Dissent Of The Day II

A reader writes:

It occurs to me that you are confusing political skills with governing skills. 

There is no question that Obama is a very skilled politician.  In that sense, he is probably better than anyone the Dems have produced (other than Bill Clinton) in the last 20 years.  Or for that matter, anyone the GOP has produced, at least anyone with a national profile.  But that doesn't mean Obama has any governing skills.  What has he done in the Senate to convince you that he has the ability to forge compromise, to break through the partisanship or to take on entrenched interests including in his own party? 

I’m not talking about beating the Clintons out for the nomination that is political skill.  I’m talking about putting together coalitions, incurring the wrath of committee chairmen or majority leaders who are toeing the party line and getting something meaningful passed.  Where was he on any of the issues that produced the most partisanship in the past 4 years and that cried out for compromise and bipartisanship immigration, entitlement reform, confirming judges, military tribunals, to name a few?  Always on the left with the hard-core partisans, never involved in finding the common ground to produce a solution.  I don’t see evidence of any ability to build working coalitions on anything meaningful.  At least not in his four years in Washington.  And if he did it in the state senate in Illinois, he has been awfully quiet about it. 

Palin, by contrast, has taken on her own party and has done quite a bit in a relatively short time to reform Alaska politics.  McCain obviously has built a whole career around being the GOPs answer to David Boren, Sam Nunn, Chuck Robb, etc. the type of Dems who managed to find a middle way through the partisanship to get things done in the 80’s, even when it pissed off everyone in their party and caused people to accuse them of party disloyalty.  So far, I have seen little of Obama that does not prove that he is just a showman a very good one, but still a showman.  (That’s why his speeches always sound so much better in the moment than a day or two later, when you think about what he said.)

In the end, the VP pick does not change a lot of votes, but it does tell you what type of person tops the ticket.  By picking Gore, Clinton was saying that he was not Mondale or Dukakis or Kennedy, but was a conservative Dem and would run a left-of-center administration and stand up to the party’s left wing.  By picking Palin, McCain says that he is not Bush or Cheney or Delay or Gingrich, but is someone who plans to shake up the system and is willing to make bold choices along the way.  It makes it much harder for Obama to argue effectively that McCain is four more years of Bush and much easier for McCain to argue that he is the second coming of TR.  That is where he wants to be, and it is probably his best shot at winning, as well as governing the way he wants to govern.

I still think it is an inspired pick.  I’m surprised that he had the balls to do it but I have newfound respect for him that he did.  And no, I am not “on the right,” unless that term now includes former Democrats-turned-Eisenhower Republicans.  Sorry, not everyone who has passed on the Obama Kool-Aid is on the right.