Talk about Talk is Cheap
February 15, 2008 9:33 PM   Subscribe

"'Obama is all talk' is all talk." Matt Burton, creator of Readable Laws and other projects aimed at opening up government and the political process to the masses, has chimed in on the issue of the "substance" behind the rhetoric of the various candidates. He notes how in articles such as this people attack Barack Obama for his fine oratory but lack of details. He then digs in and asks, Who really is being specific about their stances on the issues? Barack or Hillary?
posted by chasing (101 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Wait, Barack's campaign website is Metafilter? This explains some things.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:34 PM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Who is this Obama fellow, and does he have a newsletter?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:34 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want to hear more about Ron Paul.
posted by Artw at 9:35 PM on February 15, 2008


RON PAUL. NEW BRETTON WOODS. PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:37 PM on February 15, 2008 [13 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that Obama link was supposed to go here.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:37 PM on February 15, 2008


MetaFilter mostly boils down to

Dear people who were already going to vote for Obama: Please vote for Obama!
posted by shakespeherian at 9:41 PM on February 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Dave Faris, I would like you to know that I saw your link and thought, "What delightful Youtuberies regarding Mr. Obama might await me?"

That is the first time any form of this act has been successfully perpetrated on me, believe it or not. You win the internet a little bit.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:42 PM on February 15, 2008


That's why I'm hoping YouTube never joins the rest of the fucking internet and puts titles in URLs. How would we then rickroll?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:46 PM on February 15, 2008


Who really is being specific about their stances posting more data to their websites on the issues according to some blog guy?
posted by peacay at 9:47 PM on February 15, 2008


You know who else had details? That's right, all the past losers. You don't win a campaign with a detailed plan for the problems as they exist one year before you might take office. You win the campaign by projecting an image of a leader, a winner, someone who can fix the new and unknown next problem, not yesterday's problem. Character counts, and Obama and McCain both beat Hilary on character. She's pretty damn smart and would probably make a fine president regardless. The best thing about this election is that McCain, Hilary and Obama are all light years ahead of where we are now. No matter who wins, the country wins.
posted by caddis at 9:50 PM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is old-school Attwater/Rove style campaign warfare, i.e. take your opponent's greatest strength, and then turn it into their greatest liability. I doubt if Clinton has enough time to make this conventional wisdom in order to save her own campaign, but it's interesting that McCain is already jumping in on it as well.

Obama, however, is skilled not just at oratory (which, it is helpful to remember, is one of the chief jobs of the presidency) but also at turning opponent's attacks against him into strengths. Just watch, when he wins the nomination, and McCain begins hammering him with this 24/7, he'll come out at some crucial juncture with the most stirring, policy-specific speech of the election cycle, at which point McCain will just look like a jackass, because he'll have to measure up after that.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:54 PM on February 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


I didn't see the part on Obama's site where it says "This site created and maintained by Barack Obama." He ain't writin' this stuff. Methinks he wouldn't pass the quiz on it either.

And therein lies the problem. If anyone watched the 'debates', you saw a man who quoted snippets from his stump speech as a means of explaining his policies and in South Carolina, we saw Hillary Clinton and John Edwards do a double-teamed takedown of Obama's health care plan, a plan that Obama seemed unfamiliar with. Edwards and Clinton had to explain his own health care plan to him.

I'm hoping for better but the Obamarama hype seems to be working for him so I don't see it changing, at least not until after the convention.
posted by grounded at 9:59 PM on February 15, 2008


If Obama wins the nomination, this tepid criticism--"Obama sure talks nice, but seems light on substance"--will pale in comparison to the kind of attack ads the Republicans sic on him. You think the Democratic primary contests have been ugly? Just wait.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:00 PM on February 15, 2008


The best thing about this election is that McCain, Hilary and Obama are all light years ahead of where we are now. No matter who wins, the country wins.

And that's exactly what the establshment would want you to think.
posted by three blind mice at 10:03 PM on February 15, 2008


Whoops: Barack's issues.
posted by chasing at 10:04 PM on February 15, 2008


The best thing about this election is that McCain, Hilary and Obama are all light years ahead of where we are now. No matter who wins, the country wins.

Unless you're faced with an unwanted pregnancy. I guess two out of three ain't bad.
posted by VulcanMike at 10:11 PM on February 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wait, I thought Metafilter was supporting Huckabee. Man, I'm confused now.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:12 PM on February 15, 2008


Hillary Clinton would have made an excellent Prime Minister.
posted by Slothrup at 10:20 PM on February 15, 2008


He ain't writin' this stuff. Methinks he wouldn't pass the quiz on it either.

Then at least have the courtesy to wallow in your willful ignorance in private. And do wash your hands when you're done. The man knows his shit, and the fact that you (and apparently others) have been conned into assuming that substance and style are incompatible in American political discourse and/or leadership speaks volumes about how low we've lowered the bar. Hillary and Co have done all of us, regardless of political stripe, a disservice by encouraging this, what with all the banal "talk versus action" and "pretty speeches don't put food on the table" nonsense. As others have said, if that's the best she and McCain have got, then I suggest they both turn to their attention to Senate reelection bids.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:30 PM on February 15, 2008 [9 favorites]


They're all just talk. Obama may have substance to show for, but the other candidates don't either. He could change politics in America, while all of the other presidential candidates are quite insane.
posted by Camel of Space at 10:31 PM on February 15, 2008


As we all know, if you get the press to say something frequently enough, it becomes true to the lumpen masses (George Bush = "Regular guy, guy I'd like to have a beer with"; John Kerry = "Feminine, flip flops, boring"; John McCain = "Maverick, independent, straight talker"). And now here we go again, Obama = "Vague, lacks detail". Why don't you pass the time playing a little solitaire, Joe Sixpack, and pull the lever for Senator McCain, the "Maverick" with the fucking 88 conservative rating, the "Straight talker" who spoke so passionately against his own torture, and then just this week voted against the torture ban.

For the most part, I don't want a President who's a policy wonk. But neither do I want an ideologue who is incapable of self-expression and motivating others with his or her words. Carter is the worst example of the former, and you know who is the latter. Clinton's administrations knew how to run the government, but he was a shitty president who was mostly impotent in front of a hostile Congress. At the end of the day I see Hillary closer to Carter (really, closer to Nixon... a policy expert with a huge chip on her shoulder and a wide streak of paranoia) than to her own husband.

At this point, Obama seems a stout enough liberal (not liberal enough, but the best we're going to get for now), but has tremendous rhetorical gifts which could be enormously helpful in trying to move the country past this childish bickering and economic short-sightedness we've been mired in since Reagan.
posted by psmealey at 10:38 PM on February 15, 2008 [10 favorites]


Whoops: Barack's issues.

