Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pinch-hitter

I'm letting Andrew Sullivan do my blogging for me (I hope he doesn't mind). This post is fantastic, top to bottom. I agree with every pixel.


Perhaps the most telling critique of Obama, to my mind, is his lack of executive experience. [...] I asked him directly last year why a voter should back someone who has never run anything bigger than a legislative office. He responded by pointing to his nascent campaign. He observed out that he was up against the full Clinton establishment, all the chits she and her husband had acquired over the years, and the apparatus they had constructed within the party. He had to build a national campaign from scratch, raise money, staff an extremely complex electoral map, and make key decisions on spending and travel. He asked me to judge his executive skills by observing how he was managing a campaign.

By that standard, who isn't impressed? A first term senator - a black urban liberal - raised more money, and continues to raise much more money, than Senator Clinton. More to the point, the money he has raised has not come from the well-connected fat-cats who do things like donate to the Clinton library. His base is much wider, broader and internet-based than hers. It has many more small donors.

Now look at the strategy he laid out last year, as he explained it to me and others. Iowa was the key. If he didn't win Iowa, it was over. But if he could win Iowa, he would prove the principle that a black man could transcend the racial issue, helping in New Hampshire, and then also helping him peel off what was then majority black support for the Clintons in South Carolina. Then his strategy was meticulous organization - and you saw that in Iowa, as well as yesterday's caucus states. Everything he told me has been followed through. And the attention to detail - from the Alaska caucus to the Nevada cooks - has been striking.

Now consider the psychological and emotional challenges of this campaign. It has been brutal. It has included many highly emotional moments - and occasions when racism and sexism and all sorts of hot-button issues have emerged. Then there was the extraordinary spectacle of a former president and spouse bringing the full weight of the Democratic establishment and the full prestige of two terms in the White House to dismiss some of Obama's arguments as a "fairy tale" and frame him as another Jesse Jackson.

How did the candidates deal with this? The vastly more experienced and nerves-of-steel Clinton clearly went through some wild mood-swings. Obama gave an appearance at least of preternatural coolness under fire, a steady message that others came to mimic, and a level of oratory that still stuns this longtime debater. In the middle of this very hot zone, he exhibits a coolness and steeliness that is a mark of presidential timber. He played tough - but he didn't play nasty. Keeping the high road in a contest like this - without ever playing the race card or the victim card - is an achievement. Building a movement on top of that is more impressive still. So far, he has combined Romney's money with Clinton's organizational skills and Ron Paul's grass-roots enthusiasm. No other campaign has brought so many dimensions into play.

And he won Missouri.

(Photo: Obama at the Apollo by Hiroko Masuike/Getty.)


My only contribution is the spiffy headline layout and the bold emphasis.

8 comments:

Chris Howard said...

This is good stuff. Didn't Sullivan used to be conservative? I have to say, I honestly don't understand why conservatives would vote for Obama if they look at his platform. But hey, I'm not going to complain.

Regardless, this is a very good point. I'm tired of the experience argument. It's bogus. I'm not even referring to Clinton but to all the rabid anti-Obama people on the blogs I read who try to create controversy.

Smitty said...

This stuff on blogs about Obama not having substance is now largely a myth. It has become an urban legend, perpetuated by a media too lazy to see that actually, he does have real policy positions and a developed idea of what he will do. I am sick and tired of reading and listening to people continue to go down theis "Obama excites me but has no depth to his policy, and Clinton has the experience and policy but really polarizes people." I am absolutely done with that crap. It's a myth.

Secondly, Obama excites me on a personal level. I am a lobbyist by trade, so I have a really callous view of politics and usually massive disdain for political speeches. I'm pretty damn cynical. But Obama...is different for me. I find myself enraptured by what possibilities he offers.

The following may be cheesy, but it's really personal to me and my core beliefs. When I enlisted, I had an idea of the America I chose to defend (in whatever capacity "defense" means). What we have today, right now, is not it and I feel personally insulted by that fact. What digs the needle in further for me is that the version of America we have now is being sold to the public on the backs of our troops and on ideals that are not universally shared at all. That insults me even further.

Hillary Clinton perpetuates the insult. She is not doing anything substantive to move us away from our current version of America, and honestly, if her record will be anything like Bill's record, she will continue to move towards the center, if not the right, in order to not lose.

Obama relieves the insult. He, at least in his flowery prose, offers me a version of America that I thought I enlisted for some 16 years ago.

Cheesy, but it's why I feel rage every time Bush opens his mouth and excitement every time Obama opens his.

