No experience needed
March 9, 2008
The New York Times adds their voice to the “Obama Has No Experience” chorus with a cover story detailing Obama’s “minor role” in the Senate.
He went to the Senate intent on learning the ways of the institution, telling reporters he would be “looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work.” But frustrated by his lack of influence and what he called the “glacial pace,” he soon opted to exploit his star power. He was running for president even as he was still getting lost in the Capitol’s corridors.
Outside Washington, Mr. Obama was a multimedia sensation — people offered free tickets to his book readings for $125 on eBay and contributed thousands of dollars each to his political action committee to watch him on stage questioning policy experts.
But inside the Senate, Mr. Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, was 99th in seniority and in the minority party his first two years. In committee hearings, he had to wait his turn until every other senator had asked questions. He once telephoned reporters himself to draw attention to his amendments. And some senior colleagues were cool to the newcomer, whom they considered naïve.
Determined to be viewed as substantive, Mr. Obama kept his head down, declining Sunday talk show invitations for his first year, and consulted Senate elders for advice. He was cautious — even on the Iraq war, which he had opposed as a Senate candidate. He voted against the withdrawal of troops and proposed legislation calling for a drawdown only after he was running for president and polls showed voters favoring it.
Which of course is the kind of thing that a person like Hillary Clinton would never do.
This the wrong way to attack Obama. The Clinton Machine is doing it, her pundits are doing it, and now big media is doing it. But it’s absurd; you cannot launch “No Substance” missiles from the Hillary Clinton base. Mrs. Clinton embodies celebrity without substance. What has Mrs. Clinton done, in many more years and vastly more opportunities than Obama? What has she accomplished? The answer is nothing. She’s married to Bill Clinton–that is her political magnum opus. Everyone knows this. All these attacks will do is turn on their originators.
One more thing:
Finally, Mr. Obama did what he had done when he first arrived in the Senate, quietly consulting those who knew the institution well — Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Daschle — for advice on whether to run.
They told him that these chances come along rarely. His celebrity was undeniable. And yes, he was green, but that also meant he did not have the burden of a long record.
“For somebody to come in with none of that history is a real advantage,” Mr. Daschle said. “I told him that he has a window to do this. He should never count on that window staying open.”
The point here (and elsewhere in the story) is that Obama has obtained his celebrity prowess (thus, presumably, also his ideas) from veteran Democrats. This is designed to offset the charge made by the Obama campaign that a vote for Hillary is a vote for the [corrupt] political establishment in Washington. If Obama is behind closed doors with the same people Hillary publicly parades herself with, why should he be thought of as truly different?
This, unfortunately for the Obama campaign, is a legitimate criticism. It is very difficult to argue against “the establishment” in politics, particularly when one’s success has come largely from the guidance (as most politicians’ have) of that very establishment. Obama might very well be different, but he’s not a revolution.