Oh, I see now: "Senator Obama has been able to develop innovative approaches to challenge the status quo and get results. "

No, there's more! Obama "will implement a 21st century economic agenda to help ensure that America can compete in a global economy" !! He'll invest in infrastructure! He'll provide tools to help families succeed!
posted by msalt at 10:52 PM on February 15, 2008


Ruh-roh.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:02 PM on February 15, 2008


I'm conservative leaning and would consider an Obama vote if he gets the nomination. But at this rate, I may be sick of him my then.
posted by The Deej at 11:29 PM on February 15, 2008


Remember Giuliani? "Everyone" was for him.

With no experience in international affairs and no years in the House and a bare 3 years in the Senate, Obama is not a black JFK.
posted by Cranberry at 11:53 PM on February 15, 2008


The difference between Giuliani and Obama is, er... let's try again. The only sense in which those two people resemble each other is that both have lead in the polls at some point during this last year.
posted by topynate at 11:57 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Both led in the polls. Damn.
posted by topynate at 12:01 AM on February 16, 2008


psmealey's comment brought to mind a comparison made between Reagan and Carter. I wish I could remember who made it. (If someone does, please chime in.) It was one of the major TV newscasters. I forget who or when. Maybe 10 years ago. Cronkite or somebody similar. Anyway, they were interviewed and their quick comparison between R & C was that Carter was a great president, but poor leader. Reagan on the other hand, was a great leader, but poor president.

To bring this to the issue of the current candidates and previous recent presidents, I'm thinking that with Obama's oratory skills he would make for a good figure head, potentially capable of being a good/great leader, depending on how the economy and war goes, but I guess the question that is being memed into our heads at the moment is, can he be a good/great president?

But beyond this, though, is my question. Can any of the candidates really do something substantial enough to make a large enough difference to dig us out of this hole within 3.5 years to be elected again? And isn't that basically what is the great motivator for every elected official? From everything I've read, wholesale changes really need to occur on many levels to get this country back on track economically. We're slipping. Have slipped. If it is possible to even get back to some level of "world domination" economically, the changes that need to occur take time, more than 3.5 years or a quick "stimulus refund package" can do. So, if Obama promises wholesale changes, won't it be difficult to really produce qualitative changes within the time that will be needed to turn things around? And how would Clinton or McCain's leadership and administrations be different?

To end with, if the slow crawl of substantive change were allowed to happen, could Obama's potential leadership skills and the future-hope that he has been able to exhibit be sustained throughout a long recession or worse?
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 12:04 AM on February 16, 2008


Tacking on more longwindedness, the president is only one person and it is the choices they make on who's in their administration that are the most important. If a candidate can remember all the fine details of his/her social and economic plans is less important to me than if they have quality plans and quality people figuring them out. I wish that we, as a people, could vote on administrations, rather than on one person. I think the choices the candidates would make about who they would have working for them would tell me more about them than any speech would. My wish for change would change that element about our election system. I understand that it is difficult enough just to get one person up there to vote for and run a campaign, but I can dream can't I?
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 12:18 AM on February 16, 2008


True story, last weekend a friend of mine assembled two corpora: One of Hillary Clinton's speeches for the last six months, and one of Barack Obama's. This is what linguists do when they're bored. And she chucked them through some analysis software, told it to calculate frequency-in-Clinton/frequency-in-Obama and vice versa for each word and give back the terms with highest scores. Approximately speaking, the list of things that each one is talking about that the other one isn't.

The Obama list was laden with open-class words—nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs used to talk about things in the world. The Clinton list was overwhelmingly closed-class: prepositions, conjunctions, attitudinals, hedges.

In short, there's nothing Clinton is talking about that Obama isn't. But there's plenty the other way. That is political analysis for you.
posted by eritain at 12:30 AM on February 16, 2008 [21 favorites]


Obama's content-lightness is obviously helping him now in the primary (since people can project their desires on him), but it makes him enormously vulnerable to slurs and negative ads. It will be easy for the Republican hit men to define him in their terms.

Get ready to hear these two phrases about 10,000 times each: "most liberal voting record in the Senate", and "supports driver's licenses for illegal immigrants." Those are losing positions, and if terrorists manage to land any kind of attack in the U.S. in the next 9 months, voters will flock to McCain.
posted by msalt at 12:45 AM on February 16, 2008


To end with, if the slow crawl of substantive change were allowed to happen, could Obama's potential leadership skills and the future-hope that he has been able to exhibit be sustained throughout a long recession or worse?

None of these questions makes sense, but this last one in particular exemplifies why -- it doesn't actually compare the candidates. It assumes Obama's baseline is below Clinton's and that he needs to achieve his "potential" in order to be preferable. You skipped the first part of the question, which is, "which candidate is better?" entirely. Neat trick.

Optimism and pessimism aren't substantive criteria for any candidacy. The subtext is that because Obama is "promising" things, he has to be evaluated on whether he lives up to those promises. That logic rewards Clinton for simply not making any promises, which is nonsense. An unmet goal cannot be worse than not setting a goal in the first place. The question the Clinton campaign is asking is, "is worse better"? In relation to the candidate's own potential, maybe. In relation to another candidate, no. Worse is not better. Worse is worse. Period.

Look, this is not that hard. The criticisms the Clinton campaign is making are not empirical. Ask yourself: when did you first hear the argument that "being attacked more is better, because there's fewer surprises" before 2007? If you answered "never," congratulations -- it's made up. The great irony of the entire primary is that for all the complaints about Obama's "rhetoric," the bulk of the criticisms of are rhetorical questions about his attitude.

This is, simply put, totally insane. It's as if the Clinton campaign comes out every morning and says, "Barack Obama says we need to 'reach up' to a higher purpose. But what if up is really down?" And people rub their chins and say, "My gosh, we hadn't thought of that."

Yeah, well, no shit.
posted by spiderwire at 12:46 AM on February 16, 2008 [9 favorites]


caddis: The best thing about this election is that McCain, Hilary and Obama are all light years ahead of where we are now. No matter who wins, the country wins.

McCain is the exact same thing Bush is - a human facepiece for the Republican party. He's smart and well-spoken, but if you examine his actions, every time the party's disagreed with him he's done a 180 on the spot, smiling all the while. He's let them stab him in the back and undermine his very dignity without so much as a complaint. His loyalty is to the party first, last, and in the middle - just like the leaders who committed all the atrocities in the name of Communism not so long ago.

He will have policies absolutely identical to those we'd face if Bush was elected for eight more years. The only difference will be that he'll pronounce them correctly.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:12 AM on February 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


I don't really understand why people are seeking such specific policy details in a primary campaign anyway.

Theoretically, most primary candidates seem to be holding down full time jobs as senators or governors or whatever.

In addition to their day job, they're also campaigning.

So when exactly are these people supposed to be sitting down and evaluating or inventing detailed plans for national policy?

Do they have a daily schedule that says things like this?

8 AM to 8:30 AM: Conference call with supporters
8:30AM to 8:40AM: Breakfast
8:40AM to 9AM: Draw up plan to fix US healthcare system
9AM to 11AM: Campaign stop in Heiferville, Nebraska
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:22 AM on February 16, 2008


eritain writes "In short, there's nothing Clinton is talking about that Obama isn't. But there's plenty the other way. That is political analysis for you."

