Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

I’ve always kind of been a little put off when people question whether Obama can stand up in a fight. I’ve kind of raised my eyebrows when I hear him described as having a glass jaw. This because I’ve always suspected that he’s got more than a little punch-back in him.

I think the first time I saw what Obama would look like in a fight was very early on in a debate when he was getting ganged up on by Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. It was a quick moment, and one that was not particularly reported on with any kind of frenzied activity. But it was telling all the same.

Since then, we’ve only ever gotten little peeks and hints at what he does when he gets in outright fight mode. He doesn’t do it often, and to be totally fair, he doesn’t appear to even like it. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s doing. After all, he’s from Chicago right? I’ve never seen it first hand but I’ve heard they got some of the meanest politics in town.

But we haven’t seen much from him against Clinton, and to be fair to Obama, I think part of it might have been him not wanting to go for the jugular against a fellow Democrat. I don’t think he has the same inhibitions when it comes to John McCain.

And luckily we get to see a little taste of what’s to come early on.

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Barack Obama chastised John McCain Thursday for engaging in “smear” politics, and defended himself from critics who question whether he is capable of being commander-in-chief, during a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer — his first sit-down since the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.

“This is offensive, and I think it’s disappointing,” Obama told Blitzer, when asked his thoughts about McCain’s comments that the terrorist organization Hamas wants Obama to be president. “Because John McCain always says ‘I am not going to run that kind of politics,’ and to engage in that kind of smear is unfortunate, particularly because my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.

“I’ve said it’s a terrorist organization and we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and unless they are willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. So for him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don’t need name calling in this debate.”

In and of itself, it’s a solid retort to an opening jab. One of the things about Obama’s style and about his campaign is that he’s going to take just about anything thrown at him, and that alone will essentially validate a major part of his core message of wanting to take politics away from being petty and about personal attacks.

Thus, everytime an opponent comes even close to leveling a personal attack, blammo! out comes the “You throw mud” card. It’s a double hit, one that refutes the attack, the second that hits you back for being a part of “Old” politics.

With this bit here, Obama goes it even one better. By tying his approach to Hamas, he not only shuts down McCain’s old attack against him, but makes it very difficult for McCain to try and use it again. In other words, if McCain wants to say Obama is the Hamas president, McCain now has to explain why this is when they both have the same position towards Hamas.

Some may hear the potential for dog whistles here, but I assure you, McCain does not want to go there. The only way to effectively go back to an attack such as this, McCain would essentially have to get into a foreign policy debate with Barack Obama, and spend a considerable amount of time trying to put daylight between them regarding Hamas, if possible, all just to use a stupid smear attack.

That is very judo-esque as far as the give and take of political attacks goes.

1) Hit him for a smear.

2) Use john McCain to reinforce his own message.

3) Refute the attack, and draw McCain too close to use that weapon again.

The “lost his bearing” comment I thought was a nice little touch, a quick hit to point out that John McCain is far removed from the John McCain that had earned a lot of respect and admiration on the national stage in 2000.

And he has lost his bearings from that John McCain.

-Once thought Bush’s tax cuts were irresponsible, now wants to make them permanent.

-Once had a principled stand against torture, now that has gone by the wayside with the approval of Bush’s veto of legislation that would have prevented the CIA from employing torture.

-Once called religious leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, “agents of intolerance,” and now he has wooed them (Falwell before he passed on, of course) and has drawn himself inextricably closer to even more hate-filled pastors such as John Hagee and Rod Parsley.

-Once held negative politics with the utmost disdain, now has Karl Rove advising his campaign.

Oh, I think he’s lost his bearings a little bit in the hunt for the presidency. But the funny thing is, what I thought was another nice little jab turned out to be even better.

For some bizarre reason, a whole bunch of righties thought that Obama was attacking John McCain’s age. Now, I suppose I could see their point if you dug really really deep in the ass to pull it out (we’re talking unprocessed corn here), and I thought I was going to have to spend an appreciable amount of time defending this comment and even more time making sure that the context was put into it make sure everyone understood Obama didn’t say, “HE LOST HIS BEARINGS CUZ HE’S A FEEBLE OLD BASTARD WHO NEEDS A WALKER!”

But there was no need.

The Boston Globe’s Political Intelligence blog captures everything as it unfurls, fully illustrating the rapid response of the Obama campaign.

First, there’s the McCain campaign’s response to Obama’s comments:

UPDATE: The McCain campaign just issued a strongly-worded response.

“First, let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama’s attack today: He used the words ‘losing his bearings’ intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain’s age as an issue. This is typical of the Obama style of campaigning,” said the memo from senior adviser Mark Salter.

“We have all become familiar with Senator Obama’s new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is. It is important to focus on what Senator Obama is attempting to do here: He is trying desperately to delegitimize the discussion of issues that raise legitimate questions about his judgment and preparedness to be President of the United States.”

Okay, I would address this, but the Obama campaign was on the ball:

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton responded: “Clearly losing one’s bearings has no relation to age, given this bizarre rant that Mark Salter just sent out. It’s clear why a candidate offering a third term of George Bush’s disastrous economic policies and failed strategy in Iraq would want to distract and attack, but it’s not the kind of campaign John McCain has promised the American people that he would run.”

