Archive for the ‘Youtube Debate’ Category

Obama on Iran: Bush-Cheney Lite Sounds Great

May 27, 2008

Ben Smith’s got an item about how Barack Obama is backtracking on his pledge to meet with Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad. You can watch that here.

It was one of the most memorable moments of last summer’s campaign, one that many thought would torpedo Obama’s chances.

Here’s what Smith quotes Obama as saying now: “‘There’s no reason why we would necessarily meet with Ahmadinejad before we know that he was actually in power,’ ” he said. ” ‘He’s not the most powerful person in Iran.’ ”

Smith rightly points out that Obama stood by his answer well into the primary season, calling it “an effective point of contrast with Hillary in the primary.”

Having spent much time up in New Hampshire last summer, I remember Obama taking it even further.

Last July, I drove up to Concord’s Eagle Square to see Congressman Paul Hodes endorse Obama. Here at, I observed “there’s no question that Obama’s willingness to meet with the despots of Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela is electrifying the progressive grassroots, particularly in New Hampshire.”

Reporting for The New York Sun, I noticed that Obama not only stood by his pledge, he upped the ante on it. His direct quote, using the word dictator, reinforces the fact that he was specifically referring to Ahmadinejad.

“It is no longer sufficient to trot out the old formulas, the old tired phrases. If we want fundamental change, then we can’t be afraid to talk to our enemies. I’m not afraid of losing the p.r. war to dictators,” Mr. Obama said to prolonged applause. “I’m happy to look them in the eye and say what needs to be said… I don’t want a continuation of Bush-Cheney. I don’t want Bush-Cheney lite, I want a fundamental change.”

In presidential politics, it’s long been commonplace for candidates to move leftward to win Democratic primaries and caucuses and then tack to the center to win general elections. But it’s not exactly a new kind of politics. It’s the same kind of politics we’ve always had.

Barack Obama and the African-American Vote

January 10, 2008


Hillary Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire came on the backs of a fabulous field organization (a Manchester component made up of Mayor Menino’s political foot-soldiers) who had something to work with. The wave of sympathy for Clinton as an embattled woman.

Going into South Carolina where African-Americans comprise 50% of the Democratic vote, it’s possible that Clinton’s comments about the relative contributions of Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson to the civil rights movement could do the same thing among Black voters. Until now, many in the African-American community, particularly older folks, have had questions about Obama, the son of a white Kansan and a Kenyan father.

A reverend and New York Assemblyman, who has endorsed Obama, Karim Camara, told me yesterday he was deluged with calls from constituents and other elected officials stunned by her comments. Camara will go down to South Carolina later this month for Obama and expects to be talking about Clinton with the religious leaders he meets with. “I believe churches are very sensitive to the language we use,” Mr. Camara said. “This can have a tremendous impact in increasing their level of churches in going out and supporting Senator Obama.”

Read more here.

Obama: I’ll Talk to Ahmadinejad

July 24, 2007

Senator Clinton just made Senator Obama look foolish. A Youtube questioner asked Obama whether he would meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela within his first year of office. Obama said of course he would. Asked the same question, Clinton said that while she would step up diplomacy, she refused to be used as propaganda for the leaders of these nations. It was a common sense, pragmatic and wise answer. When John Edwards followed up saying he agreed with Clinton, it looked like her smart answer had made him change his own answer.

This is another bad debate for Obama. His elevated style, so effective in set-piece speeches, makes him appear holier-than-thou in this setting.

As for the Youtube debate itself, it’s pretty goofy. But there have been a few good questions.