In a speech in Mason City yesterday, Obama delivered a preview, focusing on change. He recalled his announcement, last February, in Springfield, Illinois, standing in the steps of Abraham Lincoln. "We felt that we might be able to not just change political parties in the White House," Obama said about the effort launched that day, "but that we might be able to change our politics. That was our bet and now 10 months later that faith has been vindicated, 10 months later what people said couldn't be done, we might do."
Nobody would argue that Obama has brought something unique into the campaign. Aside from the obvious issue of race, Obama has the kind of insurgent persona that has been mostly missing in presidential politics in recent decades. And if "change" is defined simply by the emergence of a fresh face, Obama certainly qualifies. But it's less clear how, as he claims, our politics have changed in any fundamental way and it remains doubtful that his party is truly seeking such a shift.
About the most radical policy shift Obama has proposed thus far in the campaign has been his stated willingness to sit down face-to-face with adversarial foreign leaders from nations like North Korea and Iran. He talks about throwing the lobbyist money changers out of the national temple (or at least scooting them down the table) and proposes stiffer lobbying restrictions for his administration.
But after decades of tit-for-tat retributions and bitter partisanship, are activists in either party ready to lay down their arms and just get along? Do Democrats want to elect a president who will work with Republicans or are they looking more for someone who will throw themselves into correcting the wrongs they perceive to have been perpetrated by eight years of Republican rule? Is the change they seek more a change in policy than a change of "our politics?" And wouldn't any of the Democratic candidates deliver it?
It's unclear just how much "our politics" can change in the present environment. Real divisions exist on real issues – foreign policy, the makeup of the judiciary, taxes, national security, immigration and social values to name just a few. Not all of them break down strictly along party lines but most are fodder for the talk shows, blogs and shouting matches that have come to dominate American political discussion. And none will be decided without a fight.
Ronald Reagan promised a new "morning in America," George H.W. Bush imagined a "kinder, gentler" nation, Bill Clinton pledged a "bridge to the 21st Century" and George W. Bush vowed to "change the tone" of Washington. Now, Obama touts his ability to "change our politics." In his closing argument, will he say how?
Unfriendly Neighbors: Mitt Romney's taking a beating from some of New Hampshire's biggest newspapers. The former Massachusetts governor was excoriated in an editorial by the Concord Monitor, which wrote: "When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it. Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no."
The Romney campaign shoved aside the blast, noting that the paper has an ideological edge. "The Monitor's editorial board is regarded as a liberal one on many issues, so it is not surprising that they would criticize Governor Romney for his conservative views and platform," campaign spokesman Kevin Madden said.
Today, the Manchester Union-Leader, a decidedly non-liberal newspaper, followed up with an editorial of its own: "In this primary, the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes. That is why Granite Staters who have listened attentively are now returning to John McCain. They might not agree with McCain on everything, as we don't, but like us, they judge him to be a man of integrity and conviction, a man who won't sell them out, who won't break his promises, and who won't lie to get elected."
The Union-Leader has endorsed McCain – as have the two major Boston newspapers.
Some Details Finally Emerge On Rudy's Health: Rudy Giuliani's personal physician, Dr. Valentin Fuster, yesterday vouched for the former mayor's health after a week of questions surrounding Giuliani spent a night in the hospital with "flu-like symptoms." In a statement released by the campaign, Fuster said Giuliani was sent to the hospital complaining of a severe headache and that the decision was made in order to "err on the side of caution." Fuster said Giuliani was given a CT-MRI of the brain, an ultrasound of the carotid arteries, and spinal fluid evaluation. "These tests all came back normal," he said. Fuster also said that a recent PSA test given to the prostate cancer survivor was normal and that after returning to New York Giuliani underwent a transesophageal echocardiogram which was normal. "It is my medical opinion that Rudy Giuliani is in very good health," Fuster concluded.
Around The Track