Interesting tidbit, as words and their combinatios convey different meaning and in different ways. In a totalitarian government these linguist would be told to shut the fuck up because there is only the language people understand, because lowest commond denominator is what everybody should become to obey uniformly and predictably, without reactions to newspeak.

Yet, in totalitarianism-light, they would just be underfunded and unpublished, pictures as stupid geek, suggested to hate these ignorant rednecks and hired to do propaganda for the party...oh , sorry , not propaganda ...to protect people from propagnada by using it on them...you know, like protecting people from being killed by sending them to iraq and making millions angry.
posted by elpapacito at 1:41 AM on February 16, 2008


Ops forgot to mention, and they would be told to preach to the converted :D !
posted by elpapacito at 1:43 AM on February 16, 2008


So when exactly are these people supposed to be sitting down and evaluating or inventing detailed plans for national policy?

They handle that the same way the president does: delegation of responsibility. The idea is if you vote for someone with your positions, he or she will appoint people who hold similar positions; the net effect is theoretically the same policywise, but it's not like anyone expects candidates to be solely, directly responsible for the precise minutiae of their platforms.

They are responsible for the platform, of course, but they don't make it themselves from whole cloth; it's the same reason why Presidents appoint a Cabinet.
posted by anifinder at 1:44 AM on February 16, 2008


Sir BoBoMonkey: To bring this to the issue of the current candidates and previous recent presidents, I'm thinking that with Obama's oratory skills he would make for a good figure head, potentially capable of being a good/great leader, depending on how the economy and war goes, but I guess the question that is being memed into our heads at the moment is, can he be a good/great president? [...] The president is only one person and it is the choices they make on who's in their administration that are the most important.

The Barack Blowout:
If nothing else, a presidential campaign tests a candidate's ability to think strategically and tactically and to manage a very complex organization. We have three plausible candidates remaining--Obama, Clinton and John McCain--and Obama has proved himself the best executive by far. Both the Clinton and the McCain campaigns have gone broke at crucial moments. So much for fiscal responsibility. McCain has been effective only when he runs as a guerrilla; in both 2000 and '08, he was hapless at building a coherent campaign apparatus. Clinton's sins are different: arrogance and the inability to see past loyalty to hire the best people for the job and to fire those who prove inadequate. "If nothing else, we've learned that Obama probably has the ability to put together a smooth-running Administration," said a Clinton super-delegate. "That's pretty important."
Setting aside the question of who will ultimately win the general election, Obama's experience as a community organizer is really shining through in his campaign's effectiveness -- astoundingly so when you consider Clinton's 100% name recognition and 20-30% poll leads (states and nationwide) just a couple of months ago. Judging by Obama's legislative record (more) and his campaign's performance, I'm rather inclined to believe that he'd fare better than either Clinton or McCain when it comes to implementing and promoting a cohesive agenda from the White House.

That I happen to find almost all of Obama's policies agreeable and that he gives great speeches which move people and spur them into political action are sort of useful qualities to have too, I guess.
posted by DaShiv at 2:20 AM on February 16, 2008 [9 favorites]


Spiderware, thank you for your insight into the flaws in my late night ramble. Put another way, I am concerned with which candidate is better. For a long time I was somewhat split between Hilary and Obama, but I've been moving closer toward Obama if for no other reason than that he inspires people that the US can change its direction combined with the idea that his election might give the international community the sense that the American populace, or at least a majority of those voting, regret, to some extent, the road that the Bush administration has lead us on and that We want a change. Other than those elements, for the most part, H & O aren't that different as I see them. Neither of them, if elected, would probably go far enough to make me happy with the changes I, in my limited understanding of everything govtment, would like to see.

I really think that the inspirational quality that Obama has in greater quantity than Hilary can help heal and turn around this country. Whether it is 100% genuine or not is less important to me than if it causes results to happen. My only worry is if that inspirational element can be sustained or if it will crumble under the possibly insurmountable problems that seem to be at hand...well, the fall of hope often feels more defeating than the steady even line of continuing with the same old stuff. And I'm not insinuating that I think that is the answer, to stay the course, but if things get much worse because of the time that might be required to make any large changes, well, then, reelection might prove more difficult. So, would he waffle and steer more toward the center? But, I fear, I'm getting away from the thread here, not that I've necessarily ever been on it.

Basically, I think the Hilary campaign is grasping because they know things aren't looking good. They are pushing negative, which isn't probably going to fare well for them. I think both are quality candidates, at least in comparison to each other. I like what Obama represents in the form of hope and change for both Americans and for the International community. From everything I've heard and read, both candidates have somewhat comparable plans, but the spin will always tell us different. The media will add water to help push the wave one way or the other. Right now Hilary is getting the shaft. Dean made a squeal and he was out. Hilary, if it goes that way, just took longer to undermine. Politics and media and the perception in our minds always seems to outweigh the real meat of who's better and who's not. Can we make a good enough assessment of which will be better based on their history, websites, speeches, and debates? Only if we believe what they say, in my opinion because neither, again in my opinion, have dramatically different voting histories, neither have very different platforms. Aside from what he has said, written, and done, right now, perhaps only because he has less history, perhaps because the media has shone more positive light on him, perhaps for reasons the hidden recesses in my mind aren't telling me...I'm more inclined to believe Obama's promises than Hilary's. For me, it comes down to that.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 2:39 AM on February 16, 2008


Wait a minute, since when did page number correlate with content? That is essentially all Mr. Burton is using to make his claim. I want my 5 minutes back, this was a complete waste of time.
posted by available at 2:47 AM on February 16, 2008


Correct me if I'm wrong--but wasn't Clinton in the same boat when he was campaigning for the general elections back in '92 that he's now claiming Obama to be in (that of a great Orator, but not someone with enough experience to lead the country)? Someone should maybe remind him of that.
posted by hadjiboy at 3:31 AM on February 16, 2008


None of the candidates speak in specifics, because the American public no longer wants to hear specifics; longwinded details is what they got from Kerry and Gore and summarily rejected in favour of Bush's one-liners and goofy attitude. All of the 2008 candidates have learned this lesson well, and have crafted their presentation for sound bytes and short attention spans. Obama is not unique in this regard, but is the one most criticized for it, probably because the other candidates find his charisma threatening.

The details are there, in all cases though, if you look for them; just a cursory glance of Hillary and Obama's healthcare plans shows a number of differences, which I have never seen discussed on the news or by the candidates themselves. (Of COURSE there are huge differences, Hillary crafted her healthcare plan with the cooperation of private insurers; it's much more pro-industry, opting for tax credits and an expansion of existing programs in place of a full public insurance plan as Obama, and nations like Canada, offer) If people cared enough, I suppose they would have brought these issues up, but generally people do not; only a tiny minority, at this point in American politics, care about the issues. The media has played into this, because equating the candidates allows them to avoid potentially boring content and focus on substanceless negative campaigning, scandal, and pointless speculation.

