Tuesday, July 01, 2008

How hard will Obama fight?

Fear and jingoism are basically all the Republicans have to run on in the general election. And the Establishment media for the most part are eager to help them make that case.

It worries me a lot to see Obama taking what seems to be a very defensive stance at the moment. Defensive not as in defending his lead over McCain in the polls or playing to the Democrats' current strengths. But defensive as in thinking he has to run like a scared bunny from the attacks of the Big Pundits, the Establishment press and the Republicans.

In what Josh Marshall calls the "bitch-slap" tactic, the Republicans make some flimsy attack on the Dems, often just picking up on something the trivial-minded and scandal-hungry press has initiated. The idea is not so much to make the attack itself stick as to make the Democratic opponent stumble in some way in responding to it. And for most of these types of attacks, anything other than either an in-your-face rejection or a kiss-my-hiney type of response is going to look "weak". Obama fell into that trap on Monday by joining in the media and Republicans attacks on his own supporter Wes Clark for a completely legitimate comment made in defense of Obama's candidacy.

How do the Republicans respond? Of course, they want to scare Obama into repudiating even more of his supporters. When you've got the other side on the run, you press your advantage. Greg Sargent reports at TPM Election Central, McCain Campaign Accuses Obama Camp Of Coordinating With Webb To Attack McCain 07/01/08.

Golly, a Democratic Senator is supporting the Democratic Presidential candidate?! Maybe even talking to his campaign?!! The Obama campaign needs to respond to this kind of obvious nonsense by pointing out that the McCain camp is acting like a bunch of WATBs. If they can't stand up to Jim Webb, who will they ever stand up to The Terrorists? The only way, the only way that these kinds of WATB attacks can stick at all is if the Obama campaign trembles in fear and apologizes for expecting Democrats to support the Democratic candidate.

Maybe Obama needs to have a secret day-long training session with Bill and Hillary Clinton on how to go about fighting the Establishment press. Because that, rather than the attacks from the Republicans (which the press often pick up), is Obama's biggest challenge in this election. If he's goal is to prove to the practitioners of High Broderism that he is "bipartisan" or "post-partisan", then we'd better brace ourselves for a McCain candidacy. I would much prefer having a chance to return to Constitutional government.

Digby has a good perspective on this kind of thing: "Wake me when the transformative, post-partisanship features something that doesn't make me nauseous."

Her particular point of reference there was Obama's new embrace of funding "faith-based" social services and allowing them to use the money for explicitly religious and proselytizing purposes. If the feds don't stop funding those dishonest and worse-than-ineffective "abstinence-only" sex education programs, then the high school kids who aren't either pregnant or suffering from an STD or both are going to be a small minority before we know it.

She called the Republican whiners how were so horrified at Wes Clark's comment on Sunday the "LaVyrle Spencer Book Review And Ladies Circle Jerk Society", asking Does Anyone Have A Spare Lace Hankie?

I'm wondering if we're going to wind up with the Democratic base going around trying to defend Obama's candidacy because we don't want to see the Supreme Court reduced to 1850s quality while Obama concentrates on sounding as much like a Republican as he can. If he wants to build a mandate to get the US troops out of Iraq and pass a decent national health-insurance program - and the country badly needs both, whether he really cares about those goals or not - then he's going to have to get beyond the "post-partisan" stuff and campaign for Democratic goals.

I'm genuinely puzzled at why he and his campaign think he has to strike such a defensive posture. This would be the perfect moment to go aggressively after McCain. Telling high-profile and effective Democratic spokespeople on national security issues to shut up is not going to get him to the White House.

And if he doesn't get there, McCain will attack Iran and magnify the catastrophe known as the Cheney-Bush Middle East policy. We'll have no solution to the heath care financing failure, and businesses will continue to reduce their coverage of their employees. The torture gulags will continue to operate. Our energy policy will continue to be written by oil lobbyists. These would not be good outcomes.

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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