In the Arena

Barack Obama, Centrist

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Interesting interview with Obama in the WaPo today. I thought he was pretty sane and judicious about the differences between him and Hillary Clinton–and was surprised by the toxic reaction from the Clinton campaign:

Asked for a reaction to Obama’s comments, Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said by e-mail: “It’s unfortunate that Senator Obama is turning away from the politics of hope and employing attack politics instead. That’s certainly not going to bring our party — or our country — together. It’s Senator Clinton who has the strength and the experience to make the change this nation needs.”

Saying that Clinton is experienced, but brings a lot of 90s baggage with her, is not attack politics. It is simple truth. Another simple truth from Obama:

“There’s no doubt that the 60-second-format debates, or even 90-second, are tough for me,” he said, adding: “Some candidates have mastered that art more than I have.”

Which is a huge difference from Clinton, and most politicians, who never, ever admit the slightest imperfection in themselves–with good reason, since their opponents can use it against them, as the Clinton campaign will now be able to do: Obama himself admits he stinks in debates. Shouldn’t we have someone who can eviscerate the Republicans on stage in the general election?

Also interesting is Obama’s backtracking a bit on the subject of Washington lobbyists:

During the interview, Obama softened his attacks on Washington lobbyists. He and former senator John Edwards (N.C.) take no money from Washington lobbyists, while Clinton does, and both have sharply criticized the power of lobbyists in shaping policies harmful to average Americans.
“The insurance and drug companies can have a seat at the table in our health-care debate; they just can’t buy all the chairs,” he said. “My argument is not that they are the source of all evil. My argument is that things are out of balance in Washington and that their influence is disproportionate.”

In fact, the Democratic candidates’ position on lobbyists is pretty disingenous: John Edwards isn’t going to let the lobbyists for the AFL-CIO or AARP or the NAACP or the Human Rights Campaign or the Sierra Club have their say? It’s admirable that Edwards and Obama aren’t taking special interest money, but the notion that they’re going to ignore the Democrats’ collection of special interests is ridiculous.

Obama’s persistent commission of the sin of candor is the best part of his campaign.

Update: Commenter James asks a relevant question:

What “baggage” is that Joe? You beltway types always talk about her “baggage” but never say what it is. Come on. Exactly what are you people talking about?

Actually, Obama answers that pretty well in the interview:

“I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can,” Obama said. “I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the ’90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be running.”

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