Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Obama's Dukakis Moment

In one of the 1988 Presidential debates, Michael Dukakis was famously asked if he would seek the death penalty for the hypothetical murderer and rapist of his wife, Kitty. Of course, the correct response to a question like that is, "No. Not really. I think I'd prefer to kill the bastard myself...with my bare hands." Instead, without so much as raising one of his bushy eyebrows, Dukakis calmly and dryly reiterated his opposition to the death penalty. Many political pundits thought the question was out of bounds. In terrible taste. Should've never been asked. Months after George Bush defeated Dukakis in the general election, Bush's campaign advisor and noted GOP dirty trickster Lee Atwater was asked for his take on "the question."

Atwater said that the "murdered and raped Kitty" question terrified him as it was being asked. Because he saw it as a total softball question for Dukakis...a chance for the cold, unemotional Democratic nominee to go ballistic with no consequences. Atwater was afraid that Dukakis would give an answer similar to the one I proposed and that his favorable numbers would go through the roof the next day. Didn't happen.

I think Barack Obama had a big-time Dukakis moment in the Democratic debate last night in Philadelphia. Here's the question and Obama's response:

Brian Williams (Moderator): Senator Obama, we're going to transfer into a new area here. A question specifically for you because you're in a rather unique position. It's about religion and misinformation. Governor Romney misspoke twice on the same day, confusing your name with that of Osama bin Laden.

Your party is fond of talking about a potential swiftboating. Are you fearful of what happened to John McCain, for example, in South Carolina a few years back; confusion on the basis of things like names and religion?

Obama: No, because I have confidence in the American

And I don't pay much attention to what Mitt Romney has to say -- at least what he says this week. It may be different next week.

But there is no doubt that my background is not typical of a presidential candidate. I think everybody understands that. But that's part of what is so powerful about America, is that it gives all of us the opportunity -- a woman, a Latino, myself -- the opportunity to run. And, listen, when I was running for the United States Senate everybody said nobody's going to vote for a black guy named Barack Obama; they can't even pronounce it. And we ended up winning by 20 points in the primary and 30 points in the general election.

The way to respond to swiftboating is to respond forcefully, rapidly and truthfully. And I have absolute confidence in the American people's capacity to absorb the truth, as long as we are forceful in that presentation.

And we are seeing it. As we travel all across the country, we have received enormous support, in states where, frankly, there aren't a lot of African-Americans, and there aren't a lot of Obamas.

Still awake? Look...I'm sorry...but when you're asked, "Senator Obama, does it bother you that a douchenozzle like Mitt Romney is out there calling you 'Osama' from one end of the country to the other?," you've got to get riled up. Like Atwater said back then, that was a no-consequences opportunity to tee Romney up and whack him. To let the American people see some fire behind the ice. Again...didn't happen. Barack, you sold me on your boilerplate a long time ago. Now sell me on your heart. I want some passion. I want 2004 Democratic Convention keynote speaker Obama. I want to see how bad you want it. I want to believe, but...dude, you're losing me.


Herb Urban said...

Say what you will about Hillary, but the Clintons have Larry David sized balls when it comes to fighting right wing smears. It might be her one appealing quality to progressives.

Obama is a poster child of the nice guys don't win the Presidency crowd. You don't shit from Shitt Romney if you want my vote.

Why is Chuck Dodd not getting any traction? He should be neck and neck with Edwards and Obama to be the Dems Hillary Alternative.

Mike-El said...

Other than his typical, customary smarmy welcome and hello, I thought Edwards was on fire last night. He may yet be a player in this thing.

If last night was my first debate, I would've thought Edwards was the number-two contender and Obama was the one trying to elbow his way into contention.

Candace Chellew-Hodge said...

Well, Barack lost me with the flaming homophobe Donnie McClurkin. Of course, he never really had me but that event cinched the "no-deal" for me.

The media has already ordained Hillary and Barack. Unless either of them makes some deadly mistake, I think that's what we're stuck with. I'd much prefer Edwards or Dodd to either of them. Of course, my first choice is the unelectable Kucinich. He sure has a hot wife. ;)

Mike-El said...

Kucinich's hot wife = Elfin magic.

TVJ said...

For me, Obama really is losing traction. When all this started, I didn't think I'd be leaning towards Clinton, yet here I find myself thinking "she could be the one".

I know it's early yet, but at this point all of the potentials would have to either make serious progress or serious errors for my opinion to float.

I would love for all the potentials to spend more time taking on the Republicans rather than in-fighting. Show me what you got and what I'm gonna get if and when you're in the White House.

Jmac said...

I don't get it ...

No, because I have confidence in the American people.

And I don't pay much attention to what Mitt Romney has to say -- at least what he says this week. It may be different next week.

He took a shot at Romney. He insulted his pedigree. He pointed out that the guy is a charlatan who will say anything to get elected.

This is Dukakis-like how?

Mike-El said...

Because this wasn’t a policy question, JMac. Obama was asked about being slurred by another candidate and he comes up with this rambling, wonky, unemotional response. I’ll give him credit for summoning up at least a little passive-aggression, which Dukakis couldn’t even manage…but that’s it.

Look, I worked on the Dukakis campaign…You know what I heard from The Duke every day in response to Willie Horton? To “furloughs”? To GOP-spread rumors that he was mentally ill?

“I have confidence in the American people.” Remember how well that turned out?

It’s like Herb commented…say what you will about Hillary, you know she would’ve nailed that moment. When you’re asked about someone going around calling you “Osama” and you don’t get applause when you’re done, then you’ve booted it. I love the guy. I still have the highest of hopes for him…but what I’m seeing as far as his timidity in response to being attacked makes me fear that he’ll be Swift Boated and “defined” into oblivion. Don’t you want to see a little fire from Obama?