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The best article I've read about the campaign to date

vastleft's picture

From CJR, on watching Obama:

When the senator did arrive, he gave a pitch-perfect stump speech, surfing the enthusiasm of the pulsating gym. When he took the stage he said, “At some point in the evening, a light is going to shine down and you will have an epiphany and you’ll say, ‘I have to vote for Barack.’”

If that epiphany never came, you couldn’t blame Obama. I’m not sure what more he could have done to make those people see the light.

Still, when I got back to my hotel room and read the Times’s assessment of the Democratic field, I realized that the editorial board understood something the rest of us consumers of daily media have missed, but which was obvious to me after just one Obama-in-the-flesh event: what the Illinois senator excels at is packaging himself for the press (and, consequently, the public).

And on watching Hillary:

The young woman next to me was wearing an Obama sticker. But Clinton then did her wonky thing. She listed about two-dozen specific plans that were tailored for this audience of college students. She spoke of lowering interest rates for student loans, of dealing with predatory lending, of letting students excuse their debt if they took part in national service (which got the loudest applause). She knew whom she was talking to. There was little of the electricity I had felt the night before. Her argument was methodical, an accumulation of details. His was immediate, almost existential.

Am I the only one, who after reading that, feels flush with geek love?

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

Further on:

It occurred to me that Obama’s message was easy to encapsulate, could be boiled down to a very distinct nut graph. And his success, at least in the press, seemed to me very much the result of this convergence of time-pressed journalists’ need to tell a succinct story and Obama’s ability to deliver it. It seemed a perfect marriage. And even if many of the reporters look bored, pale, and poorly fed, he was making their job easy.

One candidate is easy for the press to digest, and one is considerably less so. And I can’t help but wonder whether this reality is obscuring our ability to assess what these two candidates might do as president.

Last I checked, Hillary did very well in upstate New York, where everybody expected the voters to hate her, and I think she did it using exactly this technique.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

phat's picture
Submitted by phat on

That's some good stuff.

I need to learn how to write.


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Clinton also used this technique in New Hampshire. Reporters mocked it openly and in what they printed and said, but from what I could see, the voters ate it up. I don't think she gets enough credit for that win. It wasn't just the MSM piling on her, although that helped. She worked her ass off and I think a lot of voters appreciated it.

At the same time, Obama moved to very large events with almost no Q&A. It hurt him, IMO. He would've been better off sticking with more of the more personal stuff he reportedly did in Iowa.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

As one commenter wrote at CJR, a rally is not the place to go into specifics, which was Obama's case. In Clinton's case, on the other hand, she was speaking to a smaller audience with particular concerns. It stands to reason that she would taylor her speech to fit with them.

On another note, regarding "geek love", have you watched this by any chance? I came upon it only today. I must say that I find it rather difficult to understand the infatuation that so many seem to have for such an ethically challenged candidate. Don't people want cleaner government?

P.S. I do not hate her as I don't know her. I just hate her politics.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

The moment I saw Chris Matthews...I didn't need to go further. There is no reason to link to Hardball unless demonstrating what propaganda looks like.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I haven't been to an Obama rally or seen any of his ads or heard his stump speech, and I voted for him anyway for the simple reason that I feel like I know what I will get with Hillary: triangulating centrism.

Which may be what I'll get with Obama...but at least the possibility exists that I'll get better than that with Obama. I guess I'm thinking the devil I don't know in this case may be better than the devil I do know.

Or, as I said when discussing it with my mom, who did vote for Hillary, "I can't vote for her in the primary because she won't acknowledge that she fucked up by voting for the war. She maintains she would still vote the same way. He says it was a mistake and I trust him more on that count to get us out." Mom says, "Oh, well, I think she'll get us out, too." I say, "Based on what? You didn't hear that from her." Mom says, "yeah, you're right."

