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Two more points for Obama

Well, I came across a pair of stories today that made Obama a little less of a wild card to me. I insist on remaining a bit circumspect about all things Obama, as his campaign (and indeed his entire national political career) has been designed to make each prospective voter feel as if he is really in their camp.

From The Smart Set, Obama may just be a wig; that would work for me. The piece argues that Obama is like Lincoln, in that “he wants to be an outflanker, not a synthesizer or a moderate in the typical senses of those terms.” The article includes some Obama passages in support of its argument that certainly make me smile.

“Republicans are fighting the last war, the war they waged and won in the eighties, while Democrats are forced to fight a rearguard action, defending the New Deal programs of the thirties. Neither strategy will work anymore.”

Structurally, it’s another Lincoln moment in Obama’s eyes. One in which the necessary but nevertheless bold move is to outflank the existing political options. And it’s a Lincoln moment in terms of content as well. Because the currently available option, as Obama sees it, is the old mix of Hamiltonian and Whiggish early Republicanism that got brushed aside in the tumultuous 20th century. “We can be guided,” Obama says, “by Lincoln’s simple maxim: that we will do collectively, through our government, only those things that we cannot do as well or at all individually and privately.”

Jackpot. I certainly love anyone who wants to take a page from Hamilton’s book, and the Lincoln maxim is an excellent guide from which to govern.

In other news, Colin Powell likes him, and what Powell seems to like everyone, he offered a nugget that resonated with me:

With Sen. Obama, he didn’t have a lot of experience running a presidential campaign, did he? But he seems to know how to organize a task and he seems to know how to apply resources to a problem at hand. So that gives me some indication that (with) his inexperience in foreign affairs or domestic affairs, he may be someone who can learn quickly.

This isn’t a new idea; Obama has made this argument before, but coming out of Powell’s mouth, I’m giving it a bit more consideration. Surely, the biggest organization that any of these candidates has headed is their campaign for President, itself. Campaign demands winning broad-based support for what the candidate is selling — himself. In a year, he or she will be selling policy, but it’s really not that different.

So prospective voters who might be worried how an inexperienced Prez might handle health care or education reform should be heartened by Obama’s remarkable job with his campaign. Still, I do think there is a difference between foreign policy and domestic politics.

At first, I had a hard time pinpointing what separates the spheres, but I think I’ve got it. As Tyler Cowen pointed out in the past, the President has a lot more influence on foreign policy than domestic; I would add that because of this, the President tends to enter the executive office with his own formed perceptions of how the world works and how the US should respond, and counsels with advisors who reflect his positions.

If his foreign policy notions don’t fly, then American foreign policy crashes (Bush, Carter, Clinton, Reagan; all those terrific blunders in recent history). With regards to foreign policy, the President is the executor of American policy. He’s the one that pushes the country to go to/leave Somalia, Lebanon, Iraq, etc. This is different than running a campaign or guiding policy discussion.

Foreign policy is a unique beast; you can have excellent judgment, but in your smallest failure to recognize how the “game” works, you can jeopardize the worthiest of objectives. Experience, both failing and succeeding, I do think is a big help.

What do you look for in a candidate?

I’ve been looking at: Advisors, political/professional track record (including the campaign itself), endorsements, campaign “promises” (more as a guide to what issues they will try to tackle)

What am I missing? Where should I place more weight?


Filed under: Misc

2 Responses

  1. ZRand007 says:

    UGH… seriously…

    Just because Obama says we should limit government programs to those that cannot be done privately or individually, doesn’t mean that’s how he’s going to operate. He’s a Marxist, and he’s going to take money from people to give to other people because rich people are bad. He’s also going to take money from companies because they’re evil, too. He’s going to give everyone healthcare no matter how wasteful the program because we can’t make smart decisions on our own. We need Obama to make them for us. This is probably due to the fact that us simple folk like guns, religion, and are totally bitter about life.

    Give me back my tax money and I’ll spend it the way I want.

  2. Publius says:


    I see you weren’t won over by his FOX news appearance. I haven’t heard many more (smart) compliments given to the Republicans from a Democrat (save Lieberman) in quite a while…

    Saying the Repubs were right “on issues of regulation, I think that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a lot of the way we regulated industry was top down command and control. We’re going to tell businesses exactly how to do things.

    And I think that the Republican party and people who thought about the margins (ph) came with the notion that you know what, if you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they’re going to for example reduce pollution. And a cap and trade system, for example, is a smarter way of doing it, controlling pollution, than dictating every single rule that a company has to abide by, which creates a lot of bureaucracy and red tape and oftentimes is less efficient.

    I think that on issues of education, I have been very clear about the fact, and sometimes I have gotten in trouble with the teachers union on this, that we should be experimenting with charter schools. We should be experimenting with different ways of compensating teachers. That –

    WALLACE: You mean merit pay?

    OBAMA: Well, merit pay, the way it has been designed I think that is based on just single standardized I think is a big mistake, because the way we measure performance may be skewed by whether or not the kids are coming in the school already three years or four years behind.

    But I think that having assessment tools and then saying, you know what, teachers who are on career paths to become better teachers, developing themselves professionally, that we should pay excellence more. I think that’s a good idea. So –”

    I don’t think Obama is a Marxist. I think he has the Democrat party ideals of equity and will spend tax dollars (as we do now) on assistance groups. I am considered about the government waste of something like health care reform, but the above comments demonstrate at least a knowledge of how the market works and how the government gets in its way.

    Sure, he shaped his talk to his FOX audience, and he doesn’t talk that way in Ohio, but I don’t necessarily blame him for that — it’s politics. I think the question is where exactly he stands, and I am inclined to say he has liberal goals but a DLC stance on how to get it done. I think he would work the Republicans to make public assistance the least obnoxious as possible to individuals and business.

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