A “New” Politics

This is the second time I have seen an iteration of a phrase while describing the Obama campaign, so I thought it was worth mentioning. Last night in a piece by Publius, Hilzoy commented:

I think there are genuine issues about age that deserve a thoughtful exploration. Certainly Reagan seemed to me, by his second term, to have signs of memory problems, and it’s very much worth asking whether that’s a risk we ought to run. That said, I think that a Presidential campaign is just not going to produce any such thoughtful exploration of the issues. Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that Obama raises them in the most thoughtful, nuanced way possible, that would be wholly lost.

What would not be lost is the thought: Obama is beating up on McCain. Also, the thought: this is a new kind of politics?

At Lawyers, Guns, and Money, something very similar:

Anyone who thought that Obama’s promise to bring a new kind of politics to the 2008 campaign meant a passive, ‘sweetness and light’ approach received a rude awakening as he repeatedly laid into McCain’s inconsistent positions and ill-thought out campaign promises, particularly on the economy…

In fairness, Hilzoy was discussing the age issue (and comments here– AMAZING! Say her name and she appears!), something the Obama campaign has not brought up, and should not, as there is no need to raise that as an issue. The age issue will raise itself, as it already has in the past few days with McCain’s inability to remember what he has said in a speech and his inability to remember who leads Germany. Again, the age issue will raise itself every time the public sees John McCain standing next to Barack Obama and listens to their contrasting speeches. In the Simpsons, the writers do not need to put the words “Old and out of touch” in cartoon graphics with an arrow pointing at Abe Simpson for viewers to get the message. In Grumpy Old Men, Burgess Meredith’s character was not perceived as old because he wore t-shirts that said “I am as old as dirt.” The same will be the case in the general election. Democrats do not need to point out John McCain is old- he will do that plenty well himself. Democrats would be wise to remember that, as it would be the “same old” kind of politics that Hilzoy is warning us about.

Having said that, I certainly hope that liberals and Democrats do not try to rein in the Obama campaign, because what happened yesterday in North Carolina was a masterpiece of political theater, and it was a devastating critique of not only the Bush administration but the potential third Bush administration as carried out by John McCain. As to it being a “new” kind of politics, let me highlight one section of the speech, the most “full-throated” portion, if you will:

As I’ve said before, John McCain is an American hero whose military service we honor. He can also legitimately tout moments of independents from his party, and on some issues, such as earmark reform and climate change, he and I share goals, even if we may differ on how to get there.

But when it comes to the economy, John McCain and I have a fundamentally different vision of where to take the country. Because for all his talk of independence, the centerpiece of his economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush’s policies. He says we’ve made “great progress” in our economy these past eight years. He calls himself a fiscal conservative and on the campaign trail he’s passionate critic of government spending, and yet he has no problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for big corporations and a permanent occupation of Iraq – policies that have left our children with a mountain of debt.

George Bush’s policies have taken us from a projected $5.6 trillion dollar surplus at the end of the Clinton Administration to massive deficits and nearly four trillion dollars in new debt today. We were promised a fiscal conservative. Instead, we got the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history. And now John McCain wants to give us another. Well we’ve been there once, and we’re not going back. It’s time to move this country forward.

That is not a personal attack. That is not the same old Washington blame game. That is a laying out of facts from the Democratic perspective, a necessary contrast and much needed attempt to define the John McCain economic policy. Another snippet:

John McCain takes great pride in saying that he’s a fiscal conservative, and he’s already signaled that he will try to define me with the same old tax-and-spend label that his side has been throwing around for decades. But let’s look at the facts.

John McCain once said that he couldn’t vote for the Bush tax breaks in good conscience because they were too skewed to the wealthiest Americans. Later, he said it was irresponsible to cut taxes during a time of war because we simply couldn’t afford them. Well, nothing’s changed about the war, but something’s certainly changed about John McCain, because these same Bush tax cuts are now his central economic policy. Not only that, but he is now calling for a new round of tax giveaways that are twice as expensive as the original Bush plan and nearly twice as regressive. His policy will spend nearly $2 trillion on tax breaks for corporations, including $1.2 billion for Exxon alone, a company that just recorded the highest profits in history.

Again, that is not a personal attack. That is simply a recitation of facts, and a framing that does not endear the Republican party with the average voter. One more piece:

Now, contrary to what John McCain may say, every single proposal that I’ve made in this campaign is paid for – because I believe in pay-as-you-go. Senator McCain is right that there’s waste in government, and I intend to root it out as President. But his suggestion that the earmark reforms that we’re both interested in implementing will somehow make up for his enormous tax giveaway indicates that John McCain was right when he said that he doesn’t understand the economy as well as he should. Either that or he’s hoping you just won’t notice. Whatever it is, it’s not the kind of change we need in Washington right now.

Even as someone who does not agree with every Obama campaign economic policy (windfall taxes, for example), this is a new kind of politics, at least for Democrats. A Democrat forcefully engaging the Republican party, rather than mincing words, cowering in the corner and allowing the fringe to define him, is a new kind of politics.

And it is one you should embrace. Forcefully and confidently defining yourself and what you believe in, while defining your opponent and his ideas is not “dirty politics,” it is politics. Obama did not launch into numerous attacks on John McCain the person, he didn’t raise questions as to whether McCain is in league with the terrorists, he attacked McCain on the issues, over his ideas and his policies. Again, that is not dirty politics, although it is a “new kind” of politics for a party that too often has let the opponent frame the debate with the esoteric hope that “the people are smarter than that” and “will see through the Republican attacks.” Rather than worrying about the Obama campaign, Democrats should be cheering what happened yesterday. It was the first time I remember a Democrat forcefully engaging Republican ideas, explaining why they are wrong, and providing an alternate vision.






72 replies
  1. 1
    Zifnab says:

    Can I just say this?

