Entries in Obama (6)



By William Rabbe on 11/10/2008

Renegade is moving into the White House. At least that's how Barack Obama will be known to the secret service -- by his code name. For President-elect Obama, who received criticism for being a "secret muslim," and a "secret socialist," (read: un-American) the literal meaning of the name renegade couldn't be more ironic. The word Renegade, as defined by the Oxford American Dictionary, means "a person who betrays an organization, country, or a set of principles" or "a person who abandons religion."

Maybe those in the secret service have a wry sense of humor but what has come to pass in this country is truly remarkable. In the final weeks of the election many on the far right came to distrust the polls. Some were relying on the idea of the "Bradley effect," or the notion that voters would lie to pollsters in favor of an African American candidate, but would cast their ballots for the other guy in private. The idea of the Bradley effect itself is a belief that America harbors a sort of latent racism, which could only become suddenly apparent after voters had gone to the polls. The idea was faulty.

The candidate who was supposedly handicapped by his race won a Democratic landslide. Not only did he break a racial barrier but he broke down a barrier that had increasingly impeded the modern Democratic party: slim margins of victory. In the last 50 years the three biggest landslides have all been Republican: Nixon in '72 and Reagan in '80 and '84. Since 1964, no Democrat has won with more than 300 electoral votes without the help of a third party candidate (Perot got 19% of the vote in 1992 and even 8% in 1996, helping Clinton win more electoral votes).

States that had not voted for a Democratic President since '64 also turned this time around: Virginia and Indiana. Obama won both the symbolic swing states of Ohio and Florida, the breadwinners of the electoral college. Western states like New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada all went blue -- and even North Carolina jumped the bandwagon, encroaching on the "solid south," the Republican stronghold.

But with Obama's historic election come huge expectations, expectations that even "the one" will find difficult to meet. How will Renegade fare?


The Obama Strikes Back  

By William Rabbe on 08/21/2008

Having been lambasted by the McCain camp as an out of touch, race-card-playing celebu-tante, Barack Obama is fighting back this week -- and pragmatic Democrats who worried that Obama's "above the fray" non-responsive approach would doom his candidacy are sighing with relief.

The cardinal rule of negative campaigning is: "when attacked, attack back," -- or perhaps better summarized by veteran democratic strategist, Paul Begala: "it's hard for your opponent to say bad things about you when your fist is in his mouth."

The most classic victims of "refuse-to-fight-back-syndrome" are Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004. Both democratic candidates did not want to dignify their opponents attacks with a response and both paid a high price as a result. Somehow more democrats fail to learn this lesson than republicans...

So, is Obama's fist in McCain's mouth?

Well, Obama's first new ad hits McCain hard on taxes and his purported connection to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

It's pretty good, but won't rouse as much attention as McCain's ad featuring Brittney and Paris... (Although, the injury to McCain was compounded when Rea Hederman Jr., of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that the middle class would pay less taxes under an Obama administration.)

In a more devastating negative ad, Obama's portrays McCain as too aloof and too wealthy to be able to understand the consequences of the foreclosure crisis for everyday Americans.

So, it seems Obama has learned the lessons that have beleaguered so many of his democratic predecessors with an effective negative ad campaign... but will it stick? For Obama to be successful, he must construct a believable narrative for his opponent that confirms the suspicions that American's have of John McCain... so, while these ads may come a little late, this is an effective start.


On Foreign Policy  

By William Rabbe on 08/12/2008

Whatever happened to "speak softly and carry a big stick?" Our voice is clearly audible and our stick is stuck in the mud...

In the wake of Russia's flagrant use of power, the foreign policy challenge of our next President will be to effectively move away from the neoconservative ideology of the last eight years and toward the application of "realpolitik" -- a pragmatic approach to foreign policy balancing power with the national interest.

Russia's invasion of former Soviet satellite state Georgia has prompted many to wonder why the United States and Western world have not been able to better influence the unfortunate course of events over the last several days. Despite Georgian President Saakashvili's attempt to encourage the US to take a bigger role at his side, America has largely been ineffective in curtailing Russian aggression, the scope and swiftness of which has shocked the international community. So why couldn't we do more to avert or cease this conflict earlier?