Toast said...

This is good stuff. Didn't Sullivan used to be conservative?

Um, yeah. He'd be the guy who, after 9-11 but before the invasion of Afghanistan, said:

"The middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush—is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column."

Sullivan's a tool. Yes, he occasionally takes positions that a reasonable person can agree with, but when the chips are down, his over-wrought and hyper-vindictive opposition to "the Left" (which is basically some fantasy of the 60's-era SDS "Left" that now exists only in his imagination) always takes precedence over being reasonable. Hell, this is the guy whose "mea culpa" on supporting the Iraq war spent more time discussing how "The Left" was "right for the wrong reasons" than it did actually apologizing for being wrong. (Sorry, Andy, I was right for all the right reasons. You just weren't smart enough to figure it all out.)

Fuck Sullivan. Nothing he can ever write -- and I mean ever -- will excuse his past behavior. Fucking douchebag.

Mr Furious said...

Apparently Sullivan penned that "fifth column' piece while parked on Toast's dog...

I hear where you're coming from, Toast, and this reaction was expected. If I had been reading at the time, I might feel similarly. I started reading Sullivan ater his conversion took rooot, and for the most part I find him agreeable (ie: I agree with him).

I suspect Sullivan is like a lot of conservatives and Republicans. When shit hit on 9/11, he was one of the bedwetters who needed the reassurance of "leaders" like Bush and Giuliani, and bought right into the jingoistic orgasm of over-patriotism and dissent-squashing.

--

Chris, he's more on the libertarian end of the conservative spectrum. He disagrees with a lot of Obama's platform, but hates where the GOP is at, and suffers from one of the worst cases of Clinton Derangement Syndrome known to man.

So Obama's his guy. Sullivan's a good writer, and his blog is a good clearinghouse/source for pro-Obama / anti-Bush stuff, so he's a daily read for me.

Mike said...

This whole "Obama has no experience" thing is such a red herring. I don't get it.

The man who has no experience as anything more than "a legislator" is running against a woman who has no experience as anything more than . . . uhhh, a legislator? And the man he'd face in the general election has no experience other than being . . . a legislator?

Huh?

Obama has been in the Senate since 2005, Hill since 2001. But Obama served in the Illinois legislature & Senate since 1996. Where's the big distinction is "experience"?

I hope Hillary supporters aren't referring to her time as First Lady as part of her "experience," since we've all ben chided to remember that she & Bill are different people.

I have problems with Obama (just as I do with Hillary) based on his triangulating policy positions and my perception that he's a slick, empty suit (but a handsome suit, to be sure). This "experience" angle, however, is a crock.

Toast said...

I hear where you're coming from, Toast, and this reaction was expected. If I had been reading at the time, I might feel similarly.

I have to say that this reaction absolutely baffles me. Because you weren't reading him yet, what he said doesn't count? It's somehow less odious?

I suspect Sullivan is like a lot of conservatives and Republicans. When shit hit on 9/11, he was one of the bedwetters who needed the reassurance of "leaders" like Bush and Giuliani, and bought right into the jingoistic orgasm of over-patriotism and dissent-squashing.

Yes, and that is why nothing he has said subsequently should be taken seriously. He demonstrated in the most emphatic way imaginable that he has horrible judgment.

If Dennis Miller suddenly started talking sense again, I'd feel the same way. Ditto for Christopher Hitchens. Hell, when Hitch launched his pro-atheist manifesto, many of my fellow nonbelievers were all over him, gushing enthusiastically. Not me. I was like "Who gives a fuck what that idiot thinks?"

All of these clowns weren't just Iraq war supporters, they were the scumbags who smeared those of us who CORRECTLY opposed the war as traitors. Why would anyone care what they think about anything after that?

9-11 was a test of character and judgment. Anyone who failed that test should be shunned for eternity by all reasonable people. There are no fucking do-overs.

Mr Furious said...


I have to say that this reaction absolutely baffles me. Because you weren't reading him yet, what he said doesn't count? It's somehow less odious?


Not at all. I'm just removed from the emotional reaction. HAd I read that at the time, it's likely I would never go back and read him again. Because I started reading him much later (his columns in TIME) and without the knowledge of that comment, I have sort of a separation.

It's not right, because by reading him in a sense absolves him, but he is writing stuff I agree with and enjoy on a consistent basis now. His posts are good, and his links are better.

Toast said...

It's not right, because by reading him in a sense absolves him

Well, at least you're aware that what you're doing is wrong.

This is a war, my friend, and Andy is on the other side.