Clnton And Obama Talk Past Each Other

Matt Yglesias writes:

This is interesting. One way of looking at the little Clinton-Obama exchange over talking to "enemy" foreign leaders was that Clinton was simply trying to underscore her experience level by adding a little nuance to the picture. That seems not to be the case, as she and surrogate Madeleine Albright are using the issue to hit pretty hard at Obama.

And, of course, if you construe what Obama said to mean that he intends to jet off to Pyongyang without any advance work having been done, I suppose that really would be "irresponsible and frankly naive," but that hardly seems like a fair assessment. It's strange for the front-runner to go on the attack like that, and especially odd given the political climate for her to be going out of the way to emphasize the idea that she's substantially more hawkish than Obama.

That depends on the composition of the political climate. If Democratic primary voters choose their favorite on the basis of who was right in 2003, then Clinton will lose. If they choose like they generally use -- on a mix of attributes, attitudes and issues and electability, then the argument supporting the track of the primary race is three dimensional.

Obama and Clinton are running two very different campaigns. Clinton does not need to prove her mettle to the Democratic base, and the base has, so far, given her a pass on Iraq. Her assumption is that she's crossed the change threshold and can focus on her core competency, which is "experience and strength." It's politically brave to be making the electability argument now, as she is doing, or it is dumb if it alienates her base. So far, it hasn't alienated her base -- maybe because the base buys the Clinton worldview of what's presidential.

Obama's strategy is more risky: his idealism rings resonant with liberals, his anti-Iraq-war proclivity clearly helps him get second looks, but his contant critiques of both parties are probably not warmly recieved by the partisan Democrats who vote in primaries (except New Hampshire). Obama's other problem is that the anti-Iraq war vacuum in Iowa has been filled by John Edwards.

Hence, Obama's declaration today that what was really "naive" and "irresponsible" was voting for the war in the first place is, one, a critique of Clinton's judgment and Edwards's judgment, and two, an attempt to change the subject back to Iraq.

Clinton and Obama are talking past each other.