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January 7, 2008

Should The Republicans Fear Obama?

In any other presidential election cycle, the possible nomination of a candidate with only three years of experience in the Senate on his resume would cause gales of laughter. In 2008, that scenario could transform from a comedy to a reality show, and it has Republicans wondering whether to be grateful or nervous. The Washington Post outlines the trepidation that the GOP feels over the ascendancy of Barack Obama, and the potential of his reach:

Exploiting a deep well of voter revulsion over partisan gridlock in Washington, Sen. Barack Obama is promising to do something that has not been done in modern U.S. politics: unite a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents behind an agenda of sweeping change.

But in pitching himself as a "post-partisan" politician, Obama (D-Ill.) is only the latest in a string of presidential candidates promising to remake Washington into a city that sings in unison. George W. Bush was to be a uniter, not a divider. Bill Clinton was going to put people first. Even Richard M. Nixon, on the day after the 1968 election, invoked a sign he had seen during the campaign that said, "Bring Us Together," and said that was the goal of his administration. ...

Republicans in Washington view Obama's "post-partisan" political appeal with a mixture of skepticism and fear. They are skeptical, they say, because the first-term senator's thin record has shown virtually no sign of bipartisanship. They are fearful because his appeal just might work.

"It's clear he is a phenomenon," said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a conservative scrapper who revels in Washington's partisan warfare. "He will use style and grace to achieve liberal goals, which is absolutely politically brilliant but intellectually dishonest."

Again, the wafer-thin resume suggests that he will have an uphill battle against any of the Republican contenders. Not only have the GOP legislators served many more years than Obama, John McCain and Fred Thompson have worked on far weightier issues than Obama, especially in terms of foreign policy. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Huckabee have long experience in executive leadership, with the first two having private-sector experience as well as public-office track records.

And yet, the GOP clearly senses that Obama may constitute a tough candidate in a general election. This morning, they have passed around on e-mail a link to this editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune emphasizing Obama's lack of experience, as well as another in the Wall Street Journal from Brookings Institute scholar Michael O'Hanlon on Iraq. Both score good points on Obama, but will experience matter in November?

It should. The country is at war -- whether we like it or not -- and it seems absurd to put the leadership of this country in the hands of someone who hasn't run any organization of significance in his life. How will he react to a terrorist bombing in Paris? What will he do with the bureaucracies in State and the disorganized mess at the CIA? How can we determine how he'll manage the massive organs of the federal government with no track record at all? In serious times, America needs someone with serious credentials in these and other areas, and Obama just doesn't have it.

However, one gets the sense that at least a good percentage of the electorate may not care about resumes in November. In fact, a long resume may wind up being a burden rather than a boost. Even if Obama doesn't win the nomination, none of the top three Democratic candidates have any executive experience at all, which speaks to the mindset of the party's base. If it also speaks to the general mood of the overall electorate, the US may put itself in the hands of someone who hasn't even completed his first term in national office -- based on nothing much more than the power of his oratory.

Six months ago, Republicans were laughing. Not today.


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» Obama: Standard Issue Liberal with Charisma & Presence or Something More? from Gay Patriot
Like many Americans, I have been fascinate by the rise of Illinois Senator Barack Obama. While politically, he’s pretty much a standard-issue Democrat (having a reliably liberal voting record in the Senate), on the stump, he comes across as a fr... [Read More]

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