If Obama Beats Clinton to the Nomination

If Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton for the Democrat nomination, will Republicans be ready? 

Democrats may eventually decide that Obama is their best candidate (absent Gore) to win the Presidency.  If that happens, the Republicans had better be ready to make the changes necessary to run a radically different campaign, in style and content, against someone they've not spent years preparing -- emotionally and intellectually -- to oppose.

If Republican campaigners wake up in a political world where Hillary Clinton is absent, they'd face a new and, in some ways, more formidable opponent -- one made, in part, more formidable by his newness.  Barak Obama would not be as easy to dislike as Hillary Clinton, nor would his candidacy provoke an equal degree of zealous opposition.    

Meanwhile, each major Republican contender surely has at least a small team of contingency planners, huddled in a conference room with flipchart paper covering the walls, imagining a possible campaign against Obama.  They might want to consider this Ready-Aim-Fire strategy.

1.  Ready: Prepare to take off boxing and put on fencing gloves.  Dick Morris, who's made a career from being a Clinton ex-patriot, recently predicted "How Hillary Will Go Negative":
The likeliest theme of the Clinton attack will be Obama's inexperience... A better choice might be to argue that her political experience (i.e., defeating the GOP "attack machine") makes her the better candidate for the November election.  With the Democrats anxious for victory, using Obama's politeness and gentility against him could be an effective strategy. 
Morris' advice is off-target.  Obama's current appeal is, in no small part, based on his "politeness and gentility."  Americans are disgusted with partisan stridency, and they crave civility.  This craving represents an opportunity for Obama.  Many undecided voters would, for a time, overlook Obama's occasional gaffe and chalk it up to his inexperience; he is, after all, a work-in-progress.  Furthermore, his appeal to white voters is enhanced because he is the first African-American (albeit from mixed-race parents) presidential candidate who makes no play upon white guilt.

So the MSM would portray a nominated Obama as a less partisan, more civil, new-breed politician.  In fact, that effort has already begun. In his November 30, NYT Op-Ed piece, Juan Williams placed Obama

"...in the vanguard of a new brand of multi-racial politics...asking voters to move with him beyond race and beyond the civil rights movement in a politics of shared values."  
Williams doesn't mention, though, that those "values" are largely shared by political liberals, and that "multi-racial politics" can also be seen in the recent election of Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.

An Obama nomination would require a thorough realignment of Republican energy.  Here's an analogy from World War II.  The British defenders of Singapore were defeated by the Japanese, in part, because the British had their heavy guns deployed for an attack from the sea.  The Japanese invaded from the opposite direction, by land.  British guns were pointed in the wrong direction, and there was no time to move them.  A campaign against Obama would require a rapid redeployment of Republican forces for a different kind of battle than the one planned against Clinton. 

2.  Aim:  Target Obama's ideas, not the man.   Running against the Clintons is a street fight with tattooed gang-bangers.  In comparison, a campaign against Obama would be a swashbuckling sword fight.  The MSM, gradually turning against Hillary as she avoids their reporters and her poll numbers turn unfavorable, would paint Barack as the young Dragon Slayer maturing into the gallant Error Flynn-type, leaping to engage the real enemies of the people -- the Gray Suited Knights of Big Money.  Obama won't fight mean, and he won't fight dirty.  He may not even fight smart.  But he will fight with ideas, and it's in the venue of ideas that he is most vulnerable.    

Just calling Obama naïve and inexperienced is not working for Hillary, nor would it work for Republicans.  His image spinners would liken him to the idealistic, young JFK taking on the former VP with the five o'clock shadow. As a Broadway play, the title would be Return to Camelot.  But Obama's ideas do not come from Camelot -- they come from Johnson City, Texas.  As Obama speaks his well-intended heady dreams of Middle Eastern children learning math and science in U.S. supported schools and new opportunities for poor children of Africa, he hints at the Great Society on steroids: the Greater World Society.   

While Clinton will carry plenty of baggage into a General Election campaign, Obama would travel light.  While his oratorical style is more compelling than Clinton's, his content would be more spontaneously reckless, and that would make him vulnerable.  The challenge of the Republican nominee would be to focus voters on Obama's content with a clear, civil, reasoned assault, not on the character of the man, but on the content of his message. 

3.  Fire:  Expose and challenge Obama's vague, assailable statements.  Biased media outlets, like CNN, would continue to allow Obama to make fuzzy statements without probative follow-up questions. Why? Because no one who tells the Flat Earth Society that the planet is flat gets challenged.

