The Politics of Joy

Hillary Clinton is a happy campaigner. She exudes joy. She has a hearty laugh.

Hillary’s joy filled politics translate into a commanding presence on the campaign trail.

The joy for Hillary comes from the confidence that all the years of fighting for progressive values have prepared her for this challenge of running for and being president for all Americans.

As anyone who has ever fought for a cause worth fighting for knows, you acquire scars, you acquire enemies. But you also acquire friends, and the scars heal leaving you a stronger person with the wisdom only real life experience can teach.

The Politics of Joy are not for everyone. Some prefer the Politics of Confusion. These sad souls confuse inexperienced foolishness with hope, capitulation with unity.

“I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can,” Obama said. “I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the ’90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be running.”

Watch out. The last time Obama made a claim about how having lived abroad as a 6 year old child and having Muslims in his family he would be well equipped to deal with the Islamic world American flags got burned in Pakistan. Obama also appears not to understand that it is easy to gain cooperation from opponents when you capitulate to their demands.

But Obama’s greater confusion is in not understanding that the reason why Ripublicans tore into Hillary for decades was because she was fighting for meaningful change. Obama does not understand the basic differences and interests which define Ripublicans and the putting people first politics espoused by Democrats.

Saying that Bill Clinton’s presidency was good for America, he added: “The question is, moving forward, looking towards the future, is it sufficient just to change political parties, or do we need a more fundamental change in how business is done in Washington . . .? Do we need to break out of some of the ideological battles that we fought during the ’90s that were really extensions of battles we fought since the ’60s?”

What battles does Obama wish to sound the retreat on? On what issues is Obama waving a surrender flag? Does Obama really think that Ripublicans will be satisfied with ‘split the difference’ solutions? How much is Obama willing to capitulate to Ripublicans in their quest to drive the nation further and further to the right? Does Obama really and truly think that his charms are such, recalling his ‘to know me is to love me’ silliness, that Ripublican and right wing zealots will be appeased by his soothing words?

Obama said he has become a target because Democratic rivals are determined to paint him as too inexperienced to serve as president and commander in chief. Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) have joined Clinton in questioning Obama’s experience, but he focused on Clinton’s criticism to explain why he is under attack.

“I think it’s very clear what their political strategy is,” he said of the Clinton campaign. “They want to project Senator Clinton as the seasoned, experienced hand. I don’t fault them for that. That’s the strategy they’re pursuing, and my response is that what the American people need and what the Oval Office needs right now is good judgment. Experience can be a proxy for good judgment, but it isn’t always.” [snip]

Obama said he believes that he is on the more solid ground in the foreign policy debate underway and that the back-and-forth has helped make clear the distinctions between him and other candidates, particularly Clinton.

“My sense is, either people aren’t paying careful enough attention to what I’m saying or they’re simply trying to score political points,” he said. “Or there is a substantive argument in which I’m very confident in my position and I think the American people share my position.”

Obama is clearly deluded when he thinks he has profited from his blunder, blunder, blunder. Like George Bush Obama does not seem to understand he is on the losing side of the argument. This lack of awareness is important when we consider Obama’s own words, his own standard for judging him which were enunciated in an interview with George Stephanopoulos

Stephanopoulos: That is part of the job, there is no question about it, but you know a big part of the job for president is what you would do in a crisis, the crisis you didn’t expect. And you never ever really had to deal with something like that, right?

Obama: Well, what I think is absolutely legitimate is that my political career has been on the legislative side and not on the executive branch. Now, that is true for a lot of my colleagues, who aren’t governors, and one of the things that I hope, over the course of this campaign I show, is the capacity to manage this pretty unwieldy process, um, of a political race and one of the great things about the press is they’re going to be watching very carefully…

Stephanopoulos: Every move you make.

Obama: Every move you make and to make sure that people have a sense of how I deal with adversity, how I deal with mistakes. Who do I have around me to make sure we are executing on the things that need to get done.

Using Obama’s very own measuring stick, how is Obama doing? How is Obama “managing this unwieldy process”? How is Obama dealing with mistakes? Here is one answer:

Over the course of a long campaign, a couple of foreign policy flubs can explained away. But three or four Dean-like stumbles within the course of a few weeks have just nailed Barack Obama, early in the campaign, into a box he’ll be hard pressed to bust out of.

