reason with dictators, but he doesn’t have what it takes to show us his cards in an unmoderated debate with his primary opponent or even to sit in the stands in Beijing.
    Now he’s trying to tell us the Reverend Wright we’ve seen in recent days is not the same person who baptized his children and officiated his wedding.
    Ask the 3,000 people in the pews if they think their pastor is suddenly another person.
    BO is trying to wind surf his way out of this one. I’d still support him if he wants to surf into No. 1 Observatory Circle and spend a few years learning how to know what he’s talking about. It’s either that or head back to the U.S. Senate to hold his first ever subcommittee hearing.
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2008/02/obamas_hearing/

    Reply

  14. Tintin says:

    Per Dan and Ringo…
    First, I am an Obama supporter, probably for all the reasons you
    are. But I’m not a blinkered supporter, and I hope you aren’t
    either.
    There are always pluses and minuses to every campaign
    strategy. Hillary’s strategy of “inevitability” was punctured and
    she quickly came back to earth. She overreached on her claim to
    “experience,” and was treated as if all her experience was a
    nothing.
    (The truth is probably that she DOES have more experience than
    Obama, but that advantage has been almost completely washed
    away by her own excesses and fibs.)
    Obama has similar vulnerabilities. To start with, he’s run on the
    smoke and mirrors of “hope” and “yes we can.” Much of it has
    been moving (to me) and I don’t doubt for a second his
    seriousness and the depth of his commitment to his approach.
    There hasn’t been a huge amount of content to this vision, and
    the content has been remarkably close to what Hillary has
    proposed. So where does that leave a thinking voter?
    Scratching his head.
    You see, just as Hillary can’t compete with Obama on the
    charisma/inspiration plane…Obama has a hard time competing
    with Hillary on the level of “but what is he actually going to do?”
    Inevitably, people want to hear more on that point, and he’s
    come up somewhat lacking. Hence his fall to earth.
    But there’s another point: Obama hasn’t run on “moving part of
    the way in the direction” we’d like to see. He’s run on “change
    we can believe in.” He hasn’t run as an incrementalist (though
    one could have predicted that he is one), but as someone who
    sees the need for fundamental change and is seeking to bring it.
    So Steve, and others, judge him by the standard he himself
    holds up as the raison d’etre for his campaign. After all, by his
    own words, he’s not running just because he can or is interested
    in power; he’s running because he thinks his candidacy is the
    right thing for the country.
    By contrast, Hillary and McCain are running much more
    conventional campaigns with much more conventional promises.
    So Obama is judged by a different, and higher, standard because
    that’s the standard he sets for his own candidacy. Minus that
    standard, he’s pretty much the same as Hillary who, at least
    gives you the feeling that she’s going to work her ass off and
    get something done.

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  15. Tahoe Editor says:

    “Judgment to Lead” — which Barack offered as his substitute for experience — is now seriously in question.

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  16. Tahoe Editor says:

    “there really is no question that he has penned many more extended negative critiques of Obama than he has of Clinton”
    I think you’ll need to compile a list with actual numbers to convince us of this.
    Steve rightly raises questions as to why BO says he’ll go on a worldwide Dictator Tour in his first year in office, but when it comes to more realistic & specific examples, he won’t meet Hamas and he doesn’t even know if he’d include attending Beijing’s opening ceremonies as part of his unite-and-heal-the-world pitch. What? Which is it? Sounds like a bunch of words to me.
    Barack just held a news conference to tell the American people that maybe after 20 years he didn’t really know his pastor and his pastor didn’t really know him. I can see Barack coming back to the American people at the end of his first term to tell us, “Maybe Ahmadinejad wasn’t who I thought he was, either.”

    Reply

  17. ringo says:

    I feel like Dan Kervick (above) has distilled into two paragraphs a core criticism that I and many readers of TWN have:
    “Obama may never be as awesome in Steve’s eyes as Steve’s hero, Chuck Hagel. But I fail to understand why Steve has continued to raise more doubts and objections about Obama, the candidate who has moved at least part of the way in the direction Steve prefers, than Clinton, the candidate who will go nowhere near the Brzezinski, Leverett, Hagel critique of US policy. Yes, Steve has criticized both candidates, and also written favorable things about both candidates. But there really is no question that he has penned many more extended negative critiques of Obama than he has of Clinton: Obama proposes serious meetings with Iran, but not with Hamas. He is contemptuously mocked by Steve for rejecting Hamas meetings, while the candidate who really isn’t seriously interested in either opening is treated much more courteously, and at not nearly the same length. Obama is smeared with a string of lies, photos and rumors aimed at convincing people he is a closet Muslim, and Steve joins in the gang blaming the victim of the smear by taking Obama to task for expending some effort to convince people he is not actually a Muslim.
    A final concluding note: Steve’s critique here is serious. But the seriousness of his critique is undermined by the inclusion of the wood-surfing photo, which plays right into the Clintons’ Rovian attempts to paint Obama as an out-of-touch elitist and egghead in the Dukakis and Kerry mode….”