The records of Obama's public comments are a target-rich environment for further inquiry.  Here are just a few examples of his statements, made during Democrat debates, that passed without challenge or elaboration, followed by a possible future query.

  • § (Education "We've got to make sure that teachers are going to the schools that need them the most.... And so it's absolutely critical for us to give them the incentives and the tools and the training that they need not only to become excellent teachers but to become excellent teachers where they're most needed." Query: To what extent do you suggest that the Federal Government become more involved in what has historically been largely a function of local communities?
  • § (New Orleans & Katrina "Halliburton or Bechtel or these other operations getting the contracts to rebuild instead of giving the people in New Orleans the opportunity to rebuild and get jobs and training is a further compounding of the outrage." Query: As president, would you promote the establishment of government-funded companies to compete with private businesses that are hired to rebuild communities after natural disasters?
  • § (Africa Foreign Policy "But we have to look at Africa not just after a crisis happens; what are we doing with respect to trade opportunities with Africa?...investment in Africa?...to pay attention to Africa consistently with respect to our foreign policy? That has been what's missing in the White House, and that our own security is going to depend on whether we're giving children in Sudan and Zimbabwe and in Kenya the same opportunities so that they have a stake in order as opposed to violence and chaos. Query: Specifically, what additional aid do you propose the U.S. send to the Sudan, Zimbabwe and Kenya, and how you would assure those funds are used for their intended purposes?
  • § (Supreme Court Nominations "Sometimes we're only looking at academics or people who've been in the courts. If we can find people who have life experience, and they understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have the system not work for them, that's the kind of person I want on the Supreme Court. Query: What are the minimum requirements for someone you would consider for nomination to the Supreme Court? And, to what sort of "life experiences" are you referring?
  • § (Middle East "We are ready to lead. But we're not just going to lead militarily. We're going to lead by building schools in the Middle East that teach math and science instead of hatred of Americans." Query: What Middle East countries would welcome U.S. schools built for their children, and who would administer those schools and determine their curricula?
On February 15, 1942, with their big guns silently facing the sea, the Allied forces defending Singapore surrendered to the Empire of Japan.  There is still time for Republicans to re-think their own aim, and if the Democrat race goes down to the convention before being determined, they must begin the intellectual and emotional process of re-aiming their heavy political artillery.
If Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton for the Democrat nomination, will Republicans be ready? 

Democrats may eventually decide that Obama is their best candidate (absent Gore) to win the Presidency.  If that happens, the Republicans had better be ready to make the changes necessary to run a radically different campaign, in style and content, against someone they've not spent years preparing -- emotionally and intellectually -- to oppose.

If Republican campaigners wake up in a political world where Hillary Clinton is absent, they'd face a new and, in some ways, more formidable opponent -- one made, in part, more formidable by his newness.  Barak Obama would not be as easy to dislike as Hillary Clinton, nor would his candidacy provoke an equal degree of zealous opposition.    

Meanwhile, each major Republican contender surely has at least a small team of contingency planners, huddled in a conference room with flipchart paper covering the walls, imagining a possible campaign against Obama.  They might want to consider this Ready-Aim-Fire strategy.

1.  Ready: Prepare to take off boxing and put on fencing gloves.  Dick Morris, who's made a career from being a Clinton ex-patriot, recently predicted "How Hillary Will Go Negative":
The likeliest theme of the Clinton attack will be Obama's inexperience... A better choice might be to argue that her political experience (i.e., defeating the GOP "attack machine") makes her the better candidate for the November election.  With the Democrats anxious for victory, using Obama's politeness and gentility against him could be an effective strategy. 
Morris' advice is off-target.  Obama's current appeal is, in no small part, based on his "politeness and gentility."  Americans are disgusted with partisan stridency, and they crave civility.  This craving represents an opportunity for Obama.  Many undecided voters would, for a time, overlook Obama's occasional gaffe and chalk it up to his inexperience; he is, after all, a work-in-progress.  Furthermore, his appeal to white voters is enhanced because he is the first African-American (albeit from mixed-race parents) presidential candidate who makes no play upon white guilt.

So the MSM would portray a nominated Obama as a less partisan, more civil, new-breed politician.  In fact, that effort has already begun. In his November 30, NYT Op-Ed piece, Juan Williams placed Obama

"...in the vanguard of a new brand of multi-racial politics...asking voters to move with him beyond race and beyond the civil rights movement in a politics of shared values."  
Williams doesn't mention, though, that those "values" are largely shared by political liberals, and that "multi-racial politics" can also be seen in the recent election of Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.

