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Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama: That Smarty-pants

Ahaha! The most astute article on Barack Obama I have seen yet.

I knew all this long ago. I'm no naif.

For months I've been saying this guy's gonna rewrite politicking as we know it, certainly campaigning as we know it. He's no oaf. He's as shrewd as the day is long.

I disagree a little on the campaign reform issue, though.

There are times when you have to realize "Hey, wait, I think I've gone about this all wrong", and I suspect this is one of those times for Obama. He's bungled it a bit, but I applaud what's happening as being the most revolutionary "public funding" of a campaign in history.

No pundit, NO PUNDIT, predicted the possibility of the American public anteing up to the tune of $88-on-average per contributor, with the end result being a staggering $275 million... for primaries? I mean, holy fucking staggering shattering of all previous records, Batman!

$55 million in a single month? Like, who knew that many Americans really cared? Who knew people would find that much spare change around during a recession? Who knew?

That said, Republicans keep finding their ways around the funds provided by the public funding system. 527s and Swiftboating Veterans aside, in a way, public funding levels the playing field, and that's pretty important. But when you throw in the Swiftboats and the Willie Hortons and the other "concerned citizens" out there, it seems like there's some pretty big pits and bumps on that playing field after all.

But if you have a cap on the amount a single person can contribute, and you eliminate all corporate contributions, and you more tightly regulate "concerned citizen" groups, then you've essentially leveled the playing field before the game even got started.

I mean, if you're a political party -- more importantly, one of TWO political parties-- and you can't get your constituents to support you financially as a way of applauding your policies and leanings, then you've got bigger problems than just running elections.

Of course what Obama's doing seems brilliant here and now, since they're leading in all polls and contributions, and should that tide turn and the contributions fail to come in, voices of discontent will ring out on this side again.

But shit happens and that's how we roll. Right now, Americans are speaking by putting their money where their mouths are, and with $275 million raised for Obama's campaign versus $101 million for McCain's, it's pretty clear what they're saying. Even the dreaded 527 groups on the right are having trouble raising funds this year.

This is an important year. If it means Obama sails into the election with a bigger pot to pick from and all he needs to do is throw his argument out -- while probably trying to come up with a new way to resolve that same issue -- and have crazy money to spend while the Republicans are crying their eyes out and struggling to catch up... well, yeah, I can see why he'd play that way. After all, the environment's in dire straights, the economy's on the curb, corruption seems rife in this administration, a possibly unjust war continues well into its fifth year now, and there has never been a bigger contrast in America's choice.

As a result, this "controversy" doesn't change my point of view on Obama one bit. I don't think being politically shrewd is a sin. I don't think playing his cards tight and judiciously has been a bad move. I don't think this means he can't still lobby for campaign reform. In fact, I think he's proven "public funding" works better than anyone could have dreamed.

I still think he's the right political mind in the right place at the right time, and I believe his shrewdness and political brilliance could be no better placed than in the White House.

But I love what Brooks said, "All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics."

No shit, Brooks. You said it, bro. It's one of the things I love to watch Obama for, actually. The brilliant little bits of strategizing that are going to have political science experts redefining how politics are played.

Methinks that, in Obama, there's finally someone who can outRove Rove. Oh, and not in a "Why the hell hasn't someone indicted that guy yet?" kind of way... just in a finger-on-the-pulse and way-to-spin-it savvy seldom seen in public minds.

That's what's going to kill the Republicans this year, too. They don't respect their opponent enough. He's just an uppity junior senator from Illinois -- what the fuck is he playing the big boy's game for, right? They just don't get it. They still think you need 20 years of back-room elbow-nudging deals to know how to play the game in Washington.

But this election's not about Washington anymore, never really was. It's about how the web was won.

(And, despite my fully-aware perceptions on Obama, I still think, deep down inside, that he's a guy who'll make the right decisions most of the time, and for the right reasons. After all, that's really all you can hope for in a leader. And anyone who can play politics as well as Obama but still claims to hate 'em might just be the perfect person to recreate 'em, right? Time will tell.)

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