    Reply

  18. PacificCoastRon says:

    Hey, I can post the same comment here as another commenter at TPM with another user name, because I am usually the same person as that other guy.
    to wit:
    As usual, I come late to the party, worn out by a work schedule w. two jobs, and thoroughly mashed tonite by the contradictory directives and the double-binds of the bosses at one of America’s largest supermarkets. C’est la Vie.
    Nevertheless. The problem is, there is no one really speaking for the necessary position: America the democratic nation needs to NOT have an imperialist foreign policy.
    Unfortunately, by winning World War II our grandfathers were put in an untenable Imperial position, and they slid and slided and postured as best they could with it, but somehow for the last few decades the Imperial Imperative on not upsetting America’s imperial position has become the norm; or not just the norm, the ring that must be kissed in every “official” discussion of the situation, such as on TV by anyone or by any political candidate anywhere.
    And it’s killing us and killing the planet. All of our efforts to maintain the empire grow more frantic with less success. We spend more money THAN ALL OTHER NATIONS ON EARTH COMBINED on “defense” and “security” and “intelligence,” yet we are noticeably MORE afraid of attack, MORE insecure and MORE stupid than other nations. (Please, please, repeat this in thousands of letters to AP-associated newpapers.)
    The comments on the blogs show it: there is a minority, maybe ten million of us, maybe just five or three million of American citizens and residents, who understand: America the democratic nation needs to NOT have an imperialist foreign policy.
    (Certainly both Clinton and Obama are deeply flawed and deficient in this respect, for those of us who understand. However, in my prev. posts on TPM I explain why I will swim with the Obama tide as I’m one of the few who still have the chance to vote against Hillary.)
    There is no political organization that speaks for us, and the zeitgeist of the culture militates AGAINST serious people giving serious, organized, attention to the problem of American imperialism … indeed the culture as whole, including all the anti-authoritarian people who OUGHT TO be on “our” side, seems to be going straight to ignorant hell in an SUV at high speed.
    Global Exchange and Code Pink come the closest to speaking to our concerns, but certainly GE and probably as far as I understand CP also are organized as 501(c)3’s, in other words legally barred from endorsing candidates and overt political lobbying.
    The millions of American citizens and residents who understand that America the democratic nation needs to NOT have an imperialist foreign policy deserve to have a FRANKLY POLITICAL organization that reflects their views. If people with even greater activist reputations and expertise do not do so first, I will re-organize my life to accomplish this much-needed goal … and to reprise the ancient junior high joke that was used against me plenty … that’s BOTH a threat and a promise. (Oh, and by the way, I have a solid reputation for organizing small-d democratic activist organizations.)
    See my previous TPM posts on this subject, going back at least a year, for further ramifications of this basic postulate of the need for an activist POLITICAL organization focused on lobbying and educating AGAINST American imperialism in all its manifestations. Just before I got my vacation near the end of Feb., another TPM reader put up a gmail box for communications toward this organization — did he, or will he, ever receive any email ?

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  19. rilkefan says:

    It’s pretty funny that Clemons still doesn’t know Obama’s stance on the Olympics.

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  20. ... says:

    informed commentary from t e, lol… lets ask bill’s ex girlfriends some questions about who they are voting for this election.. put it on bill moyers show.. afterall, bill is hillarys right hand man in this election process.. you get two for one… hillary and a confirmed liar…

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  21. Kathleen says:

    I’d like to see Dopey and Darth out in the middle of the ocean on a tiny board, clinging to a piece of cloth. Just as they were too chicken to go to Vietnam, they’re probably too scared of the ocean to wind surf. Dopey’s closest brush at sea was landing on an anchored aircraft carrier in fly-boy drag.
    Meanwhile, back at the Ship of State, Capt.Ahab is at the helm. headed healong into the perfect storm on his fanatical search for WMD’s he’s certain to shipwreck, all hands lost.

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  22. ringo says:

    Sue, I like what you say especially in point 4.
    In my opinion, Obama can be best trusted to get us out of Iraq (before Hillary started swerving on this, the candidates strongest on getting out were Edwards, Obama, Hillary, in that order). The country wants this! I think various powerful interests do not. I hope that Obama can weather the storm of attacks and attempts to box him in, pin him down, and stick to his I think well-chosen list of proposals. They are specific enough, move in the right direction, and really shouldn’t be that controversial, but somehow in our media environment, they are made to be.

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  23. Tahoe Editor says:

    Stop asking him questions and just let him eat his waffle. Can’t he just be president already?

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  24. JavaCityGal says:

    Obama is a gigantic disappointment. His pandering has become so obvious that I’m amazed he has any supporters left. He doesn’t have a clue for how to run anything….what, exactly, has he ever done to show his leadership ability? His entire history has him in a junior role. His books are pure fiction. Nevermind who his friends are, but do pay attention to how he LIES about being their friends. What is THAT all about?

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  25. Sue says:

    Thanks Steve for your usual enlightening and interesting
    analysis. I’d like to add a few points in the debate we have here:
    1. We have to deal with the candidates we have, not in abstract.
    Among the three, Obama seems the one that presents the best
    of this country to the rest of the world, could better relate to the
    rest of the world, and is more open-minded, thus, represents
    the best potential to change for the better in terms of foreign
    policy of this country. McCain and Clinton, more or less,
    represent status quo (neocom or neoliberal).
    2. Foreign policy is a minefield for any candidate. Facing strong
    advocacy groups inside and outside Congress with very loud
    voices and most voters who are ignorant and couldn’t care less
    (war is an exception) in foreign policy, be cautious and
    ambiguous probably are wise campaign strategy. There are a lot
    of taboos (I call it brainwash) in this country built over decades.
    For an example, Obama is been attacked for Hamas sympathizer
    even he tries to distance himself from Pres. Carter. If he would
    break these taboos even a few minor ones, he probably couldn’t
    survive the primary because he would subject to attacks from all
    directions. That is the reality of political campaign in this
    country.
    3. I don’t think details are important, domestic or foreign policy,
    because, especially for domestic issues, whatever details a
    president offers, he/she can’t deliver; it’s more important for a
    president that is open minded, listens to different ideas, has
    analytical and synthetic mind and flexibility to find a best
    practical solution and persuasive power to convince Congress
    and people to go along. People in academic and analytical world
    want a lot of convictions and principles. That’s not how things
    getting done in real world. Why couldn’t we open windows first
    before open doors?
    4. This country needs a debate about some big picture questions
    in terms of foreign policy: What kind of country we want to be in
    the world and what role we want and realistically can play in the
    world, and so on; the questions we should’ve debated after the
    cold war and 9/11. But this should be done first among experts;
    a political campaign is not the right environment. Obama should
    focus on a few issues that not very controversial and he already
    put on his website: pull out of Iraq responsibly; talk to our
    enemies; control nuclear proliferation by recommit US the goal
    to eliminate nuclear weapons, and commit to resolve Israel-
    Palestine-Arab issue in his first tern. I hope he can state them
    more clearly and firmly but he already differentiated himself
    from the others.

