Washington Post OpEd Columnist David Ignatius seems to get it in this column published last Friday titled "Obama: A Thin Record For a Bridge Builder":
Hillary Clinton has been trying to make a point about Barack Obama that deserves one last careful look before Tuesday's probably decisive Democratic primaries: If Obama truly intends to unite America across party lines and break the Washington logjam, then why has he shown so little interest or aptitude for the hard work of bipartisan government?
This is the real "Where's the beef?" about Obama, and it still doesn't have a good answer. He gives a great speech, and he promises that he can heal the terrible partisan divisions that have enfeebled American politics over the past decade. This is a message of hope that the country clearly wants to hear.
Telling the country what it wants to hear resonates with the electorate, where talk of issues and policy doesn't -- it's just that simple -- and Clinton's attempts to get Obama to address the issues has literally been booed down by a populace that really wants to hear "Yes, We Can" and doesn't really care about "Here's How We'll Do It."
Barack started out last year by addressing the issues, but his campaign was going nowhere so he fell back upon his forte -- the same stirring, soaring inspirational oratory that won him fame from the dais of the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston. That's what America wanted to hear, and so that's all we've heard from Obama.
Obama himself reveals as much here:
"When I first got into the race, we had a couple of big rallies...and I made a couple of big speeches," said Obama. "Then we started having a lot of town hall meetings like this. And it was interesting that some of the reporters started criticizing that I sounded like a policy wonk, I was like a professor. I'd be talking all these details, explaining how we're going to apply tax credits to rural areas" and the response was, "well this is really boring. What ever happened to the really exciting guy we saw at the Boston Convention?"
Setting aside Obama's suggestion that by moving off the issues he was just pandering to the media (because having a presidential candidate admit that he adopted a vacuous, issue-less campaign stance to appease the media is just a bit too frightening), remember that he was 30 points behind Clinton when the shift occurred. At that point the crown of inevitability was hers, all hers, when his campaign finally caught on. It was his stirring oratory that lifted him up and onto the shoulders of the majority of Democrats voting in the nation's primaries and caucuses.
But as WaPo's Ignatius discusses further in his OpEd column, when it comes to Obama's ability to do what he
panders claims he wants to do the beef is missing, and Obama's expressed pandering interest in actually building a bridge across partisan divides is not matched -- in any stretch of the imagination -- by his record:
But can he do it? The record is mixed, but it's fair to say that Obama has not shown much willingness to take risks or make enemies to try to restore a working center in Washington. Clinton, for all her reputation as a divisive figure, has a much stronger record of bipartisan achievement. And the likely Republican nominee, John McCain, has a better record still.
In their fury to knock down Clinton from her perch of inevitability, the fainting and fawning ObamaNation rejected the concept that a candidate's record of accomplishments and experience were relevant factors The complacent and mesmerized press just followed along for the ride without asking tough questions, reporting on 'a movement' instead of the lack of substance behind it.
Ignatius recognizes that now in noting just how thin Obama's record of achievement is when it comes to bridge-building:
...[F]or voters to feel confident that he can achieve this transformation should he become president, they would need evidence that he has fought and won similar battles. The record here, to put it mildly, is thin.
What I hear from politicians who have worked with Obama, both in Illinois state politics and here in Washington, gives me pause. They describe someone with an extraordinary ability to work across racial lines but not someone who has earned any profiles in courage for standing up to special interests or divisive party activists. Indeed, the trait people remember best about Obama, in addition to his intellect, is his ambition.
I have no doubt Obama believes that "Yes, He Can," build a bridge across partisan divides, but the evidence of his ability in this regard is thin.
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