Saturday, March 08, 2008

Can Barack win by wallowing in the mud with Hillary?

I am not an enthusiastic admirer of Bob Herbert's political views, but I do have to agree with the general thrust of his Op-Ed piece in The New York Times entitled "Confronting the Kitchen Sink":

Whatever anger and frustration he may be feeling, he should stick to the high road. He can't win wrestling in the mud with Hillary Clinton. That will not put Barack Obama in the White House.

Mr. Obama's strength was his message of hope and healing, the idea that he could bring disparate groups together to work on the nation's toughest problems. That has gotten him this far, which is much further than almost anyone expected.

He now needs an added dimension. He needs to articulate a vision. He needs to spell out to voters where he wants to take this country over the next few years, how he will alleviate the suffering of millions trapped in vicious economic circumstances and what he will do to restore the honor and prestige of the U.S. around the world.

Political campaigns are not about fairness, but they can often be about vision. Voters want more from Senator Obama.

I personally do not approve of any of the negative tactics being employed by any of the campaigns, especially Hillary's. I personally think that Hillary has a lot to gain from herself taking the high road.

That said, Barack is now skating on very thin ice. All along he has insisted that he represented a new kind of politics that was not based on the traditional cynicism and negativity. Personally I was always skeptical of that position, but I was willing to let him go his chosen path. But now, he is in grave danger of turning himself into a fraud by engaging in the "same old" negativity and tearing-down of your opponent that he explicitly told us he did not represent.

So, Barack, push has come to shove and we all need to know whose shirt you wear and whose flag you are flying.

Will you stick to the high road and the vision that Bob Herbert believes that you are capable of, or are you on the verge of proving yourself to be an absolute fraud and ready to show your supporters that you are in fact cut from the same "old" cloth as Hillary.

Give credit where credit is due to Hillary for admitting that she is a politician and enjoys "the game of politics."

If Barack really wants to prove that he is above all of that, great, he now has the opportunity to show us what he's got and what he is really made of.

So, here is the test: will the Obama campaign focus on alleged "ethics" issues such as Hillary's tax returns and White House "papers", or will he do the right thing and begin espousing the kind of vision for a better America that Bob Herbert can support?

My view is that Barack thought he could get away with this sham of a "new" politics, and he has certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of it, but except for a view diversions (Wyoming and Mississippi), most of the rest of the road from here to the White House (and the eight years beyond) will require something far deeper than his current shallow veneer of so-called "new" politics.

Bob Herbert says that Barack needs an added dimension. Well, he is right, but the problem is that it is too late in the game to add a new dimension.

-- Jack Krupansky


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