Now Obama Refuses To Condemn Clark

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 16:00

This is good. The Obama accountability movement scores another victory, and this one is more meaningful than the last one. Now, Obama is refusing to condemn Clark's comments, and is making a much better response to the question:

Obama was asked by a young man, and responded calmly (with pleasant but mild indignation) about apologizing to John McCain:

"Are you going to apologize to John McCain, for what Wesley Clark Said", Obama responded, "why should I respond to something, that I never said, that happened on some Sunday morning talk show". Obama continued "I think we have more important things to talk about, and I'm not sure the average person in Ohio is thinking about this"

Now that wasn't so hard, was it? Refuse to answer the question. Deny legitimacy to the smear attacks against Wesley Clark. Refuse to condemn an important ally like Wesley Clark. Position yourself above the fray of oh-so-typical "can you believe s/he said that?" politics. This was always the appropriate response, and it is fantastic that Obama is now making it himself. It is a clear improvement upon yesterday's rejection of Clark's comments, a rejection which, I should note, was made by a Obama staffer rather than by Obama himself.

More in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Now Obama Refuses To Condemn Clark

I'm starting to think that it is possible to hold Obama accountable during the general election, without working to hurt his chances in that election one bit. It is important that the Obama campaign not give credibility to right-wing smear attacks against important Democratic surrogates and activist organizations, because damaging the credibility of those surrogates and those organizations damages the Democratic and progressive cause. Now, at least in part because we protested so loudly, Obama is not rejecting Clark or condemning his comments. Problem solved. A small, but not unimportant, victory for the Obama accountability movement has been made.

The progressive grassroots might not be swing voters, but we are swing activists. Making sure that we remain excited and enthusiastic about helping Barack Obama with our activism is important to the Obama campaign. As such, expressing our displeasure with the Obama campaign can potentially hold him accountable, and change campaign behavior. If he wants effective surrogates, organizations, and activists supporting his cause, the campaign seems to be learning that it can't just throw them under the bus at the first sign of a right-wing smear attack against those surrogates, organizations and activists. We can stop the Sista Souljah-ing. While this isn't a total victory, it is a victory none the less, and a step in the right direction.  

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Good on him (4.00 / 3)
And good on Clark for standing up for himself, which made this response from Obama possible.

And good on folks like VoteVets (4.00 / 1)
That backed Clark, that probably helped him feel the support he needed to refuse to back down over the comment.  And good on us for backing both VoteVets and Clark.

Suddenly, a feel-bad story has turned into a feel-good one.  Something of a positive feedback loop has been built that helps Democrats stand up to the fire from the right.

Saxby Chambliss  

[ Parent ]
Good on him (4.00 / 1)
And good on Clark for standing up for himself, which made this response from Obama possible.

good on Clark (0.00 / 0)
for not bcking down on Verdict last night and Obama responses is better...

Actually, he never did condemn Clark (4.00 / 3)
And no, the "Obama accountability project" didn't do anything here.

This was a fairly obvious game plan that the netroots completely missed the play on:

The rebuke yesterday from Bill Burton was extremely mild.

Right. (0.00 / 0)
I don't think we should be so quick to claim credit for persuading Obama to do something which he probably was going to do anyway.

[ Parent ]
What Part of Plausible Deniability Don't You Understand? (0.00 / 0)
Or did the dog eat your homework on that subject?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
it means don't treat your audience as if it can't read between the lines (0.00 / 0)
and, therefore, as if it's stupid. if you still say huh?  I am not sure what to tell you

[ Parent ]
Wes Clark Gets All The Credit For This One (4.00 / 4)
I'm glad the netroots raised a hue and cry about this, but I think it was cleary Wes Clark who made this happen.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Agreed (0.00 / 0)
If not Edwards, then Wes for VP!

[ Parent ]
That's definitely better, but... (0.00 / 0)
...Burton did say "of course [Obama] rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."  That was a pretty definitive statement.  If Obama's preferred approach from the beginning was to dismiss this whole thing as nonsense that isn't worth his time, then the initial response from his campaign should have reflected that as well.

That said, perhaps this combination is what Obama settled on from the beginning: reject the comment at first, let Clark fend for himself, and then dismiss it whenever anyone brings it up again.  That's better than continuing to reject/denounce/reject-and-denounce what Clark said, but still not ideal.  

In any event, this specific response to that voter's question was a good response, so props to Obama for that.

Why can't anyonre accept that this was a gaffe... (0.00 / 0) really was...  the one sentence, that is... unintentional, but a gaffe nonetheless, and off message...

The Obama camp is not big on going off message... you go off message, that will be nipped int he bud immediately.

Of course he rejected the one statement... it was a gaffe... why would he "accept" a gaffe?

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Why was it a gaffe? (4.00 / 2)
That hasn't been explained to me.  

[ Parent ]
Because of the stress on "qualifications" (4.00 / 1)
I don't think it was a gaffe, I think it was inartful.  This is an area of criticism of McCain that has to be handled deftly, where a little goes a long way.  The McCain campaign doesn't want anyone getting too close to his military record, and will push back vehemently on this.  Plus, McCain has a reservoir of good will with the public and press because he was a POW.  