That's really what it boils down to AFAIAC, right or wrong. I don't have any hate on for people who choose to vote for Hillary in the primary; it's just something I couldn't do myself. For me, all the wonkery in the world doesn't trump an inability to admit error. Because error unadmitted is error uncorrected, and I feel I've had quite enough of that in the past 7 years.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

triangulating centrism

That's exactly what you'll get with Obama. Have you seen his domestic policies? Have you heard his rhetoric, attacking progressive policies from the right?
Must read: Obama's record of triangulation or in Obamapseak, "unity,"

Clinton has solid, progressive domestic policies: universal health care, Social Security, economic stimulus plan. I fear you have a mistaken impression of Hillary Clinton's voting record: she's a liberal with centrist tendencies (same with Obama's voting record). Perhaps you've confused Bill with Hillary.

And on the question of admitting a mistake: Do you know what they'd do to her in the GE if she did? Also there are legitimate grounds for her vote, although I disagreed with it. Iraq should not be a determining factor in deciding between Obama and Clinton--at all:

How about Obama taking all the credit in the world for a damn speech when he has refused (until 2007) to actually oppose the war by actions as a senator? How about the fact he's refused to hold one issue based meeting as head of his subcommittee which has jurisdiction over NATO and, thus, Afghanistan? His actions as a senator are the true indicator of what he'd do as president on Iraq not his empty rhetoric: he's no different than Hillary Clinton (identical voting records except on Mukasey) except on the question of dedication and competence (She's a rather strong member of the Armed Services Committee).

Submitted by lambert on

but if you don't think that the right wing dogwhistles, the appeal to Republican voters to come in and help choose the Democratic nominee, and the Daschle/Lieberman connection don't add up to someone running to Hillary's right, then think again.

The Unity and Transformation rhetoric is vacuous precisely to put lipstick on that particular pig.

As far as Hillary being "flawed," I don't think that anyone here has claimed that Hillary is a candidate without flaw; perfection is something that fans expect of celebrities, perhaps.

What we have claimed, over and over again, is that on balance Hillary's the better candidate. For me, unlike Obama, she's not deking around with Social Security, and, unlike Obama, she's not demagoging universal health care with Harry and Louise ads, or painting herself into a policy corner by doing it.

So, the usual pasted in comments on Hillary, which focus on this or that putative flaw, without taking the balance we're making into account, serve merely to clutter the comments section (though they may appeal to the Hillary haters, low information voters, and Republicans to which the Obama campaign is appealing).

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

"You know, I think very highly of Hillary. The more I get to know her,
the more I admire her. I think she’s the most disciplined—one of the
most disciplined people—I’ve ever met. She’s one of the toughest. She’s
got an extraordinary intelligence. And she is, she’s somebody who’s in
this stuff for the right reasons. She’s passionate about moving the
country forward on issues like health care and children.

"So it’s not clear to me what differences we’ve had since I’ve been in
the Senate. I think what people might point to is our different
assessments of the war in Iraq, although I’m always careful to say that
I was not in the Senate, so perhaps the reason I thought it was such a
bad idea was that I didn’t have the benefit of U.S. intelligence. And,
for those who did, it might have led to a different set of choices. So
that might be something that sort of is obvious. But, again, we were in
different circumstances at that time: I was running for the U.S. Senate,
she had to take a vote, and casting votes is always a difficult test."

Barack Obama, The New Yorker, November 7, 2006

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

So, the usual pasted in comments on Hillary, which focus on this or that putative flaw, without taking the balance we’re making into account, serve merely to clutter the comments section (though they may appeal to the Hillary haters, low information voters, and Republicans to which the Obama campaign is appealing). !!!!!

"She has recently taken the opportunity, in much publicized speeches, to denounce unwanted pregnancies and violent video games. And at a time when the new activists brand any bipartisan cooperation as treachery, Clinton seems to pop up every week next to some conservative who has joined her on an issue like health-care modernization or soldiers' benefits."

Of course, that can be dismissed as just more "Clinton hate".

