Friday, December 28, 2007

Kim Strassel and Peggy Noonan see Obama differently

Noonan says:

Barack Obama? He has earned the attention of the country with a classy campaign, with a disciplined and dignified staff, and with passionate supporters such as JFK hand Ted Sorensen, who has told me he sees in Obama's mind and temperament the kind of gifts Kennedy displayed during the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. Obama is thoughtful, and it would be a pleasure to have a president who is highly literate and a writer of books.

Is he experienced enough? No. He's not old enough either. Men in their 40s love drama too much. Young politicians on fire over this issue or that tend to see politics as a stage on which they can act out their greatness. And we don't need more theatrics, more comedies or tragedies. But Mr. Obama doesn't seem on fire. He seems like a calm liberal with a certain moderating ambivalence. The great plus of his candidacy: More than anyone else he turns the page. If he rises he is something new in history, good or bad, and a new era begins.

On the other hand, Strassel writes:

Mr. Obama has offered reforms. He has proposed requiring employers to enroll workers in retirement accounts; he has suggested linking teacher pay to performance; and he has agreed that health-care reform should include insurance and drug companies. But he's already backtracked in the face of interest group opposition, telling school union members that pay shouldn't be linked to test scores. Much of his American Dream agenda--refundable tax credits for college tuition, more after-school programs, annual minimum wage hikes--is an extension of the increasingly standard Democratic play off "income inequality," and would result in a bigger federal government. Most would also be paid for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts. Tax and spend; this is pretty standard Democratic stuff.

So what is his plan? He may have let it slip in a recent interview, when he explained that a big reason he should be the Democratic nominee is that he could carry his party to a sweeping congressional victory that would provide a "mandate for change." "I mean, if we have a 50-plus-one election, we cannot get a serious health-care bill done. We can't have a serious agenda on climate change," he said.

That doesn't sound like a man who wants to work with Republicans toward a bipartisan era. It sounds like a man who wants to crush his opponents at the polls, and then bulldoze his agenda through an enfeebled opposition. There isn't anything necessarily wrong with that; it's what politicians have been trying to do for decades. But it's certainly nothing new.


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