Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Letting Obama be Obama

A lot’s been made recently about Sen. Barack Obama not having the fire in the belly to pursue this presidential campaign to its illogical conclusions. There seems to be a real drumbeat, a barely contained cry among the media who want Obama to “call out” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton – like the upstart young gun who stands on the streets of Dodge City and calls the craggy, wizened sheriff out of the saloon for the purpose of seeing who’s faster on the draw.

It’s a sick reflex common to the media in big election campaigns: They can’t wait to do what they can to start a fight between candidates. They long for confrontation, and what’s got some in the media a little uneasy is that they’re starting to discover that Obama is apparently serious about taking the high road, fostering an atmosphere of civility in American politics and not generating conflict for the sake of soundbites and edgy TV.

But Obama has absolutely no reason (right now, anyway) to engage Clinton in the kind of knockdown, drag-out bare-knuckled fisticuffs that the media love. Why should he? He’s kept pace with her on fundraising, or raised more money than she has. He’s been able to get his message across, building a solid core of supporters and an equally solid ground game in Iowa by fighting his way. There’s no need to pop Hill with a rhetorical Taser on the campaign trail.

The senator from Illinois has nothing to gain and everything to lose by reverting to the type of bloodsport politics historically associated with the Democrats. If he picks up the cudgel, he risks alienating the core of voters and supporters that have followed him precisely because he’s succeeding without being confrontational. Raising the ante with needless clashes would also play into the hands of the Republicans, who’d love to say Obama was just engaging in divisive Democratic “politics as usual” after all.

The media thinks the New Hampshire primary is some kind of do-or-die test for Obama -- that, unless he engages Clinton directly (perhaps as soon as the Democratic presidential debate in Manchester on Oct. 21), the state’s voters will gravitate, glassy-eyed, to the Clinton campaign (whenever the date for that primary is set).

But that media calculation overlooks the nature of the rock-ribbed New Hampshire independent. The pol-watchers’ thinking says that those independents aren’t likely to go with the GOP candidates in the primary. If that’s true, then it’s likely just as true that those independents will vote for Obama, in no small part because he walks it like he talks it – because his maverick approach to campaign politics is exactly the iconoclastic, independent thinking they’ve been looking for.

There’s an old saying — “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” So far, at least, Barack Obama has mastered the art of political energy conservation, and realized a cadre of very loyal followers, and the money that flows from those loyal followers. Since he’s not broke — literally or figuratively — what’s there to fix?

Many in the media – the lamebrains who cluck their tongues and call Obama “weak” and “insubstantial” – are desperate for a battle royal between Clinton and Obama. They may not get it. They’re looking for a “race,” but they don’t realize they have a race right now. It’s just not the Ben-Hur chariot competition they’re hoping for. It’s time for the media to stop angling for a clash of the titans. It’s time to let Obama be Obama.
Photo: transplanted mountaineer; fair use under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Source: Wikipedia


  1. I think some of that desire to engage Obama in a dirty political battle with Hillary comes from the dislike even many Democrats have for Hillary. You're right though, Obama doesn't need to stoop to that. Running a largely positive campaign was the very reason why John Edwards did so well in 2004, against all odds, minimizing his attacks on John Kerry. But let's face it, these poll numbers for Hillary and Obama are disturbing for anybody rooting for a non-Hillary win in '08. I hope Obama's good fundraising and other positives will be enough to kill the Hillary-monster.

  2. Thanks for your message on my site, and glad to hear from someone who feels the way I do about a Hillary Clinton presidency. Thought you'd find this link interesting, in regard to your post about Obama...looks like he's thinking of throwing a few punches in her direction.


  3. hmm, not sure that worked. here's a link instead.


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