It would be easy to say "suit yourselves" but unfortunately we are all in this together.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Did I say she wasn't flawed? I was responding to the sense that somehow Obama would be dramatically better, if at all.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Davidson, I would agree with you when you say that Obama would not be "dramatically better" than Clinton. After all, they are both "democrats". So, up to a point, there will be some similarities in politics and, dare I say, ideology (although, personally, I do have some doubt on that one.)

However, I do see a world of difference in the way that they would implement those policies and who they would target as the ones more deserving of the benefits of those policies. In the case of Clinton, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be the arms industry and other corporations, with mere pittance thrown at the rest of the country. She would be challenged but to no avail. In the case of Obama, there is that hope that he would take a different route. He would certainly face an uphill battle and there is no guarantee that he will succeed. Yet, since he does seem to have strong support already from some of the heavyweights (Kennedy for one, Feingold on ethics inside the state apparatus; Edwards on the outside - if you believe that he has truly turned the page and is ready to fight for the middle-class and the under-privileged), the prognosis for renewal looks good. Moreover, if you believe Laurence Lessig, he has what it takes to pull this through, fundamentals that his opponent lacks unfortunately: character and integrity.

I guess this time one should not choose the devil one knows ... because there is hope in the alternative that things do not have to be the way they have been for so long ... for too long.

Submitted by lambert on

Then comes the sting in the tail on "character and integrity."

Back to the Hillary hate!

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I truly do not hate Hillary. As I wrote elsewhere, hate requires intimacy and I do not know Senator Clinton. And I am sorry if I have offended you in any way. I happen to believe what I wrote above - the triangulation hurts. If you go at Wiki, you can read this:
"Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has been referred to as 'Mrs. Triangulation' for her call for dramatic increases in the military budget and for receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from corporate lobbyists."

When one triangulates for one's own benefit, that's when I tune off.

Still, Lambert, in the great scheme of things, who knows? It may turn out that I am wrong. History will tell.

Submitted by lambert on

... as completely authoritative. No doubt it's being trolled along with everything else, these days.

Last I checked, Obama wanted 100,000 more troops. If either candidate was questioning America's imperial project, that candidate would get my vote. But that option is not on offer.

And last I checked, Edwards was the only one to go with Federal Financing. Obama's accepting plenty of corporate money.

Again, it's a balance and my decision is based on policy, not on the media narrative about character -- from which the "character and integrity" talking point derives, as a generic, media-driven phenomenon.

Since Iraq is a wash, and Hillary's universal health care plan isn't broken while Obama's is not only broken, but he's demagoging it, and Hillary didn't put Social Security in play, my vote goes to Hillary. Plus, Obama's vacuous rhetoric is a real turnoff, despite how well it does in arenas. Hillary doesn't insult me that way.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

lambert - this isn't about who is "right" or "wrong" to support Obama or Clinton. As the comments show, different people place different weight on different factors when choosing between the two. I know how I feel about various issues and the stances/responses of the two candidates to them, and I'm comfortable in my choice based on that and know that I didn't decide based on anyone else's rubric or because I have a rock-star crush or anything other than exactly what I've said I based the decision on. I trust that you have done the same. We just ended up at different places because we started from different places. And when it's all said and done, you and I will no doubt do the same thing and get behind whoever ultimately becomes the nominee.

Submitted by lambert on

The statement was made that Hillary lacked "character and integrity" and was a calculating triangulator.

I gave the reasons why I believed those statement to be false.

So I'm unclear on the point that you're making in your comment.

Of course I'll vote for Obama in the general; see my sig.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Let me agree with Lambert on the issue of Hillary-hatred. It drives me nuts that people accuse Clinton of triangulation without acknowledging Obama's triangulation, which is, if anything worse than Hillary's. On all the issues Lambert names, Social Security, Health Care, etc. And I wish the Obama fans who have chosen to debate this here (Jennifer, Gene) would have the honesty to acknowledge that. It would be the starting point for a good discussion.

