PANDERERS NEED NOT APPLY
Jonathan Rauch of National Journal discusses his reluctance to sign on to Obamaism and asks if BO's approach is really A New Politics? Or a New Pandering? (Emphasis mine)
I wonder if he understands that politics isn't a pillow fight and isn't supposed to be. He and his supporters complain so much about the mean, nasty Clintons. What I've heard from Sen. Clinton isn't the politics of personal destruction; it's legitimate criticism and contrasts. His readiness to be president is a major issue, so why shouldn't she question it? It's her duty, in fact. When I hear his supporters gripe about how roughly the Evil Clinton Machine is treating him, I hear an attempt to stigmatize the kind of robust give-and-take that politics is all about. It makes me wonder if Obama will crumple, as John Kerry did in 2004, when the full force of the Republican attack machine hits him.
So what's his plan? I consulted The Audacity of Hope, his political book, and found it full of rhetoric such as "what's needed is a broad majority of Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill -- who are re-engaged in the project of national renewal" and "we need a new kind of politics, one that can excavate and build upon those shared understandings," etc., etc. But how will he actually bring about this political transformation as president? He warns that it won't be easy. He says it will require "tough choices" and "courage." OK, but WHAT'S THE PLAN? "This isn't to say I know exactly how to do it," he writes. "I don't." Oh. I'm not sure if this is disarming modesty or outrageous chutzpah.
But there's also a kind of pandering in what Obama is doing. A few years ago, a pair of political scientists, John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, looked at evidence from surveys and focus groups and drew some fairly startling conclusions. Most Americans, they found, think there are easy, straightforward solutions out there that everyone would agree on if only biased special interests and self-serving politicians would get out of the way. They want to be governed by ENSIDs: empathetic non-self-interested decision makers.
This is pure fantasy, of course. But indulging it is Obama's stock-in-trade. In today's Washington, the only way to get sustainable bipartisanship -- bipartisanship over a period of years, not weeks -- is with divided government, which Obama and a Democratic Congress obviously can't provide. True, Hillary Rodham Clinton can't provide that either. He might be better than she at working across party lines (although in the Senate she has been quite good at it, arguably better than he -- and John McCain has been best of all). But to promise "a new kind of politics" borders on chicanery.
There ARE no easy solutions to the myriad challenges we face. And while the media and many American voters clearly prefer personalities to policy wonks, it's the personalities (GWB, RR) who have created many of our problems while neglecting others, it's the wonks who have to step in from time to time and clean up the mess the personalities leave behind.
Since he first entered pollitics, Barack Obama has been running for the next higher office, largely on the force of his personality and rhetoric, without leaving behind much of a legacy of achievement. A man who says he doesn't know how to "transform politics" or bring about "national renewal," but talks about them all the time nonetheless, isn't my choice to lead in these difficult times. Someone who's thought about the "tough choices" for decades and is constantly on the prowl for new and better ideas to improve people's lives, THAT'S my idea of a leader -- and that person is Hillary Clinton.