All talk, no action
Obama isn’t the first American political figure to battle the “inexperienced” label. John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson, and even Christopher Columbus all were younger than Obama when they made their mark on the world. (Reminding voters of this fact occasionally wouldn’t be a bad idea.) The way they countered the charge was by demonstrating leadership, often through rhetoric. They didn’t respond to the accusation — they just demonstrated they were above it.
In contrast, here’s Obama recently on the stump:
“People have to feel comfortable that, ‘You know what? This guy can handle the job.’ It’s a stretch for them because I haven’t been on the national scene for long and haven’t gone through the conventional paths that we traditionally draw for our presidents, so they’ve got to stretch a little bit during a period where there’s a lot of stuff going on internationally, right?”
Can you imagine Jack Kennedy doing this? Earth to Obama: you’re running for commander-in-chief, not pundit-in-chief. Stop the self-analysis.
Even when he’s not soliloquizing, Obama rarely paints a picture of what he’d do. Instead, he tells us why he’s the man to do what he plans to do, which is bring about “change.” As we all know, Lincoln began his Gettysburg Address by saying:
“Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation — conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
If we translate that into the kind of prose recently favored by Obama, it might become:
“You know, I was thinking as I came over here how our forefathers would have wanted us to have a leader who, from time to time, reminded us of the values they held dear, like liberty and equality. And I’ve shown that I can do that, that I can bring about real change. I did it in the Illinois legislature when I brought Republicans and Democrats together and created change. And I would do it as president.”
The first speech provides a shared vision — the other is a vague notion, filtered through a résumé recitation. The first reveals a willingness to lead, regardless of the writer’s age — the other slouches toward narcissism.
It is one of the unfortunate aspects of modern presidential politics that you make your rookie mistakes in front of everyone. But we’re still in the proverbial pre-season. The truth is that Obama can still win. All he really has to do is stop talking about himself and start sharing with voters a unique and vibrant sense of the country and its future. If he does that, history has shown that the charges of inexperience will take care of themselves.
With Giuliani showing weakness in a key Iowa poll, Romney and Thompson move up.
Odds: 3-2 | past week: 4-3
Odds: 3-1 | 4-1
Odds: 3-1 | 4-1
Odds: 8-1 | 6-1
Odds: 100-1 | 30-1
Odds: 1000-1 | same
Odds: 25,000-1 | 200,000-1
Odds: 200,000-1 | same
Odds: 250,000-1 | same
Odds: 3 million-1 | same
Odds: even | past week: 6-5
Odds: 3-2 | 5-4
Odds: 10-1 | same
Odds: 100-1 | same
Odds: 200-1 | same
Odds: 250-1 | same
Odds: 100,000-1 | same
Odds: 16 million-1 | 8 million-1
On the Web
The Presidential Tote Board blog: http://www.thephoenix.com/toteboard