Last month, McCain told conservative bloggers, “I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare…. If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments accordingly.”

McCain was referring to Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef, who said in an interview with WABC Radio last month that the terrorist group supports Obama’s foreign policy vision.

Obama, however, has repeatedly denounced Hamas as a terrorist group.

Here’s why it works; now, in order for the McCain campaign to continue employing a, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, “Agism card”, they have to explain how Obama’s words were agist. He never said, McCain was getting old. He didn’t say he was having a “senior moment.” He said he was losing his bearings in a context of pointing out that McCain was not holding true to the kind of campaign standards he would hold true to.

Which he didn’t.

And to put the onus upon the McCain campaign explain how “losing ones bearings” is an agist dog whistle in the context it was used creates a two fold problem. For one, it would make McCain’s campaign actually say something like, “Well… you know… old people go crazy, and forget things.” They have to define it which runs the risk of inflicting damage on McCain’s self, as well as being accused of agism itself.

The other problem is that the only reason McCain’s campaign would take things this far would be to be able to go on the attack against Obama again, which puts him right back to step one of not just denouncing McCain words, but his brand of politics.

Feeding his message, yet again.

Also, it shouldn’t be discounted how simply quick this all happened. No waiting to hope no one is watching, no navel gazing, just BAM! There you go.

It may appear that I just talked myself in circles on this whole thing, so to kind of untangle the mess I just made, it’s simple. Obama’s not going to let anything fly. Anything that smells like a personal attack, anything that isn’t squeaky clean coming from the McCain camp is going to be revisited back upon John McCain with all kinds of neat little sucker punches and jabs attached.

I think the Republicans thought they were getting a helpless kitten for an opponent; “Obambi” as some call him. I think they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

More at Memeorandum (mostly righties screaming agism. Nice to see you guys finally fighting for equality for someone anyway, I suppose):AMERICAblog, The Swamp, Weekly Standard Blog (very impressive here, very very impressive. Michael Goldfarb pulls out a nice shiny bag of conjecture, implications, and I think even a little bit of lying, awesome), Jonathan Martin’s Blogs, The Page, TownHall Blog, Marc Ambinder, The Corner, Boston Globe, The Sundries Shack, Gateway Pundit and Wake up America. Nitpicker and The Jed Report. The Corner and Instapundit.com

2 Responses to “Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”

  1. gcotharn says:

    I appreciate your thoughtful look at the political give and take. However, I think this goes to policy – even though Obama frames it as campaign strategy.

    That Obama and McCain have basically the same stated policy towards Hamas only makes this worse for Obama. Why?

    If Obama’s Hamas policy and McCain’s Hamas policy are the same, then Hamas is hinting that they are more than a terror group. What could that “more” be about? It could be about Hamas sharing goals with and being part of a larger, fundamentalist Islamist movement.

    Thus Hamas is making McCain’s argument about the origin of the conflict: the origin is not about American foreign policy mistakes(which is Obama’s preferred argument), but rather is about a fundamentalist Islamist desire to spread Sharia. If swing voters are able to think through the implications(an open question), then Hamas endorsement will damage Obama. No one will vote for a candidate who is on the wrong side of the origin argument.

    If you understand the origin argument, then you believe the Hamas endorsement speaks directly to policy, and you do not believe McCain is slurring Obama. If you believe – as Obama does – that the origin is about American foreign policy mistakes, then you might also believe McCain is slurring Obama. Obama might genuinely believe McCain is slurring him – but I hope not.

    There’s a second element in this which hurts Obama: Hamas – sworn enemy of Israel – is also hinting that McCain will protect Israel more energetically than Obama will protect Israel. Again, Hamas is making McCain’s argument for him. Again, I don’t consider drawing attention to this to be a slur by McCain. McCain genuinely believes he would protect Israel more energetically than Obama would. This is not about a slur. It is about legitimate dinstinction between the candidates.

    Only a couple of days ago, Obama mentioned the importance of a “contiguous” Palestinian state. This is a hint about how Obama will approach the conflict. Israel has said they cannot survive if Palestine is contiguous. McCain does not favor a contiguous Palestine. There are distinctions between how the two candidates will approach the conflict.

  2. Collyn Simpson says:

    Obama throws words around like a terrorist throws cocktails—without regard to anything going on around him. He should be less concerned about McCain’s “bearing” and more on this own credibility.

    Reported of Hamas official Ahmed Yousef, April 23rd, 2008 , in LA Times: “We like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle…”

    “This is offensive, and I think it’s disappointing,” Obama told Blitzer, when asked his thoughts about McCain’s comments that the terrorist organization Hamas wants Obama to be president. “Because John McCain always says ‘I am not going to run that kind of politics,’ and to engage in that kind of smear is unfortunate, particularly because my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.

    Once more, address the point, Obama, no political obfuscation like your race speech on the Rev. Wright issue. It’s what Hamas said they wanted, not what your policy may or may not be. Apparently Hamas has their own opinion of that.

    SMEAR defined: When the truth goes against the spin currently in play by a Democratic candidate.

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