A month ago (28 days actually), Barack Obama finally came around to face the facts – that this primary race was going to be dirty, and it was going to be tough. Before then, he had refrained from attacking his opponent, no matter how much the smeared him and his reputation. Eventually, he went on the front foot and won that battle of words – capping it with a win in South Carolina.
Since then, he has managed to consistently and effectively call Hillary Clinton into question about a whole range of topics. From donations to policies, from supporters to conduct, he has brought all her ‘let’s not speak abouts’ into the light to fully scrutinise the candidate in much the same way as the Clinton campaign have done with Obama. And with Wisconsin and Hawaii voting tomorrow on the 19th, he has kept up the attack as expected.
The difference between a Clinton attack on Obama, and Obama’s attacks on the Clintons, is that Obama’s attacks have substance and founding. When Bill Clinton went off, rambling across the country in the week before South Carolina, he lost the support of voters for Hillary because his attacks on Obama were nothing but baseless and unfounded. Similarly, Hillary’s attempts to tie Obama to a slumlord were pithy and pathetic, and ultimately got her nothing.
But Obama’s recent attacks on Clinton actually have basis. Clinton’s ties to lobbyists is nothing short of laughable. For someone who is portraying their self as a viable alternative to President Bush, and the Republican party, Hillary sure has taken a heck of a lot of cash from the lobbyists groups. Clinton has taken over double what any other candidate, Democrat or Republican, running for president in 2008 has. That is a gross indictment on how her future policy decisions are going to be formed by. Obama’s words on this are 100% accurate:
“That’s not being a part of the solutions business. That’s being a part of business-as-usual in Washington.”
And, coming from the candidate who actually is change, never have truer words been spoken about Clinton. Obama is change, change in terms of administration and change in terms of Washington’s conduct. I know that every candidate likes to say they will ‘get things done’, but this time, with Obama, I actually believe him.
Of late, Clinton has been questioning a bill, from 2006, that Obama had a part in. Drafts of the bill were apparently ‘watered down, and this is a sign of weakness on Obama’s part to stand up to the nuclear and oil industries. That’s according to Clinton recently. You see, she was fully supportive of the bill at the time, and then cited a Republican-controlled Senate as a hostile environment. But Obama’s comeback to this, at a press conference, was what took the cake:
“It turns out that Senator Clinton, who voted for this bill that I introduced and touted it on her Web site, thought it was pretty good then. Only in Washington can you vote for a bill, take credit for it, and then criticize the sponsor of the bill.”
He really does have a way with words, a skill that he displayed again at a Wisconsin Democrats Dinner. The two candidates were present, and while Clinton delivered indirect attacks aimed at Obama, Barack returned with all guns firing. Leaving his prepared speech aside, he critised Clinton on the fly – saying that she’d only just started supporting legislation (the Patriot Employer Act) that aimed to keep jobs in the U.S. that he’s supported for years; saying that Clinton is into “politics of the moment” and taking positions because it’s campaign season, like N.A.F.T.A.:
“I didn’t just start criticizing unfair trade deals like N.A.F.T.A. and China because I started running for President.”
Note that N.A.F.T.A. was a treaty signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, and at the time, Hillary praised the treaty. But the attacks didn’t stop there. He gave a nice little slap to the face with his “applaud” of Clinton’s healthcare plan – a plan that includes some of the same steps he proposed last spring. And, finally, to defend himself against only being inspirational, and not a solutions-man (a charged leveled at him by Clinton), he had this to say:
“It’s true that speeches don’t solve all problems, but what is also true is if we cannot inspire the country to believe again then it doesn’t matter how many policies and plans we have. Don’t tell me words don’t matter.”
Obama went on to cite the famous lines “I have a dream” and “all men are created equal”. It looks as though Obama has faced the fire and survived the test. Anyone who doubted his resolve to fight the hard fight and still want to win is wrong. He has shown that he has the campaigning skills of a seasoned veteran. Few mistakes, and the ability take the blows, defend himself, then go on the attack. And rightly so – a candidate should be allowed to attack. But only if the attack has substance. And Obama’s attacks have just that.