An Obama nomination would require a thorough realignment of Republican energy.  Here's an analogy from World War II.  The British defenders of Singapore were defeated by the Japanese, in part, because the British had their heavy guns deployed for an attack from the sea.  The Japanese invaded from the opposite direction, by land.  British guns were pointed in the wrong direction, and there was no time to move them.  A campaign against Obama would require a rapid redeployment of Republican forces for a different kind of battle than the one planned against Clinton. 

2.  Aim:  Target Obama's ideas, not the man.   Running against the Clintons is a street fight with tattooed gang-bangers.  In comparison, a campaign against Obama would be a swashbuckling sword fight.  The MSM, gradually turning against Hillary as she avoids their reporters and her poll numbers turn unfavorable, would paint Barack as the young Dragon Slayer maturing into the gallant Error Flynn-type, leaping to engage the real enemies of the people -- the Gray Suited Knights of Big Money.  Obama won't fight mean, and he won't fight dirty.  He may not even fight smart.  But he will fight with ideas, and it's in the venue of ideas that he is most vulnerable.    

Just calling Obama naïve and inexperienced is not working for Hillary, nor would it work for Republicans.  His image spinners would liken him to the idealistic, young JFK taking on the former VP with the five o'clock shadow. As a Broadway play, the title would be Return to Camelot.  But Obama's ideas do not come from Camelot -- they come from Johnson City, Texas.  As Obama speaks his well-intended heady dreams of Middle Eastern children learning math and science in U.S. supported schools and new opportunities for poor children of Africa, he hints at the Great Society on steroids: the Greater World Society.   

While Clinton will carry plenty of baggage into a General Election campaign, Obama would travel light.  While his oratorical style is more compelling than Clinton's, his content would be more spontaneously reckless, and that would make him vulnerable.  The challenge of the Republican nominee would be to focus voters on Obama's content with a clear, civil, reasoned assault, not on the character of the man, but on the content of his message. 

3.  Fire:  Expose and challenge Obama's vague, assailable statements.  Biased media outlets, like CNN, would continue to allow Obama to make fuzzy statements without probative follow-up questions. Why? Because no one who tells the Flat Earth Society that the planet is flat gets challenged.

The records of Obama's public comments are a target-rich environment for further inquiry.  Here are just a few examples of his statements, made during Democrat debates, that passed without challenge or elaboration, followed by a possible future query.

  • § (Education "We've got to make sure that teachers are going to the schools that need them the most.... And so it's absolutely critical for us to give them the incentives and the tools and the training that they need not only to become excellent teachers but to become excellent teachers where they're most needed." Query: To what extent do you suggest that the Federal Government become more involved in what has historically been largely a function of local communities?
  • § (New Orleans & Katrina "Halliburton or Bechtel or these other operations getting the contracts to rebuild instead of giving the people in New Orleans the opportunity to rebuild and get jobs and training is a further compounding of the outrage." Query: As president, would you promote the establishment of government-funded companies to compete with private businesses that are hired to rebuild communities after natural disasters?
  • § (Africa Foreign Policy "But we have to look at Africa not just after a crisis happens; what are we doing with respect to trade opportunities with Africa?...investment in Africa?...to pay attention to Africa consistently with respect to our foreign policy? That has been what's missing in the White House, and that our own security is going to depend on whether we're giving children in Sudan and Zimbabwe and in Kenya the same opportunities so that they have a stake in order as opposed to violence and chaos. Query: Specifically, what additional aid do you propose the U.S. send to the Sudan, Zimbabwe and Kenya, and how you would assure those funds are used for their intended purposes?
  • § (Supreme Court Nominations "Sometimes we're only looking at academics or people who've been in the courts. If we can find people who have life experience, and they understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have the system not work for them, that's the kind of person I want on the Supreme Court. Query: What are the minimum requirements for someone you would consider for nomination to the Supreme Court? And, to what sort of "life experiences" are you referring?
  • § (Middle East "We are ready to lead. But we're not just going to lead militarily. We're going to lead by building schools in the Middle East that teach math and science instead of hatred of Americans." Query: What Middle East countries would welcome U.S. schools built for their children, and who would administer those schools and determine their curricula?
On February 15, 1942, with their big guns silently facing the sea, the Allied forces defending Singapore surrendered to the Empire of Japan.  There is still time for Republicans to re-think their own aim, and if the Democrat race goes down to the convention before being determined, they must begin the intellectual and emotional process of re-aiming their heavy political artillery.