The real issue, however, isn't McCain's qualifications.  It is McCain's awful judgment in supporting the Iraq War and its perpetual continuance, war with Iran, preemptive war etc,  It is a judgment issue.  Obama wins on that and the public is with him.  But mention "qualifications" and we are back on "who is qualified to be Commander in Chief?"  The issue has to be fought on judgment not experience, and Clark kind of fell into Schieffer's trap by using those terms, even if Schieffer brought it up.  He wasn't as careful as he was the last time he brought it up.  And it is clearly something they will go ballistic over, because McCain's record really doesn't bear close examination and his biography is really all he's got.  

Look, do I think this is fair or even significant?  No, but Obama's surrogates and would-be surrogates have to be careful.  Obama is usually ok himself in what he says, but he can't be called on to commment on everything.  He's got to do his speeches and appearances and count on staff and surrogates staying on message.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Not a gaffe - its a feature (4.00 / 6)
Schieffer said "I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean..."

And Clark's answered back "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

This is what set off McCain's fuse and it bears scrutiny. The cultural assumptions behind it bear scrutiny. Its the mythic hero template, the trial by fire, the Christ-like suffering and near-death for a higher cause, for America, for you and me.

When the hero survives the unimaginable trial by fire, he assumes magical warrior chief status. He has passed the test of life, the test of the god or gods, and ascended to a higher plane above ordinary mortals and TV pundits.

A lot of McCain's selling point is based on this claim of assumed status. Clark is popping his balloon.

[ Parent ]
This has been debated in previous threads (4.00 / 1)
I don't think it's smart to accept the media's insistence that it was a gaffe.  Allowing McCain to blur the boundaries between disparaging his military service and questioning its direct relevance to being president is not going to benefit Obama, IMO.

Obviously, we just disagree on the particulars of that dispute.  

[ Parent ]
accepting that means accepting democrats as victims (0.00 / 0)
without any control at all. Under you theory, even when elected , we are beholden to no saying anything that doesn't exactly agree with the GOP framing of an issue. If you disagree- I point out post 2006 Congressional action. You aren't game changing, but instead game covering.

[ Parent ]
Exactly. Once again Al shows why he's a real journalist (0.00 / 0)
and the rest of the netroots are just bloggers.

[ Parent ]
Guilty as charged (4.00 / 1)
Since I have no desire to become a "real journalist," and never have had such a desire, I'm gulty on that count.

[ Parent ]
You have some fixation (0.00 / 1)
with this "real journalist" thing (and Giordano too).  Pray tell, what makes "real journalists" so much smarter than us bloggers?

Perhaps "real journalists" know that appeals to authority are a logical fallacy and one's status as a paid journalist or DFH blogger do not actually make one right about things.

[ Parent ]
The guy is good (0.00 / 0)
He's made me respect that line of work again.

I'm not appealing to authority - I'm saying the guy is good.

He's outpredicted the prominent bloggers at this site throughout this election season, for example, both in hard numbers and in analysis.

He presents evidence using history rather than "blogger intuition" as to why events will or won't turn out certain ways and what is and isn't important.  And so his insight is something I value highly.  (I'm sure you do the same, whether you admit it or not - the source matters.  Are you going to give more credence to an argument made by Sean Hannity or one by Bill Moyers?)

And he doesn't go all Chicken Little on everyone at a moments' notice.

[ Parent ]
You are appealing to authority (0.00 / 0)
And you're trolling by being needlessly provocative with that "just bloggers" crap.

And "chicken little" is just a straw man.  Who did that here?  You're here often enough that I don't get how you could misread the mood here so much, but there it is.  Some front pagers are unhappy with Obama's recent moves on a few issues and said so.  Whose sky was falling?  

[ Parent ]
the caps really make your point (4.00 / 3)
Iw asn't sure if I agreed with you, but when you put LEARN SOMETHING IN ALL CAPS, I was persuaded.

Effective ALL CAPS. Cierco would commend you on your rhetoric.  

[ Parent ]
Whoa! I bet Chris totally got his learn on! (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
Got it! (4.00 / 1)
It was really all part of Obama's secret plan.

[ Parent ]
Right (0.00 / 0)
Maybe Clark's real gaffe was giving the McCain camp and the press a story to overshadow what was a really great speech.  That's what I suggested yesterday.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
In case you didn't read it (4.00 / 1)
Or click through to Al's post, it was Obama's stress on dissent as an integral part of patriotism that was really powerful.  How many of you got that from the news reports?  Al's piece is good blogging.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Great Speech, but Wait... (0.00 / 0)
Wasn't Obama the guy who took a walk when the Senate--the Senate!-- condemned MoveOn?  If that wasn't a time for Constitutional Law Prof. Obama to actually defend dissent than what was?   I'm getting tired of reading ringing endorsements of speeches in the absence of endorseable action.

[ Parent ]
Wait isnt there a confusion going on here? (4.00 / 1)
How can we the people dissent when its legal for our government to spy on us? Does Obama talk about that in his patriotism speech?

[ Parent ]
The key questions! (0.00 / 0)
Thanks for pointing out what should be obvious to all.

[ Parent ]
refuses (4.00 / 1)
Maybe next time everyone should just wait for Obama to comment directly about these things. Surrogates are tough to control, as we've seen many times.

Surrogates are one thing (0.00 / 0)
But campaign spokespeople are a different thing.

[ Parent ]
Hooray! (0.00 / 0)
This is not just good for progressives -- it helps Obama.  Signing onto these right-wing/McCain smears just makes Obama look weak and undermines his position.  Dismissing them is much more becoming.

Glad to see Obama's shift.


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