January 20, 2007


Barack Obama Needs to Fill in the Blanks (John Nichols, January 19, 2007, AlterNet)

Barack Obama surprised even some seasoned political observers when he coupled the announcement that he had formed an exploratory 2008 presidential campaign committee with the news that he is all but certain to formally enter the race for the Democratic nomination on February 10. But there was nothing surprising about the message he presented.

It was more of the same vaguely satisfying criticism of "the smallness of our politics" and the way government is "gummed up by money and influence," along with flowery promises to "tackle the big problems that demand solutions" and help us "come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans."

To his credit, Obama recognized in his announcement many of the challenges that face the United States: skyrocketing healthcare bills, lost pensions, the high price of a college education, the need to break our dependence on foreign oil and, above all, the fact that "we're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged."

But, as has been the case since speculation heated up about a run by the freshman senator from Illinois, Obama was long on personal appeal and short on policy specifics.

The seriousness with which he approaches the task of defining his politics between now and February 10 will go a long way toward deciding whether Obama wins his party's nomination. If he's going to secure the critical support of grassroots Democrats in key early caucus and primary states, these coming weeks must be less about celebrity and more about policy.

The premise of the Obama candidacy has to be remaining amorphous enough that voters will read into him what they hope to find. If he defines himself as far to the Right as winning the presidency would require he can't win the nomination. If he defines himself as far Left as the Party requires, he can't win the general. He needs to remain a pretty cipher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 20, 2007 8:53 AM

This man cannot define himself as of the right, for his record has defined him already. Language cannot be so easily manipulated: that would be totaly gay.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 20, 2007 4:15 PM

He's a no one now--he can be whatever he wants to be by 2008.

Posted by: oj at January 20, 2007 6:16 PM