November 11, 2007

Waiting for Obama to Sting Like A Bee

A Weekend of Skirmishing for Obama and Clinton - New York Times

The Obama camp is circling, jabbing, trying to lay a glove on Hillary Clinton. Looking for an angle of attack that will stick. Hillary's misstep in the recent debates have opened a very small chink in her armor. Obama is worrying at the chink, trying to put stress on it and turn it into a full borne crack.

Obama has shown that he can float like a butterfly. Now he's got to sting like a bee. I keep waiting for the gloves to come off. He's got to find a way to directly put into play the assumption of Hillary's experience and greater fitness for the Presidency. He needs to find a way to swiftboat that assumption. The republicans torpedoed the contrast of Kerry's aura of being a combat tested leader vs. Bush's questionable service record by directly questioning Kerry's service in Vietnam. They cast doubt on his bravery under fire, they ridiculed his actions after coming back from Nam and when they were through, Kerry's combat tested image had been wrecked and turned into a liability he had to angrily defend.

This is Obama's challenge and thus far he has either been unwilling or unable to find a way to question what I think is an implicit assumption that Hillary is more qualified because she was a first lady for 8 years. I mean that is clearly what her claim of "readiness to lead from
Day I" rests on. That being the wife of the President qualifies you to be the President. Obama has to knee cap that argument. His campaign strategy thus far has sought to answer the issue of experience by establishing his bona fides to lead vs. hers, an approach which implicitly validates her as being the more experienced leader.

His current angle of attack is better, basically asserting that she is more experienced at being a slick politician, adept at not giving a straight answer, an angle that opened up after the last debate. He's got her a little on the defensive, but he's got to go to the body on her, which I think means he's got to directly attack the assumption that she is more experienced because she was married to the President. He's got to make that seeming qualification seem almost meaningless. But doing so will mean he'll have to get his hands dirty. I'm not sure he's ready to go there.

But I think his problem is even a little bigger than that. I like Obama, but I don't feel like he has been very definitive about where he stands. I don't feel like I have any major policy positions that he champions that really help to define the guy. Its not enough to say why Hillary is not the one, he's got to say why he is. I'm waiting for him to find his center, the core of what his campaign means and what his presidency would be about. When he finds his center that defines and sets him apart from Hillary and the rest of the pack as well, then he will be on his way.