Saturday, June 07, 2008

Consolidating Power

"Genius: You either have it or you don't," wrote Salvador Dali.

Since claiming the mantle of Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday night, Sen. Barack Obama has begun a consolidation of his power in a way that seems to exceed what many consider his thin resume; strutting Washington D.C. as if it were his roost.

Which it may be if John McCain's speech Tuesday night is any indication of where we're heading.

Hillary Clinton's claims from the same evening seemed strong the next day, but by now amount to nothing more than a close second, which is still second as became clear with the New York senator muffling her earlier claims to the number two spot while taking her place on the Obama train before it left the station.

The Illinois senator promised changed and if sporting a yarmulke on Wednesday morning suggested hints of another power hungry candidate playing the game, his announcement later in the day that the Democratic National Committee would no longer take money from lobbyists represented a first down payment on the promise.

That's not putting money where your mouth is so much as taking money out of your mouth, but there will be no change until lobbyist influence is pulled from party coffers.

This is not new for Obama, but woefully underreported. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia the campaign's decision not to pay ward heelers for the delivery of votes hurt him and helped pad Sen. Clinton's heroic tallies in those places.

Obama can bite a bullet.

The same article noted that in consolidating his leadership over the party, Obama decided to keep Howard Dean as DNC chairman, which should tell you a lot, in spite of the chat channels' failure to discuss "what it means."

As a presidential candidate, Dean harnessed the passion of the Democratic grassroots only to have his campaign's head chopped off by the party establishment in Washington.

An apparently selfless person, the former Vermont governor decided to change the way things worked, got the committee chairmanship and spent the last three years empowering state organizations, emphasizing the local over the national, and grooming a new generation of Democrats for a revolution we are now poised to witness.

This year, Obama was able to translate grassroots support into real power and if you don't think Dean's efforts had something to do with it, then you don't understand why Obama kept him in that rather choice position.

Elsewhere in the media constellation, at the same moment, came a news account about how Medicare drug benefit costs had gone up 16 percent this year, where outpatient care had only gone up 3 percent.

That's because the Bush administration rammed a drug benefit program through Congress that essentially funneled public health care patients to pharmaceutical companies with an added caveat that the government could not negotiate for better prices.

You can bet your bottom dollar that is what lobbyists wanted out of the largest benefit expansion in a generation and their money was the way this legislative stinker found its way through the House and Senate.

And though it will be hard for some career pols in the party to forego the easy green, with all winds blowing Democratic, now is about as good a time as any to pledge the golden rule and make it stick.

"We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACS," Obama announced. "They will not fund our campaign, they will not run our party, they will not drown out the voices of the American people."

The "Washington Post's" David Broder wrote a piece highlighting Obama's weak closing to the Democratic nominating race, but highwayscribery thinks he missed the point; even if Broder was the first pundit back in February to predict a McCain/Obama faceoff.

Obama's was an insurgent candidacy that studied the rules of the game (read: delegates) and did what it had to win that game. The braintrust never planned to beat Hillary Clinton everywhere, all the time; rather do just what it needed (and probably all that it could).

And so Obama ran out the clock at the end, knowing full well the delegates were in the bag. But the general election is a completely different game, played on different field with a different clock than the primary/caucus roulette and Broder's parallels probably don't apply.

Morton Kondracke has a different take that says it will be very difficult for McCain to defeat Obama this year.

His piece makes a scientific attempt to monitor a series of indicators that decide watershed elections and those indicators are all breaking Obama's way. You can read them for yourself.

"Voters clearly want 'change'," he writes. "McCain has a long way to go to convince them that his kind is better than Obama's even though - on the merits - it may well be. At the rate things are going, history will repeat itself with a Democratic victory in 2008 and liberal domination of the government until voters change their minds again."

Meanwhile, "Salon" reports that Obama had a little chat with Sen. Joe Lieberman who was once a Democrat and has now decided to form something called "Citizens for McCain."

Quoting ABC News' Jake Tapper, Salon noted (that Tapper noted), "The conversation was a stern rebuke to Lieberman for his criticism of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on a conference call, as well as a discussion about how far Lieberman is willing to go in his advocacy of McCain, and the tone of his campaign."

"Salon" ran the above picture of Lyndon Baines Johnson leaning in on some forgotten U.S. Senator to dramatize what transpired between Obama and Lieberman.

Obama's only 47 and yet he's cracking the whip at older more experienced politicians, getting the capital city in hand.

Genius: You either have it or you don't.

1 comment:

Real History Lisa said...

Great piece. Perfect opening and closing, too!

I was stunned, happily, when Obama insisted the party declare its independence from lobbyists too, and how he took Lieberman to task, politely but clearly.

I think people have so underestimated this man. I can't wait for him to be our next president.