Obama's Road To Victory
Bill Long 6/6/08
Five Easy Steps/Statements to Assure Victory
Now that Barack Obama has shrugged off the challenge to the Democratic Nomination for President of former First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton, he faces US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the general election. Many pundits and polls, trying to make the event a horserace, have solemnly proclaimed that the two stand about equal in the polls and in possibility of winning in November. I don't believe this is true (Obama has all things going for him), but even if it is so at this early stage, the Junior Senator from IL need only articulate five thoughts between now and the election to make sure that he will have a landslide not seen in this country since Ronald Reagan buried the hapless Walter Mondale in 1984. Because Presidential campaigns are long on style and sound-byte and short on real substance, it will be the master of the sound-byte that will win in the Fall. But sound-bytes, in order to win, must be in tune with the "flow" or direction of the American people. This essay suggests five statements that not only capture the sentiment of the electorate but expose the vulnerabilities of the two terms of George W. Bush. If Obama says these with even 1/3 of the passion which he normally musters, the election will be in the bag for him.
Statement # 1
"There will be no more spying on American citizens!"
Anyone who has been following the Congressional attempts to expand the reach of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the bobs and weaves of the Bush Administration when it has been caught overreaching in this department, realizes that the American people are fed up with the unilateral attempts of the Administration to do what it feels is good to "protect the American people" in this area. Actually, we don't really want the Government, in the name of national security, to have access to our emails, our health information, our cell phone records or to listen to our calls when we place them either to people in the US or abroad. All that Obama needs to do is to put his moral foot down, look at the cameras with blazing but controlled emotion, and say that this will stop. Whether or not it will stop is another question. He just needs to say it, and America will further swoon over him.
Statement # 2
"I will close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay!"
This facility opened for business in 2002 as a place for enemy combatants that our intelligence and military forces swept up around the world (not simply in the Afghanistan or Iraq theaters) and decided to hold indefinitely. The term "enemy combatant" was selected because it didn't have enough precedence in International Law to be a distinct category of prisoners--thus law was not really able to pronounce that such people should or should not be "tortured" (did the Geneva Conventions apply?) or whether protections offered people on American soil applied to them (was Guantanamo "American soil?"). Americans believe that the Bush Adminstration cynically chose to define prisoners in this way to tie up the issue in the courts for many years so that the Administration wouldn't have to deal with judicially-ordered release of prisoners before it left office in Jan. 2009. The American people, however, are fed up with the prevarications and deceptions of the Administration in this department, as well as our shady treatment of prisoners and chariness to extend protections of international law to them. Obama needs to only utter this line with conviction, and he will win the election.
Statement # 3
"We will have an honorable and speedy departure from Iraq!"
I think he will have to use both words ("honorable" and "speedy"). At one time I thought that only the latter word was sufficient, but he really needs to give the impression that he respects the military, the sacrifices of veterans and the ways that America has been engaged these six years in Iraq. McCain will try to play his "service in the military" card, and he certainly can trump Obama on that one. But the issue here has little to do with military service or "toughness" in the international arena. It has to do with extricating ourselves from a costly, costly war that really hasn't produced the democratic Middle East that Bush promised would be rather effortless in coming. McCain will be nuancing himself to death on this issue, but the American people don't want nuance anymore. They want action. Say it, Barack, and victory shall be thine.
Statement # 4
"We must immediately commit ourselves to developing and utilizing alternative sources of energy."
The Bush Administration has no credibility on energy issues; the typical American citizen thinks that Bush and Cheney are secretly chuckling as the price at the pump goes up because this price escalation benefits their friends. The idea of "alternative" sources of energy has been on the lips of every US President since the oil embargo of the mid-1970s. This time, however, America will listen. Why? Well, we are paying $4 or more at the pump now for a gallon of gasoline. Someone could probably make a credible argument that the War in Iraq and the price of gas are not unrelated. John McCain might try to say something on this, but he won't have the kind of credibility that Obama will have. Obama has been pitching himself as the "change" candidate. So, this is a way to "change." I think, to be honest, that this issue is much harder and much less "sexy" that one might think at first. One of the reasons that it hasn't been vigorously pursued as a national policy is because of that (as well as because of the cheap price of gas until 1999). But now is the time for a bold statement on the issue. America is only interested in statements during the Presidential campaign.
Statement # 5
"We will restore the reputation of the United States in international circles!"
Despite the fact that the US is bordered by oceans on two sides and has been secure in its hemisphere since Ronald Reagan declared that Grenada posed a threat to us in the 1980s, and that isolationsism has a strong tradition in this country, most Americans would like their country to be respected overseas. We are respected, and feared, of course, in much of the world. But we are ridiculed, also, and looked at with incredulity by many of our allies. Go to another country; the news looks fairly different, and not simply because they cover soccer rather than the NBA. Other countries simply don't define the world in the Zoroastrian-type terms that we have done.
There are many other things that he could say that would help him, but these are the "big 5." If he does this repeatedly, faithfully, and convincingly, John McCain really won't have much to say. At all.