    Reply

  26. Nobcentral says:

    Wow. Looks like the Clinton campaign has decided to have its employees hit the net. Obama a weak candidate that can’t win. Heh. What does that make Hill then?
    As someone said, I guess TX and Mississippi don’t matter anymore and aren’t considered major wins.
    I’m with Steve on the the lack of foreign policy specificity but I, unlike Steve, don’t expect many details from any presidential candidate in terms of foreign policy. In fact, the very reason Hagel is so free to express his FP views is because he is not running for Prez. If he were, a gaggle of pollsters would show him that the American public doesn’t care about FP at all and he would be wasting his breath and time talking about it.
    Now, I still think Obama should talk about a more comprehensive FP since he seems like the one orator that has the ability to capture the attention of the American electorate and engage them in a foreign policy discussion. But I don’t expect it to happen. He’s the front runner now. He just doesn’t have to take any risks to win. Which means more vague generalities and less policy positions.
    Heh. The Hill camp is too funny. Obama a weak candidate. Thanks for the morning laugh.

    Reply

  27. CKR says:

    Well, duh, Steve.
    Hillary declared early on that she was going to cut Obama’s idealism down to the old politics, and that’s what she’s doing, aided and abetted by the media.
    It’s hard to make a conceptual change, easier to stay in the same old ruts of thought that have damaged the nation.
    Obama has been trying. But yes, he is getting worn down by the old divide-and-conquer.
    I’m hoping he can come back to hope. And maybe that Hillary can see the damage she’s doing.

    Reply

  28. poetryman69 says:

    At best, Wright is a stranger to the truth. Just as it is troubling that conservatism has become a Satanic cult bent on practicing ritual human sacrifice and dismemberment in Iraq for the next 100 years, so too is it disturbing that a cult on the left thinks they can curse America and lie about it or that we are to supposed to admire them for the way they curse us. Well in that case, dm U too! And in the words of FUtus, the sitting VP, fu as well.

    Reply

  29. bob h says:

    Reason and an instinct for survival dictated that the Republicans would nominate the one candidate in their sorry field who could potentially beat the Democrats. The same factors will lead to the nomination of Ms. Clinton on the Democratic side.

    Reply

  30. kotzabasis says:

    As I’ve foreshadowed in an article of mine written on March 10, 2008, the sleeping demon of racism will awake to bite Obama. And the super delegates becoming conscious of this will shift their position behind Hillary Clinton.
    Indeed, as Steve is saying, Obama will not be able to defy gravity, being just a light weight political feather in the wind.

    Reply

  31. BillB says:

    Great analysis in the original post, although I’m not sure I agree that Obama has backed away as much as you suggest from the forpol positions you cite here. I’m also not sure I agree with Steve’s use of the word “triangulate.”
    My view is that Obama has lost his way a little bit in the last few weeks. He’s being swift-boated by a fellow Dem in concert with a former president and the opposition party. Although his critics pummel him for not attacking Hillary, he can’t really do this. He’s winning and will almost certainly be the nominee. He can’t risk responding to her scurrilous attacks in kind – or we’ll be treated to Howard Wolfson, Lanny Davis, and Bill Clinton insinuating that he is an angry black man attacking a white woman. Instead, Obama has to walk a narrow tightrope… and this has thrown him off his game somewhat… but he needs to get it together fast. I too have been somewhat disappointed with his performance lately.
    However, the Clinton campaign’s behavior has rapidly descended from embarrassing to disgusting. It has taken the dressing up of cowardice as courage or “toughness” to an art form.
    Just today we are treated to more supposed examples of Obama’s “weakness” by going on Fox News without getting into a shouting match with Chris Wallace. Or not threatening to can Petraeus as “weakness.”
    The Fox interview presents us with yet another example of a candidate who, despite being much younger and less experienced than his two opponents, exhibits more maturity than either of them. Blustering and hot air signify nothing and accomplish less (see: Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Al Quaeda). I’m ready for a real live grown up President, not one who will casually saber-rattle about “obliterating” an entire nation to look tough.
    “I’m tired of hope” – really? Then why go on living? There’s a good slogan: “Tired of hope? Vote for Hillary.”
    BB

    Reply

  32. tomj says:

    So what are the big contests for Republicans? Not NY or CA. Maybe TX and FL.
    The lie that Hillary is selling is that Obama is running against a Republican and with the entire set of voters. He isn’t! He is running against Hillary with mostly Democratic voters.
    Both of them are getting many more votes than the Republicans. Hillary and Obama got more votes in Texas in the primary than Kerry got in 2004 in the general election.
    The lie is that Obama can’t win because he hasn’t won the votes that Hillary won.
    But neither Hillary nor Obama can win without the votes the other has won.
    If the Fall General Election was between Obama and Hillary, it would be close, but it isn’t going to be that way. McCain will be the opponent.
    Instead of the Democratic party honestly fighting over real issues, what we have is the need to question how electable either candidate is.
    There are not three parties! Get real.

