By taking George Bush and John McCain head on in the national security debate, Barak Obama is clearly emerging as one of the savviest politicians in recent history. I must admit that it was kind of fun watching Bush and McCain reacting like deer in the headlights as they were trying to figure out what hit them. Even the media has had a hard time keeping up with Obama’s unexpected moves, which goes to show that he has a much deeper understanding of the political arena than his opponents are ready to admit.
In a way, Obama is like a young, and agile boxer touting a slow, over the hill champ whose only chance of winning the match is a well placed knock out punch. So far, Obama’s agility and unpredictability has allowed him to deflect and sometimes utilize whatever is thrown at him to his own advantage and by doing so, he has shown the American people that a different America is possible, and that a young politician such as himself can indeed take on the entrenched Washington consensus and prevail.
The recent tit for tat on national security between Obama and Bush-McCain is a clear case in point. National security has been in the Republican domain for quite some time and for reasons that are not self evident, the Republican Party has cemented itself as the champion of national security. In election after election, the Republicans have been able to put the Democrats on the defensive whenever the issue comes up. But things may very well turn out differently this time around given Obama’s strategy to take the issue on early in the game.
By forcefully and successfully rebutting Bush’s allegations of appeasement Obama has taken the hubris of the Bush Administration and turned it onto its head by calling the Republican tough posturing for what it is: empty rhetoric without results. And while this has been clear to the American people for quite some time, the Democratic party and its leaders had yet to muster the political courage and confront the Republicans the way the junior senator from Illinois did: by showing Bush what it means to “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.”
Obama and the Democrats understand that the Democratic Party currently stands with the American people on every single domestic issue. But instead of taking the safest route, which is to run on historically strong Democratic issues, Obama is beginning to show a much bolder strategy that is taking the Republicans, the media, and some Democrats by surprise. With his offensive this early in the race Obama has sent a message to the Republicans that he is not afraid to take them on their turf. And this was so unexpected, that it has forced McCain to side with Bush against the reality of the recent overtures of his own Administration towards North Korea.
It is within this context that we can now begin to understand the general strategy of the Obama campaign. On issue after issue, from the decision to bypass the West Virginia and Kentucky primaries, to the “now you see it, now you don’t” flag pin, it is clear that Obama is toying with the conventional wisdom in a sort of game of cat and mouse. Instead of following in the footsteps of previous Democratic candidates and carefully tiptoe around opinion polls, Obama has taken his political game to a whole new level where nothing is taken for granted and where everything is up for grabs.
The Republicans are beginning to sense this as they desperately try to prop up Clinton against Obama. Never mind that it was only two months ago when they were doing exactly the opposite, convinced, as they were, that Obama could be used as a spoiler against Clinton. But now that they have the Obama iceberg in full sight, reversing the engines won’t accomplish much. At this point, their only hope is for Hillary Clinton to carry her quest for the nomination to the convention, or something tantamount to her political suicide.
Given what’s at stake in this election it would be hard to believe that Clinton’s sense of entitlement would be blind to the point of jeopardizing the very real prospect of a Democratic controlled government with all that it entails. After all, an Obama victory would simply mean business as usual unless he can keep his promise and change how business is done in Washington.
He is on a good start.