    Omg, we are so going to win in November.

    *dances*

  2. 2
    John in Chicago says:

    Great piece, Mr. Cole.

    When Obama promises a “new kind of politics” it certainly doesn’t mean he will refrain from pointing out the obvious deficiencies of his opponent.

    It means, as was helpfully illustrated above, and as Obama himself has said, that one can disagree – without being disagreeable.

  3. 3
    J.W. Hamner says:

    Nicely put Mr. Cole.

  4. 4
    jibeaux says:

    I don’t think either one of those folks is disagreeing with you or proposing we rein in Obama. N.B. not “reign”

    Re: Hilzoy, I think she is just saying that while McCain’s age is a legitimate target, it wouldn’t be seen that way, it would be seen in more of a same-ol-negative-attack-ad kind of light. Which I agree that it would, and I would be really surprised if Obama went there. He has so much to work with, without ever mentioning age. There is no way anyone could claim that criticizing economic policies would be hitting below the belt, no matter how forcefully argued. And damn, is he ever good at that.

    The LGM thing seems to be meant to reassure those who would worry that “new kind of politics” = wimpy. The same way that people may need to be reassured that “appeal to moderates and independents” does not equal capitulation and triangulation.

  5. 5
    DannyNoonan says:

    This is exactly what I see in Obama that I have never seen in a Democrat: he is comfortable with his positions. There’s no fear.

  6. 6
    John Cole says:

    I don’t think either one of those folks is disagreeing with you or proposing we rein in Obama. N.B. not “reign”

    Re: Hilzoy, I think she is just saying that while McCain’s age is a legitimate target, it wouldn’t be seen that way, it would be seen in more of a same-ol-negative-attack-ad kind of light. Which I agree that it would, and I would be really surprised if Obama went there. He has so much to work with, without ever mentioning age. There is no way anyone could claim that criticizing economic policies would be hitting below the belt, no matter how forcefully argued. And damn, is he ever good at that.

    I was fixing the spelling and adding a paragraph about age as you wrote this comment. I thought about this last night as I was falling asleep and forgot to add the age issue this morning.

  7. 7
    cleek says:

    Hilzoy, as i read her, isn’t saying Obama should avoid attacking McCain, or that he’d need to be reigned in if he did. she’s saying that he should avoid attacking McCain over his age. that kind of personal attack really would be a violation of Obama’s “new kind of politics” message.

    but, yeah, it is awesome to see a high-profile Dem go on the offensive like this. he makes it look so easy, i can’t help but wonder why the hell the rest of the Dems don’t call-out their opponents like this.

  8. 8
    Hana says:

    I feel exactly the same way. I do not want a passive candidate. I love the fact that Obama knows how to take the fight into the enemy’s camp. Thank god!

  9. 9
    cleek says:

    (ok, disregard my first pp, in light of your update)

  10. 10
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    Well, if your political memory only goes back as far as Gingrich’s “all politics is personal”, then it can certainly seem like a new kind of politics. It’s certainly something we haven’t seen in, like, forever.

    This approach is also going to illustrate in stark relief just how flabby and lazy the press have become. This isn’t going to be the “Inside Edition” model of gossip and innuendo; they’re going to have to actually work for a living.

  11. 11
    RSA says:

    what happened yesterday in North Carolina was a masterpiece of political theater

    Damn invitation-only events! Obama was talking about 8 miles from my house, and I couldn’t go. A friend did, though, and said it was a good speech (though it started two hours after the scheduled time)–it made her husband laugh in some parts, almost cry in other parts. She said that the audience was majority African American, and I was happy that she was not in fear of her life. :-) I wonder whether NC could be in play this year, rather than being a reliable red state?

  12. 12
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    McCain is speaking, via MSNBC, as I write. He is going on about taxes (Obama will raise them, he will “reform” the tax code. No details.). Strikes a note for leaving health care as is and giving tax rebates to pay for it. Apparently the same government that can’t handle health care can handle administering rebates for it.
    McCain wants him a line-item veto. This one will be Constitutionally valid. Inasmuch as the line-item veto is by its nature unconstitutional this will be tough to get.
    In short; the same old themes, glittering generalities, promises impossible to keep. A hodgepodge of the same policies that Bushco has thoroughly discredited.
    I’m thinking that the R’s will do their best to characterize any criticism of McCain’s vague, warmed over ideas as an attack on a war hero. They are otherwise indefensible.

  13. 13
    kid bitzer says:

    agreed. obama should attack mccain relentlessly on the issues, and these are good examples of it.

    and obama should stay above the fray, above anything petty or sordid.

    that’s our job: as irresponsible internet wackaloons, we should heap as much ridicule as possible on the fact that he is an old, pathetic liar who dumped his first wife, married a bimbo for her money, and can’t remember his own phone number. and that he is vicious war-monger, likes to refer to the vietnamese as “gooks”, and called his wife a “cunt”.

    oh, and he’s old.

    look: it’s the traditional division of labor. obama’s doing his part; we need to do ours.

  14. 14
    Egilsson says:

    Well, with all due respect, these words are not new. Democrats have been saying things like this at least since 1988 with Dukakis.

    Go read some of Dukakis’s speeches, and Gore’s, and Kerry’s.

    They just were not able to penetrate the Right Wing Noise Machine and it’s impressive ability to protray all democratic candidates as out-of-touch, unpatriotic, weak on national security, alien freaks – even though those characterizations were completely wrong, unsupported by the facts, and totally unfair.

  15. 15
    Malfunctioning Glenn Reynolds Robot says:

    Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama. Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama. Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama. Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama. Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama. Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama. Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama. Heh. Indeed. We’re winning! Read the whole thing. Obama doesn’t back up the rhetoric. Dude, where’s my recession? Larry Johnson has more on Michelle Obama.

