Tag Archives: obama

Why does Kinsella support Obama?

So I’ve just finished Kinsella’s new book – The War Room – which I thoroughly enjoyed, but not for the reasons I thought I would (more on that in another post).

I find it interesting that Kinsella is an Obama fan, and that he’s been one since early on (e.g. long before Hillary went off the deep end and her campaign started imploding). After finishing his book I was even more surprised. Here’s why:

First – Kinsella’s fighter:

Kinsella is the ultimate Canadian political fighter (second to Chretien, I’m sure he’d add). As his book testifies, he’s unafraid to pull out the brass knuckles and pummel his opponent. But which Presidential aspirant does that sounds like? Who talks about beating up Republicans, of the dangers of ones political opponents? No one is more partisan, nor more of a scrapper, than Hillary. She’s practically remolded her campaign around the notion that she is a “fighter.”

It doesn’t stop there though. Not only is Kinsella a fighter, he’s also not a believer in any type of “new politics” – such as that advocated by Obama. In his book’s intro he states (page 27):

“So they [politicians] will make soothing noises about the need to “do politics differently” and to avoid “the old politics” (or what has been called “the politics of personal destruction”). They make these disclaimers because they know it is what the voting public wants to hear (even if it isn’t what the voting public necessairly believes, but more on that later). Watching them, you would think such politicos would seldom utter a discouraging word about anyone.
But that is a pile of crap.”

Given that Obama talks regularly of how people are tired of the politics of division, does Kinsella think this is all a clever ruse?  Either way, I’d have put him squarely in the Hillary camp (on a philosophical level at least).

Second – her war room runs like his war room:

To my (untrained and unsophisticated) eye, Obama campaign conducts itself in manner counter to the approaches Kinsella argues for in his book. This is in contrast to the Clinton war room, which hits back hard and fast at any opportunity.

(I’d love to hear Kinsella’s take on the Obama war room – I’m pretty sure my blog will never get on his radar but with luck he’ll blog about the democrates respective war rooms). For example on page 90 Kinsella shares the rule “Leave No Charge Unanswered:”

Any critical statement offered up by a reporter or the other side, no matter how imbecilic or nonsensical it may seem at first blush, must be taken seriously, and pronto. If the charge appears to be getting ready to blast off into the political stratosphere, fight back.

Again, unlike the Clinton campaign, the Obama campaign appears to ignore this rule on some occasions. On numerous points through out this campaign the Hillary camp has claimed to have won the popular vote, the states that count, and criticaldemographics. Often, the Obama camp does not seem to hit back, or at least hit back hard. (This strategy frustrated me enormously a few months ago) Indeed, on occasion they’ve been near silent – especially on the charge that Hillary has won the popular vote. There is rarely a counter-quote from the Obama campaign team in articles about Hillary making this claim (especially on CNN).

Finally – Legitimate Policy differences:

While there are few legitimate policy differences between Hillary and Obama, one area where people are concerned there might be differences is over Israel and Middle East policies. In his book Kinsella self-identifies himself as a ZIonist… and if any candidate can be defined as pro-Israel it is Hillary Clinton. Indeed, this one part of the Democratic Party that Obama has been working hard to assuage.

That, and the fact the (like me) Kinsella is a huge fan of Carville and Bill Clinton (and unlike me, Begala) I would have landed Kinsella squarely in the Hillary camp.

In sum:

Obviously, these are only 3 of thousands of reasons why anyone might choose to support one of the nominees. As an Obama supporter I’m pretty pleased that Kinsella is a fan as well. It’s just that his book has left me more puzzled, not less, about why he’s a supporter. I’d be interested to know what Kinsella thinks the Obama campaign has done effectively, and what it has done poorly, and if he thinks Obama is going to redefine politics, or if he’s a just a brilliant new spin on an old theme.

It's over

So over at Oxblog Taylor’s posted the video of news coveraga I wish I’d seen last night CNN.

Stick a fork in it, it is over. Barack Obama is the candidate. The only question is how long before Hilary is aware of it and how much of her personal fortune will she need to burn before figuring it out.

These are dangerous waters for the democrats… everyone is tired, weary, on edge, and of course emotions are frayed. The real question is… will Hilary demand the VP slot?

I’d guess more, but I’ve got to run for a flight to Ottawa. Next two weeks will be intense, I promise to blog about my travels to Johannesburg.

What happened to Ibbitson?

The Globe’s John Ibbitson has always been one of my favourite columnists – Paul Wells may capture the politics of Ottawa best, but Ibbitson got and wrote most effectively on the issues, challenges and tensions that drove public policy in the capital. For a policy junkies like myself his Globe column was a daily must read.

This is why I’ve been unsure how to approach his coverage of the US primaries.

Firstly, and very much forgivable, he read the whole thing wrong when, back in October he pronounced that:

No, we’re not declaring that the New York senator has as good as won the 2008 presidential election. Anything can happen in politics, and anything usually does. But Ms. Clinton is the leading candidate, in both the Democratic and the Republican campaigns: Her own nomination is virtually assured… (Italics mine)

As stated above, many people believed that Obama would never go anywhere (except, of course, us Obama fans – in part out of blind faith and in part out of a belief that because many independents view Hillary as unelectable democrats would not easily nominate her).

