July 27, 2007

Krauthammer: Obama Is The New Tom Hagen

One of the nagging questions that has trailed Barack Obama on his meteoric rise to the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates took on new import this week after the YouTube debate on CNN. Obama's assertion that he would meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar Assad, Kim Jong-Il, and Fidel Castro drew a sharp rebuke from Hillary Clinton and most others as "irresponsible and naive," which drew attention once again to the very thin resumé Obama brings to the race.

Charles Krauthammer points out that Obama made the same mistake in an earlier debate, and concludes that Obama is no wartime president:

To be on the same stage as the leader of the world's greatest power is of course a prize. That is why the Chinese deemed it a slap in the face that President Bush last year denied President Hu Jintao the full state-visit treatment. The presence of an American president is a valued good to be rationed -- and granted only in return for important considerations.

Moreover, summits can also be traps if they're not wired in advance for success, such as Nixon's trip to China, for which Henry Kissinger had already largely hammered out the famous Shanghai Communique. You don't go hoping for the best, as Hillary's husband learned at the 2000 Camp David summit, when Yasser Arafat's refusal of Israel's peace offer brought Arafat worldwide opprobrium -- from which he sought (successfully, as it turned out) to escape by launching the second intifada. Such can be the consequences of ill-prepared summits.

Obama may not have known he made an error, but his staff sure did. In the post-debate spin room, his closest adviser, David Axelrod, was already backpedaling, pretending that Obama had been talking about diplomacy and not summitry with rogue state leaders.

Obama enthusiasts might want to write this off as a solitary slip. Except that this was the second time. The first occurred in another unscripted moment. During the April 26 South Carolina debate, Brian Williams asked what kind of change in the U.S. military posture abroad Obama would order in response to a hypothetical al-Qaeda strike on two American cities.

Obama's answer: "Well, the first thing we'd have to do is make sure that we've got an effective emergency response -- something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans."

In both cases, it shows that Barack Obama doesn't have the mindset of an executive. Like Tom Hagen in The Godfather, he doesn't have the cunning instinct necessary for success in understanding the layers of communication and symbolism that goes into becoming a good Commander in Chief. He doesn't even have enough of those skills to present a credible threat to Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

Initially, though, Hillary's response wasn't all that much better. She didn't really rule out meeting with the same people. She said, "I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be." Only after the debate, while Obama's people tried to convince people that Obama didn't say what he said, did Hillary realize the opening she had and drove her rhetorical Mack truck straight through it.

Obama has wrongfooted himself twice now on national-security questions, and the pattern Krauthammer highlights paints a picture of an amateur trying desperately to become a master overnight. No one doubts Obama's ability as a communicator, but the national healer schtick has run thin. People don't want to elect a Dr. Phil to the White House in a time of war; they want someone who knows how to protect America and keep our enemies at bay.

If Obama can't turn this around, he may wind up risking his shot at the bottom half of the ticket At one point, he seemed a natural for Hillary's running mate, but a VP has to have a grip on foreign policy and national security. Hillary may have to look elsewhere for her running mate, especially if the two keep sniping at each other the way they have this week.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Krauthammer: Obama Is The New Tom Hagen:

» But Which Candidate Is Kay Adams? from Ed Driscoll.com
"Krauthammer: Obama Is The New Tom Hagen".... [Read More]

Comments (26)

Posted by Matt B | July 27, 2007 8:31 AM

Not sure I agree with the Tom Hagen analogy entirely. The "not a wartime consigliere" fits, but in Tom's case it was because he wasn't viscious enough, not that he wasn't a good executive. Obama appears weak and a poor manager.

Posted by Jim | July 27, 2007 8:49 AM

I think you're being little hard on Obama, Capt. I mean, what do you expect from a state legislator who is has primarly been accustomed to issues involving sewers and pothole repairs - and who is a newcomer to national policy. He is "energetic" and is a "fresh voice" and he "speaks really well" for petes sake!

