Monday, January 25, 2016

President Obama on Walking and Chewing Gum at the Same Time

When talking about which candidate can most justly be called his heir and successor you can argue that both Bernie and Hillary can in their own way.

1. Bernie is in many ways more like candidate Obama in terms of being aspirational.

2. But Hillary is much more like President Obama.

It's also no secret who POTUS sees as his legitimate successor-Hillary Clinton.

"Barack Obama, that prematurely gray elder statesman, is laboring mightily to remain neutral during Hillary Clinton’s battle with Bernie Sanders in Iowa, the state that cemented his political legend and secured his path to the presidency."

"But in a candid 40-minute interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast as the first flakes of the blizzard fell outside the Oval Office, he couldn’t hide his obvious affection for Clinton or his implicit feeling that she, not Sanders, best understands the unpalatably pragmatic demands of a presidency he likens to the world’s most challenging walk-and-chew-gum exercise."

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In many ways he actually embraces her 2008 argument as much as his own:

"To some extent, he’s returning Clinton’s favor: The former secretary of state has lavished praise on Obama on the debate stage and in appearances throughout Iowa, where he remains immensely popular among the hardcore progressives who turn out for the labor-intensive caucuses. Her refrain on the trail these days in Waterloo, Ames, Davenport: “I don't think he gets the credit he deserves.”

"Obama didn’t utter an unkind word about Sanders, who has been respectfully critical of his administration’s reluctance to prosecute Wall Street executives and his decision to abandon a single-payer health care system as politically impractical. But he was kinder to Clinton. When I asked Obama whether he thought Sanders needed to expand his horizons, if the Vermont senator was too much a one-issue candidate too narrowly focused on income inequality, the president didn’t dispute the assertion."

"Gesturing toward the Resolute Desk, with its spread-winged eagle seal, first brought into the Oval Office by John F. Kennedy, Obama said of Sanders: “Well, I don’t want to play political consultant, because obviously what he’s doing is working. I will say that the longer you go in the process, the more you’re going to have to pass a series of hurdles that the voters are going to put in front of you.”

Then he added: “As you’ll recall, I was sitting at my desk there just a little over a week ago … writing my State of the Union speech, and somebody walks in and says, ‘A couple of our sailors wandered into Iranian waters’” — and here he stopped to chuckle in disbelief — “that's maybe a dramatic example, but not an unusual example of the job.”

"When I asked Obama if Clinton is facing “unfair scrutiny” this time around, his answer was a clipped “yes” — and he even admitted a tinge of regret that his own campaign had been so hard on her eight years ago."

"But when I asked him if Sanders reminded him of himself in 2008, he quickly shot me down: “I don’t think that's true.”

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What needs to be appreciated is how way back the relationship between him and HRC goes. When they first met in 2004 soon after POTUS"great Dem Convention speech of 2004, they had met and POTUS immediately liked her.

It's funny. The big line on Obama early-why he could be the black candidate to finally break through-was because here is a black guy who's totally comfortable hanging out with white folks.

It makes me think of the Cornell West's famous slur against the President a few years ago.

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West said. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white … When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening.”

“Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive,” West said. “He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.”

But putting away the fact that West meant this as a slur, it tells you why Obama had no problem hanging out with white folks. It goes back to his white Kansas mother who raised him.
His mother with her midwestern American values was very similar to Hillary Clinton's mother-who HRC has talked about a great deal lately. 
So Obama always was a fan of HRC and he even feels a little bad about how hard a time some of his supporters gave her in 2008.
“The truth is, in 2007 and 2008, sometimes my supporters and my staff, I think, got too huffy about what were legitimate questions she was raising,” he admitted. “And there were times where I think the media probably was a little unfair to her and tilted a little my way in calling her out.”

In fact, he said, Clinton “had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did.”

“She had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels,” he said. “She had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done. She had to, you know, handle all the expectations that were placed on her.”

“Had things gone a little bit different in some states or if the sequence of primaries and caucuses been a little different,” Obama added, “she could have easily won.”

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"But he also offered a surprisingly blunt assessment of Clinton’s weaknesses.

"She is better in “small groups” than big ones, he remarked, and he agreed that her first campaign appearances showed her to be “rusty” — comparing them to his God-awful first debate of the 2012 campaign. “[S]he’s extraordinarily experienced — and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out — [and] sometimes [that] could make her more cautious, and her campaign more prose than poetry,” he told me.

"This, from a president who has been governing in prose, especially during his second term. In fact, Obama’s experiences in office have brought him around to Clinton’s hardheaded view of the presidency, first forged during her eight years as first lady. “I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives,” he said, echoing the very critique Clinton makes of Sanders.

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For me in 2008, though I was for Hillary and I do agree that some of his supporters were over the line in some things they said about her, there was no problem at all in switching to Obama after he won the primary.

It was clear to me that these were two very qualified candidates. While I did think HRC was more experienced, I got that Obama's historical candidacy was very important. Though a grouse of mine still is why race is treated like more of a historical moment than gender.

But despite some rather heady rhetoric by Obama at the time it was clear to me he was basically a pragmatist.

This is different this time with Bernie. If he were to win-and despite what you're hearing, HRC remains in very good shape-it's be a real problem. I'm not at all sure I could even support her and he'd really screw up a party just when it's finding it's groove.

All I will say to Clinton supporters is that the fact that the media is cherrypicking the polls right now is probably a very good thing for Team Hillary

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