  16. 16
    jibeaux says:

    I wonder whether NC could be in play this year, rather than being a reliable red state?

    I think the CW is that it will stay red, but Obama will probably have plenty of cash to spare to force the R’s to spend money here.

    Ever the optimist, I think it could just go a very light blue, a Carolina blue if you will, this year.

    Starting with voter registration:
    Democratic: 2,634,073 Republican: 1,932,885
    McCain only up avg. of 4.7% right now
    And a non-insignificant black population whose turnout and effect has been consistently underestimated by polls…

    Certainly seems like it could be in play to me.

  17. 17
    cleek says:

    I wonder whether NC could be in play this year, rather than being a reliable red state?

    local NPR asked some NC Republican douchebag about that possibility. he said : no, not a chance; NC has gone GOP since Carter (“and we know how those four years turned out”). then he said he’s happy Obama is coming here to speak, because every time he does, the GOP gets more votes.

    my gut could be wrong. but my gut tells me that guy is whistlin past the graveyard.

  18. 18
    drinkof says:

    “Go read some of Dukakis’s speeches, and Gore’s, and Kerry’s.”

    Please don’t make me!!

    It wasn’t just the noise machine. Gore and Kerry were simply not comfortable that enough people shared their positions.

    Obama is utterly comfortable, and seems so. And in North Carolina, where for several decades state level politicians ran and hid when the national candidate (rarely) came a calling? Gov. Mike Easley (who was a full-bore Hillary supporter) was up front and doing the introduction yesterday, and everybody on the ticket is in.

    NC is in play, count on it …

  19. 19
    jibeaux says:

    he’s happy Obama is coming here to speak, because every time he does, the GOP gets more votes.

    Reverse psychology is not known to be terribly effective on people over four, is it?

  20. 20
    MattF says:

    Campaigning on issues. Hmmph. That’s not very bipartisan.

  21. 21
    Jake says:

    I’d just like to see the MSM WAKE THE FUCK UP and realize that Obama has far better, far more detailed policy plans than McCain. Hilzoy has a recent post on this with regard to energy policy that’s really worth taking the time to read.

    The right-wing meme is that Obama’s an “empty suit”. Why one of these asshats on the teevee can’t take the time to shoot this down really annoys me. If anything, it’s just the opposite. McCain provides ZERO details. ZERO.

    Oh, and one of Obama’s best lines from his speech in Raleigh yesterday has got to be that “John McCain took Bush’s plan from too little too late to even less even later.” Awesome. Just…awesome.

    Every thinking person will be voting for Obama in November. His challenge is that this doesn’t constitute a majority.

  22. 22
    Punchy says:

    The media simply cannot fathom a Democrat on the attack. It simply does not fit into their meme…their experience…their pre-written script. MCCANE is supposed to be the aggressive, alpha-male Republican, war hero, bad-ass, terrorist-slaughtering Big Ass MoFo. Obama is best to be the soft, kind, fair, dorky Democrat who just does enough to fend off the jabs and uppercuts until November, where he is beaten by a slim margin.

    Obama’s said “Fuck THIS!” to that media portrayal. He’s seen what happened when Kerry followed that path. He aint gunna sit back and let McCane run the media….and the media is at a complete loss as what to do next. They’re a confused and frustrated bunch. Obama would be best served to put the pedal to the floor, and knock these elitist, self-centered media fucks to the canvas for good.

  23. 23
    hilzoy says:

    Yes — I absolutely don’t think anyone should try to rein Obama in in the way you (JC) say. I think he’s doing a brilliant job of attacking McCain on substance, and I want it to go on *forever*. (OK, not forever, since that would interfere with his actually winning and governing the country, but you get the idea.)

    But he’s also doing a brilliant job of separating full-on attacks on policy from slimy attacks on *people*. It was interesting to me, during the primary, to think about all the things someone might have brought up about Clinton, but he did not. (Pardons, Whitewater, cattle futures …) I really like that — but I wouldn’t like it nearly so much if the absence of one kind of attacks somehow meant the absence of *all* attacks, or a generalized embrace of wimpiness.

    In any case, I wrote what I did because someone suggested going after McCain on age. I agree with you that it doesn’t need mentioning, but I also think that since I like Obama’s willingness to be very aggressive on policy but *not* to let that spill over into personal attacks, I’d hate to see him give it up.

    Further note: I also don’t have a problem with him saying things to *needle* the other candidate, where the needling things are not out of line. E.g., the Webb bill on veterans’ benefits: that plainly got under McCain’s skin. I had zero problem with that.

  24. 24
    Leo says:

    Attacking Obama for purportedly failing to live up to his promise of a “new kind of politics” is a complete loser for the GOP. In order to make this attack, the GOP:

    1. Reiterates Obama’s attack.

    2. Reminds voters of Obama’s message that he brings a new kind of politics.

    3. Paints a picture of Obama as a junkyard dog, thereby undermining their weak/naive/Obambi line of attack and bolstering Obama’s reputation with a certain set of Clinton voters.

    3. Foregoes (or at least reduces) their substantive response, leaving it looking like they are whining about fairness rather than making their case. (This last point should sound familiar to dems—this is the defensive crouch our candidates have maintained for years.)

  25. 25
    susan says:

    I completely agree John. You are becoming a wiser Democrat with each passing day. Everytime Obama masterfully puts together words that crush John McCain, I do a happy dance inside. We finally have a candidate that is defining not only himself, but defining his opponent, before they can define him. What’s wrong with that? I guess Democrats just don’t understand good politics when they see it after not seeing it through the last 2 elections. Look, Obama wants to change the way Washington works, but he can’t do that if he doesn’t win and the way he wins is to keep McCain on the defensive and use his words to attack McCain’s policies. You are right, he’s not attacking McCain the man, he’s attacking his positions which are right in line with Bush’s. Those people criticizing him should shut up and let the man work. He’s doing what they have always wanted their candidate to do. He is trying like hell to win. Everyone needs to relax.

