In at least one important sense, Barack Obama really does represent a new breed of politician, and Hillary Clinton an old one: campaigning.
While Hillary has focused on a time-tested divide-and-conquer battle plan, Obama is holding a nationwide group hug. In debates, Hillary cites facts and figures to support her healthcare and immigration propositions, whereas Obama tends to deflect challenges with personal stories and sweeping judgments. Hillary’s invitation to have “conversations” with the electorate, though broadcast on the Internet, feels as predictably manipulative as a Lifetime movie; Obama’s most notable videos aren’t even his own, but rather the work of creative supporters spread organically in true viral fashion. If the medium is the message, Obama is running a practically post-modern campaign.
The ease with which Obama has moved into each successive phase of the primary season has freed him up to spot and douse fires before they gain attention. Whether it’s the fictional Islamist charge or the Rezko “scandal” or his (truly scandalous) drivers-license-for-illegals position, forward momentum pulls him through scot-free. The Clinton camp is so hooked on following their game plan that no one sees the speed-bumps coming or even senses them once the car has stopped. By the time she reined her husband in, for example, it was clear to the rest of us that he’d done formidable damage. So it’s no surprise that Hillary’s campaign crisis came to her as. . . a surprise.
Now, Obama may have already beaten Hillary to the next punch: Iraq. If she couldn’t recognize a crisis among her own people, it’s doubtful she sees the one in Mesopotamia. I’m referring to the crisis suffered by our enemy. Documents recently seized by U.S. forces in Iraq find al Qaeda officials in a fit over their losses at the hands of Iraqi Sunnis and U.S. forces. Interestingly, in a CBS interview with Steve Kroft, Obama seems to be backing off the timetable approach to troop withdrawal:
Kroft: And you pull out according to that time table, regardless of the situation? Even if there’s serious sectarian violence?.
Obama: No, I always reserve as commander in chief, the right to assess the situation.
Meanwhile, Hillary is stuck trying to satisfy pre-surge anxiety by (insincerely) offering up proposed presidential declarations demanding an end to the war. By the time she realizes she’s read the public wrongly on this one, it may very well be too late.