Sunday, January 06, 2008

Policy? Who cares about policy when the goal is winning?

I found it interesting how the quotes in an article in The New York Times by Adam Nagourney entitled "Sharp Clashes in Hectic Days Before Primary" highlight the difference in emphasis between Barack and Hillary: his focus on winning the popularity contest in contrast with her insistence on getting policy right.

The Times quotes Barack as focusing on the contest, but with little emphasis on the policy "changes" that he would bring about:

Mr. Obama on Saturday morning found a crowd of 2,500 people waiting for him inside -- and outside -- a gymnasium at North High School in Nashua, where he warned about the danger of partisanship in Washington and urged voters here to follow up on what Iowa caucusgoers began.

"We started something on Thursday, but it was just the start. It was just the beginning," Mr. Obama said, speaking over waves of applause. "The assumption is that the American people will succumb to fear and doubt and will not trust their instincts and will not follow up what we can do."

He continued, "What we saw during this past week was the American people rising up and saying to each other that we are on the cusp of creating a new majority, a majority that will help us win this nomination, a majority that will help us win an election in November."

"But more importantly," he said, "a majority that will help us govern in the way that we have not governed in a long time, a majority that will actually deliver on the promises of health care."

The simple fact is that Barack has not offered up any substantial argument for how he is going to magically accomplish so much more than Hillary. This "new majority" is a fiction on his part. It is Hillary who in fact has the better shot at organizing a governing coalition in Washington. Barack is trying to play it both ways, claiming he is an outsider (even though he serves in the Senate in Washington) and simultaneously that he could work much better with the rest of Washington. He talks a great story, but it is not very credible.

Meanwhile, The Times offers a Hillary sound-bite that is 100% policy:

Mrs. Clinton drew a contrast with Mr. Obama in her morning appearance in Penacook to discuss health care. "This is one of the issues in this campaign," Mrs. Clinton said. "One of my leading opponents proposed a plan that doesn't cover everybody. It's a mistake on the merits for a Democrat to propose a plan that doesn't cover everybody, and it's a mistake politically because it cedes to the Republicans that we can't do it."

Hillary chose to focus on an urgent point of policy, but this illustrates her priority on policy rather than simply trying to win the popularity contest.

The ironic thing is that if Barack wins all the way, it is Hillary in the Senate who will have a better shot of shaping and crafting health care reform. He will be relegated to being a rubber stamp to sign it.

-- Jack Krupansky


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