By the way, in spite of agreeing with Lambert on this, I have reached the opposite conclusion on who to support. Reluctantly, and not without a great deal of thought, I've chosen to support Obama. Primarily because I don't think we have the time to debate the largely media-originated Hillary-hatred, and she won't be able to be elected. Hey, I'd probably like Ralph Nader's platform better too. But platform isn't everything. And secondarily because he seems to want more to move away from the "national security consensus" bullshit that is driving so much of our politics since 9/11/2001.

If we get our wish and elect Obama, I am fairly convinced we'll be disappointed - but he's better than any Republican and there is a slim chance he'll try to deliver on some of his more progressive rhetoric.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

It is what I would describe as a corrupted concept as evidenced by this. Is there such a thing as 'good triangulation' or 'bad triangulation'? Why ask when one cannot agree on the definition of the concept itself?

Someone had a go at exactly that:

I think that one of the challenges of triangulation as a strategy is when it becomes focused too closely on finding a “center”. Triangulation as strategy is focused on “co-option” -- co-opting the otherside’s issues, but solved on your terms and therefore focused on outcomes that reflect your values and principles. But once one starts looking at solutions that are supposed to find the “center”, I think people often get confused -- loose the co-optiong as front-and-center approach -- because thinking of the center reverts people to the linear thinking (since that how most of us are wired, and not geometrically) and implies that it is about compromise -- and so they end up developing compromise rather than co-option solutions.

In fact, compromise is an important part of the political process, but it belongs more to tactics than strategy.

At least here’s how I think about it: co-option is a strategy for laying out where you want to go -- that is, part of campaign positioning, state of the union speeches, etc. - Dick Morris’s notion of triangualation. Compromise is the process of give-and-take in order to get enough votes in congress to get a (co-option) bill passed that the president can then sign.

Ironically, the impression one gets of Hilary Clinton is that she spends all her time trying to do some complicated finding of the center, which compromises her positions as part of developing her strategy -- as opposed to Dick Morris triangulation, meaning co-opting the other side in order to bring them to your solution. - Link

P.S. I am not an "Obama fan". I just happen to believe that Senator Clinton has not been good for the World.

Submitted by lambert on

Stivo, at least your eyes are clear (like Leah's, for example). That said:

Primarily because I don’t think we have the time to debate the largely media-originated Hillary-hatred, and she won’t be able to be elected.

To the second point, people said that about Hillary in upstate New York, too. But she won them over. And upstate New York is not exactly liberal Manhattan.

To the first point, I'm vastly encouraged by Hillary's campaign turning the "pimping" comment around. May it be the beginning of a debate we really need to have. As long as the press is what it is, we're going to have a very hard time accomplishing anything (see, ad nauseum, the disgraceful Whitewater stories, Goring Gore in 2000, swiftboating Kerry in 2004, and choosing, again, our Presidents for us in 2008, by throwing out Edwards and Paul this year). We can't put a Unity bandaid over the Hillary hatred without sealing in the infection. If Hillary can go on the attack against those guys, and pull it off, more power to her. (Even leaving aside the idea that Obama Hatred is going to start right up as soon as Hillary goes down. These guys don't change).

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Re: Hillary Clinton's appeal in Upstate New York, I concede the point. I dispute its relevance to the current national election. That's why I said we don't "have time to debate the largely media-originated Hillary-hatred". Hillary turned upstate New York around with retail politics, with long and large doses of "listening to ordinary folks", which is one of her undisputed strengths. She doesn't have time to do that nationally. Hence the edge I give to Obama on electability.

Furthermore, the way it's shook out, I think Clinton, if nominated, will have a turnout problem among some of the Obama constituencies, young progressives and African-Americans. I don't like this any better than you do, but I am afraid it's real. I think that if Clinton does get the nomination, she almost has to offer the Vice Presidential nomination to Obama just to cement that part of the base that should be automatic for a Democrat. Obama, if he gets the nomination, has the luxury of casting a wider net.

