Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Con-Obama Post

You know, this primary campaign has been oddly cyclical for me. I'm generally well enough informed about candidates that when I decide to support one, I don't change my mind. And yet it's happened 3 times so far this time.

When the campaign first started, I supported Obama. Not because I didn't like or support Clinton (I do), but because I was kinda swayed by the whole fresh-face-no-baggage argument. It's an extremely vague and substanceless argument, of course, but of course 6 months out campaigns are supposed to be vague and substanceless. So I sat back and waited for Obama to secure my vote, assuming that he'd eventually start campaigning for good progressive plans and policies.

Except that he never did. While Clinton and Edwards were coming up with 5 point plans on everything from health care to global warming to economic policy to Iraq policy, Obama kept right on not talking about issues, but instead about how Washington was broken, and how he could fix it. And THEN he gave a bible-thumping pray-away-the-gay pastor a front and center spotlight at one of his major campaign events. That kinda turned me off on Obama, and back towards Hillary.

I spent the next few months figuring out new reasons not to like Obama. He rarely talked about policy, and when he was finally coerced into doing so, it was kinda bad in some ways. Universal health care without mandates, which every liberal economist agrees is a bad idea; irresponsible sweeping comments about Iraq and Iran (which are more complicated issues than a lot of people think); and just a general lack of enthusiasm about anything issue related at all. He wasn't campaigning for his stance on issues, he was campaigning for himself.

I also had more reasons to like Clinton. I was closer to her on things like health care and foreign policy, she talked about the issues, and she just generally got a lot of unfair treatment that she didn't deserve (or at least, not more so than the other candidates). But then she started to do some blatantly political stuff, like suing to keep some Nevadans from caucusing, or trying to get Florida and Michigan reinstated, or the way that husband Bill was abusing his prestige on her behalf. I promised myself after the Nevada affair that one more strike and Clinton was out in my book, and then came Florida, and that was that. So while I agreed with some of their underlying arguments, I didn't approve of their tactics, and scratched Clinton out of my book. And yet, in the past few weeks, I've gone back and forth. So here is my list:

1) Obama has drunk too much of his own kool-aid. The man seriously seems to think that his mere presence in the Oval Office will somehow make the nation's problems magically disappear. His campaign has become dangerously self-referential: Obama is teh awesome because Obama is teh awesome! His rhetoric has gone over the top, almost to the level of messianic. "The fierce urgency of now." "Yes we can!" "We are the change we seek!" The 'boys' story from his Super Tuesday speech was like something straight out of the New Testament. And the implication that the only reason people aren't supporting him is because they are afraid of change (he actually said this) is condescending and insulting. Policies should not be an after-thought or some link on a website, we need to know that the candidate believes in them and is passionate about seeing them through. Clinton, for all her faults, is. Obama, in contrast, is passionate about himself. And that turns me off.

2) Obama has not been media tested. Both his state and federal senate campaigns were cakewalks. And while his presidential campaign has certainly been at least an order of magnitude tougher, the idea that Clinton's feeble attempts at going negative are as bad as the sh*t-storm the Republicans will throw at him in the faull laughable. So too is the idea that Obama's press coverage has been as bad as Clinton's. The media narrative on Clinton is that she can do no right. Remember the infamous Tip-Gate? When the Clinton campaign allegedly didn't tip their servers at a diner? At first it was a media frenzy about how out-of-touch the Clintons were with the real world. When the Clinton campaign insisted that they did tip, it became a story about how Clinton's instinctive response was to lie lie lie. And a few days later, when it was revealed that Clinton DID tip (generously) and that the waitress somehow 'forgot', it became a story about Clinton's response to the 'scandal', and how it showed she couldn't just come clean with the media and tell them the whole story (um, HELLO, they did!) Compare and contrast with several Obama stories that have gotten nary a peep. 1) Obama says the DNC approved his ads in Florida, and within a matter of hours the DNC comes out with a strongly worded statement that says they did no such thing, and that Obama is "mistaken", after which Obama says again that they did, when asked about it directly. 2) Obama doesn't take questions from reporters, because they ask him about policy, and he doesn't do policy. 3) The Obama campaign emails reporters to highlight a question raised by a single mother in an Obama town-hall and uses it as proof that working class mothers are better off with Obama than Clinton ... but does so 3 hours before the town-hall takes place. 4) The SOTU snub, which was pretty obviously NOT caused by a question from the person next to him, who was busy reaching towards Hillary. Seriously, look at the pictures. He simply turns his back on her and looks away into empty space. If Clinton had pulled any of these stunts, it would be all OVER the news.

3) Obama's supporters have drunk too much kool-aid. I actually know people who support Obama, but who will vote for McCain in the general election simply out of spite for Clinton. Or people who are convinced that the only reason someone doesn't support Obama is that they're secretly racist. Or Obama supporters who simply won't talk about policy at all, on the grounds that the only thing that matters is that he's Obama, and is thus teh awesome. Or people who hate Clinton simply because she happens to be a baby boomer, and "their time is over." Or people who claim that Clinton is actually worse than George W Bush when it comes to foreign policy, and that if she'd been president, we wouldn't have just invaded Iraq, but also Iran by now. This kind of stuff turns me off too; it's a cult of personality that's become almost completely detached from reality.

Simple version: Clinton has given me solid reasons to support her, and solid reasons not to. Obama hasn't given me anything solid at all. And I find that, at the end of the day, he and his supporters annoy me far more than Clinton and her supporters do. So, on Tuesday, when I cast my vote, I will vote for Hillary Clinton.

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