Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Obama Lands A Double Whammy

By Cernig

I tell you, if I were an American voter, this via Matt Yglesias alone would tell me which of the remaining fairly-talentless Presidential Idols to vote for.
It’s time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain is not by nominating someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq; who agreed with him by voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; who agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like; and who actually differed with him by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed.

We need to offer the American people a clear contrast on national security, and when I am the nominee of the Democratic Party, that’s exactly what I will do. Talking tough and tallying up your years in Washington is no substitute for judgment, and courage, and clear plans. It’s not enough to say you’ll be ready from Day One – you have to be right from Day One.
As a foreigner, one of those upon whom America inflicts its foreign policy, I hope the implication that Obama would be different isn't an empty campaign promise and suggest that maybe you all should give him a chance to find out.

Alex Knapp at Outside The Beltway calls this "a nice little political jujitsu move... to attack both Hillary Clinton and John McCain at the same time, by tying them together and tying them both to Bush." He agrees that there's a lot more daylight between Clinton and Obama's foreign policy platforms than, say, between Clinton and McCain's:
I think that this is an excellent attack, both in the fact that its substantive and there’s nothing really unfair about it.

Now that Edwards is out of the race and John McCain is the GOP frontrunner, one of Obama’s great strengths in the campaign is his foreign policy positions. Bush’s foreign policy has become rather unpopular, and the fact of the matter is that McCain’s foreign policy is Bush-plus (Bush isn’t hawkish enough for him), and Hillary Clinton’s, frankly, isn’t much different–especially if we judge by her campaign advisors, her Senate voting record, and her husband’s record while in office.
Hillary's response is to fudge over her own vote for the AUMF (Obama wasn't a Senator then) and to fudge over her own vote for Kyle-Lieberman (Obama didn't vote). Comparing her own actions with what Obama didn't do and calling them equivalent is dishonest. More, although she's said she would talk to America's enemies, she hasn't set out clear conditions for doing so which leaves the suspicion that it's just talk with no set of conditions possible that could turn it into action. Obama has made a clear promise in this regard, and been attacked by Clinton for stating clearly what she wants to prevaricate and parse about. Finally, no matter how she tries to spin it, she said she'd allow exceptions for torture back in 2006 - even McCain mocked her for it at the time - and later changed her tune.

From this observer's point of view, Obama just made a compelling case for most of the rest of the world hoping he's the one...and that he'll stand by his word.

Update Steve Benen sees all this in the context of an election fight against McCain, who now appears to have a lock on the GOP nomination:
As it stands, I actually think this is a healthy development. Clinton and Obama agree on most policy issues, and it gets tiresome to hear them argue about peripheral points. Having a GOP rival in mind should help focus the debate between them, with each able to make the case for how and why they can win the election.

As far as I can tell, the basic pitch from Obama’s perspective will be:

* He appeals to more independents and frustrated Republicans than Clinton;

* He represents a better contrast (old vs. young, new vs. stale);

* He unites the left and divides the right, while Clinton divides the left and unites the right.

And the basic pitch from Clinton’s perspective will be:

* She has better support independents and frustrated Republicans than the conventional wisdom suggests;

* McCain will make Obama look young and inexperienced — especially on matters regarding the military and national security — a line he can’t use against her;

* The right may rally against her, but she knows how to deal with their attacks, persevere, and come out ahead. Can we say the same about Obama?

We’ll probably see quite a bit of this at tonight’s debate on CNN, the first head-to-head debate of the year. Should be interesting.

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