    Reply

  33. Dan Kervick says:

    I have to take issue with the notion that the problem with the foreign policies of Bush, McCain and Clinton is that they exhibit too much “incrementalism”. The main problem is with these candidates’ conceptions of the best overall direction for US policy, not with whether one moves in those directions by small incremental steps or by large bounds and bold leaps. Confining attention for now to the Democratic race, the problem with Clinton’s foreign policy is not that she is too cautious and conservative, but that her understanding of the best interests of the United States and the globe in 2008, especially in the Middle East, are fundamentally wrong-headed.
    US policy in the Middle East has followed a certain trajectory during the Bush administration, and articulated certain aims. The aims and the trajectory have been determined to a substantial degree by Bush’s neoconservative backers. They include a permanent military presence in Iraq; the aggressive “rollback” of Iran, actively seeking regime change in that country and most likely involving military action at some point; the isolation and rollback of Syria; and the political elimination of the somewhat popular Hizbollah in Lebanon. More recently, these aims have been extended and placed in a broader framework involving the construction of a regional Sunni-Shia cold war-style re-alignment of the region, with the US and Israel aligning themselves with the Sunni powers.
    The motivation for this proposed Middle East policy is supposed to be the aggressive hegemonic aspirations of Iran, and all the old tropes and themes that were applied to the Soviets are being trotted out to defend the new “containment” agenda. As I have argued before, the actual empirical evidence for this fearsome Iranian hegemony is distinctly lacking. Nor is it the case that many actors in the region, other than the occupying powers of the US and Israel, seem particularly eager to pursue this aggressive agenda. Most people on the ground there seem to prefer diplomacy and a conventional balance of power. I would also argue that the days when the US could secure its interests in the region by throwing its lot in entirely with the politically backward Saudi monarchy and petro-state are at an end, and that it is important for the US to reach out to Iran and develop a broader and more secure portfolio of good relations.
    Now, people criticize me for calling Clinton “Bush-lite”, or “neocon-lite”, but I have seen no evidence so far that Hillary Clinton diverges from the Bush-neocon agenda I just described in any substantial way. Although she now claims after the fact that she only voted for the war resolution in order to give Bush the leverage he needed to push for more inspections and Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions, and that she herself would never have taken us to war in Iraq, no one can point to any Clinton statements from any time between the resolution and the war itself that indicate she thought the war was a bad idea. Indeed, until she began her run for the presidency, there were no statements suggesting she had any real disagreement with the decision to *go* to war, or that her criticisms of the Bush Iraq policy went beyond criticisms of the *conduct* of the war.
    The problem with her recent statement about obliterating Iran was not just the embarrassingly undiplomatic and belligerent language she used, but that she made this statement in the context of defending a nuclear umbrella extending beyond the defense of Israel and including a broad front of anti-Iranian US allies in the region. Her statement was thus an embrace of new containment paradigm. With the addition of the nuclear umbrella, the application of the Cold War paradigm to the new Middle East is complete. This containment plus nuclear deterrence program had just been defended in a widely-read op-ed by Charles Krauthammer, and indeed Krauthammer had much earlier pronounced himself rather pleased with the Clinton approach to foreign policy. So why is it so many insist on positing major differences between Clinton and the neoconservatives?
    Steve’s use of the “gravity” metaphor implies that Obama’s campaign has been unrealistically “in the clouds”, and that he has been brought down to earth by the more realistic Clinton crowd. I don’t understand this criticism. There is nothing more realistic about Clinton’s approach, except perhaps in the narrow political sense, where “realistic” is a synonym for “intellectually lazy and unimaginative, demagogically pandering, and committed to tired but established ways of doing business.” She certainly does not have a more realistic grasp of the challenges facing the US and the world in 2008. She does, though, have a very realistic grasp of the domestic politics, and what is required to please the stake-holders in the destructive status quo.
    It is somewhat frustrating that candidates who endorse and defend the objectionable status quo receive less criticism than those who suggest moving away from it. They receive this criticism, of course, from the defenders of the status quo. But maddeningly, they receive the criticism from opponents of the status quo who are more angry with the reformer for not going far enough than they are with the defender of the old guard for standing pat. Steve rightly criticizes both candidates for continued adherence to some bad foreign policy positions and patterns. But when one candidate ventures even cautiously away from the established order, he is derided for venturing into the clouds and for challenging gravity.
    Obama may never be as awesome in Steve’s eyes as Steve’s hero, Chuck Hagel. But I fail to understand why Steve has continued to raise more doubts and objections about Obama, the candidate who has moved at least part of the way in the direction Steve prefers, than Clinton, the candidate who will go nowhere near the Brzezinski, Leverett, Hagel critique of US policy. Yes, Steve has criticized both candidates, and also written favorable things about both candidates. But there really is no question that he has penned many more extended negative critiques of Obama than he has of Clinton: Obama proposes serious meetings with Iran, but not with Hamas. He is contemptuously mocked by Steve for rejecting Hamas meetings, while the candidate who really isn’t seriously interested in either opening is treated much more courteously, and at not nearly the same length. Obama is smeared with a string of lies, photos and rumors aimed at convincing people he is a closet Muslim, and Steve joins in the gang blaming the victim of the smear by taking Obama to task for expending some effort to convince people he is not actually a Muslim.
    A final concluding note: Steve’s critique here is serious. But the seriousness of his critique is undermined by the inclusion of the wood-surfing photo, which plays right into the Clintons’ Rovian attempts to paint Obama as an out-of-touch elitist and egghead in the Dukakis and Kerry mode. What will it be next? A photo of Obama skiing in Aspen, dining at Daniel, or drinking a frothy cappuccino at a café in the Castro district?

