Ah, the promise -- and the frustration -- of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. I saw him speak at North Carolina Central University this afternoon to a multi-ethnic crowd of several thousand people who paid $15-$25 just to hear him speak. And he delivered -- as expected, Obama is funny, dynamic, and moving on the stump.
But, as always, I have the same two objections. First, Obama will not let the goo-goo dream die. He said the reason he ran for president is to "change politics" -- a goal that is, frankly, absurd and borders on the anti-democratic. The forces driving the trend toward increased partisanship won't go away if he's elected. Consider the only time in recent memory that the two parties "got along" and "worked together" -- the aftermath of 9/11. During that period, President Bush's high approval ratings silenced dissent among Democrats, providing the context for approval of the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq in fall 2002. It's not a great model.
I was also frustrated at Obama's continued reluctance to go after Hillary Clinton directly on issues -- a theme I've mentioned before (here, here, and here). Despite the local paper's claim that Obama "[hammered] away at both President Bush and his chief rival, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, on the Iraq war," I only heard him say her name when criticizing her vote on the resolution labeling Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. It's a start, but not enough. I know he's reluctant to go after her in front of Democratic audiences, but this is primary season.
The best way to square the circle is to link Obama's desire to change politics with Hillary's negatives, which, he could argue, will prevent us from making progress on issues. Wouldn't this be a more effective argument than what he said at the debate?
Senator Clinton has served our country and our party with distinction for more than two decades, but we can't move forward on the issues that matter to this country if she is the Democratic nominee. Like it or not, the baggage she brings with her into the race will mire us in the tired politics of the 1990s, make it harder to take back the White House, and prevent us from making progress on issues like health care and energy independence. I ask Democrats to give me the chance to start a new political era in this country.
Comments are open.
Update 11/4 1:51 PM: I should note that Obama came reasonably close to this pitch during an exchange with Hillary at the end of the most recent Democratic debate
One last point I want to make: Part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that's a fight they're very comfortable having. It is the fight that we've been through since the '90s. And part of the job of the next president is to break the gridlock and to get Democrats and independents and Republicans to start working together to solve these big problems, like health care or climate change or energy.
And what we don't need is another eight years of bickering. And that's precisely why I'm running for president. Because one of the things I've been able to do throughout my political career is to bring people together to get things done.
More of this please.