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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What Obama Should Do

posted by on June 6 at 12:22 PM


Looks like a lot of people had the same thought after watching the Democratic debate in New Hampshire: Barack Obama needs to figure out a better way to take on Hillary Clinton.

For my part, I noticed, when I was at the debate, that Obama seemed overly gentle with Clinton, passing up several opportunities to take her on while not hesitating to slap down John Edwards.

What’s he scared of?

Obama scored one of the biggest sound-bite coups of the night when he turned to Edwards and told him that he was “about four and a half years late” in speaking out against the Iraq war. He could have said something similar to Clinton, and had several opportunities to do so, but didn’t. I write about one of Obama’s missed opportunities, briefly, in the issue of the Stranger that’s coming out later today.

Today in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd devotes her whole column to this issue. It’s behind the TimesSelect firewall, so you can’t read the whole thing unless you pay, but here’s an excerpt:

In the New Hampshire debate Sunday night, Mr. Obama again missed his chances. Hillary is the one he needs to unseat, but he treads gingerly around her. He seems afraid of a repeat of that moment last December, as the clamor for him to run was building, when he touched her elbow and winked at her on the Senate floor, and she kept walking. He called a friend afterwards, stunned at her icy behavior.

Instead, he wasted his time tangling with Dennis Kucinich in the first debate and slapping back John Edwards in the second.

When Hillary admitted that she had not read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting to authorize the president to go to war, Senator Obama had a clear shot… He missed another chance when Hillary said at the beginning of the debate that she believed “we are safer than we were” before 9/11, even though the Democrats won Congress with the opposite argument last fall, and even though the Iraq war has clearly made the world more dangerous than ever…

The Boy Wonder cannot take over the country unless he can take on Wonder Woman.

A TIME blogger finds Dowd’s advice ironic. Sullivan thinks he should largely dismiss it, but that Obama needs to “play down the seminar and pump up the sermon.” But both seem to agree that Obama’s debate delivery could use some tweaking, and the general consensus in the political world seems to be that Clinton won the last debate—and that this, sent out by the Obama camp the day after the debate, was too little too late.

RSS icon Comments


Maureen Dowd's a twit.

Posted by DOUG. | June 6, 2007 12:30 PM

Republicans would love nothing more than to see the bitch and the black man wrestle in the mud because both would come out looking dirty.

So no, he doesn't need to take her on. It's a lose/lose if anyone goes negative and they both know that.

Posted by monkey | June 6, 2007 12:42 PM

Dowd is an A-Hole.

I want democratic candidates who can argue w/o insulting each other. Obama's style wins points with lots of us.

Posted by tiny ballerina | June 6, 2007 12:47 PM

it would be very messy for him to take her on. unfortunately, that might be his best chance. his current plan isn't so bad, though, as he still gets to hit his message points by directing them at other candidates.

maybe obama and clinton are playing nice now because they are going to run together. they just need to see who gets to be first on the bumper sticker.

Posted by infrequent | June 6, 2007 12:48 PM

Obama and Clinton are going to run on the same ticket! Hilary as Pres and Obama as VP! WHy else would they be so friendly? It's a win/win!

Posted by D in SEA | June 6, 2007 12:49 PM

At the risk of being un-P.C., I'll point out that being a black man taking the offensive against a white woman isn't going to look that good.

Obama's win here is to stay aloof. Let Hil take the first shots.

Posted by supergp | June 6, 2007 12:49 PM

Black, white, male, or female, Democrats do not win elections by taking the low road.

Posted by Sean | June 6, 2007 12:59 PM

What everyone else said.

Maureen Dowd is a sniping bitch... and Obama knows that he may not win, but that Hillary might and that he's an easy choice for her VP, so he's staying off her back to maintain good graces.

Posted by Gomez | June 6, 2007 1:07 PM

Hmmm. Well, I think Obama needs to keep on the high road, but not accept non-answers when they're given.

Besides, it will be good training for when Gore gets in the race.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 6, 2007 1:18 PM

Look, he's getting ahead at the polls without having to be nasty. The first primary is still half a year away. If it looks like he's not going to pull ahead, then he can lunge for the jugular. Why would he want to do it so early? If he starts attacking her now, by January the act will be awfully old. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and he's best served by a hard push at the end so long as he's still in striking distance.

Posted by Ryno | June 6, 2007 1:43 PM

Re times select: if you have a .edu email address, you can get it for free. search the site, it'll have an 'academic signup'. It's not smart enough to know if you're still a student or not, so old college accounts work -- and I think if you state that you're a 'professor' the account will stay active forever...

Posted by juris | June 6, 2007 1:54 PM

Hillary won't be anyone's Veep. I don't think she'd accept if asked, though I can see her becoming Secretary of Defense.

Posted by elswinger | June 6, 2007 3:10 PM

elswinger, Wesley Clark is SecDef in any Democratic Administration.

Hillary wins the nomination or she goes home. no VP, no cabinet position.

Posted by maxsolomon | June 6, 2007 3:26 PM

@13 - glad to hear that.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 6, 2007 4:16 PM

People are way too defensive of Obama. He's not the messiah. He's a center of the road politician.

Posted by Jay | June 6, 2007 4:48 PM

And for the record, Dowd's opinion counts for more than Sullivan's. Not that I take either of them seriously.

Posted by Jay | June 6, 2007 4:49 PM

I think Obama should listen to the pundits, as they are the political masterminds of our time. John Kerry did in 2004, and that's why he cleaned up on a President who led us into a failing war, turned a surplus into massive debt, and led our economy into a rat hole, then into a tepid recovery.

Americans want a President who can divide the country, be charming on the tube, and schmooze with the MSM. That's what Obama should strive for.

Posted by Ebenezer | June 6, 2007 9:04 PM

Maybe he just respects her. Say what you will about her (and I'm not a raging Hillary fan) the lady has put up with some serious shit in her life.

I like that picture of them by the way. Hillary looks almost human ;-)

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | June 6, 2007 9:35 PM

11- better way to get into Times Select, although it requires a little more effort- go to ProQuest Research via If you have a library card, you can read all of the New York Times back to the 1800s, and that includes TimeSelect articles. Search by headline.

Posted by stiletto | June 7, 2007 12:38 AM

I'm on the VP theory. If he busts out on her, then anything he says will later be used by the Republican nominee to hurt her in the general election (and by association, Obama himself.) I'm not sure which would be which come time for the nomination, but I figure that Obama would be a more likely VP than Presidential canidate.

Posted by RJ | June 7, 2007 3:37 AM

Ditto Jay @16. They're both revolting.

No one's paying attention to debates, or the candidates for either party. It's summer. Go outside and play.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | June 7, 2007 6:22 AM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 1:52 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 1:53 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 1:53 PM

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