    Reply

  34. Helga says:

    I am so tired of vision and hope. That is what Ronald Reagan and George Bush campaigned for and look where it got us. It goes without saying we all want to hope for something better but hope does nothing. I want concrete ideas and plans. Like Carol I prefer Hillary Clinton also.

    Reply

  35. ringo says:

    Steve, thanks for the detailed, thought-provoking post. I agree pushing on Obama is very important. In fact as has been noted, Obama would probably agree with this idea that change comes to those who push for it; real change does not come top-down.
    However, the timing is important. I have seen enough of Obama (and enough of Hillary) to be confident that Obama’s course will be much closer to my preferences should he make it into office. (This has been much discussed, but an example I could cite is Hillary’s greater bellicosity (e.g. Iran nuke comment, vote regarding Iran, being closer to AIPAC which undermines U.S. (and arguably Israel’s) interest, weaker on getting out of Iraq) After deciding this, it seems tactically best to let him focus on selling his “vision” in the most appealing way, and letting him find common ground (yes, even on FOX).
    Because it is really important to remember how good candidates lose — they lose when they are pinned down on too many specifics, have to fight on too many fronts at once — and powerful interests endlessly repeat things they’ve said to peel off every splinter demographic they can.
    To me it seems worth keeping track of things Obama has said and then push him hard … and relevant congress people … once he’s in office. Asking him to spell everything out now would seem to invite defeat at the hands of McCain, and a 3rd term of Bush … which would be disastrous.
    What do you think? This may come down to personal tactical preference — pragmatism vs. idealism. Each side of this spectrum may see the other as naive.
    (I agree with Jim — Obama won texas in net delegates, although it took a while to count the votes so he is not widely credited with winning Texas.)

    Reply

  36. DonS says:

    I am totally not enamored with Hillary’s tired cliches.
    And I am not impressed with Obama’s tentativeness.
    Barack needs to access the emotion that makes him believe, amidst all the humility he may have, that there are monumental challenges facing this country that demand an energy both intellectual and emotional. He’s found himself in a position he never imagined. Ok, that’s quite a thrill. And Obama needs to grow into it. Fast.
    These are indeed times of “discontinuity”.
    Carol, above,you are not Carroll I’m sure. So I discount your magnanimity because I detect a partisan fervor.
    We need to be talking, not secatarian partisanship, but holding both these candidates feet to the fire for more transcending reasons.

    Reply

  37. Carol 17 says:

    A vision is only a vision if you do not have the solutions and the tenacity to make it a reality.
    That’s why I prefer Hillary Clintion.
    Obama is a neophyte politician but if he shows me he can really work and fight for his convictions I would be glad to support him in eight years.

    Reply

  38. DonS says:

    OK, I don’t know where I read it today, after checking a bunch of places. Obama says that upon election he will have Genl Petraeus come up with a tactical plan for getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible.
    I am sorry, but this is an example of Obama being reasonable, inclusive and, I would say, weak-kneeed where he needs to be decisive.
    Fire the guy! Get your own guy in there.
    Flash for Barack. Patraeus will quite before you can fire him, for all you hedged words, and visionary intentions.
    Inclusiveness is nice. But let’s see some guts on this signature issue.

    Reply

  39. ... says:

    Senator Obama is running against not one but TWO very strong candidates: Senator Clinton and a very popular, two-term ex-president. Except for a few snafus, Bill Clinton’s role has mostly passed under the radar, and it’s a very influential presence on the campaign trail.

    Reply

  40. jen says:

    I’m surprised to hear you say you are disappointed in Hillary’s discussion of the umbrella of deterrence regarding Iran, and simplify it to her saying she would
    “‘obliterate’ Iran — implying the application of nuclear weapons to a conflict with Iran — given hypotheticals between Iran and Israel that we are no where near close to.
    btd at Talk Left blogged extensively about this, saying in his first post (3 part series, titled “Umbrella of Deterrence”):
    “This is excellent strategic thinking, providing a great alternative to armed intervention in Iran and allowing for hard headed and rational diplomacy with Iran on the question of nuclear weapons.”
    He goes on to say:
    “Personally, I would love to get a reaction from Barack Obama to this statement from Hillary Clinton. I expect he would have some favorable thoughts about it. I know that Keith Olbermann seemed unable to understand the answer, and his after comments with Wolfe were an embarrassment for him imo.”
    He also included an article from Middle East Strategy at Harvard called “Iran and extended deterrence.”
    http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/04/iran_and_extended_deterrence/
    I find it interesting you are either unfamiliar with this strategy, or you don’t believe it is the correct path to take if the hypothetical situation being discussed were to come about.

    Reply

  41. ... says:

    george will is a joke.. penn was hers to win all along and so she won it and now the momentum has changed?? i agree with jims analysis on this up above. it is just a blip in an ongoing campaign.. she was the odds on favourite going into this and she has seen her ‘entitlement’ and ‘inevitability’ erode ever since.. obama has some problems too as he no longer viewed as the perfect candidate… that to me is a good thing.. maybe everyone can get real and see these 2 candidates for what they are rather then as some sort of great exceptional person to run the usa at this critical point in history.. and frankly, i don’t think it is going to matter much either as i think usa is in big trouble..

