Sunday, June 22, 2008

'Major Blunders': Another View of Obama's Recent 'Mistakes'

CNN chose to make a big deal of what a terrible political mistake it was for Obama to announce that the chief of staff for his running mate would be a fired Clinton campaign manager. While the Democratic strategists they had on to discuss the issue did their best to legitimately explain the decision, they made no attempts to strongly communicate its clear and important message or the strengths of the decision. Wolf Blitzer, Lou Dobbs, and the various Republican strategists (of course) were negative and very heavy-handedly so. The words 'blunder', 'error', 'insult', etc. were spoken quite bit. Dobbs, a man whose economic populism suggests strongly that he should be backing Obama loudly, was the most abusive in tone.

Was it really a mistake? I don't think so. The decision to hire Hillary Clinton's fired campaign manager as the chief of staff for the vice presidential campaign sent a clear message that Hillary would not be the running mate. It sent this message without a big speech by Obama about why Hillary wasn't going to be his running mate or revealing what his other thoughts on his choice might be. When Obama announces his choice and it is not Hillary, the angry shock that would have inevitably followed without this announcement will have been diluted by the foreknowledge created by the hiring being criticized. It's better to take a small hit in the short term and to move on strong than it is to take a big hit when you can least afford it. So far, to me, it appears that Obama and his campaign staff have been operating in full understanding of this principle and have been unafraid to take the jabs to slip the right crosses. I can only praise a political toughness seldom seen in Democratic nominees, even if Obama isn't my nominee of choice.

Obama has also received a slough of criticism for his decision to opt out of the campaign finance system. I can understand this criticism, as there is a strong belief in the need for political campaigns in which corporate and PAC bribe money plays a smaller role. However, the loopholes in McCain-Feingold allow for massive amounts of soft money to be used in elections. Just bribe the party instead of the candidate, the candidate will know where the money came from.

I applaud Obama's decision to opt out of the public finance system. Yes, that's right, I applaud it. Vigorously. The Republican Party traditionally outspends the Democratic Party on soft money 'issue ads' that amount to the most vicious kind of attack ads. Small, private PACs like 'Swift Boat Veterans For Truth' have been added to the mix in good measure and no one knows where their money comes from. With all due respect to the necessary process of reform, you do not enter into a fistfight with one hand tied behind your back when your opponent has a knife in his pocket. Gore and Kerry both did this, and it ended badly for both of them.

When someone pulls a knife, you pull a gun. Obama doesn't intend to be passively knifed. He intends to fight back and win.

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