Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why Obama Trumps Clinton in a Debate with McCain

Prescient, eh? As you said, we'll see.

But here's a recap of my arguments on the optics of a Clinton-McCain debate vs. an Obama-McCain one.

The problem I foresee comes on the issue of national security which, while it is dropping south of the economy as Americans' prime concern, is still a hot button. More to the point, it is the main issue for Republicans.

Karl Rove laid out the strategy for the Bushites two elections ago - Americans trust Republicans with national security over Democrats every time so keep voters afraid. On top of that, gerrymander election boundaries and suppress Democratic voters.

So, in a Clinton-McCain match what happens?

Hillary will fight McCain in her wonkish way by arguing she has better policies. But TV debates are an emotional game and by fighting on McCain's Republican ground - who's better for national security - she loses.

While McCain may not win the general election under any circumstances - given that 2/3 of Americans think their country is on the wrong path - Hillary will have a tougher time for these reasons and the simple fact as I noted before, that she is not well liked or trusted even by many Democrats. That's why her primary support is always low outside her power base.

Match up Obama with McCain and the scene is quite different. You've got Lincoln-esque tall, lean Obama, whose height and thus appearance of stature is at least equal to McCain's.

If Obama is smart he will strategize his debate around McCain's notorious temper. While McCain is unlikely to let a woman knock him off balance in a TV debate, if Obama throwns a few well-placed jabs, McCain might just blow his cool.

If McCain reveals himself that way, he is toast. More to the point, Obama’s presence as a man who is fresh, serious-minded, but strong - strong in generosity and mind and spirit too - will show up and whither the bombastic, 71-year old ex-POW.

On a historical note, the tallest candidate wins about 80 percent of U.S. elections because the taller guy seems stronger.

And Barak, at 6’ 1-1/2” towers over McC (5’7”) and Mrs. C (5’ 8-1/2”). This won't hurt.

Everyone says Obama’s supporters want “change.” For years, pollsters have told us 2/3 of Americans are unhappy with the direction of their country. Does this mean 2/3 want change or a return to what they think of as a better time before the current change? Maybe they don’t want change, they want a direction that is less of a change than Bush’s radicalism. They agree to the word change because that’s what they are asked.

Ironically, I could argue that O’s supporters don’t want change, they want stability and an end to the White House Robespierre and his gang of radicals.

Another problem with Mrs. C as a political sell is that she is comes off as someone who is pandering. Remember, this is the team (Mr & Mrs C) that made a religion of triangulation - defeating your political enemies through divide and conquer strategies among interest groups.

The result was Mr. C's slashing support programs for the poor and deregulating the financial industry which opened the door for the current subprime mortgage chaos. So when Hillary says she wakes up every morning thinking of how she can help people, how does that jive with her several years as a Senator - saying nothing about stopping torture, warrantless arrests and wiretapping, the on-going disgrace of Louisiana, caging protesters in free speech zones, the swelling of the US prison population with non-violent and poor offenders, the mass privatizing or elimination of community-oriented government services and so on?

Even though she is memorably quoted (in About.com) as supporting voting rights, she has not stood up - to my knowledge - against the various voting frauds and legal disenfranchisement efforts that have taken place during her time as a Senator. She may be a good person but I think she defines political good as whatever is expedient and furthers her ambitions. Sort of like the Bushes when they don't count Iraqi dead, think Katrina's devastation of poor people's homes is an opportunity for them to move upmarket, and speak as if only Americans died on 9/11.

Rather than stand upon and be remembered for principle, Mrs. C didn't want to rock the boat on Iraq or other corruptions of the Bush Administration for fear of appearing weak or -in every wishy Dem's favorite excuse - giving the Republicans ammunition, like they need it, when her time came to try for the presidency.

Further, her central strategy of claiming leadership experience is somewhat farcical. Without commenting on her experience as First Lady, she showed arrogance and rigidity in her effort to reform medical care in the U.S. Her lack of leadership skills in both legislative vision and the people skills necessary to push visionary legislation through Congress and public opinion do not seem to have improved.

Like Bush, she blames others for mistakes she has made and doesn’t listen to those who disagree with her, as evidence in her dumping her campaign manager for following her queenly dictates.

So what experience is she talking about? Or have we defined-down experience to mean simply showing up for work, going to Congresional hearings on "important issues" and having a business card that says First Lady or Senator? On marketing experience vs change, Americans know there is little a president can actually do without assuming dictatorial powers as Bush has with so-called signing statements he says lets him ignore laws, the Constitution, morality etc.

Americans want a leader who can give the tired, worn down, war-weary and agitated American public a sense of hope for the future and let them get down to it. Someone who is willing to try something other than bombs, wars, threats, ignorance, sadism, lies and tax cuts for the rich that have characterized Bush's monotone psychosis.

On this point, Mr. O is like the coming of Motown in the 60s, while Mrs. C sounds like the latest retread for the disco dance floor. It may be catchy but it has no soul.

- Barry Brown, Toronto


Barry Brown is a journalist and Pulitzer prize nominee with writing credits for the Washington Times, New York Times, Globe & Mail, among other publications. While he gladly offers unsolicited advice, he is not a lawyer. The views expressed are those of the guest blogger, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wise Law Blog and its authors.


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