Saturday, January 19, 2008

"MSNBC: Is Obama being punished for telling it straight?" (with video)

RAW STORY. with video:
Barack Obama has spoken frankly about himself and his opinions on a number of occasions and has regularly been bashed for his admissions by his campaign rivals. Dan Abrams devoted a segment of his MSNBC show on Thursday to this pattern, wondering "Is Barack Obama just too honest to become president?"
When the Democratic candidates were asked at Tuesday's debate, "What is your biggest weakness?" Obama answered, "I ask my staff never to hand me paper until two seconds before I need it, because I will lose it. ... I need to have good people in place who can make sure that systems run."

In Hillary Clinton's hands, this self-description has been twisted into an acknowledgment of Bush-like incompetence. "Senator Obama said yesterday that he didn't intend to try to manage or run the government, that he was going to have advisers to do that," Clinton charged. "That is very reminiscent of what we've had for the last seven years. I intend to run the government."

"Come on," Abrams chortled. "Contrast that with the self-promotional so-called 'weaknesses' that Clinton and John Edwards offered up smothered in spin." He then played video of Clinton saying "I get impatient" in response to the same question and Edwards offering, "I sometimes have a very powerful emotional response to pain that I see around me."

"Gosh! That must have been so hard for him to admit that," commented Abrams.

"I don't want to see any candidate punished merely for telling it straight," Abrams insisted, adding that Clinton surrogates have also been bashing Obama over his admission of teenage drug use,

Peter Beinart of the New Republic agreed with Abrams, pointing out, "There's nothing more annoying than candidates saying their biggest flaw is that they care about the American people too much. ... Obama gave a reasonably modestly honest answer."

Rachel Sklar of the Huffington Post, however, argued on the other side that "people are entitled to scrutinize" Obama's answer -- to which Abrams responded by asking her whether it was fair to compare Obama to George Bush just because he admitted he needs some help in managing his office.

Clinton advisor Lanny Davis offered a more nuanced critique of Obama, suggesting that by describing himself as a visionary rather than a effective COO, he had been taking an indirect swipe at Clinton.

Abrams agreed there might be some justification in seeing Obama's words as a veiled criticism of Clinton, but insisted that turning them against him in this way would still tend to punish honesty.

"I totally disagree," said Sklar. "He shouldn't be held accountable for things he's done?"

"Accountable is different than, sort of, insinuations, which is what the Clinton campaign has been doing about the drug use," Abrams replied.

Abrams then brought up the Ronald Reagan flap, which arose out of Obama's recent remark that "I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. ... I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America. ... He tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism."

John Edwards slammed Obama for this remark, saying, "I would never use Ronald Reagan as an example of change" and pointing to the damage Reagan did to the unions, to the middle class, and to the environment.

"You can't raise Ronald Reagan as a Democrat and not expect some people to jump all over that," said Sklar as a justification of Edwards.

"That's a ridiculous answer," Beinart retorted. "What John Edwards said was absolutely pathetic. ... To say that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America ... is self-evident."

Davis tried to damp down the argument, suggesting soothingly, "He's entitled to his opinion, he's entitled to be criticized for his opinion, and there's nothing personal in what John Edwards said."

"To me, there's nothing opinionated about what Barack Obama said,"

Abrams responded in obvious frustration. "It's a fact. It's a fact."

"What John Edwards said was not personal. It was just stupid," Beinart concluded.

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