    Reply

  42. Zathras says:

    Steve Clemons’s post here raises a question about what is involved in supporting a Presidential candidate.
    The question is a little different every four years, and the answer is no sure guide for how good a President any given candidate is likely to be. This year, the question has to do with whether people support Sens. Obama, Clinton or McCain because of what they know these candidates believe and are capable of, or because of what they think these candidates might believe and be capable of. In other words, are voters supporting their favored candidates for the people they are or are they projecting their own views onto their candidates, filling a vacuum with what they wish to see?
    The question applies to all three of the remaining candidates. Sen. McCain has clashed with George Bush and embraced George Bush both, on a variety of issues; which is a truer guide to a McCain Presidency? The only honest answer is that we do not know. Sen. Clinton excels at memorizing talking points, and knows a great many things that, for example, an assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services should know about health care reform. She also got to run her husband’s effort to reform health care policy in the 1990s, and fell flat on her face. Which is a better guide to whether she would be able to do what she promises (and promises, and promises again) to do about health care? We don’t know that either.
    Sen. Obama speaks about policy in less detail than Sen. Clinton, and does not have the record Sen. McCain does; his is the emptiest canvas in the race. The rhetoric with which he outlines his general approach to foreign policy appeals to someone like Steve Clemons, who works in that field for a living. But precisely because he does this for a living, Clemons has strong views on specific foreign policy issues — and questions whether Obama’s failure to embrace those views means that his more general rhetoric is not what it seems.
    Well, it might not be, for one of two reasons. Obama might have firm ideas about how he would proceed as President on foreign policy very different from his ideas as to what he must say on the campaign trail. Were I to do some projection of my own, I would speculate that he doesn’t feel the need to muck around with Cuba policy because he regards a Presidential election as a vote of confidence by the American people; a President having that vote of confidence should feel free to take such steps regarding a second-level issue like Cuba policy as he thinks best, without feeling the need to discuss it in depth during the campaign. But this merely represents something I know I believe; I can’t say more than that Obama might believe it.
    The second, and more likely reason Obama’s general rhetoric about foreign affairs does not explicitly embrace the specific positions Clemons holds is that Obama simply hasn’t given them that much thought. Like most American politicians — and the overwhelming majority of Democratic politicians — Barack Obama has not built his career on foreign affairs. His previous races were not won because of his record or expertise in this area, and had he worked more extensively in the field it would not have helped him. So issues that a foreign policy professional like Steve Clemons regards as matters of principle — like Cuba, or being forthcoming to Hamas — Obama simply doesn’t. This doesn’t necessarily reflect Obama’s disagreement with Clemons’ perspective, only his unfamiliarity with the subjects in question and his lack of any strong views of his own.

    Reply

  43. Ann says:

    Senator Obama is a weak candidate no matter how you slice it. He has no chance in the general election after the revelations of all of his damaging associations, his fear of debating, his arrogance, inexperience and his lack of coherent policy. He is, unfortunately, out of his depth and increasingly looks tired and irritated on the campaign trail.
    What does he think 4 or 8 years in the White House would be like? Senator Clinton, 14 years his senior, looks fresher than ever — she is on message and delivering the votes. She understands the concerns of Americans and is ready to deliver.

    Reply

  44. nycvoter says:

    For someone who has watched nearly every debate, I have seen Obama improve on the debates over time, so his performance in the last debate is particularly troubling to me, both in his candidacy and his ability to be a solid President during his first term. As for the first portion of the program, which so many people had a problem with, I don’t know why he wasn’t better prepared for those questions. They’ve been out in the public sphere for months and rather than relying on the mass media going soft on him, he should have been prepared. On the policy portion of the debate, he was much stronger than in debates past, but not strong enough. I think this is a problem against McCain, who may not be the strongest debater, but we want our candidate to be a lot more solid.
    I think he fails at debates, and refuses news conferences, because he is does not have the depth that I believe we need in a President. I don’t want this to be a four year Presidency, but an eight year one, and if he can’t hit the ground running, and show some deliverables to the American people he will be out. Where’s the beef?

    Reply

  45. MM says:

    Barack Obama has serious issues and he cna’t be the nominee if the democrats really want ot win.
    I have to say, there are many of us that have been highlighting his weaknesses.
    One site is:
    hillaryisourchoice.com
    please consider stopping by after reading this article

    Reply

  46. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I was an Edwards’ supporter, very open to Obama, but have found
    him, his policies and his surrogates to be antithetical to everything
    I believe”
    Well, just give him a day or so, he’ll get around to pandering to your beliefs sooner or later.

    Reply

  47. deec2008 says:

    Bravo Steve!
    If Obama is not talking specifics now, after 21 debates, when is he going to start? Time’s running out Senator.
    Also, what about his “best case scenario” plan for Iraq? Oh and whatever happened to him saying one thing about NAFTA and his camp telling Canada something else?
    Talk is cheap. In deed.
    -Dee

    Reply

  48. Sarana Winslow says:

    Obama should drop out of the race now. Not only has his rhetoric
    of hope and change proved to be vacuous, he has polarized the
    Democratic Party like no other candidate.
    Obama would never win in the GE. If you don’t think his
    relationships with Wright, Ayers, Rezko et al are damaging, then
    you are at odds with the majority of Americans.
    Obama came on strong and won support before anyone got to
    know him. He has consistently disappointed our expectations. I
    was an Edwards’ supporter, very open to Obama, but have found
    him, his policies and his surrogates to be antithetical to everything
    I believe.