But more recently there have been stories that haven’t jived with what I’ve been reading in the US papers. Take for example, yesterday’s article entitled Can his money trump her machine in the most expensive primary yet?. Which, I believe, misrepresents the dynamics of the race. The best example of this is in the 4th paragraph:

It all comes down to organization. Who can get out more of their vote? The answer reveals a simple but profound difference between the Obama and Clinton campaigns. In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, he has the money; she has the machine. (my italics)

The analysis is correct – the machine often matters more than money – the problem is that few American commentaries agree with that assessment. From everything I’ve read in the US press the broad consensus is that Obama’s machine has been more effective and better organized (according to Time Magazine, The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, as well as Chris Tucker and Chris Matthews of MSNBC. Indeed, the one exception to this is New Hampshire where pretty much everyone agreed Clinton had a better organization.)

Obama’s superior organization accounts for why he’s dominated the caucuses (where organization matters most) and why, earlier on in the primary season, when Hillary had the money, he was still able to compete. Things may have shifted and Hillary may now have the superior machine, but I’ve not read that elsewhere. She clearly does have deeper roots into the party – but this is a different matter and not the same thing as an organization. (Interestingly, one reason her machine may be weak is that she may have counted on her party connections and a media blitz funded by her initial financial advantage to enable her to crush her opponents quickly, causing her to underinvest in a national organization.)

Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania has far more to do with the fact that it simply has more voters she appeals to: white, middle-aged and baby boomer, blue collar workers. If anything, Pennsylvania was designed for Clinton (just like North Carolina is designed for Obama). The problem is, she may only barely beat him in Pennsylvania, whereas he’ll thump her in North Carolina.

Which brings us to the final part of this piece – don’t expect Clinton to move on, even with a win. Machines may matter more than money, but you’ve got to at least have some dough. If Clinton doesn’t win big in Pennsylvania, she may (but may not!) hobble into Indiana and North Carolina. Either way she simply won’t have the resources to go beyond that barring some catastrophic failure on the part of the Obama campaign.

This campaign is probably over. All Obama has to do is sit back and be quiet. Above all, don’t say a word about Clinton – if he’s seen to be trying to muscle her out he’ll look bad. Let her either get there on her own, or let the party establishment do the work for him. I’m hoping Ibbitson’s next column is about Obama vs. McCain!

Canada's racial stalemate

Calvin Helin author of Dances with DependencyThe other week – as virtually everybody is now aware – Obama gave his much celebrated speech on the racial stalemate in America.

Here in Canada we have a stalemate as well. It is discussed less frequently (if at all) then the American stalemate Obama spoke of, and it does not fall along clearly delineated racial lines. I am speaking of the stalemate between First Nations and the rest of Canada. On page 157 0f his book “Dances with Dependency: Indigenous Success through Self-Reliance” (if you don’t have a copy I highly recommend picking one up), aboriginal rights activist Calvin Helin writes a paragraph that parallels the sentiment of Obama’s speech.

When chronicling and discussing the very real problem of abuses of power, mismanagement, nepotism and corruption found on some First Nation band councils, Helin notes:

Aboriginal people are reluctant to speak publicly about these issues because they do not wish to provide grist for the political right in Canada who many feel are racist, and have no real interest in actually trying to make the situation better (though often there is a sizable, but silent contingent that supports the publication of such issues in what might be considered right-of-centre publications, because they are regarded as only telling the truth and trying to make things better for the ordinary Aboriginal folks). Generally, non-aboriginal observers have been reluctant to raise this issue as well because, in the current climate of political correctness, they might automatically be labelled as racists. Even the many Chiefs and Councils that are running honest governments in the best interests of their members feel compelled to defend against such reported abuses, because they fear their activities may become tarred with a brush that does not apply in their particular circumstances. Usually when this matter is raised publicly, there are entrenched positions on both sides of the debate and little communications as to how to solve these problems. (my own italics)

While this hardly captures the entire dynamic, it highlights an important dimension of Canada’s racial stalemate.  That anger and guilt in both communities – aboriginals and non-aboriginals – can sometime build narratives about the other that reinforce their mutual distrust and preventing us from reaching out and finding a way to address what is our country’s most important challenges.

I suspect this stalemate will not last. A new force could be about to completely alter this debate. A new generation – a demographic tsunami in fact – of smart, educated, and motivated young First Nation is about to crest over this country (While Calvin Helin is an excellent example, he is much older than the cohort I’m thinking of). I’m not sure that non-aboriginal leaders – and, to be frank, current aboriginal leaders – are even aware of what is about to hit them. Gauging from those I have met and befriended, this cohort is frustrated, but motivated, organized and very pragmatic. But perhaps, most importantly, they increasingly urban and, not as tied to the power structures of the reserves or chiefs. In this regard they transcend the discussion, living in, and comfortable in, both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal domain. One way or another they are will redefine this debate.