And, best of all, he has "demonstrated an uncanny knack for transcending the bitter cultural divisions created in Washington's toxic environment during this adminstrations past eight years, and, some political analysts even feel that he can truly be the "uniter" polls suggest Americans overwhelmingly yearn for - not seen since the days of FDR or Jack Kennedy." (That is my own quote, to demonstrate how eminently qualified I am to write 'news' articles for AP or Newsweek, or perhaps even get a gig with the CBS Evening News!! "This is Jim reporting from Obama campaign headquarters - back to you in the studio, Katie")

I mean, if the man, as a recent Illinois state legislator, truly lacks any sort of reasonable sort of background, reasonable sort of requisite experience (either politically or in the corporate, diplomatic, academic, or other areas) not to mention lacking any sort of what is called "gravitas" whatsoever, certainly the fair and objective national print and television media will point out these failings to us, rather than us having to rely on (temporary until the Fairness Doctrine kicks in in 2009) a.m. Radio ranters, and obscure right-wing web cites? Unless they, quite reasonably, get too bogged down by tracking down whether Fred Thompson once represented an abortion clinic in a lawsuit, or whether Mitt Romney's great grandfather had four or five wives, or whether Liz Edwards should be canonized by the Pope now or later, etc. I mean, there are only so many hours in the day!

Posted by RBMN | July 27, 2007 8:51 AM

It could be the sign of something worse: megalomania. Obama would represent himself as President of the United State--not necessarily our government, or future Presidents. Just him. If it feels right for him...it's all good.

Posted by KauaiBoy | July 27, 2007 9:04 AM

What an impressive bunch the Democrats are offering---two American Idol contestants and a shrill witch who makes Martha Stewart look charming. Too bad they are not tending to their elected duties---but then again maybe not.

Posted by John | July 27, 2007 9:18 AM

Really, Obama sounds like nothing more than an updated version of Jimmy Carter, who if elected, would find himself both in over his head and as shocked as Carter was when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan that folks like Chavez, Kim or Ahmadinejad don't keep their word and do something that sends an Obama administration into a major crisis.

(And if Giuliani and Obama were to square off, the media angle on it would be pretty similar to Rudy's 1989 mayoral campaign against David Dinkins, who used a nice guy/coming together/historic step forward for African Americans theme to get elected against a mean-spirited Republican, and was then in totally over his head for the next four years.)

Posted by TW | July 27, 2007 9:26 AM

Bush junior had no foreign policy experience and look what a fine job he's done. No, wait...

Obama has you really worried doesn't he? So this is the best attack you can gin up?

Posted by Jim | July 27, 2007 10:00 AM

Oh boy, TW, you sure nailed us. BUSTED! I..am...so...redfaced, now. You are SO right; just look at ALL those conservative blogs and commentators who have consistently HAILED all of Bush's foreign policy successes, and endlessly proclaim the "fine job" he's done.

Oh wait - that hasn't happened.

It is certainly true that past experience (or for that matter ANY experience) is not a sure fire indicator of being - let's use the word "effective" rather than "successful" (since success is a subjective concept depending on factors such as how important one thinks it is for France to like us, to use one example) in the oval office. After all, if we assume that it is preferable for a Chief Executive to have at least some managerial or executive experience (which tends to support electing an ex or current governor of a state, such as Reagan, Clinton, Bush) how does that explain Carter, who was unable to effectively manage his way out of a paper bag as President, in spite of being his experience as a state's chief executive?

Nevertheless, if we're going to elect a national politician who is a legislator (senator or congressman) instead of an executive manager, no matter WHAT party they belong to, a rational mind might conclude that one who has more than a couple of years experience just might be a desired feature. In other words, hows about if Obama establishes....oh, what is it called...oh yeah, a TRACK RECORD of actually having accomplished SOMETHING.... ANYTHING, before running for president. Hows about serving as a Senator for a couple of terms, championing a little landmark legislation here and there, take on leadership positions, etc.

