Obama's recent action shows what the debates, so far, have failed to: he's a principled leader with a clear head about the Bush Administration.
Certainly, Obama isn't the only Democratic Presidential hopeful who can say this. Essentially, the only one of the candidates who doesn't seem completely clear on how to handle Bush's Iran rhetoric is Hillary.
I actually admire and like Hillary Clinton a great deal. I simply think that this theory of triangulation, while mathematically sound when approaching the general election, is bloodless at best. The medias narrative rewards political skill and "running a good campaign." Stories about clear-headed policies and what sort of person SHOULD be in the White House seem far less forthcoming.
Note, for example, the coverage of the last Democratic debate, that seems obsessed with "blood in the water." The media narrative of Hillary's inevitability has crumbled, replaced with a sense of excitement about the prospects of a vicious horse-race. This has far less to do with the interests of the country than it does the interest of the press itself as a business. A knock-down-drag-out race is simply better television. That's why they pushed so hard to give Obama the bad advice of going on the attack.
Obama, thus far, has done far less attacking than the media would like. It's certainly good to see him draw distinctions and actually run against Hillary. But I think if he did become John Edwards and go after Clinton's character, he'd be up the creek too. You can't be the candidate of hope while you're firing off rounds.
In many ways, Obama has been smarter than people are giving him credit for. First of all, Iowa is a statistical tie, and Iowans are known to shy away from front-runners (see Howard Dean and John Kerry.) So going negative doesn't guarantee him anything but an opportunity for Clinton to make him seem compromised. By doing what he's doing (running a person-to-person campaign on the ground; appealing to the press as a reasonable human being; making fantastic speeches; keeping it cool) he allows the press to eat Clinton all by itself, and let's Edwards do the heavy lifting. Edwards seems perfectly happy to go hard after Clinton.
I personally would not be shocked to see any of the Democrats break out at this point. Dodd and Biden are actually excellent candidates and probably have the status quo thing that will work in the early states. If the Clinton wins Iowa and New Hampshire, more power to her. But Obama's media narrative (he's not fighting hard enough) and reality might be farther apart than we've seen so far. That's at least what I suspect.
I'd also like to add, since I'm rambling, that Kucinich is awesome. Before the UFO "gotcha" moment, every time he opened his mouth in the debate, he was clear-headed, articulate, and dead-right on most everything he said. You'll note how little attention his main point is: that Bush should be impeached. He hammered it home with the little time he was given. What gets on the news? UFOs. Our responsible media, again on display.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.