  26. 26
    Conservatively Liberal says:

    With McCain making the gaffes he has, people will pick up on his lackluster performance. The problem will be if the MSM will report the errors or let them slide. I think the discussions online will play a small role in keeping the issue at the forefront.

    I would not want Obama to use these gaffes unless they are already being reported in the media. Once they have seen a bit of airtime, they may become valuable ammo to Obama. I think Obama will make the right decisions if and when this becomes an advantage he can use.

    In other news, a diarist at Kos caught this. If this is true, and we see the movement of delegates to Obama, I think a lot of us will owe Clinton an apology. Myself included.

    Interesting, and IMO very good news if this is the case. One less possible problem for Obama, which is one less thing for him to worry about so he can focus on kicking McCain to the curb this fall.

    It sure will take the wind out of some of the rabid former Hillary supporters. Some. The ratfuckers will go nuts about this when they catch wind of it.

  27. 27
    jibeaux says:

    Those people criticizing him should shut up and let the man work.

    One of them came her personally to explain, as others did, that she wasn’t criticizing him.

    Magical Unity Pony is magical and unifying.

  28. 28
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Some of us are born booted, and spurred, and ready to ride. Most of us are born to be ridden. The first group likes it that way, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

    “Dirty politics” is when a Democrat points this out.
    “Negative campaigning” is when a Democrat points this out, and uses examples.

  29. 29
    RSA says:

    Thanks for the insight on NC, jibeaux and cleek.

  30. 30
    Bill H says:

    “This is a debate I look forward to having.” is one of Obama’s best lines. Even when he doesn’t use it, it is implicit in his tone, in his posture, and in his expression. And while he debates the issues, citing facts…

    “Obama is young and lacks experience.” is the weak, intangible, unprovable counter that comes from Bush McCain.

  31. 31
    The Other Steve says:

    More of this.

  32. 32
    The Other Steve says:

    BTW, did you see that Gates is replacing the Air Force chief with a C-130 pilot?

    No more fighter pilots, the new Air Force is about logistical operations.

  33. 33
    Fe E says:

    Excellently put Professor Cole!

    And even better than that, wonderfully executed by Obama, after decades of asking questions like “why the fuck don’t the Democrats just say_____?”

    A Democrat is finally just saying it!

    There is yet hope for the Republic.

  34. 34
    1jpb says:

    Anyone (such as the LGM excerpt) commenting on politics could think twice about using the “sweetness and light” term, especially in quotes. I had to spend an extra moment of contextual interpretation because my understanding of “sweetness and light” is tainted by the ironically (but cleverly) named “perfection seeking” website.

    They’re way short of perfection, but they do have a great name.

  35. 35
    Zifnab says:

    but, yeah, it is awesome to see a high-profile Dem go on the offensive like this. he makes it look so easy, i can’t help but wonder why the hell the rest of the Dems don’t call-out their opponents like this.

    Many do, but they don’t get much media love for it. Dean was as fiery and offensive as they come, but he got labeled “crazy” and dismissed. Barbara Boxer has been absolutely amazing on her defense of the environment, but she’s pigeonholed as that bitchy California tree-hugger. I can’t think of the last time I saw her on Meet the Press or Face the Nation.

    Gore and Kerry only became dynamic and passionate advocates after they lost the elections. See Kerry on the floor after 2005 and he’s a freight train. Watch him before 2004 and he’s about as aggressive as a church mouse. Go watch Al Gore pre-2001. There’s a reason some of the more outspoken liberals – Michael Moore and Bill Maher and John Stewart – didn’t like him. He came across as downright conservative, even if his positions were very progressive.

    Its strange, because losing a couple of Presidential Elections in the eighties chopped the balls off the Democratic Party. Losing a couple of Presidential elections in 2000 regrew them.

  36. 36
    zzyzx says:

    The age thing is why I’m not worried about Muslim whisper campaigns against Obama. There’s already one going against McCain and it get amplified every single time he makes a mistake. It’s not really fair as people mess up on the campaign trail all the time, especially with the 24/7 press coverage, but it also wasn’t fair that Gore couldn’t tell the smallest exaggeration without getting attacked for it.

  37. 37
    ThymeZone says:

    First, great piece, John.

    Second, we are seeing — already, in just the first week — the best GE campaign for president mounted by a Democrat since John Kennedy. It’s sharp, focussed, relentless, issue-based, substantive, and most important … effective. The needles are moving toward the blue side of the gauges already, and we really haven’t seen the full-throated contest yet, nor have we seen the full impact of the ineptitude in our opponents’ camp.

    Obama is taking us to school and I am enjoying the classes.

    I, for one, will welcome our new Democrat overlords.

    I know, I know, some here think I am being overconfident. Maybe, but seriously, you ain’t seen nothin yet. This is just going to get better.

  38. 38
    Anonymous Jim says:

    “moments of independents from his party”

    In speaking, it makes little (if any) difference to the ear, but I am still surprise this made it into the text.

  39. 39

    […] fairness, Hilzoy was discussing the age issue (and comments here- AMAZING! Say her name and she appears!), something the Obama campaign has not brought up, andshould not, as there is no need to raise that as an issue. The age issue will raise itself, as it already has in the past few days with McCain’s inability to remember what he has said in a speech and his inability to remember who leads Germany. Again, the age issue will raise itself every time the public sees John McCain standing next to Barack Obama and listens to their contrasting speeches. In the Simpsons, the writers do not need to put the words “Old and out of touch” in cartoon graphics with an arrow pointing at Abe Simpson for viewers to get the message. In Grumpy Old Men, Burgess Meredith’s character was not perceived as old because he wore t-shirts that said “I am as old as dirt.” The same will be the case in the general election. Democrats do not need to point out John McCain is old- he will do that plenty well himself. Democrats would be wise to remember that, as it would be the “same old” kind of politics that Hilzoy is warning us about. […]

  40. 40

    I’m not particularly warm to comparisons to Kerry and Dukakis, but if you go further back, well…

    “Give ’em hell, Harry!”

