Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fix Pick: Obama, the New Gary Hart?

I enjoy reading Chris Cillizza, even when I don't agree with him but today, he pointed out what some of us have been suggesting all along many people want substance. Apparently a piece written by Matt Bai of the New York Times inspired Chris's blog post of today. I recommend reading it but what I found especially noteworthy is this part:

"Liberal causes built on beautiful speeches and campus rallies never really win the nomination," writes Bai. "They just fade into noble lore, fondly remembered by that breed of Democrat who seems to view losing as a kind of moral validation."

While not mentioned in the article, this again turns the focus to electability, who can get voters not only from the different philosophies of the Democratic Party but the Independents and even lure Republicans into supporting them. For that to happen the focus is going to have to be on substance...


Gary said...

Wow...You said it, and I am thinking it.

That is exactly what rubs me wrong about him. There's no substance to back up the rhetoric.

I think he is all talk, and the talk is painfully similar to the words of Hillary (who can back it up if she has to). Only Edwards seems to articulate vision, and combines that with artful rhetoric that has substance and a plan.


Lisa Renee said...

And unfortunately it appears the media is writing Edwards off as far as even attempting to give him the same amount of coverage as Clinton and Obama. Hopefully if he wins South Carolina it will help.

Tomas said...

Whether there is sufficient substance in Sen. Obama's campaign is yet to be seen. But to imply by comparison that there was "no beef" in Sen. Hart's 1984 campaign is erroneous. Read on:

Denver Post

Where's the beef?
By Dan Haley
Article Last Updated: 01/05/2008 07:18:54 PM MST

Shuffling through some old files in the office last week, I stumbled upon a yellowed clipping from The Futurist that someone from The Past had tucked away in a manila folder.
The piece was titled "The Future of the Democratic Party," and was dated December 1981. Democrats had just weathered the Reagan Revolution. Not only was a Republican elected president a year earlier, but Democrats lost their generation-long grip on the Senate.
They were searching for answers.
"Democrats need . . . to regain their own positive political vision," wrote then-Sen. Gary Hart, who was settling in to his second Senate term and scratching out the first of two presidential bids.
"Clearly, we can't do this by focusing first on the Republicans and then designing our own agenda in reaction to them. The party's future lies in the creation and articulation of a positive - not reactive - agenda."
Sounds like good advice for today's Democrats and Republicans.
The Hart piece was a fascinating read, given that we're now officially mired in high political season, where too often glitzy campaign ads, celebrity stumpers and soaring rhetoric substitute for substance and new ideas.
His piece was incredibly prescient, predicting exactly the issues we're faced with today.
The essay dropped, literally, onto my lap on the eve of the Iowa caucus. Ironic, since it was in Iowa 24 years ago that this unknown senator gained a national foothold by finishing a surprising second to front-runner Walter Mondale.
He did it by pitching new ideas that he thought would drive the country forward - an ingredient too often missing from today's Iowa debates.
With more than four days between Iowa and New Hampshire back then, Hart was able to use that momentum to upset the veep in N.H., shaking up the race for good. Mondale, though, somehow got away with criticizing Hart's ideas as empty, vague rhetoric. "Where's the beef?" Mondale deadpanned, proving, again, that easy slogans can win over substance.
The beef was there, had anyone looked. Hart outlined three issues in his essay that the United States would face in the 1980s: national defense, energy and economic revitalization.
While he whiffed on defense, considering how the Cold War would end - "We must never cease reminding Americans that an unrestrained nuclear arms race makes us weaker, not stronger" - his words on energy and the economy were striking.
He called energy independence a national security issue: "We cannot regain a clear vision of America's role in the world until we free ourselves from dependence on oil from the unstable Persian Gulf region," he wrote. "Until then, we risk being drawn into a vain, futile war for oil."
He backed an aggressive conservation program, and investment in renewable energy sources.
He also spotted the rapid growth of the country's high-tech sector: "We have concerned ourselves with shoring up aging industries . . . Our tax policy rewards investment in physical equipment, yet offers no similar incentive for investment in the human capital that drives our 'information economy.' "
Reading it begged the question: Is there a candidate out there today with such a clear vision of the future? And could he or she even articulate such a vision in our world of sound bites and slogans?
Hart couldn't do it 1984, but at least the more drawn-out process then allowed him to campaign all the way to the convention floor, where he would seal his front-runner status for a later bid.
Today's front-loaded caucus and primary system seems only to benefit the candidate with the money and organization, not the big ideas.
Where's the beef?
We may no longer have the time, or patience, to find out.
Editorial page editor Dan Haley can be reached at

Anonymous said...

I supported Hart in 1984 when Mondale scurried around the country repeating "Where's the beef?" after his aides literally taught the nasal-toned loser how to say it (true story).

All Mondale did was to get swept away in the biggest landslide in history to Reagan who was already exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's Disease.

The Democratic Party establishment skewered Hart and backed Mondale when Hart could have taken on Reagan and given him a much better run for his money.

Now the establishment works for Hillary so the Clinton aristocracy can again flourish.

I'm backing Edwards because I believe he is at least saying the right things and he is the most electable Dem in the race. The corporate media is doing their best to keep Edwards out of the race. What a shame!