That is why the campaigns of 2008 are all about perception and "momentum," and nothing at all to do with policy.
posted by mek at 3:34 AM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just in case somebody hasn't yet seen McCain's response to the Obama Yes I Can video... 10,000 years!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:51 AM on February 16, 2008


With no experience in international affairs and no years in the House and a bare 3 years in the Senate, Obama is not a black JFK.
"Obama? How can you support an Illinois lawyer with only two years of experience in national office?

Oh, it worked out pretty well last time
."
posted by ericb at 6:14 AM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


With no experience in international affairs and no years in the House and a bare 3 years in the Senate, Obama is not a black JFK.

John F. Kennedy -- U.S. Senator (MA) 1952; President -- January 20, 1961 - November 22, 1963.

George W. Bush -- Governor of Texas (1994); Brief Travel Outside of the United States Before His Presidency.

Barack Obama -- raised in Hawaii; from ages 6 to 10 he lived in Jakarta, Indonesia -- surely giving him a sense of a world outside/beyond the U.S.A.
posted by ericb at 6:33 AM on February 16, 2008


Linguists know that talk IS action. The conception of a distinction between "talk" and "doing" is the premise of a great deal of public discourse and bad communication theory. The proposition that talk is action has been the basic insight of 20th century thought on language, from Wittgenstein to Austin and Searle to the present.

Sigh.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:38 AM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong--but wasn't Clinton in the same boat when he was campaigning for the general elections back in '92 that he's now claiming Obama to be in (that of a great Orator, but not someone with enough experience to lead the country)? Someone should maybe remind him of that.

That's what sticks in my craw. Bill Clinton is now dismissing Obama as too young, but he was 45 when he began his 1992 presidential campaign, and Obama is 46. The Clintons dismiss Obama as a "hopemonger," yet Bill Clinton campaigned in 1992 as "the Man from Hope." If the Clintons had to adhere to the same standards in 1992 that they want to impose on Obama now, Bill Clinton never would have become president.
posted by jonp72 at 7:20 AM on February 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


With no experience in international affairs and no years in the House and a bare 3 years in the Senate, Obama is not a black JFK.

As a neophyte Senator, Barack Obama successfully teamed up with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to implement the Obama-Lugar proposal to expand nuclear nonproliferation enforcement programs to include the destruction of black market conventional weapons. The passage of that proposal freed up money in the U.S. budget to pay for the destruction of seized caches of conventional weapons, such as shoulder-fired missiles that could be used to attack commercial airplanes. In other words, Obama convinced Republicans to pass a sane nonproliferation policy for conventional weapons while his party was in the majority in the Senate, and he did it without capitulating to Republicans on foreign policy or looking "weak."

In addition, Obama's list of foreign policy advisors has a much better track record than Clinton's list. Clinton primarily has people like Richard Holbrooke and Madeline Albright who did good work when they were in Bill Clinton's administration, but those advisors made the mistake of endorsing Bush's preemptive invasion of Iraq. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has many Clinton Adminstration stalwarts as well, but he has more advisors who were skeptical of the Bush invasion of Iraq. He has a wide range of opinions among his foreign policy advisors as well, ranging from Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter's National Security Advisor, old-school foreign policy realist) to Samantha Power (Pulitzer Prize winning professor of International Affairs at Princeton). To me, that signals Obama is willing to listen a wide range of points of view on foreign policy, as long as those advisors have a good predictive "track record." That would represent a major improvement over both the current Bush administration and what Hillary Clinton has to offer.
posted by jonp72 at 7:41 AM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Heh, that link to the Obama-Lugar proposal is actually "written" by Obama and Lugar.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 AM on February 16, 2008


Get ready to hear these two phrases about 10,000 times each: "most liberal voting record in the Senate", and "supports driver's licenses for illegal immigrants." Those are losing positions, and if terrorists manage to land any kind of attack in the U.S. in the next 9 months, voters will flock to McCain.

Get ready to hear any number of attempted attacks. What Obama has going for him is that he has the ability to win the ear of the populace, and when he does, he can cogently and clearly make a case for why he supports these policies. I've heard him speak about the "driver's licenses for illegal immigrants" point before, and it's the kind of rebuttal that makes you chew on the inside of your cheek for a minute and think "Oh. Yeah. I never thought of it that way." In other words, it's effective and makes sense.

This is why rhetoric is never 'only rhetoric.' Leadership style and policy substance are not, as someone said above, mutually exclusive. However, given two candidates who both have substance, who will be more successful at being listened to and making their case for leadership to the public? The one whose communication skills are superior.

The communication skills are also certainly a key to personal philosophy. As a friend mentioned to me last night, the major candidates have the opportunity to create just a very few key messages, the 'sticky' messages like "have a beer with" W. And the choices their campaigns make about what those messages will be is a crystallization of style, strategy, worldview, and philosophy of government. Contrasting the messages of the two campaigns: "experienced solutions-oriented policy wonk, ready to lead on day one" with "time for change, there are not two americas, yes we can" shows not only a linguistic difference but a philosophical difference about who the government belongs to, who is called upon to participate, what the work of the next administration should properly be, what problems the country faces, and how the candidate views the electorate.

All that said, it's tiresome to hear the line "thin on policy" repeated about Obama. People will stand at parties and fret about substance, but how many have done the research? If you're accepting the spoon-fed line without clicking on the candidate's website or reading some online commentary, you're not really participating in the process in a very deep way. Complaining that Obama's policy platform is undeveloped or that his experience is shallow only shows that the complainer has not taken the trouble to become well informed. This was more understandable in the days when you had to use the newspaper comparison-grid to figure out who to vote for - with all the information a click away today, there's hardly an excuse for making this complaint. By all means, criticize the candidate on his philosophy, background, the particulars of his policies and experience - but to say that his campaign has no substance is sheer ignorance.

Which brings me around to my last point. The substance is there for those who would seek it. But in the final analysis, American presidents are elected not by political junkies, but by about half the population, and of those, many are relatively uninformed. They will vote on their gut, on their impressions. It is not a bad thing that one of the best Democratic candidates we have seen in many years is someone who is capable of making an extremely positive impression on people who will never engage in serious policy analysis. We have this phenomenon to thank for putting W in office; it doesn't bother me much that the same dynamic can be helpful into putting a far superior candidate into office.

The challenge the Clinton campaign has to face is this: with all the advantages they entered the election cycle with - she practically had presumptive-President status - they have not been able to win a clear mandate even among Democrats who know her in a detailed and positive way. What in her struggling campaign is to convince us that she can win the unconvinced, people who do not even share her basic party alignment?
posted by Miko at 9:14 AM on February 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


mek: Hillary crafted her healthcare plan with the cooperation of private insurers; it's much more pro-industry, opting for tax credits and an expansion of existing programs in place of a full public insurance plan as Obama, and nations like Canada, offer
reference needed - I looked at both plans on website and I didn't see that, perhaps I just missed it, can you point it out there or elsewhere?
posted by uni verse at 9:41 AM on February 16, 2008


Wait a minute, since when did page number correlate with content? That is essentially all Mr. Burton is using to make his claim. I want my 5 minutes back, this was a complete waste of time.