The answer to this question may lie in the doctrinal application of neoconservatism to American foreign policy. The idea of neoconservatism is confusing -- it has been used pejoratively to describe George Bush's brand of "Cowboy Diplomacy," military pre-emption in the name of security and even American zionism -- but those interpretations aside, at the core of the neoconservative movement is an idealism that democracy can easily flourish worldwide and that the United States is the missionary of that Democracy -- a philosophy that has put more emphasis on confrontation than on compromise. In fact, Robert Kagan described neoconservatism's ultimate goal as "benevolent hegemony."

As applied over the last seven or eight years, our over-eagerness to export democracy has tied up our military and resources, lost us favor with friendly nations and has increased our deficit. This has left us more vulnerable and less credible on the world stage.

In the late 1960's, a costly war in Vietnam coupled with increased spending was referred to as "guns and butter" by critics of the Johnson administration. Now the comparison the LBJ's administration may be more appropriate since Russia has acted so flagrantly: in August of 1968, during the Lyndon Johnson's lame duck term and on the eve of the Presidential election, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia -- the US, with it's hands full, was unable to roll back the tanks.

Vladimir Putin is most certainly aware that this month marks the 40th anniversary of the Czechoslovakia invasion and, conveniently for him, just as in '68, the US doesn't have much leverage -- even after having had prior knowledge of Russia's plan. Putin foresaw a narrow window of opportunity and used it.

Encouraging former Soviet states to continue on their democratic trajectory is certainly in the national interest, while Iraq appears less and less to have been the "imminent threat" it was portrayed to be. Despite Bush's outward confidence in Putin (having famously looked into his eyes and having "seen his soul"), it appears the United States somehow underestimated Russia's prowess. It is clear that we can no longer assume that Russia is the same disorganized, weakened nation it was ten years ago and ignore it on the world stage -- Vladimir Putin proved long ago that he was no Boris Yeltsin and as Prime Minister it appears he has a heavier hand.

The next president will be faced with the challenge of returning to "Realpolitik," an approach to diplomacy that has eluded this Administration -- one that will allow for a more flexible response to crises of this nature the military might to back up critical rhetoric. Realpolitik ("the politics of reality" in German) is defined as "policies based on hard, practical considerations rather than on moral or idealistic concerns."

So, this being an election year, which candidate will be better suited to respond to problems of this type on the world stage? Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama are neocons, but who would be more effective? There are arguments on both sides. John McCain would not likely put ideology before practicality, as shown by his great regard for the decisions of the generals on the ground in Iraq. And Barack Obama would likely gain more leverage among more countries, as he plans to cultivate allies and recoup our military.

Henry Kissinger once summarized that, "a statesman's test is whether he can discern from the swirl of tactical decisions the true long term interests of his country and devise an appropriate strategy for achieving them." This still rings true...


Too Far?  

By William Rabbe on 07/30/2008

OMG! The new John McCain ad features Barack Obama amongst celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton!

That's hot.

But by tapping into popular resentment of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, is McCain's camp grabbing at straws or could this approach be effective (albeit still slightly ridiculous)?

Probably both. As the underdog, John McCain can afford some flexibility in shifting tactics -- he's trying nearly every approach to find out what works and what doesn't before the critical post-convention stretch. In this case, he's making a play for free publicity by cooking up a controversial ad that will be much talked about by the pundits. Obvi!

But also, he may be fortifying the doubts amongst some Americans that Barack Obama is less an effective leader as much as a rock-star-esque self-promoter. Or a celebutante.

But wait! Isn't this coming from the same candidate who gladly touted his endorsement from The Hill's star, Heidi Montag?


The 12 Worst Gaffes of the 2008 Election  

By William Rabbe on 07/15/2008

Filed under: Lists

By Sarah Scully and William Rabbe

Every candidate makes mistakes every election cycle -- but in 2008, with the popularization of online video, they're more noticeable. The following is a list of the top 12 worst gaffes of 2008 (so far).

