Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Other Side of the Coin

“Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples’ money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security.”
- William F. Buckley

While the Republican Party leadership is trying to rally the troops around John McCain, Hillary Clinton, who once assumed she was the Democrat’s “anointed one,” may just be getting obliterated by tidal wave of popular support that is increasingly mounting in favor of young Mr. Obama.

As reported by the New York Times this morning:

“Mrs. Clinton held a buck-up-the-troops conference call on Monday with donors, superdelegates and other supporters; several said afterward that she had sounded tired and a little down, but determined about Ohio and Texas.”

“They also said that they had not been especially soothed, and that they believed she might be on a losing streak that could jeopardize her competitiveness in those states.”

“She has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she’s out,” said one superdelegate who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “The campaign is starting to come to terms with that.” Campaign advisers, also speaking privately in order to speak plainly, confirmed this view.”

The Clinton camp is really getting nervous. Patti Solis Doyle is out; Maggie Williams is in. The talk of inevitability has evaporated, having given way to campaign conference calls about “firewalls.” Even Clinton bean counters are getting into the act. Hassan Nemazee, one of Hillary’s national finance chairmen is telling donors

“Not to get caught up in the headlines about Obama. “I’m telling donors and supporters: Don’t be overly concerned about what goes on in the remainder of the month of February because these are not states teed up well for us,” Mr. Nemazee said.”

Mr. Nemazee had better hope, for Hillary’s sake, that she’s teed up a bit better a month from now than she currently is in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Wisconsin, or Hawaii. If she can’t do any better there than she did the other day in Washington, Louisiana, Nebraska, and the Virgin Islands, then she just might face the prospect of getting smacked around by the Tiger Woods sized driver Obama will be pulling out of his war chest in Texas and Ohio.

I’m a Huckabee supporter, so I do believe in miracles, as does my candidate. Hillary’s problem is that she has presented herself as the candidate of reality while Obama has been the messenger of change and hope. It’s no contest.

This morning, Governor Huckabee was asked by a group of reporters why Barack seems to be winning against Hillary. His response was one of those classic Huck-isms:

“The American people are not looking for someone who can fix a carburetor. They’re looking for someone who can drive the car.”

I’ve said from the start of this campaign that the issues of vision, hope, and change really matter. That’s why I’ve supported Mike Huckabee from the beginning and will till all the delegates are counted. I believe his message of vertical politics, hope, economic revitalization and populism, and strength in the face of international terror is right for America. It’s become his political currency. Fear and division have been replaced by hope and vertical politics as his coin of the realm.

In one sense, Barack Obama is the other side of that coin. One of the principle reasons so many Democrats seem to be flocking to him is that message of hope and change. His slogans ring true; they hit their mark. When he rails out against the influence of lobbyists in American politics and tells his followers that change is coming they all respond in unison, “Yes we can…Yes we can…Yes we can! When Hillary talks about the need for experience in the White House, Obama counters by reminded all who will listen that twenty years of experience and two political dynasties have gotten us to where we are.

In his victory speech after sweeping the primaries and caucuses on Saturday night, Senator Obama spoke to his younger supporters. He promised them help with what has become the huge financial burden of a college education. The crowd roared as he put forth the idea of a $4,000 college tuition credit that would be granted to America’s young. Years earlier Bill Clinton had made the same promise. I remember the drumbeat of those days. “I’ll give you a college education.” “It’ll be free.” “It’ll be free.” “It’ll be free.” But there was something different in the Obama appeal. Along with the promise of financial support, America’s young were told that they would have to agree to serve the nation in some capacity in order to get the financial aid.

Therein lies the difference between the two Democratic candidates. One panders to the baser elements of our nature; the other calls out to the noble and altruistic.

That stream of altruism flows deep within Obama’s veins. During his 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic convention he spoke eloquently to the sense of shared moral responsibility we Americans share with our fellow citizens:

“If there’s a child on the South side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it isn’t my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it isn’t my grandparent. If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It is that fundamental belief – I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper – that makes this country work.”

