Joe the Optimist
For Biden, hope springs eternal.
Updated Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007, at 10:45 AM
After President Bush announced sanctions on Iran's military, Obama's camp sent out a statement insisting that "these sanctions must not be linked to any attempt to keep our troops in Iraq, or to take military action against Iran" and suggesting that the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which Hillary voted for, does this. Hillary blasted back with a memo: "Stagnant in the polls and struggling to revive his once-buoyant campaign, Senator Obama has abandoned the politics of hope and embarked on a journey in search of a campaign issue to use against Senator Clinton."
As the Iran showdown escalates—both campaigns sent out mailers on the issue this week—Obama appears to be pedaling against the wind. As many have pointed out, Clinton took pains to make sure the bill didn't include authorization of military force. And as Clinton herself notes, where was Obama during that vote?
But still, Clinton's tactics come off as downright nasty. Her word of choice to describe opposing campaigns used to be flagging. Now it's stagnant. (May we suggest flaccid?) At the same time, Hillary is still using Obama's coinage, the "politics of hope," against him. Obama originally intended the phrase to mean avoiding personal attacks. But over the past weeks, Hillary has redefined it as avoiding attacks on her policies. By conflating the two, she implies that Obama is becoming a bully and, in the process, abandoning his principles. She has turned his promise of civility into a straightjacket.
Obama should be calling her out on this. If Hillary is going to try and make all policy attacks sound personal, Obama should point out that strategy and rebuff it. Obama spokesman Bill Burton's reponse, sent to reporters yesterday evening, fails to do this: "All of the political explanations and contortions in the world aren't going to change the fact that, once again, Senator Clinton supported giving President Bush both the benefit of the doubt and a blank check on a critical foreign policy issue. Barack Obama just has a fundamentally different view." We've heard all this before. What Obama needs to say is that Hillary deliberately uses his "politics of hope" message as a shield against criticism. If Obama is going to stay in the debate, he can't let Hillary define the terms. Especially when he coined them.
Oct. 25, 2007
The assassination primary: One of the best ways for a politician to boost his popularity is to get assassinated. It worked for Lincoln, it worked for Kennedy. (And who doesn't adore James Garfield?) Even better is an assassination attempt. That way, you get to enjoy the good press. Just ask Ronald Reagan. Best of all, though, is an assassination attempt attempt. Someone thought you were worth killing, but didn't follow through, giving you all the cred but none of the scars. Apparently that's what happened to Rudy Giuliani.
It turns out a group of New York crime bosses nearly voted to whack Giuliani back in 1986, when he was a U.S. attorney prosecuting cases against the mob. The heads of five families voted 3 to 2 to spare him, according to testimony Wednesday at the trial of an FBI agent in Brooklyn. "That was one vote I won I guess," Giuliani told radio host Mike Gallagher today.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photographs of: Cap Fendig courtesy Cap Fendig; screenshot of The Huffington Post.