12. Lightning Strikes Rudy Giuliani While Former Candidate Rudy Giuliani was explaining his pro-choice position on abortion, lightning strikes, disrupting the audio from his microphone. The lesson? Candidates should remember that God is always watching.

11. Barack Obama's Botches Tornado Death Toll Numbers Barack Obama vastly over-stated the number of deaths resulting from tornados in Kansas, saying 10,000 people died. The reality: 12.

10. John McCain's Sunni/ Shi'ite Mixup One of a few McCain gaffes, the candidate mixed up the two major sects of Islam in claiming that Shiite Iran was training the Sunni Al Queda-- but thank goodness for Joe Lieberman!

9. Obama's Presumptuous Logo Obama came under fire for using a logo that closely resembled the Presidential Seal -- not a smart move -- he was quickly accused of measuring the drapery in the White House...

8. Joe Biden's Comments on "Clean" Obama Yikes, Joe Biden attempts to praise Barack Obama but mistakenly calls him "clean and articulate" -- seen as a racially insensitive move.

7. Mike Huckabee's NRA Speech Huckabee tries to be funny but instead draws criticism when giving a speech at the NRA -- uttering that somebody off camera had "pointed a gun at Barack Obama."

6. Hillary Clinton's RFK Comment Hillary Clinton appeared to be hoping for the worst when she described June as the month when "anything can happen" -- in this case, she referenced that in 1968 Democratic frontrunner Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Not a politic thing to say, especially when her rival, Barack Obama has been compared to RFK countless times and when many shared the growing perception that Clinton would do anything to win.

5. Michelle Obama's "Proud" Remarks Michelle Obama learned that she needed to be careful while on the stump -- her comments that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country," implied to many that she hadn't been proud of America until only recently. Careful careful!!

4. McCain's 100 Years Comment The downside to being a "straight-talker" is that sometimes you can make remarks that may be exaggeratedly harsh -- to make his point on Iraq, John McCain said there might be a military presence in Iraq for 100 years. Democratic groups leapt on the comments, which proved to be immensely unpopular as Americans grow more war-weary.

3. McCain's Economic Confessions "I know a lot less about economics that I know about military and foreign policy issues" were perhaps the worst remarks John McCain could have said, as the economy has become the #1 issue in this election. Again, "straight talk" can get you in trouble!!

2. Obama's San Francisco "Bitter" Remarks Probably the last thing Obama should have uttered about small-town voters, especially while at a San Francisco fundraiser, he said "it's not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." The comment gave Clinton much ammunition and McCain allies may ressurect the quote for the general election.

1. Clinton's Bosnia Adventure The number one biggest gaffe of the 2008 Presidential election was Hillary Clinton's dramatic exaggeration of her landing in Bosnia in 1996, "under sniper fire." Was it an attempt to bolster her "experience" claim? Or was it a legitimate "misstatement"? We may never know for sure, but the video of the actual event sure did contradict much of her very descriptive story.


A McCain "Doh" Moment  

By William Rabbe on 06/24/2008

Lightning rod Chief Strategist, Charlie Black, made a political faux-pas yesterday: he talked about the political gains of a terrorist attack on America, saying that such attack would "be a big advantage to [Presidential Candidate McCain]."

This is nothing new for pundits to debate on FOX, CNN or MSNBC -- but since it came from the Senior Advisor of the McCain campaign it sent a shock-wave through the blogosphere and raised alarm-bells for candidate McCain, who promptly disavowed the comment, saying " I can't imagine why he would say it."

So, while impolitic, are these comments that bad? Many know that the hypothetical case Black described is true -- so, is this the classic Washington Gaffe, which Howard Dean would repetitively describe in 2004 as, "saying the truth when you shouldn't have"?

Probably. But if the McCain camp keeps it up, it will cost him dearly -- the perception that a candidate is insensitive to a potential terror attack would raise just the sort of doubt about McCain in the eyes of the voting public that would effectively undermine his strong-suit.