Saturday, April 26, 2008

And He Can

What happened to “Yes We Can”? I mean other than Hillary stealing a version-which is benign at best. I loved when Obama asked a question and everyone yelled, “yes we can”. That was the kind of enthusiasm and hopeful rhetoric that resonated with a discouraged and sometimes disenfranchised public, and with cynics such as myself.

If you saw the ad for the Governor’s race in North Carolina, you know what the Republican’s are planning for the fall. This ad was about Reverend Wright and the candidate. Obama has his arm around Reverend, then Obama has his arm around Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, and the voice over connects the dots. I don’t think it’s necessary to tell you much more. You can write the script. Hillary should denounce it - but she won’t because it works for her - only right now.

There isn’t a person who watches TV, reads the newspaper, or listens to the radio, who doesn’t know what the Republicans are going to do an Obama candidacy. So do we think he should throw in the towel, take his bowling ball and go home, or simply disappear into the morass of a do nothing senate. Which by the way reminds me of a Clinton speech I heard a few days ago. Hillary said if she’s elected President she will investigate the oil companies for gouging. I may be wrong, but can’t a sitting Senator call for a hearing? What’s she waiting for?

Anyway, I don’t want him to go anywhere. I like primaries. As I have said many times, I do think they tell you a great deal about the candidates, the campaign, and the staff people who might be running the government next January. But more than primaries I like a good, clean, feisty contest. So how does Barack get back in the game-if you hadn’t noticed he’s been treading water rather swimming strokes since the last debate. It is clear that people want to believe he understands the problems they face daily. He needs to address those issues of concern to the public (as well the media) and there can be no secrets. He can do this by getting back to what has worked repeatedly…. Yes he can!

Suppose he took a list of those issues, (the flag/lapel pin, misspeaking ‘bitter’, the real estate scandal, the Reverend Wright nonsense, etc.) and designed a vocal riff that ended up with, “Yes We Can” , or a version like the ones he used to get to the political place he is now. Suppose he cut off all this noise at the knees with his incredible ability to articulate the passion people feel. I’m not very good at this and I changed the riff a little, but here’s an example of what I mean:

“They are trying to tell you that I don’t love this country. But you know that’s not true, and together we need to make it clear that this is a lie. Yes We Can. They say that Michelle isn’t proud of her country. This is also a lie, so we need to talk louder and clearer. And We Can. They say I sat in church and listened to the minister preach hate. So we talked about it as a nation, and still the lies continue, the hate mongering has become sport. But we need to bind together and get beyond the hateful rhetoric. And We Can. They tried to connect me with thieves, and terrorists and who know what else. They know it’s not true but they think if they say it enough times in enough ways, people will believe it. And maybe they’re right about some people. But not the people who want real change. We need to win this election because the world is in trouble, people are suffering. And We Can. They take a word like bitter and twist it and maybe I misspoke but people are angry about paying high health costs, high food costs, high oil costs, high costs of education. We need to tell the people who have friends making money from all the high costs we pay, that it has to stop. And We Can.”

OK, These examples may seem a little lame, more like the "Daiyanu" chant at Passover than a preacher at a sermon, but I’m not writing speeches anymore. My point is that the high road was working for Obama. Over the last six weeks he has allowed his opponent to define the terms of the debate. You can never win when you are fighting with someone else’s definitions. Further, he needs to have surrogates do the mud slinging. He should never do more than say he is angry, outraged, indignant, about something terrible that’s been done or said about him by an opponent. A Bill Richardson or a Lanny Davis- like colleague needs to do this. He cannot in any way afford to appear smug, elite, or unfeeling. The campaign should determine what their definition of a leader is and every time he appears he needs to talk about what that means. Consequently, it will define what he can be as a leader and what his opponents are not. I wish I was getting paid for this incredibly good advice. But, as they say, you get what you pay for. Who says that? Anyway I am happy to offer suggestions. And I hope what I think, makes everyone feel better about going forward with a candidate about whom they still have concerns. But if he does a few simple things it will answer the questions that Super Delegates are asking, he will be the nominee and he just might be the next President. And He Can.

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