Saturday, August 23, 2008

Turning it around

So I stayed up half the night nursing a meniscal tear (knee: meet handlebars), "typesetting" charts for the upcoming IJG tour, and distractedly getting a kick out of the wee-hour coverage of the Biden VP pick announcement.

First things first: at one point one of the pundits (it may have been David Shuster, though again, I was distracted) tried to make something of the fact that the media scooped the promised text message (as if that wasn't inevitable). Good golly. If said scooping really causes discontent with Obama supporters, then I am truly out of the loop.

Anyway, I have been thinking all week that Biden was a strong, even masterful choice for VP, but as usual, it took Ezra Klein to articulate exactly why:

There was a hope in the early days of the Obama campaign that different would be enough. Different in aesthetics and experience and age and ideas. Different would assert change. Kathleen Sebelius would have represented change. Visually, her and Obama on a stage together would have been the most powerful image of political transformation in decades. But a choice like her presupposed belief. Otherwise, you'd be adorning a cathedral that had no promise of parishioners.

Turned out not to be true. So they needed an arguer. Someone able to make the case that the other guy is wrong, and Obama is right. That's, fundamentally, what Biden represents. Biden doesn't presuppose belief. He's a persuader. Sometimes at great length, sometimes to the point of virtual self parody, but fundamentally, his political style has always been to argue until everyone else agrees.

For progressives, this is encouraging pick. More encouraging than Bayh, or Kaine, or even, in a way, Sebelius. More encouraging than picks who might have been more progressive, but less pugnacious. Elevating Biden suggests that the Obama campaign has decided to have an argument. Not try to win on momentum and inspiration and GOTV, but to engage, and win, an argument about which set of ideas is better for the future of the country. And in Biden, they've engaged at the point of greatest vulnerability and opportunity for Democrats: National security.

Consider this in tandem with the strong "7 Houses" ad, which also came out this week, and in which McCain is taken to task not only for his inability to remember how many houses he has, but for his inability to remember, period. (The announcer subtly reminds voters that McCain is old -- "he lost track, he couldn't remember" is intoned over a backdrop of images / music that could have been lifted out of an ad for a nursing home -- a subject that would be off limits if it were approached more directly.)

I suspect that, taken together, the events of the past few days bear out Randi Rhodes' theory that Obama has been developing a Rope-a-Dope strategy. At the very least, they remind me of one of Obama's great strengths: his ability to respond in the moment to the circumstances that surround him. (Kind of like an expert improviser.)

We'll see where it goes from here.


Matt said...

I've always like Brian Eno's version:

Matt said...

Ooops, that comment should be for the post above this one. I don't think Eno ever did a version of the Rope-a-Dope.