[Democratic Party Presidential Debate – tonight. We’ll cover it. The Democratic debate with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson, will be televised on ABC stations from approximately 8:45 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. (ET). The moderators will be Charlie Gibson of ABC and Scott Spradling of WMUR. For the interested, the Republicans will debate before the Democrats starting at 7:00 p.m. also on ABC]
* * *
Literature students are taught that there are 7 basic plots in all literature. In political campaigns there are 2 basic messages.
Basic political message #1 is “Stay the Course“. Political message #1 is used by incumbents and wannabe successors to the incumbent. The message states that things are going along pretty well, or somewhat well, and there is no need for change.
Basic political message #2 is “It’s Time For A Change“. Political message #2 is used by the non-incumbent in an election. This message states that things are off kilter and that the status quo is not working and therefore new leadership is needed.
The “stay the course” message works very well when society is functioning well. When things are not going so smoothly “stay the course” is salted with the idea that change is “risky”.
When things are falling apart, in society or government, the “change” message is very powerful.
* * *
In 2008, due to the mess created by Bush and the Republicans, “change” is a very powerful message. The Democrats in 2008, especially the presidential candidates, are all employing the tried and true message #2: It’s Time For A Change.
With all the Democratic presidential candidates employing the message “It’s Time For A Change” the necessary follow-up questions are: “What Kind of Change?” and “Who Can Best Bring About That Change?”
That is the state of play today in New Hampshire. It is not a novel situation.
In 1984 Walter Mondale, running against the Obama of that day – Gary Hart, echoed a popular television commercial and in a debate asked Hart the question “Where’s The Beef?” Mondale won the nomination.
In 2000, after suffering a stunning defeat at the hands of John McCain in New Hampshire, George Bush questioned McCain’s committment to change by labeling himself a “Reformer With Results”. As laughable as Bush’s claim was – it worked. (Time Magazine wrote: But it is a measure of the trouble Bush is in that when he started doing that–unveiling a new slogan, A REFORMER WITH RESULTS–he was trying to climb inside the knight’s armor already worn by John McCain.)
* * *
Back in February 2007, the New York Times made a yet unfulfilled promise: Unlike Mrs. Clinton, or to a lesser extent Mr. Edwards, Mr. Obama has not gone through a full-scale audit that will now come from Republicans, Democrats, journalists and advocacy groups, eager to define him before he defines himself.
Unlike Hillary, Barack Obama has yet to be vetted. In New Hampshire maybe the vetting process will begin.
Paul Krugman is attempting to gently fulfill the promise of an Obama vetting. What does Obama mean by “Change”? How realistic is Obama’s strategy to acheive “Change”?
On one side, the Democrats are all promising to get out of Iraq and offering strongly progressive policies on taxes, health care and the environment. That’s understandable: the public hates the war, and public opinion seems to be running in a progressive direction.
What seems harder to understand is what’s happening on the other side — the degree to which almost all the Republicans have chosen to align themselves closely with the unpopular policies of an unpopular president. And I’m not just talking about their continuing enthusiasm for the Iraq war. The G.O.P. candidates are equally supportive of Bush economic policies. [snip]
In fact, however, except for Mike Huckabee — a peculiar case who’ll deserve more discussion if he stays in contention — the leading Republican contenders have gone out of their way to assure voters that they will not deviate an inch from the Bush path. Why? Because the G.O.P. is still controlled by a conservative movement that does not tolerate deviations from tax-cutting, free-market, greed-is-good orthodoxy. [snip]
There’s a fantasy, widely held inside the Beltway, that men and women of good will from both parties can be brought together to hammer out bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems.
If such a thing were possible, Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani — a self-proclaimed maverick, the former governor of a liberal state and the former mayor of an equally liberal city — would seem like the kind of men Democrats could deal with. (O.K., maybe not Mr. Giuliani.) In fact, however, it’s not possible, not given the nature of today’s Republican Party, which has turned men like Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney into hard-line ideologues. On economics, and on much else, there is no common ground between the parties.
So how does Obama achieve this “Change” of his?
A popular blogger asks the same “kumbaya” question with a bit more bite:
Since I’m not a politician I can say it: self-described independent voters tend to have that wonderful combination of arrogance and stupidity, along with a belief that the right politician will just wave his magic wand and the correctly colored pony will appear. They have little understanding of how politics works, and thinks that if someone says they’ll just ride into Washington and get things done by bringing people together and making it happen, that this is in fact a stunningly new concept never before communicated by any other politicians. And a pony.
So how does Obama achieve this “Change” of his on vital questions like health care with the current Republican Party “controlled by a conservative movement that does not tolerate deviations from tax-cutting, free-market, greed-is-good orthodoxy?”
Yesterday, we made several suggestions on questions that need to be asked of Obama by Hillary. The questions we posed concern issues that explore the thinking and history of Obama. They are not strict policy questions. Policy questions and strict policy issues don’t bother Obama because like all flim flam artists, he just misstates facts or avoids answering altogether.
At tonight’s debate Hillary will begin to contrast her vision and implementation of “Change” with Obama’s vision and history. Hillary understands that is what must happen in New Hampshire.
She said New Hampshire voters need to take a hard look at Obama, suggesting that they shouldn’t just buy into his message of “hope” without analyzing his policies.
Clinton said she wasn’t suggesting anything in particular about Obama, but simply “drawing contrasts.”
“I’m running on my record. … I’m running on my plans,” Clinton told reporters. “I think everybody needs to be vetted and tested. That’s the way elections are supposed to operate. The last thing the Democrats need is to just move quickly through this process.”
While the senator was vague, her campaign pointed out to ABC News examples of Obama’s liberal positions, including his 2004 statement to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for federal crimes. They also pointed out a statement Obama made in 2003 that he was “a proponent of a single payer health care program,” which he no longer seems to support today.
Clinton said voters need to ask Obama more questions about his health-care plan to find out “where he stands.”
The issue to be explored is not Obama’s past positions but rather why he has abandoned them and whether he will abandon the positions he is taking today. Most Democrats are not going to be offended by liberal positions in a Democratic primary. The question is the discarding or adopting of positions for political benefit. Obama ran for election to the Illinois state senate based on his “community organizer” experience, but once he became a state senator he abandoned his constitutency in favor of his financial benefactor, slumlord Rezko. Who else will be abandoned by Obama? Obama has already abandoned 15 million Americans on health care.
“We need a president who will actually deliver change,” she said. “It is critical that we build confidence in our country. We can’t have false hopes. We’ve got to have a person who can walk into the Oval Office on day one and start doing the hard work that it takes to deliver change. And I believe I’m that person.”
“I’m not doing this as an exercise,” Clinton said.
Asked what she meant when she said earlier to a crowd in Nashua, N.H., that all of the vetting and investigations of her record had found her “most innocent,” Clinton simply said: “I think I come into this race tested and proven and ready to take on the Republicans no matter what they send my way.”
False, vain hopes, espoused by Obama must be countered by Hillary with the real life hard work that creates hope.
With Hillary you get: Real Hope, not Vain Hope – Real Change, not Small Change.