This has probably been reported elsewhere, but I was heartened somewhat over the weekend by some things I had heard about Obama’s approach to the beginning of his own campaign. Someone close to the presumptive Democratic nominee said that early in the process, Obama spoke to key stakeholders in his national campaign effort for the presidency (paraphrasing):
We have decided to take this campaign forward. The chances of us winning are low, but we might be able to pull it off. If you want to help us take it to the next level, we need your help — but we need to keep our expectations in check.
We are going to make mistakes. The big mistakes will all be mine — not yours. When we make mistakes, we will deal with them and adjust. We will learn and move forward. We want this to be a fun campaign, a happy campaign. No leaks — no backbiting. We need to do this because we want to do good things — and we are all good people.
What Obama really said may be quite different, but this is what came from someone who speaks to him now and then. But I know that that spirit he brought to his team did make a difference in the political climate and contrasted with the tenor of emotions within the Clinton camp.
I think Obama is something special and different — but when he does things like say “Jerusalem. . .must remain undivided” in his recent AIPAC speech, my enthusiasm hits some severe road bumps. Barack Obama’s Israel statement was worse than pandering because his perspective is actually to the right of George W. Bush and the incumbent Israeli government. This was not constructive, and it has made many wonder whether what they see in Barack Obama is real and something that can be depended upon if he secures the powers of the Oval Office.
But for now, I’m trying to keep an open mind and need to begin thinking about how to offer commentary about both McCain and Obama that remains fresh over the next half year and which will remain distinctive and honest about both of them. When the ecosystem of commentary both in mainstream media and the blogosphere is essentially dominated by people who have already made their minds up as to who should win the White House — it is difficult to enthusiastically charge into the turbulent currents each day challenging the perspectives and comments of the candidates and their acolytes.
I’m going to keep at it — but for regular readers, do not expect predictable commentary from me on either Obama or McCain. McCain has frustrated me with his obsession with continuing the occupation of Iraq and his flippancy about other wars in the Middle East. Obama, on the other hand, has taken two of the greatest foreign policy opportunities for change — Cuba and Israel/Palestine — and “triangulated” away from the boldness and creativity of some of his earlier foreign policy views and has defensively prepared himself for McCain attacks by adopting more incrementalist policies.
In other words, yes, even Obama is in spirit if not in explicit deed a flip-flopper. Perhaps they all are (as I’ve written before).
There’s more to sort out, and I’ll do it as incisively and as fairly as i can. Again I will remind that no one should presume my vote or support automatically. (this stand of mine does create costs for me among a great number of friends and in my private life, so don’t think it’s easy or trite. . .)
Unconditional support leads to abuses such as this one where Barack Obama tilted so far in the direction of the most extreme factions in one of the world’s most important and consequential international disputes because one side has been loud and the other has largely acquiesced, choosing to see the happy campaign at the macro level and worry about the details later.
– Steve Clemons