Re: whether Obama is a bandaid over the problem, this is also to some extent true. But bandaids aren't always a bad thing. I don't think any of us know exactly how to remove the problem of the mainstream (corporate) media's outsized influence, and it will bedevil any Democrat nominated for or elected to the presidency. And if as you say, Obama hatred now surfaces in the media, we will just have to deal with it just as we will with Hillary hatred. Just because you're forced to fight against something doesn't mean you'll win that fight.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I've read over your remarks and the links you quoted, and I'm not sure where you're going with it. But I assume you're arguing something like this (forgive me if I oversimplify and please correct me if you wish):

There's triangulation and there's triangulation. There's the bad kind, the Hillary kind, that looks for the center in a crass, linear way, and there's the good kind, the Obama kind, that "coopts" the GOP issues and solves them in a Democrat-friendly way.

I don't buy this, not fully. Obama's triangulations don't all seem of the good kind to me. Arguably less bad is his triangulation on Social Security - concede the GOP bullshit that Social Security is in serious trouble (and pander to young people's fears that there'll be nothing in the pot for them) - but at least propose a progressive solution to the non-problem you've called a problem - raising the cap.

Much worse is his triangulation on Universal Health Care. I don't see how you get to universal health care without being for universal health care. I don't see how Harry and Louise ads coopt GOP talking points in a Democrat-friendly way. This triangulation is as bad as it comes.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on


sTiVo, thanks for the feedback! I don't know where I'm going with that either :-)

I am not endorsing the definition given in the quote. I don't know whether it is valid. However, it is one, I think, that can trigger discussion on this "pseudo-concept".

Is Clinton's type of "triangulation" the same as that done by Obama? For sure, most times that Clinton is accused of triangulation, whatever that means, it is certainly used in a pejorative sense. In other words, it is used to convey that Clinton is doing something bad. Is the kind of "triangulation" done by Obama bad? According to the quote above, it would seem not in the sense that I, for one, believe that he is doing it for a cause larger than himself. Perhaps then there should be another concept used for the type of "triangulation" done by Obama. I am not saying that there should be. I am sitting on the fence with this one. Bottom line, I don't think that we can engage in a meaningful discussion on this issue until there's agreement on the concept(s) used: "triangulation" and/or something else.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

The trouble with your argument is that it assumes what you need to prove: Obama's bona fides and Clinton's lack of same.

I trust that Hillary Clinton is a fairly committed liberal who no doubt views her triangulations as the "price that must be paid" to triumph in American politics. I'll concede the same about Obama.

Which goes to the point that in neither case is my disagreement on a moral basis. In both cases, my criticism is tactical or strategic. Are all these triangulations necessary? Hillary voting for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment? Either of them making nice to party-traitor Joe Lieberman? Granting the truth of the GOP talking point that there is an urgently serious problem with Social Security. Using Harry and Louise ads to batter Hillary Clinton's health plan?

I am maintaining that none of these is necessary, and that on principle, they should be avoided unless they are truly necessary. We need to undo much of Reagan-Bushism, and every concession needlessly made to it for crass political purposes is a bad thing.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

First I still maintain that no meaningful discussion of this issue can be had until we have properly defined what we mean by 'triangulation'. In that sense, perhaps I should not have named individuals in my comment above since that automatically introduces elements of affect that makes it difficult to hone in on the differences in dynamics between the two sorts of 'triangulation'. But no matter. What is done is done.

What needs to be determined, in my view, is in what way is "triangulation" for personal gain comparable to "triangulation" as a 'tactic of change'.

To confuse matters even more, "triangulation guru" Dick Morris described Bush's type of "triangulation" as "a strategy that moves to a higher place, a third place, above either of the two parties by adopting the best of each and discarding the worst." Third Way? But that's what DLC democrats were said to be following. Now don't even try to understand what">Third Way means.

So to your question, sTiVo, as to whether "triangulation" is at all necessary, I have to say that I cannot answer, not until I can make some kind of differentiation between the various manifestations of what we are currently referring to as "triangulation." And I don't expect that to happen soon.