To recap: first he said he’d meet with the world’s worst dictators in his first year, no preconditions. And what was particularly puzzling to me: Though he pretty clearly lost the exchange to Sen. Clinton, he seemed to think he won it — and then pressed his case for a solid week. (I actually think he got trapped in a meta-battle, in which he was trying hard to demonstrate to donors and the public that he can fight bareknuckled with Clinton and give her a black eye. And that, in turn, would have proved he can be just as tough as her in the face of Republican general election attacks.) It didn’t work.

Then came the threat to bomb Pakistan; to me, anyway, he was correct to say this — but in the public mind, in the wake of the first misstep, it wound up looking like a candidate reactively struggling to define himself.

Then came the casual comment that we’d never use nuclear weapons along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. This too might have been defensible, but it was followed by his “scratch that” dissembling — and a very adult taking to task by Hillary.

And now we have the latest:

a puzzling statement that in Afghanistan, our military is “just” bombing villages and killing civilians. Well, yes, it may be partially true — but you cannot win an argument when you start out by appearing to malign U.S. troops.

I had pretty high hopes for Obama. But these unforced errors are getting painful. An existing vulnerability is suddenly much more pronounced. And if you were scripting this, you could hardly make Hillary look more Presidential with less effort of her own.

By his own standards – How is Obama doing? Miserably.


So far, only the Republican National Committee is taking issue with Obama’s statement that US forces need to be do doing more than “just air-raiding villages and killing civilians” in Afghanistan. But even if Obama’s right on the policy — and the fact that no Democrats are taking him on over his latest comments suggest that at least they think he is — this is at least the third time in recent weeks that his locution on foreign policy is drawing shrugs.

Obama’s campaign has apparently decided to paint Hillary as a polarizing figure in order to rescue his miserable and failing desperate campaign. Before worrying about Hillary’s polarizing effect, Obama should worry about his own. American voters still do not know who Obama is despite the Vibe, GQ and other magazine covers he favors.

The Obama campaign has produced a second ad targeted to a minority audience stressing his Christianity, on Tuesday releasing a Spanish language radio spot to run in Nevada, one of the early presidential vote states. Why the emphasis on Obama’s Christianity? Is there a worry that in some precincts there is confusion about his faith because of the Islamic heritage of his father and stepfather?

The Nevada Spanish language spot: A narrator says, “Let us tell you Barack Obama is a Christian man committed to our community, his wife and his daughters,” according to the English translation provided by the Obama campaign.

A July ad aimed at African Americans in South Carolina, another early primary state: A narrator says, “It’s Barack Obama time. A Christian family man, community organizer, civil rights lawyer, courageous legislator, and U.S. senator who’s told the truth as a soldier for justice.”

This stress on Obama’s religion leads me to surmise that there is some concern within the campaign that is answered by highlighting Obama’s Christian faith, that it is part of his biography that needs bolstering. [snip]

Early on in the campaign I thought Obama — his middle name is Hussein — cleared up questions, triggered by the Islamic heritage of his father and stepfather, about whether he was raised a Muslim. Obama was not raised a Muslim. His campaign, effectively I thought discredited stories he attended a madrassa while a youngster in Jakarta, Indonesia. He did not.

Obama is not the only sad campaign having trouble in Nevada and elsewhere while attacking Hillary.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is moving staff out of Nevada to focus on other early voting states, a reflection of the uncertainty about the prominence of the first Western contest and Edwards’ tight resources. [snip]

Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada responded with a warning: “Any candidate who chooses to ignore Nevada and its rich diversity does so at their own peril.”

The Democratic National Committee gave Nevada a new early role in the presidential nominating process, allowing it to schedule its caucus on Jan. 19, between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. But New Hampshire has said it may go earlier than the Jan. 22 date set by the DNC to maintain its historic role in choosing the nominee, possibly moving Nevada back in the voting order.

The most recent Nevada poll, taken in late June by Mason-Dixon, showed Edwards in third place with 12 percent of the vote. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was leading with 39 percent, followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama with 17 percent.

Miserable campaigns do miserable things.

Joyful campaigns win.