Well, you see, as Burton so eloquently explains with this incomprehensible gem: "And it’s all text, so there’s little room for rhetoric."

The "data points" are suspect as well. Take healthcare, for example. Burton claims Hillary only has 8 pages. I really don't see how anybody can go through this page and find only 8 pages worth of information. Here, for example, is a 16-page PDF (10 pages of which I would say easily constitutes "information", considering Burton counts all of this document for Obama). That's just a portion of the information on that page. I could very, very easily do the exact same thing that Burton did and come to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton has more information on nearly everything. Moreover, why would I care who has typed up more pages on healthcare when Obama's plans for universal health care are guaranteed to fail (for an incredibly simple reason that he stubbornly refuses to fix because of some completely off-the-mark "belief").

Why is it that the prObama links are always completely devoid of any rigorous effort? This post is another example. It links to a video in which Lawrence Lessig simply declares that there aren't really any important policy differences between the two candidates, and then moves on to discuss what he believes the other, important differences are--not once stopping to provide evidence of any reasonable sort.

The complaint against Obama has never been that his campaign is lacking in number or loftiness of goals, but rather that he doesn't have detailed, feasible plans to successfully implement the vast majority of those goals. His plans lack rigor. He wants to change Washington. Ok. How? By being the only one to play nice? That's the plan? He wants to insure every American simply by offering government insurance that's less expensive than private insurance, and he thinks this will work because he doesn't "believe" people would go without insurance as long as it's available for purchase? How does that even make sense? What's his campaign slogan going to be in 4 years, when the Republicans are still assholes, lower income Americans still can't afford health care, and our economy is still in the tank because he simply refuses to listen to sound economic advice? "Still working on it"? These ideas involve too much hope and not enough thought.

Back to the main point--whatever one actually thinks about the candidates, this "analysis" by Burton is more bogus and perhaps outright dishonest than a Heritage Foundation study.
posted by dsword at 10:07 AM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Obama? How can you support an Illinois lawyer with only two years of experience in national office?

Oh, it worked out pretty well last time."


I dunno... over half a million Americans dying in battle doesn't sound all that good to me.
posted by gyc at 10:07 AM on February 16, 2008


I dunno... over half a million Americans dying in battle doesn't sound all that good to me.

Awesome! Let's re-fight the Civil War! And here I woke up this morning thinking today would be a slow day.

In all seriousness, whether you want to hang the tragedy of the American Civil War on Lincoln, he was arguably one of the greatest presidents in American history, and had little experience (or education) to speak of upon entering office.
posted by psmealey at 10:24 AM on February 16, 2008


over half a million Americans dying in battle ...

...to preserve the United States, which otherwise would have splintered and signaled the failure of this experiment in federalism.

Half a million is a big number, but slightly decieving, because Americans were combatants on both sides. At the time, both sides didn't consider themselves part of the same country. This is about the only instance in which we count enemy combatant deaths as "American" deaths, because of the eventual reunion of the states. Roughly, each side lost about 300,000. Of the 600,000 or so deaths, about 200,000 died in battle. The other 400,000 died of disease, infection, malnutrition, and complications of the above.

But we digress.
posted by Miko at 10:28 AM on February 16, 2008


uni verse:

It takes some reading here for Mrs. Clinton and here for Mr. Obama.

They both emphasize parity with the "the benefits offered to Congress" which are, apparently, private health care plans under the FEHB. Mrs. Clinton's focuses on setting up a mandate and subsidies for the purchase of health insurance from existing insurance companies with some (in my opinion, vague) mention of a public plan being set up as well, while Mr. Obama's focuses on setting up the public plan. They both mention various regulations and reforms for private insurance.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:33 AM on February 16, 2008


really don't see how anybody can go through this page and find only 8 pages worth of information.

You're right, though, this is an unscientific comparison. The PDF content, despite formatting, is much longer than 8 pages.
posted by Miko at 10:34 AM on February 16, 2008


In all seriousness, whether you want to hang the tragedy of the American Civil War on Lincoln, he was arguably one of the greatest presidents in American history, and had little experience (or education) to speak of upon entering office.

I'm not taking this view here; I'm undecided, but he was arguably one of the worst presidents in American history as well.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:34 AM on February 16, 2008


He wants to change Washington. Ok. How? By being the only one to play nice? That's the plan?

Of course not. Don't be obtuse. Obama's entire mindset is one of bottom up change. He believes that if you motivate the electorate, they will demand results. Elected officials will follow the demands of the people who elect them provided the people are motivated and informed.

Towards this end you see a great deal of emphasis from Obama on transparency. Certainly one of his major successes in the senate to date, ethics reform, has a lot of that built in.

Now, I'm hugely cynical, and I understand how tempting it is to say that expecting the people to be involved in their own government is absurdly naive, but then I look at what Obama has been able to accomplish in his own campaign, and I'm frankly amazed. So, I'm not prepared to say that he can't energize the electorate to the point that their voice simply can't be ignored.

He doesn't only rely on that though. He also relies on his extremely long coattails. People who are excited about him will be excited about other democratic candidates. If he can increase the number of dems to a point that is filibuster proof, then it suddenly becomes a lot easier to get many of his policy goals approved.

But, it isn't just that. There's a reason that many moderates and even some republicans like the guy. It's because instead of dwelling on differences and hitting on them over and over again like some kind of futile war of attrition of increasingly marginal wins, he emphasizes agreement. He first seeks to find the 95% that we can all agree with. Once that foundation is laid, it then becomes a process of negotiation and incrementalism for the remaining 5%.

Finally, maybe it's true that he won't ultimately be able to put all or even most of his policy goals into place. I think he has a really good shot at it, but you never know. I am convinced that he won't do any worse than any of the other candidates, and at least we'll all feel good about ourselves while he's trying. It would be a huge mistake to underestimate how important a leader who makes you feel good about yourself and your country can be.
posted by willnot at 11:13 AM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Please excuse my naïveté, I'm not an American.

Why won't the the '08 presidential election be fought along these lines:

Republicans - [blah blah blah]

Democrats - they just fucked you HARD, you really wanna give them another turn?

I (mostly) respect Sen. McCain, but at this point in time, the GOP could be running the offspring of Jesus and Ghandi, and I still think it would be important to not vote for [him/her/it] because of what the Republicans have done (or have allowed to be done) to the US over the last several years.

Just wondering, and looking for signs of a real change in the wind.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:55 PM on February 16, 2008


Artful COdger - I think that's where all the "Bush wasn't a *real* conseravtive" talk comes in.
posted by Artw at 1:04 PM on February 16, 2008


Then at least have the courtesy to wallow in your willful ignorance in private. And do wash your hands when you're done. The man knows his shit, and the fact that you (and apparently others) have been conned into assuming that substance and style are incompatible in American political discourse and/or leadership speaks volumes about how low we've lowered the bar.

joe lisboa, I haven't been conned into anything. I was relating my experience of watching the debates. If the man knows his shit, as you say, he wasn't showing it then. But I'll take you at your word. WWOD and all that.