Instead of your resume essentially consisting of your being a silver-tongued blow hard. Gosh I haven't seen a candidate with these stellar credentials since John Edwards.

Along those lines, to ME (and this is just me) one of the biggest if not THE biggest negative black mark on John Kerry in 04, had nothing to do with Viet Nam, the Swifties, his lovely wife, or any of those other issues. It was that in 17 years in the Senate, he appears to have done......ABSOLUTELY NOTHING of any sort of consequence.

Posted by Lightwave | July 27, 2007 10:07 AM

The problem here is that Obama's people seriously believe they have a shot at the brass ring. Certainly all Presidential candidates believe that or they don't run.

But Obama being able to beat Hilary AND whatever GOP candidate runs in 08? Not going to happen, for various reasons.

The more Obama tries to go for the top job, the more it slips through his fingers. He needs to start running like a VP, and that means playing it safe.

The real question is "Where would Hillary go outside Obama and The Haircut for a VP?" Richardson? Gravel? My money's on Biden or Dodd...who both seem to have figured out that their best chance is to run like a Serious VP....other then the fact their Senate records will pretty much doom them from the start.

But in all seriousness it's a moot point: There's no possible way Hillary will win in 08. Not with almost 2 decades of baggage.

Posted by hermie | July 27, 2007 10:19 AM

Obama is a product of the corrupt Chicago Dem political machine. He was just another yes man to Ritchie Daley and would have stayed that way until the Chicago Tribune decided to dig into his opponent's divorce and child custody records. These were records which no one in good conscience would've dregged up and remained sealed, but the Tribune got friendly judges to open these up and all sorts of sordid accusations were plastered on the front page.

The IL GOP leadership was foolish enough to immediately abandon their candidate before he even had a chance to make a formal reply, and they forced hinm out and chose an outsider, Keyes, to run against Obama, instead of the primary runners up.

Obama was lionized by the media and Keyes made a fool of himself whenever he spoke.

Obama would still be in the Illinois Senate if he would've had any real opposition.

Of course, Obama has that particular habit like all Chicago Dems have, of wanting to get a piece of the pie for themselves and their families. Obama has raised money, but has spent little of it. That's because the MSM has annointed him as their man, and gives him as much free publicity as possible. Obama's slush fund will serve him well throughout his political career, and a very , very ,comfortable retirement.

Posted by Okonkolo | July 27, 2007 11:23 AM

Another one of those "gotta think of an angle before the deadline" op-ed's, a common disease across the spectrum of punditopia.
So Obama is Hagen. Okay, so that makes Dubya...Freedo? Cheney is Sonny? Yawn.

Posted by Elroy Jetson | July 27, 2007 11:30 AM

Was Obama's statements bad politics? Depends on who you believe actually votes in primaries. Dems who have "Wage Peace" bumperstickers are the type who believe that you should try diplomacy even with those leaders who are at war with their own population. These folks represent an untapped electorate in Obama's eyes. Who speaks for them? Billary? I think not.
While Clinton's response may play well with moderates, they don't with this crowd who sees her as more of the same.
It remains to be seen how far Obama is willing to take this. If he pulls back, then it is clear that he is making a play for the VP nomination. If he doesn't back down, then the primaries and upcoming debates could get interesting. I hope he continues to confront her. Pass the popcorn!

Posted by gab | July 27, 2007 12:26 PM

Does the current darling of this site (Fred) bring any thicker resume to the race?

Posted by wooga | July 27, 2007 12:44 PM

The reason Fred has such an opening is precisely _because_ Obama, Edwards, and Hillary (debatable) have such extraordinarily thin resumes.

Yes, Fred has a weaker resume than Rudy, Romney, and McCain (and Biden, Richardson, and Kucinich for that matter), but everything's relative. If Fred gets the nomination, he'll still have a thicker resume than his opponent. If the dems had an elder statesman leading the pack, Fred wouldn't stand a chance. Oh well, that's DNC foresight for you.

Posted by wooga | July 27, 2007 12:55 PM

"Obama has you really worried doesn't he? So this is the best attack you can gin up?"

