Monday, February 26, 2007

Obama's new politics

Obama is making a lot of noise about a new style of politics, basically promising to stay on the high road in his race for the presidency. It seems that Obama is serious about this, even repudiating the tactics of his own staff for their part in the recent Geffen blow up.

I honestly would love nothing more than for this to work. Idealistically, the notion that a campaign would focus on issues, relying upon the beliefs of the candidate rather than the perception fostered by that candidates opposition, would be wonderful. In fact if Obama were to be able to bring this new style of politics to successful fruition, this nation would owe him a great debt of gratitude for that act alone, not withstanding his effectiveness at leading the nation.

However, I believe down to my very core that Obama's quest is doomed to failure. Being deeply concerned with campaigns dating from Michael Dukakis through to John Kerry, I simply know that running a campaign above the fray is a losing proposition.

The character running Obama's campaign response is a slimeball. Obama is trying to stay above the fray by denouncing the conduct of Robert Gibbs in the recent Obama/Clinton Geffen flapdoodle. Robert Gibbs is the character responsible for tying Howard Dean to Osama Bin Laden in the Iowa primaries in the last presidential campaign. He is dirty, low down, disgusting... and he sunk Deans campaign in Iowa.

The "architect" responsible for George Bush's last two electoral victories is a low down dirty rotten scoundrel named Karl Rove. Make no mistake about it, Rove has gone lower than can be imagined, even to the point of smearing a war hero (John McCain) from the same party to help his candidate win the primaries. Rove may be a walking human turd, but he has won the last two presidential campaigns.

John Kerry allowed the swiftboaters to sully his record for an entire month before he defended himself. A war hero was beaten in 2004 by a war shirker, who's administration is stocked full of draft dodgers and fellow shirkers, but who somehow presented himself as the candidate who understood the military. Kerry allowed himself to be painted as a 70's peacenik radical who served dishonorably, and he lost a race he should have won in a landslide. The unfortunate truth is that Kerry would have done far better with a disgusting human turd running the show behind the scenes than trying to stay focused on the issues as his heroism was called into question.

Republicans have proven themselves past masters at smearing war heroes they run campaigns against with possibly the most egregious example being the treatment of Senator Max Cleland. Cleland lost three limbs in combat at the age of 25... but somehow the Republican who ran against him in 2002 managed to make him seem sympathetic to Americas enemies in the war on terror. Clelands Republican opponent,Saxby Chambliss, was given a student deferment in the Vietnam war and never served in the military.

Finally, consider the genesis of the dirty campaign from my perspective. The first time I ever followed a campaign closely was with Michael Dukakis V George H.W. Bush. Even just seeing the name Dukakis reminds me of the horrible frustration of that election. Watching Dukakis stubbornly insist on talking about issues on a daily basis, as the elder Bush campaign led by dirty trickster Lee Atwater slammed him and his wife around was my first lesson in effectiveness of the politics of personal destruction. Seeing a 17 point Dukakis lead in the polls evaporate and him lose in an electoral landslide. He was spot on about the issues of the day, and he stayed above the fray to the point that it ruined him politically.

Bill Clinton got it right, and Hillary learned that lesson. Hillary, correctly so, has made no bones about it. You hit her, she's going to try to take you out. That is the way it has to be until some remarkable event occurs to change the dynamic of modern day campaigning. Clintons attack dog has since lost a lot of his bite, but I remember James Carville back in 1992 just being ferocious. He wasn't dirty, but he certainly was not above the fray either. And he helped win that election.

So I honestly hope that Obama is successful in his quest to change politics as we know it. But I fear that he will prove to be just another politician with a lot of good ideas but no willingness to take up a dirty challenge to him on a personal level. If he is able to withstand that and still win, I will be highly impressed and grateful. But I'm not willing to back another candidate who stays above the fray and because of that timidity or idealism, loses on election day.

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