    Reply

  49. Don Bacon says:

    It’s wrong to expect Obama to stick his neck out and get out in front of the Democratic Party mainstream. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is not in favor of lifting the embargo or of free travel.
    Biden: “. . .we should not consider lifting the embargo until Cuba frees political prisoners, respects human rights and allows independent civil organizations. . . .First, we should allow increased travel of Cuban Americans to the island for family or humanitarian visits. Second, we should expand family remittances from Cuban Americans to include extended family. Third, we should allow U.S.-based companies and non-profits to send remittances to Cubans to support small business, . . .”
    The problem, in this instance, is not Obama it is the Democratic Party. Obama, on Cuba, has wisely decided not to act as a free-agent renegade Decider in defiance of his party. That’s good. That’s different than how George Bush has acted and it is a step in the right direction.

    Reply

  50. JediMom\ says:

    one more note
    Obama now says he will confirm Petraeus as CentCom
    how does moveon feel about this?
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, who has called for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq, said on Sunday he will vote to confirm the top commander there for a new job as head of the military’s Central Command.
    http://tinyurl.com/57zmhb

    Reply

  51. JediMom says:

    I think we can all see now that Sen Obama is just like any other politican
    when he ssw his views on meeting with Cuban leaders were unpopular he cribbed Sen Clinton’s phrasing on the issue
    when he saw Carter get lambasted by GOP he too trashed Carter after he said he would do the same thing
    he went on Fox News and went on and on about how great Reagan policies were and he talks about going back to Bush I foreign policy and says that was great
    ummm hellooo Cheney was his Sec of Defense Barack, remember?
    he doesnt like mandates for Universal healthcare
    except for kids when wage garnishment is then okay
    he wont raise taxes on anyone making under 250k
    oh except for those SS FICA payroll taxes on any family making over 72k, those taxes they can raise
    quite a change there
    this is a person who spins in the wind
    not someone I want as POTUS
    He has no conviction he wont back off when it proves unpopular

    Reply

  52. Steve Clemons says:

    Phyl — You may not have seen it above, but I did reference Hillary Clinton’s “obliterate Iran” comments. I get your general point though and generally agree.
    steve

    Reply

  53. Chris Mitchell says:

    Steve, yet again a well reasoned synopsis. I very much concur with your assessment that Obama’s positions fade as one digs deeper. I hear good rhetoric and then question it as any details emerge.
    On Jeremiah Wright, I disagree with you. I believe Jeremiah Wright’s statements are interesting only because of what Obama didn’t do when he heard them. He has said he disagreed, yet he hasn’t mentioned any attempt to say that he spoke to Rev. Right about them. As someone whose campaign is so pinned on being a community organizer, I worry about his ability to really stand up and question what he doesn’t agree with instead of going along with it and shaking the man’s hand when leaving the sermon. On Rezko, you can’t help what your friends do, yet he tacitly endorsed it when he did legal work (though his firm) for Rezko. It’s one thing to have bad friends, it’s another to help them in their own enterprise while at the same time claiming the moral highground of a community organizer.
    I agree that having friends with pasts is good, like Ayers, Wright, and even Rezko. Standing up to one’s enemies is hard, but standing up to one’s friends is even harder.

    Reply

  54. Phyl says:

    I am very surprised that Hillary’s ‘obliterate’ comments made post-debate were not included in your anaylsis. Obviously they did not cause much of a ripple in U.S. press coverage, but the international press has been all over them. Personally I thought that cultivating this macho image not worth the handicap of changing America’s image in the world post-Bush.

    Reply

  55. blogwonk says:

    I agree with Chris. This is a very original track of analysis, and it’s tough to argue with. I prefer Obama to win but think that the wind has come out of his sails (what a picture you picked steve….perfect actually), and it’s Obama’s fault. He is looking less like hope and change, credible change, and more like a regular old politician who will do whatever it takes to get elected. but taking that approach actually hurts him and makes him less compelling in contrast to Hillary Clinton.
    Steve points out that Obama is likely to win, and I agree and will support Barack’s campaign, but anyone on the Obama campaign who doesn’t read this note very carefully and internalize its meaning will have a mountain of problems with McCain. I think Steve is speaking truth to Obama that he needs to hear, and that is in our interest.

    Reply

  56. Tintin says:

    Dear Steve,
    I agree with virtually that you have to say and applaud your
    commitment to “staying on” all three candidates.
    For myself as a voter, however, I have a binary choice: Hillary or
    Obama. McCain or the Democrat. I can’t write in Hagel or
    anyone else without, literally, throwing away my vote. So, for
    me, Obama will remain my definite choice and I will give as
    much money to him as I can. And work for him when I can.
    And since he is the (much) better choice among the three, those
    who hope for any change in Washington need to vote for him.
    Period.
    I tend to think that Obama is losing some steam because he’s
    had to respond to so many cross-currents and (non)
    controversies. BTW, if you caught Moyers’ interview with Wright,
    you might have felt, as I did, that I would WANT my president to
    have a spiritual advisor like Wright. He was nothing short of
    brilliant. But Obama’s strengths, and the amazing campaign
    he’s run thus far, are so amazing, it’s easy not to see his faults.
    He hasn’t been specific, really, from day one. He doesn’t have
    much experience. He’s 90% vision (great) and maybe 10%
    implementation of that vision. This has been true for a long
    time. And since there is only so long you can chant “hope”
    before even that gets tiring, he needs to “move on” to give
    “hope” some content that folks can actually hold on to. Also, he
    doesn’t seem to be all that good at politics–or policy–as a
    contact sport. A real potential problem against McCain or even
    for him as president.
    As to what Don sagely says: Yes. And I think Obama, the
    former community organizer, would agree. Change comes from
    the bottom, not by pinning all our hopes on the “leader.” Yes,
    we have to lean on our Congress, to the degree we can. And
    yes, some of us should bite the bullet and run ourselves.
    Ultimately, the only way to change a politician’s mind to
    command the votes he needs. Grassroots organizations that
    command lots of: a) money for campaigns, or b) can deliver
    huge amounts of votes are the ONLY things Reps will respond
    to. Lobbying efforts with persuasive argument is also key.
    That’s why I’m so hopeful about J Street.
    I disagree with Don’s emphasis on the Web, as in this…
    “PS: The system will never work properly until we can harness
    the power of the web to hold Congress, each and every member,
    accountable to the people.”
    The Web already publishes everything you need to know about
    every one of our Congresspeople. Their votes, Where they get
    their money. What they’ve said. It’s important ammunition to
    have at hand. But the Web has also become sort of the “lazy
    man’s” way to exerting political influence. Folks get on a site
    like this and scream at each other–or you, our host–and think
    they are “doing something” to right the country.
    Nonsense. It’s way to stay in our homes, hiding behind screen
    names, at locations undisclosed, and trade bons mots with
    people with whom we agree, or insult others with whom we
    disagree. It’s the digital equivalent of living in a “political gated
    community.” Very safe. Takes no commitment. Costs nothing.
    Makes us feel good when we get off a good one or slay
    “someone” else is, in truth, nothing more than a few bits and
    bytes amidst a sea of many millions of terabytes.
    Don is right: We have to apply pressure at many more points
    than just at the top. And the Web helps. But we are going to
    have to get out of our gated communities to really make change.