TW, how do you attack someone who (1) does not sound retarded, and (2) only speaks in generic platitudes? I mean really, "the audacity of hope?!?"

At least Obama hasn't gone off the ledge like Edwards, what with his "Stop Bad Things From Happening to Good People" platform.

Yes, "healthcare is good." But, how will you fund it? Yes, "US troops fatalities are bad," but how do you logistically retreat? It's all in the details. Fred's at least been writing clear position papers - and he's not afraid to offend people by staking out clear cut positions (e.g., Gandhi was a nazi-supporter). He's also claimed a philosophy (federalism) that lets you predict his take on most remaining issues (e.g., Roe v Wade should be overturned, but no federal ban on abortion). Maybe if Obama took a page from Clinton and grew a little thicker skin, he would have the guts to stand by an unpopular position (i.e., witness the hasty retreat on 'meeting with Castro') - earning himself some respect as a leader in the process.

Posted by gab | July 27, 2007 1:02 PM

Wooga - how does Fred have a thicker resume than Clinton or Obama? Does he have any more national or even local gov't experience than does Hillary or Obama. IIRC, he spent 8 years as a senator right?

Posted by courtneyme109 | July 27, 2007 1:19 PM

Senator Obama has actually blown it three times - twice as noted in the KHammer piece and the first was early this year in Iowa. The senator said something to the effect of "...no one has suffered more than the Palestinians...". Of all the things to rally Americans to your campaign, sympathy for honor killings, gender apartheid, intolerance, the religious police, the secret police and suicide bombers of Palestine ISN'T anywhere on the list.

Posted by TW | July 27, 2007 2:09 PM

I am in favor of a competency test to take public office. Passing some basic courses in economics, history and psychology would be a good base-level requirement. And then a renewal course each year. The real professions require it, why not require proof of competency from public leaders who have much greater capacity for damage?

Is Obama all talk? I dont know, but the capacity to craft together a coherent sentence is widely recognized as an indication of intelligence. After six years of hearing Bush the Junior mangle the language, it appears that there's a good correlation.

Even if Obama is mostly intelligent talk, he's still light years ahead of the Republican candidates. A third of them don't believe in science and another one wears magic underwear. We can't run a nation or a society on 'faith'.

Posted by docjim505 | July 27, 2007 2:26 PM

Cap'n Ed wrote:

People don't want to elect a Dr. Phil to the White House in a time of war; they want someone who knows how to protect America and keep our enemies at bay.

Wait a minute! We're AT WAR??? When did THAT happen? Oh, are you talking about that bumper sticker slogan that Chimpy McBushitler uses for political advantage?


Seriously, though, there is a fraction of our populace who DON'T think we're at war, or don't think that the war is a serious matter. Look at some of the remarks by our resident libs: "I'm in more danger of being hit by a drunk driver than being blown up by a suicide bomber". Silky Pony has blown off the GWOT as a "bumper sticker slogan", and there are many libs who agree with that assessment. So, as far as libs are concerned, Obama's lack of foreign policy / military experience is not a big deal. Further, the kum-by-yah crowd BELIEVES that one can negotiate in good faith with thugs like Ahmadenijad, Assad, and Kim Jong-Poofy Hair. In their feeble minds, the ONLY reason that these men pose ANY threat to the United States is because that ol' meany, George Bush, won't talk to them and give them what they want. These idiots want to hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria in the (apparently sincere) belief that Tehran and Damascus are interested in a stable, peaceful, independent Iraq. I could go on about the stupidity of the left, but I think it's pretty obvious.

Vote Obama '08: First Among Idiots.

Posted by Continuum | July 27, 2007 4:38 PM

Let's see.

Fred's pseudo-campaign is hemoraghing staff, and can't seem to raise the money.

McCain's real campaign is hemoraghing both staff and money.

Sounds like it's time for the Repub Admin to issue another fake terror alert about "practice runs" by little old ladies with dried gel packs and velveta cheese logs next to cell phones.

