Friday, January 18, 2008

Campaign Droppings - I

Morning Again, Again

Finally, Barack Obama has confirmed what I have been saying for months. He is the Democrats’ Ronald Reagan. And the John Edwards campaign, and for all I know the Hillary Clinton campaign, will again miss the point and tie Obama to Reagan’s policies.

I covered Reagan, and the only great thing about him was the campaign team he assembled that convinced a nation it was Morning in America when things were going to hell for at least half the country.

While Clinton and Edwards will give you policy prescriptions that make sense and may appeal to certain portions of the Democratic entitlement groups, Obama represents a sense of excitement, of possibilities and the security that he remains in the mainstream of Democratic thought and will be able to enlist the support of his opponents should he be elected.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, the conservative who Democrats hate to love cites research I had come across in my previous job, about how people make up their minds. It has convinced me that electoral politics is almost never about policy but about who makes people feel good. And, yes, I have learned from the Republicans that presidential elections are about optimism.

So, in that regard, while Edwards is a worthy fount of anger (oh, and did I mention the son of a mill worker?), and Clinton a policy wonk with a sense of entitlement and victimhood, Obama is the candidate with brains, looks, easy demeanor and a vision. He also is slightly to the right of the other two on most issues, and to the left of Clinton on Iraq.

Also, Obama doesn’t have a spouse who is dying or one who is trying to kill his chances by crying foul at every chance. And he was honest enough in the last debate to say he is terrible at keeping track of paperwork. The other two, when asked to confess their faults, made them into false virtues – impatience to get things done or too emotional a response “to people around me.”

When you hear people say he is reminiscent of JFK, they are saying Obama makes them feel as they did when Kennedy was elected. Democrats keep nominating the best policy people – i.e., losers -- Stevenson, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry. What’s wrong with nominating someone thin on white papers and plump with vision?

Shocked, Shocked

Now, take Mitt Romney. Please. At first, he seemed very presidential – handsome, knowledgeable, experienced, articulate. But then I heard him speak at length on TV last February when he announced his candidacy, and when he spoke on religion and when he spoke at his victory rally in Michigan. And most particularly yesterday when he took on a wire service reporter who had the courage to interrupt his blather by telling him he was prevaricating about the presence of a lobbyist as a top adviser.

The campaign aide in question is someone I met 28 years ago as a factotum for George W.H. Bush, and he was the first politico I ever heard use the word “spin” to describe what he did. Also, interestingly, the set-to occurred inside a Staples store, notable because it was one of the properties that Romney, as a venture capitalist, bought, fired people from, made a profit from and sold.

Romney was basically caught in one of the thousands of statements all candidates make that reporters let slip past when he was accusing John McCain of having a lobbyist actually running his campaign. The problem here with Romney is twofold, at least:

1) He went on to ask why, because he has spent his personal fortune to run for president, would he let lobbyists bend his ear for their special interest? If that’s the case, then having a lobbyist as a campaign manager is no big deal. He can’t be bought. And if he can’t, why should McCain be?

2) Willard J. (Mitt) Romney, named after the Marriott founder, made his fortune because he had the good luck to be born into a wealthy family, whose head (George Romney) made his fortune in the auto industry after serving it for years as … yes, a Washington lobbyist!

As to the issue of lobbyists running campaigns, this is kind of like Captain Renault discovering gamblers inside Rick’s Café Americain.

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