    “I never give ’em hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell!”

    I don’t think it’s a new kind of politics, but I’m glad to see it back…

  41. 41
    Dreggas says:

    I saw a quote over on Sully’s place from bay buchanan that summed it up. “We don’t have two candidates in this race, we have one and that is Barack Obama. McCain is nothing but an after thought”. Or words to those effect.

    Compared to the past few presidential elections it is refreshing to see a dem stand up and go for the jugular rather than playing constant defense. Everything from pulling Joe Lieberman aside and dressing him down like he was a petulant child, to the speech yesterday in NC.

    I saw parts of it and then was watching Harball last night and it struck me just how out of touch Mathews et al. were. Mathews opened up by wondering why Obama wasn’t slamming McCain on the economy, even using the “It’s the economy stupid” and I am wondering just whose ass his head was up yesterday when that speech was on. He was tearing McCain to shreds and here’s tweety, ever the clueless moron, ignoring that. It’s like he writes out a script for his show and follows that script, reality be damned.

    One thing Obama has that I think the past few dem candidates have lacked is not only a “presence” but his voice. Kerry was easily defined because he was more soft spoken, even when his voice was raised, and could be painted as weak and soft. Obama has that baritone voice that just resonates and is not “weak” sounding. He not only has the ability to be a great orator he has the tone to carry it.

    Maybe I’m one of the few who notices these things but in the way Obama speaks and the way he carries himself he doesn’t do so in a manner that shows any timidity or “weakness”. That is very important especially as people see more of him.

    McCain, on the other hand, whether due to being a POW or just due to his age walks somewhat hunched and looks tired. His speeches are soft spoken and you almost expect to hear “why in my day”. He also is known to have a temper and I think the first melt-down he has will be the final shiv that does him in.

  42. 42
    Lihtox says:

    I’m uncomfortable criticizing any candidate for their age in any case, because the effects of age are so variable. Some people are still sharp as a tack at 90, while others go into decline in their 70s. If a candidate is 80 and still appears vigorous and clever, then his age is no reason to rule him out. Sure, I’d want a good vice-president on hand in case something goes wrong, but heck, anyone can be struck down with health issues at any age.

    If Dems go around saying “McCain’s too old”, they end up insulting a lot of voters who happen to be older than McCain themselves– McCain probably has the senior vote locked up but why give him an even greater advantage? If McCain demonstrates health or mental problems, that’s different, but if he doesn’t, leave it alone. (And I’d even avoid labelling every memory lapse as senility; dumb happens at any age.)

  43. 43
    crw says:

    It wasn’t just the noise machine. Gore and Kerry were simply not comfortable that enough people shared their positions.

    Bingo. The key element is that Obama is able to add no small amount of pathos to his logos and ethos, which makes his rhetoric considerably more effective. The only other recent Democratic presidential candidate who was able to do this was…William Jefferson Clinton. When Democrats can emotionally connect with people AND appeal to their intelligence and sense of human decency, they win.

  44. 44
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    DannyNoonan Says:

    This is exactly what I see in Obama that I have never seen in a Democrat: he is comfortable with his positions. There’s no fear.

    That is the key: No fear

    That and the Mighty Wurlizer is broken. W inherited it from his Daddy, but he never read the operating instructions. He rode it too hard and too far, and he broke it.

    The Iraq War and everything else we’ve endured broke the MSM’s credibility. I am amazed how much more media savvy the people I talk to are, compared with 3-4 years ago. They know the MSM is selling BS and they aren’t in the mood to buy it anymore.

  45. 45
    passerby says:

    Gore and Kerry only became dynamic and passionate advocates after they lost the elections. See Kerry on the floor after 2005 and he’s a freight train. Watch him before 2004 and he’s about as aggressive as a church mouse.

    Zifnab, thanks for pointing this out. Up until now I thought I was taking crazy pills because this “incongruency” did not receive the attention I thought it deserved–not only was it ignored by media pundits, but, was hard to come by in the blogosphere, too.

    It’s almost as though they were NOT going for the win. And Kerry couldn’t run fast enough to the nearest podium to concede the race “for the sake of national unity” (yeah, whatever).

    Yet so many continue to laud these two guys as party heroes, party greats without noticing the lack of leadership qualities in both.

    Why haven’t they (Dems as a whole) been more outspoken all these years?? (rhetorically)

    It’s not like they haven’t had the philosophical and moral high ground until now.

    T

  46. 46
    Existenz says:

    Totally agree 100%. And Atrios agrees too. We need more speeches like this, every day until the election (well, maybe not EVERY day).

    And I hope the DNC convention is a good mix between slams on McCain and Bush, along with exciting plans about where Democrats will take us.

    We can feel sorry for McCain after the election. Right now, let’s put the hammer down.

  47. 47
    mrmobi says:

    I know, I know, some here think I am being overconfident. Maybe, but seriously, you ain’t seen nothin yet. This is just going to get better.

    Yeah, I think so, too. I heard most of that speech by Obama yesterday on XM-POTUS, and it was amazingly good.

    Great post, John. It’s still hard for me to believe you’re a democrat sometimes, but that was a wonderful take-down of your former parties’ lack of defensible positions in this race.

  48. 48
    SGEW says:

    I think I’ll make myself a t-shirt that reads:

    Obama ’08
    NO FEAR!

    Yep. I like that.