    Reply

  57. Jim says:

    Sorry, I meant to say four states, as Clinton won Rhode Island.
    However, RI isn’t an important state, so it doesn’t change the
    argument at all.

    Reply

  58. Jim says:

    Let’s actually look at George Will’s argument instead of
    accepting it at face value.
    First, on Tuesday morning, one could have correctly claimed
    that Clinton hadn’t won a single important state (in fact, any
    state) since March 4 — almost two full months.
    Disingenuous? Of course! But so is George Will.
    Second, there were all of 6 contents in March. Obama won 5 of
    them (yes, five–he won the delegate count in Texas, the only
    objective measure of winning). We are left with Ohio. Thus,
    Will’s criteria for “important” states appears to be the very
    circular “states that Clinton won”. One, back on March 4.
    So, if we throw away Texas, Mississippi, RI, VT, and WY —
    under the “Clinton didn’t win” rule — then yes, Obama has lost
    100% of the states that Clinton won since February. NC and IN
    may or may not be important states; if Obama wins both, he
    still won’t have won an important state since February.
    This is what we would call ridiculous statistics gaming if it came
    from the Clinton campaign–and it has–but hearing it from
    the stoic, serious-minded George Will? It must automatically
    be fact.

    Reply

  59. leo says:

    Steve, if you want to complain about campaign duplicity, whispering campaigns, and triangulation, don’t attack Obama… the Clinton’s are reigning king and queen of such things.
    Hillary’s kitchen sink attack strategy, flinging every dirty old charge lyging about, follow up by her disingenuous finger pointing at Obama for “negativity” should lead you to write pages about the Last Gasps of her campaign (and don’t forget her dwindling funding).
    A pundit on tv, or on the web, saying that a new tide is coming in for Clinton and the wind is dying for Obama carries no more weight than Hillary’s furiously spinning campaign itself… pundits are bigger pols than real politicians because they aren’t elected.
    The truth is that, besides Ohio, Pennsylvania was one of Hillary’s safety states… trumpeting a new tide, a fresh wind, a great victory, and sure defeat for Obama after PA is nearly like Hillary claiming the Presidency after Bill makes a speech supporting her.

    Reply

  60. Chris Vaaler says:

    The most original analysis of Obama policy positions I’ve seen since the beginning of the year. I certainly hope you are wrong.

    Reply

  61. Don Bacon says:

    The underlying assumption through all this analysis is that we need a new Decider that will decide differently and we’re not going to get it, when what we really need is an activated Congress that takes responsibility for foreign policy and doesn’t simply act as a rubber-stamp to a President/Decider.
    So lacking any sensible initiatives from the Congress on Cuba, for example, we shouldn’t expect a new Decider to be much different than the old one, except maybe worse. Why stick one’s neck out? Would any of us act any differently if we were running for president? This is a democracy, isn’t it?
    Despite all the rancor about George Bush and how awful he’s been, that’s probably what Americans will end up with after the next election — something worse. And it’s all our fault for putting so much stock in a Decider instead of grabbing our representatives by the throats.
    The reality is that all the present foreign policies will continue plus there will be new aggressions using the expanded armies that Clinton, McCain and Obama are calling for. That’s what the bought-and-paid-for Congress wants. That’s where the money is. (For example the Pentagon just awarded a $319m contract for Iraqi role-players to augment Marine training.) The Pentagon will expand its control of foreign policy, the Congress will continue to take the money and posture, and a new Decider will be totally corrupted by a rotten system.
    Don’t blame Obama for our own failings. Some people claim Obama’s to blame, but I know it’s our own damn fault.
    PS: The system will never work properly until we can harness the power of the web to hold Congress, each and every member, accountable to the people.

    Reply

  62. lurker says:

    Steve,
    I am for Obama and would rather write in your guy Hagel over voting for McCain or Hillary Clinton, but I completely agree with you on your points about Obama’s occasional disappointments on foreign policy.
    This is fair and reasoned and is much of the reason why I love reading The Washington Note every day. Even when I disagree with you (occasionally), you put yourself out there.
    Senator Obama, I hope you are reading this too.

    Reply

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