Yuppers, the Repubs are right on target for 2008.

Posted by markg8 | July 27, 2007 4:56 PM

We now have Charles Krauthammer defending Hillary's (and Bush's) "kiss my ring or kiss my ass" foreign policy. That's as funny and as effective as Romney and McCain jumping in on her side. Any Dem who has those clowns in her corner ought to change the subject quickly.

We've seen what 7 years of moronic saber rattling and unilateral war has given us. I'm not afraid of tinpot dictators and I'm sick of presidents who make the Assads and Kims of the world out to be boogeymen on a scale of Hitler and Tojo. If Hillary isn't smart enough to figure out how to talk to them without making herself into their sock puppet that's her problem. And it's not a problem I want in my president.

Posted by Fight4TheRight | July 27, 2007 5:05 PM

TW, you asked:

"So this is the best attack you can gin up? " in reference to the attack on Obama.

Well, no...I have more but wasn't sure you wanted to hear it but since you asked I'll just list a few other criticisms of Barack O'Bama:

1. He's soft on terror and stated he wouldn't retaliate to an attack on the U.S.

2. He wants to raise my taxes

3. He doesn't wish to save Social Security but would prefer it go bankrupt

4. He doesn't know the difference between artillery and hillary.

5. He voted against funding our fighting men and women in Iraq

I got more, TW...just let me know if you want the full list. : )

Posted by Continuum | July 27, 2007 5:40 PM

Question - Were any liberal bloggers in on the conference call?

If so, can you name 1 or 2?

Posted by Thomas Jackson | July 27, 2007 11:09 PM

Actually both Obama and the Hildabeast seem to be closer to Fredo than Hagen. Meglomania seems to rule both, as well as ambition without the requisite intellect, talent or skills.

We've seen what happens to this type of personality before whether it be FDR, Wilson or Kennedy getting rolled by smarter, more experience and better prepared foes at summits.

But I have no doubt that both Hildabeast and Obama could outdo Fredo in conducing tours of the hives of lowlife activity and be prepared to sell out the nation for personnal advancement or glory.

Posted by Counterfactual | July 28, 2007 12:01 AM


- "1. He's soft on terror and stated he wouldn't retaliate to an attack on the U.S."

He did not state he woudn't retaliate to an attack on the U.S. It is true that when asked what we should do in case of terrorist attacks in the U.S., he did not say that first we should attack other countries that did not have anything to do with the attacks. Is it Fight4TheRights position that our response to terrorist attacks should be to attack countries that have nothing to do with the terrorist attacks? I suppose there is no need to ask, as a Bush supporter, of course that is his position and anything less is being 'soft on terror'.

- "2. He wants to raise my taxes."

You do know how large the national debt is, right Fight4TheRight? Is it now the conservative position that the government can and should go on spending money it does not have forever? I can remember when conservatives (rightly) chastised liberals for being the kind of people who thought that was good economics.

- "3. He doesn't wish to save Social Security but would prefer it go bankrupt."

This seems to contradict your statement #2. Does he want government programs to go bankrupt or does he want to raise taxes to get more money so they do not? Once you decide which of these is your real criticism, let us know.

- "4. He doesn't know the difference between artillery and hillary."

And yet he knew enough to know in 2003 that the war in Iraq was going to be a lot harder in the end than so many people who know a lot more about the details of weapons systems thought. Do we elect a President because he might have a lot of military names and acronyms memorized or because he can figure out that the population of a proud Islamic Arab country might be a little resentful to find itself ocuppied by the army of a western Christian country?

- "5. He voted against funding our fighting men and women in Iraq."

As opposed to keeping them over there to get killed indefinately, since, as we all know, the best way to show your support for somebody is to get them killed.

You say you have more F4TR, let's see 'em. Your list so far isn't cutting it.

Posted by Artie Curtis | July 28, 2007 6:19 AM

My guess the reason Obama wants to meet with all these tyrants is to surrender to them in advance.