  49. 49
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Why haven’t they (Dems as a whole) been more outspoken all these years?? (rhetorically)

    IMHO, so get a large grain of salt:

    I think an entire generation of Democrats who came up during the Reagan – Gingrich years were traumatized by their repeated losses in presidential elections and by the slow inexorable erosion of the former Democratic majorities in Congress. They played like a sports team that was trying to sit on a lead, playing not to lose rather than trying to win.

    It always struck me that the GOP took the correct lesson from the Goldwater debacle in 1964, which was to hone their arguments and work harder, and not back down from their core beliefs. They understood that it is far better to get royally thumped in an election standing up for what you really believe in, than to trim your principles for short-term tactical advantage.

    Democrats in contrast thought that the best response to their losses in the 1980s and 1990s was to scoot over to the right a little bit and to try to paper over the differences between them and the GOP. Bad strategy – given a choice between a real Republican and a fake one, people will go with the real one. In politics voters can smell insincerity – it smells like fear.

  50. 50
    jake says:

    Sun-Tzu:

    I. Laying Plans

    22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

    23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them.

    24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

    Cassius Clay:

    Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

  51. 51
    dirk says:

    The candidate’s attack strategy is high-minded and pleasingly effective, but I’d still like to see some of McCain’s unpleasant personality examined. The so-called Hillary PUMA brigade would have the strength of their righteous sisterhood contrasted with ‘beat the bitch’, the Reno/Chelsea paternity etc.

    His clearly dreadful positions on women’s rights seem to have no effect, or may be at least swamped by what may be the real reason for their stated support of the white guy.

  52. 52
    DougJ says:

    I think the age issue is valid. By that, I mean that I seriously have doubts about the abilities of a man who is that old to run the country?

    I think anyone who has ever worked with a 70 year-old agrees with me.

  53. 53
    passerby says:

    I think an entire generation of Democrats who came up during the Reagan – Gingrich years were traumatized by their repeated losses in presidential elections and by the slow inexorable erosion of the former Democratic majorities in Congress. They played like a sports team that was trying to sit on a lead, playing not to lose rather than trying to win.

    I agree with this 100%.

    Now that we’re being shown what REAL leadership looks like, we can now see how the victimization of congressional dems was adopted by the rank and file electorate, us, who in turn became whiners and blamers: “Those dirty rotten Rovian GOPers are mean to us.”

    Because we took our cue from them instead of vice versa, we got the government we deserved.

    So far, Obama has not displayed one iota of victimhood. Things are looking up.

    T

  54. 54
    Beej says:

    Good point made by Olbermann last night: In the last presidential election there was no YouTube. Today, McCain denies saying what he actually said, and almost before he finishes his denial, someone has the clip of him saying what he just denied saying up on YouTube. This is a powerful, immediate check on the lies and evasions that a significant number of politicians (more Repugs than Dems, but both parties are guilty)are accustomed to uttering without contradiction, or at least without contradicting evidence. Can’t do it anymore. The evidence is now there for all to see.

  55. 55
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Good point made by Olbermann last night: In the last presidential election there was no YouTube. Today, McCain denies saying what he actually said, and almost before he finishes his denial, someone has the clip of him saying what he just denied saying up on YouTube. This is a powerful, immediate check on the lies and evasions that a significant number of politicians (more Repugs than Dems, but both parties are guilty)are accustomed to uttering without contradiction, or at least without contradicting evidence. Can’t do it anymore. The evidence is now there for all to see.

    Good point. I remember saying to a friend after Jim Webb won the Virginia Senate race in 2006 that 2008 was going to be the “YouTube election”.

    Note that YouTube and other net based media wouldn’t be carrying so much weight if the MSM hadn’t done such a thorough job of destroying their own credibility.

  56. 56
    stickler says:

    Not to pile on, but this:

    I think an entire generation of Democrats who came up during the Reagan – Gingrich years were traumatized by their repeated losses in presidential elections and by the slow inexorable erosion of the former Democratic majorities in Congress. They played like a sports team that was trying to sit on a lead, playing not to lose rather than trying to win.

    Isn’t quite right. Or, better put, it’s missing the cause for that erosion and series of losses.

    Democratic leaders from 1964 until, well, hopefully 2008, had to face the inexorable destruction of the Democratic coalition. Because, as LBJ knew when he got the Civil Rights Act passed, Southern whites were going to punish the Democratic Party for abandoning segregation. And, thanks to the Southern Strategy of the GOP, they have done so. The pernicious effect of losing Southern whites (especially men) caused the tepid conservatism of Carter, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. Hell, notice where three of those four men came from in the first place — Dixie!

    And for that matter, it’s still true: Obama won’t win Southern white men in 2008 — we’ve already seen that in Appalachia this year.

    But now, in 2008, the electorate is diverse enough that (God please hear my cry) Southern white men don’t matter anymore. Or at least they don’t get to exercise a veto over policy and elections like they have for the last forty years. If that’s the case, then the horrible Confederate curse that has so warped our national politics may finally be about to lift.

  57. 57

    […] In discussing Barack Obama’s remarks on economic policy and McCain yesterday, John sums up what seems to be happening quite well, touching on these very issues: Even as someone who does not agree with every Obama campaign economic policy (windfall taxes, for example), this is a new kind of politics, at least for Democrats. A Democrat forcefully engaging the Republican party, rather than mincing words, cowering in the corner and allowing the fringe to define him, is a new kind of politics. […]

  58. 58
    Dreggas says:

    Even Clinton was “Not ready for Youtube” which was the title of a diary I did over at the GOS. Basically Clinton and now McCain are/were running campaigns that were not prepared to really be fact checked, in fact they counted on the lazy media. Thanks to YouTube and lots of eyes watching, we the people are catching them and calling them out when they play on ignorance (I did not say what I said just the other day) and it’s making its way into the MSM thanks to the blogs and Youtube.