One doesn’t have to agree with the Senator’s rhetoric, but one should see that it comes from the heart. When compared to the other side of the coin, Hillary Clinton’s cold political calculations, it soars above the crass and mundane that has made Americans sick of the political process.

Odds are that John McCain will be the Republican nominee, and if the momentum keeps building Barack Obama will be his opponent. What then?

It’s well know that economics is not McCain’s strong suit. Bread and butter conservatives love his resistance to the profligate spending that has turned the surpluses of 2000 into the huge deficits of 2008. But, they are also well aware of his previous opposition to the Bush tax cuts that triggered the post 9-11 economic boom. His current promise to support them isn’t being received warmly. The level of trust in his pronouncements is low. By the time November rolls around he’ll be plagued with a mixed economic message, like the ancient mariner wearing an albatross around his neck, while Obama will be appealing to those caught in the grip of the mortgage meltdown and plant layoffs. In such a case, what is perceived to be Wall Street Republicanism will lose hands down to Obama’s message of “social justice and equity.”

Does this mean that an Obama presidency is inevitable? Certainly not. There is another side of the Obama coin which could easily be exploited to expose the glaring gap in his altruism. The issue would be national security, Iraq, and the War on Terror.

I’ve spent some time reading back through Senator Obama’s messages on Iraq and national security. The net result is mixed. Once the layers of the onion are peeled back one thing becomes clear – that the Senator’s message of hope and altruism ends at the water’s edge as he promises to begin what could be the long march of retreat in the face of international terror. While his constant reminders of the fact that he is the only Democratic candidate who was against our involvement in Iraq from the beginning play well to the Daily Kos set, they also reveal that his principles of domestic social justice and equity are less than a layer of the onion deep, if that deep at all. How can one so principled say that he cares about the children who can’t read, senior citizens facing difficult economic choices, the targets of religious bigotry, and the least of us, when he tosses the dreams, aspirations, and hopes of millions who’ve seen their loved ones run through Saddam’s shredders, seen their developmentally disabled children used as walking bombs, or have had an education denied them because they were women, as if they were little more than international flotsam and jetsam? How can he speak convincingly about the responsibility of the powerful to the weak and needy domestically when he demonstrates an alarming willingness for the strong to abandon the helpless in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and other victims of political violence crying out for help from the centers of violence and terror in the world?

If Barack Obama is to be true to his principles, he must be held to a standard of consistency. He can’t have it both ways. He can’t be a man of compassion because it plays well to the laid-off worker or single mother in Peoria and then ignore the cries of help from the veiled woman pleading for a new way of life in Baghdad or Kabul. He cannot be allowed to portray himself as a classic, caring Democratic liberal in America’s rust belt at the same time he practices a Nixon-like realpolitik and appeasement on the international scene. It’s not only inconstant, it’s also very dangerous. This inconsistency, this weakness in principle, would be no match for the twisted Vladimir Putins, Mahmud Ahmadinejads, or the Kim Jong-ils of this world. Obama’s rhetoric may soar in this campaign, but it will never convince Iran’s leaders to stop developing nuclear weapons, nor will it woo Osama from the cave where he hatches his evil plans. If Obama is elected, this will be America’s central problem in 2009 and beyond. As Thomas Sowell once said, “If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians will win.” .

Every coin has two sides. Obama’s problem in a general election is that his dollar of hope on the domestic side is worth little more than a penny when it’s turned over to the international side. If he can’t overcome that glaring inconsistency in his message, he might win against John McCain if he is the Republican nominee, but he would not win in November against the domestic and international consistency of Mike Huckabee if he becomes the Republican standard bearer.

1 comment:

Frieda said...

Please read today's NewYork Sun's editorial. REgarding Hassan Namazee being in Hillary's camp.

He is Iran apologist and a dangerous man.

In 2001, at the invitation of Mobil Oil Chairman Lucio Noto, Nemazee joined the board of the American-Iranian Council (AIC), a U.S. lobbying group that consistently has supported lifting U.S. sanctions on Iran and accommodating the Tehran regime.