March 27, 2008

Marc Ambinder March 27, 2008 – Obama: Bloomberg Is “Extraordinary”

Let Obama be the vision guy; Bloomberg could be the brass-tacts administrator.*

My first reaction when Obama and Huckabee won Iowa was “God help us, did we learn nothing from the last 8 years.” Of course America have loved their demagogues “Beltway Outsiders” from Jackson to Clinton. We just don’t trust our Senators, and the longer they’ve served, the worse.

But I see Bush II as a particularly egregious case – someone so dedicated to being “of the people” that they can not afford to tarnish their image with wonkiness. The unfortunate result is that the electorate is left with no idea what sort of policy goals the incoming administration is really going to pursue other than in broad, essentially meaningless**, terms. The vacuum also seems to suck in a group of experienced hyper-wonks who will be doing all the work and the goal setting. What’s scary is not just that there will be a puppet master, but that the puppet master is decided after the fact for extraneous reasons.

Obama and Huckabee seem to be in the W-mold. (I was shocked at how long it took even critics of Obama to remark on how scary “change” is as a platform. I’m even more shocked at how few people have commented on how traditional it is in our electoral politics.) Huckabee is out, I guess. (Pretty faces make nice, harmless VPs, though.) I’ve seen a little bit more evidence of actual policies from Obama, but no evidence of a long term commitment to a particular – detailed – idea of the role of government. His supporters (and W’s in 2000) would see that as a good thing, as being “beyond ideology,” “a uniter not a divider,” or an “agent of change from business as usual.” The problem is that some of us would like an idea of what to actually expect from you over the next four years. Character – of whatever sort –  does not a legitimate argument make. That is one of the appealing things of parliamentary systems – voting for a platform rather than a personality, with PMs decided after the fact. (Please don’t try to read a full-on endorsement of such systems into a single compliment.)

So, we’ve seen exactly what sort of “gravitas” Cheney gave W (the choice of a word cognate with grave over the more natural “seriousness,” or more equivalent but Anglo-Saxon “weightiness” turned out not to be a coincidence.) Now what do you think might come of the combination of Bloomberg’s style (technocratic? Utilitarian?) with Obama’s amorphous illiberal leftism and penchant for taking full credit for projects of which he was only the pretty face?***

(I happen to have something of a fondness for Mayor Bloomberg, but I wouldn’t want him as President. Maybe I could see him as one of those inconsequential vice presidents under a strong – conservative – president, but certainly not with Obama.)

* Brass-tacts?

** Or, in some cases easily forgoten ala “no nation building.”

*** I’m not going to comment on the Jewish angle which has everyone else obsessed If we’re going to dissect it the obvious starting point for conversation is the 2000 Democratic ticket, though IIRC Lieberman only began to be perceived as outside of the DNC mainstream around 2003, and I think the cross-aisle angle here is much more significant than the AIPAC angle. In that sense the better comparison is the weird Kerry-McCain fantasies people had in 2004. Still, I think it’s the dummy-puppetmaster


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