    Obama, on the other hand, has been aware of the Net Generation and has been using it to devastating effect.

  59. 59
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Isn’t quite right. Or, better put, it’s missing the cause for that erosion and series of losses.

    Stickler,

    You are correct. I was describing symptoms, not deep underlying causes. What we are now seeing is the terminal stage of the GOP Southern Strategy. Effectively the two parties have swapped places with one another geographically over the last 100 years, and the process has almost finished. Kevin Phillips covers this in great detail in his books and articles.

    The GOP had a temporary advantage while the swap was in progress, because they were taking the South away from the Democrats while holding on to most of their older base in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and Far West. But now they are losing their grip on the latter areas, and the electoral map increasing looks like a map from the 1902 election with the colors reversed.

    If this election turns into a rout, the GOP will find itself boxed into the same southeastern regional ghetto that the Democrats held as their base in the late 19th Cen.

    I expect that a mid 21st Cen. GOP resurgence will happen on a platform of economic populism, just as FDR used class warfare to break out from that geographic box and poach from traditionally Republican areas in the 1930s. Huckabee pointed that way this year, but the current GOP is still too beholden to big business for him to break through. That will change as big business turns blue over time (they care more about access and influence than ideology per se, IMHO)

  60. 60
    cleek says:

    speaking of New Politics, KeithO beats BillO

  61. 61

    Bill H: “Obama is young and lacks experience.” is the weak, intangible, unprovable counter that comes from Bush McCain.”

    The jiu jitsu is obvious here: “Dick Cheney has a lot of experience–how did that work out for us? Donald Rumsfeld has a lot of experience–how did that work out for us?” Und so weiter, as the Germans would say.

    “Washington experience got us where we are today. Children dying because their parents can’t afford a dental checkup. People who can’t look for a job–or keep the one they have–because they can’t afford to fill their gas tanks. We have to stop doing the same thing over and over, expecting the same results. So let’s talk some more about where McCain’s kind of experience gets us.”

    Obama needs to place the blame for America’s current state squarely where it belongs: on politicians with experience.

  62. 62
    Fulcanelli says:

    Hmmm. A Democrat calling the GOP on their lies, smoke and mirrors, and then rebutting the bs and beating them with the truth stick. I could get used to this from my President. Rather quickly.

    Meanwhile… the GOP blocks the windfall profits tax on the oil companies who are strangling the economy and the working middle class in their last ditch attempt to exploit the remaining months of the Bush administration.

    The strategy of Obama’s campaign is writing itself, and offering itself up on a silver platter.

    I can’t wait until the Obama Administration gets a hold of the F.C.C..

    Clearly this is not good for Republicanism in it’s present mutation.

  63. 63
    Jess says:

    I think I’ll make myself a t-shirt that reads:

    Obama ‘08
    NO FEAR!

    Oooh I want one!

  64. 64
    Jess says:

    the current GOP is still too beholden to big business

    I’m pretty sure that the GOP and big business is one entity–their strategies, governing style, and goals (the real ones, not the election-year rhetoric) only make sense if you see them as an extension of the corporation.

  65. 65
    Robert Sneddon says:

    I remember an early comment by Senator Obama thanking Senator McCain for his half-century and more of service in the US Government.

    That plants several shivs in the gentleman’s back — he’s old, he should quit and retire (the “gold watch for fifty years service” concept), the taxpayer has been covering McCain’s paychecks all his life and of course it reminds the listener of his lifetime of government subsidised healthcare (wasn’t he born in a USN hospital? I think so.) All that from a warm and heartfelt desire to thank a long-serving member of the Senate. Yeah.

    As for the “Obama is young and lacks experience.” line, one simple counter to that trope is that the USN ordered twenty-year-olds like Lt. McCain jg to strap themselves into several million taxpayer dollars worth of jet fighter and expected them to bring it back in one piece, as almost all of them did. Ouch.

  66. 66
    Egilsson says:

    I think a lot of you guys must be democratic johnny-come-latelys, because democrats have in fact been saying this stuff for years, including Dukakis.

    They just got stained with this “they’re out of touch with ‘real americans'” crap. It was ridiculous, particularly when as they were children of middle class families losing elections to blue blood republican scions of politically powerful and fabulously wealthy families. I mean, Dukakis was a hard-working achiever born of greek immigrants who earned his way the american way, by self accomplishment v. Bush, the millionaire child of a U.S. Senator.

    It’s outrageous and still infuriating how that 1988 race played out based on BS about the pledge of allegiance, and how it still impacts the completely unfair preception many have of Dukakis and other democrats to follow (Dean is the next best example of someone who has been completely but successfully distorted).

    At this point in 1988, Dukakis was 15%+ up in the polls over Bush.

  67. 67
    Original Lee says:

    You go John! Great post! I don’t think we’ve seen Obama at the top of his game yet, and I’m all quivery with anticipation.

    I love that McCain is still pushing for a gas tax holiday when his main economic advisor is the guy who slipped an amendment through Congress that made it easy for banks, mutual funds, and random day traders to speculate in the oil market, causing oil to cost about 30% more than it should.

  68. 68
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    I’m pretty sure that the GOP and big business is one entity—their strategies, governing style, and goals (the real ones, not the election-year rhetoric) only make sense if you see them as an extension of the corporation.

    Ummm, no.

    Most of the leadership, yes. But not the base, especially the nativist and theocon wings. Look at the howls of outrage over Bush’s proposed immigration reform – not exactly what the US Chamber of Commerce had in mind.

    There are all sort of fissures in the GOP right now, and the gap between big business on the one hand and the Pat Buchanan economic-nationalists/nativists and the theocons pn the other hand is already wide and will get even wider if big business starts backing Democrats out of pure pragmatism. Look at Wall St. – hedge funds have been putting up some serious money in the last couple of elections and a lot of that green is colored blue.