There is a disconnect between what Obama says -- like he's opposed to the war and will bring home the troops -- and what's contained in the fine print of his issue statements. If we look at his more public statements, he's planning to get US troops out of Iraq. If we look at what he said last week while meeting with newspaper editors in Wisconsin, he'll bring the troops home UNLESS the Iraqis start meeting their benchmarks or things get a lot worse. Which makes his policy to 'end the war' a different beast -- if things stay the same, he'll withdraw the troops. If things get much better or much worse, troops stay on.

I want an end to US involvement in the war. Therefore, I disagree strongly with Clinton. But don't tell me, in light of the above, that Obama is my anti-war candidate. He's not.

I also agree with dsword on Obama's talk about 'change'. Does he really think he can 'change' Washington by working with the Republicans? The door should not merely hit them hard on the way out, it should be slammed on their hands and crush all of their digits so they get a small taste of the damage they've done.
posted by grounded at 1:13 PM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I (mostly) respect Sen. McCain, but at this point in time, the GOP could be running the offspring of Jesus and Ghandi, and I still think it would be important to not vote for [him/her/it] because of what the Republicans have done (or have allowed to be done) to the US over the last several years.

I agree with the overall sentiment, but I also think it's important not to think of McCain as some kind of enlightened or benevolent conservative. He's a hard-headed son of a bitch who promises to be every bit as willful, arrogant and stubborn as GWB was. I kind of think these qualities, combined with his intelligence, make him even more dangerous than Bush, whose undoing was his predictability and that he thought he was above the law.
posted by psmealey at 2:10 PM on February 16, 2008


grounded, I understand you're point, then, if you're just not being willfully obtuse, but judging Obama on a handful of televised debates seems emblematic of the sort of superficial sound-bite politics you're criticizing. I'm sorry if my tone was heated, above, but if you've taken the time to review Obama's issue statement, then why couch your critique of his "platitudes" in an assessment drawn from his debate appearances? There's no "disconnect" once you grant that what passes for presidential debates today simply doesn't reward, much less permit, the sort of nuanced policy discussion you're claiming to desire. I've been supporting Obama's rhetorical approach in large part because it suggests he (and his team) understand that different venues demand different rhetorical strategies. The inability of Democratic candidates to inspire the sort of enthusiasm we see with Obama has, in large part, doomed us to years of corrupt-at-best Republican rule. I share the same knee-jerk reaction to bumper-sticker oratory that you do, but in his victory speeches and in the debates, Obama isn't speaking to you and me. He's addressing a different audience entirely. And I firmly believe this approach is as wise as it is pragmatic.

Please don't get me wrong: I want the whole crop of criminal GOP bastards in jail as much as the next reasonably informed citizen, but if we give in to the urge for immediate vengeance within the context of the Democratic primary then it could well undermine our chance to seize the White House with a Democratic congressional majority for the first time in, well, a long time. For me, it's a question of priorities and long-term tactics. Besides, if you're going to cast your vote for Hillary (or throw your support behind her, whatever the case may be) on the grounds that she's most likely to exact retribution for W's criminality then that's equally if not more (sorry) groundless. The very real congressional losses we can likely face with Hillary's name at the top of the ticket in November will tie the hands of whomever moves into the White House. If the Dems can't bring themselves to seriously endorse impeachment or hearings or whatever when they control both houses with the president "enjoying" one of the lowest approval ratings of all time, what in the world do you expect a President (H) Clinton to be able to accomplish on this front after the GOP is done with her in the general election?

For all of her talk about "fighting," her actual legislative record (such as it is, for such an "experienced" candidate) belies her claim. Throwing the same charge back at Obama isn't nearly as effective as you'd suspect, insofar as he's framing his candidacy in terms of having been in DC just long enough to know that it's FUBAR. This, too, is a rhetorical flourish, but it resonates with the electorate. And with McCain as the GOP nominee, the idea that the Dem candidate can just puff out his/her chest and declare that "we're ready for a fight" is destined to fail for the same reasons that ultimately doomed Kerry in '04. If a given voter is already cast in the GOP mold, they're not going to vote for Hillary (well, period, but what's more:) just because she has started talking like a centrist Republican about, say, foreign affairs.

If the war is your defining issue, feel free to vote for Ron Paul or write in Kucinich or whatever, but please don't hand the election to John "100 years in Iraq" McCain out of a perverse desire to punish Obama for acknowledging that the situation in Iraq is fluid. Of course, anyone who authorized the invasion of a sovereign nation should have reasonably anticipated this, which is a fantastic reason not to give Hillary the keys.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:13 PM on February 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


sorry for the novel
posted by joe lisboa at 2:14 PM on February 16, 2008


joe lisboa, I think you misunderstand. I'm not judging Obama based on sound-bites. I'm expressing dismay that it seems to me like Obama is lacking familiarity with his own website-enunciated policies. The healthcare smackdown in South Carolina was a good example of this. And I'm giving Obama the benefit of the doubt here -- if it was lack of knowledge of his own healthcare plan, then Obama just looks ill-prepared. If he was defending himself the way he did all the while knowing the facts of his healthcare plan, then he's either evasive or deceptive or, worse, a liar. I really don't think he's any of those things.

You've got my politics all wrong too. I was an Edwards supporter, now I'm trying to figure out what to do.

While I can excuse Obama for having a name quite close to Osama, I just can't endorse a candidate like Ron Paul, who is but two letters away from RuPaul. I can't go there.
posted by grounded at 2:47 PM on February 16, 2008


I'd vote for RuPaul if he had sensible policy stances. Screw all this first man who is black or first women business, when will we get out first (public) cross dresser president?
posted by edgeways at 3:08 PM on February 16, 2008


Obama is a great orator and someone who seems trustworthy. I can't believe so many people would pick Hilary Clinton over him, however, to each his/her own.
posted by hmaugans at 3:14 PM on February 16, 2008


Grounded, I apologize if it seemed I was trying to shoehorn your politics. I was an Edwards-backer in '04 and suspect I can sympathize. I wasn't claiming you were actually a Paul or Kucinich supporter, I was just trying to say that if Obama's position on withdrawal from Iraq doesn't sync up with you own, then I'm not sure how voting for Hillary will make a noticeable difference. I also apologize for assuming you're a de facto Clinton-backer, I've just had this conversation with several of them lately, is all, and I'm jumpy as a result. I just think that, in terms of long-term progressive tactics, an Obama presidency is the best shot we've got on the table. Thanks for responding in civil terms despite my earlier tone.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:23 PM on February 16, 2008


RuPaul has a blog.

His Valentine's entry is NSFW but does address his Florida policy.
posted by grounded at 3:33 PM on February 16, 2008


I'm expressing dismay that it seems to me like Obama is lacking familiarity with his own website-enunciated policies. The healthcare smackdown in South Carolina was a good example of this.

