Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Call me crazy, but I'm not quite ready to jump whole hog onto the Barack Obama bandwagon. Sure, he's young, smart, charasmatic, telegenic and has more momentum right now than the pre-Super Bowl Patriots, and he could very well be our next president and perhaps even a great one at that. But, that doesn't mean there aren't real issues with his candidacy. Issues that could very quickly derail a national campaign against Sen. John McCain.
Democrats fall in love easily. They have a tendency to over-intellectualize everything, and end up sticking their heads in the proverbial sand as a result. Not me. I'm a realist, and I worry. I worry that Sen. Obama might just be the Democrats' version of the guy we'd like to have a beer with. And we know where that voting strategy got America the last time. As Air America Radio host Lionel said Wednesday morning of the Illinois Senator's great oratory skills, "Obama is the bedside manner; Hillary is the experienced heart surgeon." Great point. And if Hillary's the heart surgeon, how will voters view McCain? Is he the Hospital's Chief Administrator?
A serious turning point for me, as I wrote Tuesday night, was something that occured in the Wisconsin post-primary coverage on MSNBC. Here's what I wrote:
...As an aside, the ever-entertaining and Hardball-throwing Chris Matthews of MSNBC did an interview Tuesday night with Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson, an outspoken Obama supporter. Matthews aggressively pressed Watson on three occasions to name one legislative accomplishment of Obama's while in the U.S. Senate. Three times. The poor shlemiel from Texas was rendered speechless. He kept falling back on the whole "inspirational" thing (which is starting to get real tired, by the way) and Matthews relentlessly pursued the answer to his question. Stammering, all Watson could muster was "I'm not gonna be able to do that tonight." Matthews replied, "Well that's a real problem, isn't it?" Yes it is, Chris, my thoughts exactly. Just wait until the Republican attack machine starts asking the very same question....
If I were leading McCain's team, I'd be preparing what would be the very first question I'd have my candidate lob at Obama at their first nationally-televised debate: "I was a U.S. representative from '82-86, and have been a Senator for the past 22 years. I've sponsored/authored and/or passed major legislation such as McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman, McCain Detainee Amendment, the 9-11 Commission...tell us, Sen. Obama, tell us just one legislative accomplishment of yours while in the U.S. Senate." And Obama better have an answer other than that he "inspires people"... or we're in for some serious trouble.
I struggle with Obama and the Obama phenomenon. I worry that, like the car that is at or below empty, he's running on fumes. I worry that, beyond inspirational rhetoric (Remember "bring honor and integrity back to the White House?" Remember "compassionate conservatism?") and sexy soundbytes, that there's not a lot of "there" there. And that's precisely why Hillary Clinton, despite a string of 10 losses, still runs a close race where total delegates are concerned...and there's still several major contests coming up like Texas and Ohio, where she could fare very well. The simple truth is, virtually 50% of Democrats are just not feeling the inspiration. And I for one don't want another empty suit like George Bush just because that suit is blue and not red. What I care about, what I obsess over, is winning in November. Democrats would be terribly remiss if they do not start to make these observations as well, and ask the same hard questions before they fall in love and end up heartbroken once again.
And here's one last thought on the issue of whether or not he played dirty Tuesday night by pre-empting Hillary's consession speech to start his victory speech: just because she may not have lost "gracefully," as the Obama camp claims, doesn't mean he has carte blanche not to win gracefully. Two wrongs don't make a right. It was bad judgement call on his part, and he should take the heat for it.
On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We are a tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my wife's honor to help carry out her spirit and passion, with the goal of assisting women filmmakers. Adrienne was brutally killed in NYC on November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We've established scholarships, grants, finishing funds and living stipends at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; the Independent Feature Project; the Nantucket Film Festival; and the Sundance Institute. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us achieve this very important mission. Thank you.