  69. 69
    Fruitbat says:

    I had a dream last night that Obama won the election, and his campaign got TV on the Radio to play at one of the inaugural balls.

    Sometimes thinking about just how different this campaign season could be (in general and for Democrats specifically) makes me truly giddy. I’m sure this is what fired my subconscious to produce last night’s dream.

    (Also, I like the phrase “inaugural balls.” As in “That Obama’s got quite the set of inaugural balls on him.”)

  70. 70
    Brachiator says:

    By: John Cole

    Even as someone who does not agree with every Obama campaign economic policy (windfall taxes, for example), this is a new kind of politics, at least for Democrats. A Democrat forcefully engaging the Republican party, rather than mincing words, cowering in the corner and allowing the fringe to define him, is a new kind of politics.

    Yep. You got it. Because Obama is (relatively speaking) the new kid on the block, he can’t waste time trying to make an issue of peripheral stuff like McCain’s age. He has to go after the hearts and minds of the voters.

    And the exciting thing is that Obama seems to understand this and has his staff focused on fighting the Republicans where they are the weakest (and where they foolishly believe that they are the strongest).

    Egilsson Says:

    I think a lot of you guys must be democratic johnny-come-latelys, because democrats have in fact been saying this stuff for years, including Dukakis.

    They just got stained with this “they’re out of touch with ‘real americans’” crap. It was ridiculous, particularly when as they were children of middle class families losing elections to blue blood republican scions of politically powerful and fabulously wealthy families. I mean, Dukakis was a hard-working achiever born of greek immigrants who earned his way the american way, by self accomplishment v. Bush, the millionaire child of a U.S. Senator.

    Yeah, Democrats were saying this before, but rarely in a way that resonated with the voters. In America, everyone wants to be rich, or at least much better off than their parents, and at least 30% of the extremely wealthy are Democrats (google Political orientation of wealthy Americans ), so it is a waste of time falling for the GOP’s “class warfare traps.”

    Both Democrats and Republicans disdained him, but you gotta present economic issues as clearly as Ross Perot did in the 1992 general election.

    When Democrats say, “the Republicans just want tax cuts for the rich,” a lot of people only hear “Republicans… tax cuts…” and think, “Hey, I want some of that!”

    It’s more like: “Republican tax plans have hurt you, hurt the economy and hurt the country. Here is how to fix it.”

  71. 71
    Catsy says:

    Yes and yes and more yes.

    My prediction for the 2008 election: during one of the televised debates, when Obama pins McCain in a corner over some lie he’s told, confronted with video evidence, McCain will explode and tear into Obama with profanity. Exposed to undeniable, indefensible evidence of McCain’s unfit temperament for the presidency, a massive shift towards Obama will occur and the election will be a rout unprecedented in US history.

  72. 72

    […] I’m totally digging Balloon Juice nowadays. John lays the fuckin’ facts out on the table: Forcefully and confidently defining yourself and what you believe in, while defining your opponent and his ideas is not “dirty politics,” it is politics. Obama did not launch into numerous attacks on John McCain the person, he didn’t raise questions as to whether McCain is in league with the terrorists, he attacked McCain on the issues, over his ideas and his policies. Again, that is not dirty politics, although it is a “new kind” of politics for a party that too often has let the opponent frame the debate with the esoteric hope that “the people are smarter than that” and “will see through the Republican attacks.” Rather than worrying about the Obama campaign, Democrats should be cheering what happened yesterday. It was the first time I remember a Democrat forcefully engaging Republican ideas, explaining why they are wrong, and providing an alternate vision. […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] I’m totally digging Balloon Juice nowadays. John lays the fuckin’ facts out on the table: Forcefully and confidently defining yourself and what you believe in, while defining your opponent and his ideas is not “dirty politics,” it is politics. Obama did not launch into numerous attacks on John McCain the person, he didn’t raise questions as to whether McCain is in league with the terrorists, he attacked McCain on the issues, over his ideas and his policies. Again, that is not dirty politics, although it is a “new kind” of politics for a party that too often has let the opponent frame the debate with the esoteric hope that “the people are smarter than that” and “will see through the Republican attacks.” Rather than worrying about the Obama campaign, Democrats should be cheering what happened yesterday. It was the first time I remember a Democrat forcefully engaging Republican ideas, explaining why they are wrong, and providing an alternate vision. […]

  2. […] In discussing Barack Obama’s remarks on economic policy and McCain yesterday, John sums up what seems to be happening quite well, touching on these very issues: Even as someone who does not agree with every Obama campaign economic policy (windfall taxes, for example), this is a new kind of politics, at least for Democrats. A Democrat forcefully engaging the Republican party, rather than mincing words, cowering in the corner and allowing the fringe to define him, is a new kind of politics. […]

  3. […] fairness, Hilzoy was discussing the age issue (and comments here- AMAZING! Say her name and she appears!), something the Obama campaign has not brought up, andshould not, as there is no need to raise that as an issue. The age issue will raise itself, as it already has in the past few days with McCain’s inability to remember what he has said in a speech and his inability to remember who leads Germany. Again, the age issue will raise itself every time the public sees John McCain standing next to Barack Obama and listens to their contrasting speeches. In the Simpsons, the writers do not need to put the words “Old and out of touch” in cartoon graphics with an arrow pointing at Abe Simpson for viewers to get the message. In Grumpy Old Men, Burgess Meredith’s character was not perceived as old because he wore t-shirts that said “I am as old as dirt.” The same will be the case in the general election. Democrats do not need to point out John McCain is old- he will do that plenty well himself. Democrats would be wise to remember that, as it would be the “same old” kind of politics that Hilzoy is warning us about. […]

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