I don't have any idea what you're talking about. From the transcript from the SC debates, this seems to be the section that dealt primarily with health care from Edwards, Clinton and Obama. I don't see anything here to suggest that Obama doesn't understand the issues or doesn't understand his own positions.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18352397/page/10/
Williams: Let's talk about health care, an issue that currently ranks a solid second in virtually every opinion poll in the United States.

Senator Edwards, you have said you would raise taxes to pay for a health care plan. The question is: Which ones?

Edwards: I would get rid of George Bush's tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year. But I want to say, this is an example -- we've had a lot of discussion tonight -- not a great deal of discussion so far about the substance of the very specific ideas that each of us have on big issues.

I'm proud of the fact that I have a very specific universal health care plan which I think is different than some others on the stage who are running for president.

And I think we have a responsibility, if you want to be president of the United States, to tell the American people what it is you want to do.

Rhetoric's not enough. High-falutin' language is not enough. And my plan would require employers to cover all their employees or pay into a fund that covers the cracks in the health care system -- mental health parity, which others have spoken about; chronic care; preventative care; long-term care; subsidized health care costs.

Give people a choice, including a government choice; no pre- existing conditions -- banned as a matter of law. And the law actually requires that every single American be covered.

Williams: Senator, thank you.

Senator Obama, how would you pay for your plan?

Obama: Well, first of all, let me tell you what I would do.

Number one, I think we should have a national pool that people can buy into if they don't have health insurance, similar to the ones that most of us who are in Congress enjoy right now.

It doesn't make sense to me that my bosses, the taxpayers, may not have health insurance that I enjoy.

And we can provide subsidies for those who can't afford the group rates that are available.

The second thing I think that we're going to have to do is make sure that we control costs. We spend $2 trillion on health care in this country every year, 50 percent more than other industrialized nations. And yet, we don't have, necessarily, better outcomes.

This week, we saw a story that showed that black infant mortality in this country is actually going up in some states, which is shameful and makes no sense.

And if we make sure that we provide preventive care and medical technology that can eliminate bureaucracy and paperwork, that makes a big difference.

The third thing is catastrophic insurance to help businesses and families avoid the bankruptcies that we're experiencing all across the country and reduced premiums for families.

That's the kind of plan that I think we can accomplish, as long as we build the movements to actually make that change happen.

Williams: Senator, thank you.

Senator Clinton, you're perhaps more closely associated with this issue than anyone on this stage.

How would you pay for your plan?

Clinton: Well, let me start by saying that all of the ideas that you're going to hear about in this campaign are very important to get out to the public so that people can actually think about them, examine how they would affect their lives because I do have the experience of having put forth a plan, with many of the features that John and Barack just mentioned.

And people were enthusiastic about it initially, but then after the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies got finished working on it, everybody got nervous and so politically we were not successful.

Well, I'm ready to try again, and there's three things we've got to do. We've got to control and decrease costs for everyone. This is not just about the uninsured.

Yes, we have nearly 47 million, but we've got many millions more who have an insurance policy that they can barely afford and that they can't get the treatments they need under it. We have to cover everybody but we've got to improve quality.

We can save money within the existing system. I am not ready to put new money into a system that doesn't work until we've tried to figure out how to get the best outcomes from the money we already have.
So, I don't know what you mean. Can you point to what specifically you're talking about?
posted by willnot at 3:47 PM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


As it's come up, from Barackobama.com:

Bringing Our Troops Home

Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.


Thus, he will leave non-combat brigades in Iraq. I wonder how many casualties will be suffered and deaths will be caused by the non-combat brigades. He will leave troops in Iraq to "protect the embassy" (Baghdad) and will leave troops in Iraq to "attack al Qaeda" (not-Baghdad.)

There may be a drawdown, but I'll be quite surprised if the war ends.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:27 PM on February 16, 2008


In all seriousness, whether you want to hang the tragedy of the American Civil War on Lincoln, he was arguably one of the greatest presidents in American history, and had little experience (or education) to speak of upon entering office.

The Gettysburg Address doesn't put food on your table. The Second Inaugural doesn't put hay in your horse's mouth, or buy you patent medicines, or do anything about that stack of debit notices that keeps you up at night.

"Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

Yeah, whatever, there Mr. All-Talk. Binding the nation's wounds won't buy me a new butter churn, Fancy Hat.

And that is why, even today, patriotic Americans flock to the William H. Seward Memorial in Washington to pay tribute to the more experienced Republican candidate in 1860.
posted by gompa at 5:49 PM on February 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


sometimes, when the nation is being ripped asunder, binding wounds trumps a new butter churn
posted by caddis at 5:57 PM on February 16, 2008


binding wounds trumps a new butter churn

Bob Pollard just called. Wants to know if he can steal that to use as a song title.
posted by gompa at 6:00 PM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


An interesting and timely piece on charisma in today's Week in Review section of the NYT: "The Charisma Mandate." It's spot-on for our discussion here.

It begins:
TAKING office in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt confronted a country in crisis. Four in 10 working-age Americans were jobless. Banks were collapsing....

On March 4, Roosevelt gave his now famous inaugural address, promising that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Within days he had secured legislation guaranteeing the banks, and on March 12, he took to the radio for the first of his fireside chats...

When banks re-opened the next morning, the lines were gone... People put money back in, so much that on the first day after the chat, deposits outweighed withdrawals by $10 million.

It was the legislation, but mostly, Mr. Caro writes: “Their confidence was restored by his confidence. When he smiled on the crisis, it seemed to vanish.”

Would we call this a cult of personality?
I found this quite interesting, the first suggestion I've seen that avoiding policy details is a campaign strategy:
Accounts of the campaign’s “Camp Obama” sessions, to train volunteers, have a revivalist flavor. Volunteers are urged to avoid talking about policy to potential voters, and instead tell of how they “came” to Mr. Obama.
This is a really good piece, my favorite kind: an argument that references history, making comparisons with similar historic times and with leaders on both sides of the aisle, and it follows praise for oratorical skill with some cautions and criticisms about rhetoric alone (obviously) being not enough.
posted by Miko at 6:03 PM on February 16, 2008


Bob Pollard just called. Wants to know if he can steal that to use as a song title.

What, you don't own that seven-inch?
posted by joe lisboa at 6:21 PM on February 16, 2008


So, I don't know what you mean. Can you point to what specifically you're talking about?

Not that debate. This one.

Obama really didn't want to say his health care plan wasn't universal. Like I said, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, it seemed to me like he didn't really understand the parameters and terms of his own plan.

When I hear that Obama is the most liberal of the remaining candidates, I look at things like this and his statements on Iraq and his promise to work with the Republicans, and I'm disappointed. These are legitimate issues to me, so much so that I'm just not seeing what others seem to be seeing in this particular candidate.

(Don't worry -- McCain is not an option for me.)
posted by grounded at 6:24 PM on February 16, 2008


Grounded - your link was malformed, but I assume you mean this one, and you right. he didn't want to say that his plan wasn't universal because he doesn't believe that it isn't. He believes universal means universally available and universally affordable. Clinton and Edwards believe that universal means everybody is forced to by insurance whether people think they can afford it or not. If the government doesn't think you can afford it, they'll help you pay for it, but the determination as to whether you can afford it or not is up to the government rather than you.

In fact, I think Universal means single payer, and Kucinich was the only one proposing that. However, to look to what is an obviously craven semantic argument with respect to what is or isn't universal as proof that Obama doesn't understand his policies or doesn't have a plan requires that you were selective blinders.

You don't have to agree with him, but you really have to stretch to willfully miss his point.
posted by willnot at 7:35 PM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was some of the worst grammar ever, but hopefully you can see past all the typos and homophones.
posted by willnot at 7:38 PM on February 16, 2008


Why is it that the prObama links are always completely devoid of any rigorous effort?

my lord, what a useless generalization. here. hilzoy from Obsidian Wings' endorsement of Obama. a comparison of Obama and Clinton's sponsored bills and amendments. knock yourself out.
posted by spiderwire at 7:45 PM on February 16, 2008


No, He Can’t Because Yes, They Will
posted by homunculus at 8:08 PM on February 16, 2008


Mr. Caro writes: “Their confidence was restored by his confidence. When he smiled on the crisis, it seemed to vanish.”

Well, this thread has gone to Hell based on the stupid partisan bickering of Hilary and Barack supporters, many of whom in this thread who seem to have left good sense behind. Yet, there is redemption. "Mr. Caro" has been invoked. Bob Caro is the real deal, the historian that other historians admire. Thorough, exhaustive, and eloquent. The partisan dribble is just that, but Bob Caro explains the dribble, and especially how a master such as Johnson can exploit it, as well as, better than, just about any other historian. Read him.
posted by caddis at 8:16 PM on February 16, 2008


...it's important not to think of McCain as some kind of enlightened or benevolent conservative. He's a hard-headed son of a bitch who promises to be every bit as willful, arrogant and stubborn as GWB was.

McCain’s sharp tongue: An Achilles heel? -- "Arizona senator’s ire all too real; critics wary of hothead in White House."
posted by ericb at 8:33 PM on February 16, 2008


Screw all this first man who is black or first women business, when will we get out first (public) cross dresser president?

Rudy "911" Giuliani would've fit the bill.
posted by ericb at 8:35 PM on February 16, 2008


"The Charisma Mandate."

David Letterman's Great Moments In Presidential Speeches.
posted by ericb at 8:54 PM on February 16, 2008


Letterman's Top Ten George W. Bush Moments.
posted by ericb at 9:03 PM on February 16, 2008


Well, this thread has gone to Hell based on the stupid partisan bickering of Hilary and Barack supporters

Ooh, ooh! Tell me how to think and/or vote, caddis! No, seriously: I'm awaiting your sagacious advice. Wait, let me guess: you're a "maverick independent." What a gutsy boy you are!
posted by joe lisboa at 1:30 AM on February 17, 2008


Obama Adding Detail to His Oratory
“If he does say so himself, Senator Barack Obama delivers a fine political speech.

‘Don’t be fooled by this talk about speeches versus solutions,’ Mr. Obama told a crowd of Wisconsin voters. ‘It’s true, I give a good speech. What do I do? Nothing wrong with that.’

To that confident strain of self-assessment, the audience roared with approval.

A shrug of the shoulders and a few deadpanned retorts, some of which stop just shy of mocking his rival, is the latest approach Mr. Obama has taken to respond to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s criticism that his words offer more poetry than substance.

Yet as he traveled across Wisconsin last week, Mr. Obama seemed to have let loose a little more of his inner-wonk, which his strategists had once urged him to keep on the shelf.

Even as he was dismissing Mrs. Clinton’s criticism, he appeared to be taking it at least mildly to heart — a suggestion that as a line of attack, she might be on to something.

Suddenly, he was injecting a few more specifics into his campaign speeches. Giant rallies that had sustained his candidacy through a coast-to-coast series of contests on Feb. 5, notable for their rhetorical flourishes and big applause lines, were supplemented with policy speeches and town-hall-style meetings, complete with the question-and-answer sessions he abandoned as he roared out of Iowa and into New Hampshire. (In hindsight, he conceded as he reviewed a defeat to Mrs. Clinton, that was a mistake.)

By every indication, this was not a random change in the Obama style. The senator decided to clue in his audience to the shift on a recent morning in Janesville, Wis., where he presented an economic proposal to create seven million jobs over the next decade.

‘Today, I want to take it down a notch,’ said Mr. Obama, of Illinois, standing on the floor of a General Motors plant. ‘This is going to be a speech that is a little more detailed. It’s going to be a little bit longer, with not too many applause lines.’” [more…]
posted by ericb at 5:43 AM on February 17, 2008


let me guess: you're a "maverick independent." What a gutsy boy you are!

if by that you mean Obama, then you are right on the mark joe.
posted by caddis at 6:11 AM on February 17, 2008


Clinton has been very clear how interested she is in stopping the war in Iraq. That's why she voted to start it.


Who was Ron Paul?
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 11:44 AM on February 17, 2008


Obama last night: "Don't tell me words don't matter."
posted by Miko at 12:51 PM on February 17, 2008


Miko left out this little gem on the source of the speech:

"Obama cribbed from my metafilter comment at the founders dinner in Wisconsin the other night.
posted by empath at 3:23 PM on February 17 [+] [!]
"

Thank you empath.
posted by caddis at 11:21 PM on February 17, 2008


"We're the party of Jackson, who took back the White House for the people of this country."

Was there another President Jackson I never heard about? I wouldn't associate myself with the one I've heard of.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:05 AM on February 18, 2008


To be fair, I left it out only because I assumed empath was being tongue-in-cheek. The critique of Obama is widespread and the point has been made by many that great oratory has been important in American history - I don't think empath really thinks that some Obama speechwriter reading MetaFilter got the idea here.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on February 18, 2008


But on second thought, hey, who knows. Anything's possible.
posted by Miko at 7:37 AM on February 18, 2008


GOP begins discussion of Obama attack plan at winter retreat.
RNC Chairman Duncan as well as Co-Chairman Jo Ann Davidson opened the Sunday session with a Power Point presentation outlining five main strategic attacks against the Obama candidacy...

The first called for pointing out what the GOP views as a seeming incongruity between Obama and the mantle of commander in chief. The second point harkened back to Obama’s days in the Illinois state Senate, noting how his “pattern of voting ‘present’ offers many openings to question his candidacy.” The third offered hope to the GOP faithful that “we can be confident in a campaign about issues.” A fourth bullet point relayed how “undisciplined messaging carries great risk,” while the fifth and final attack point stressed, “His greatest weakness is inexperience. He is not ready to be commander in chief. He is not ready to be president.”
posted by Miko at 8:37 AM on February 18, 2008




If this is true, some heads need to roll at the Clinton camp.
posted by EarBucket at 9:42 AM on February 18, 2008


Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.
posted by EarBucket at 5:58 AM on February 19, 2008


I am outraged by that anonymously sourced story. Outraged, I tell you!
posted by smackfu at 6:22 AM on February 19, 2008


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