by Whet Moser
* One of the more thoughtful and comprehensive arguments in favor of Obama comes from Christopher Hayes, a longtime In These Times writer who recently became the political correspondent for The Nation. Hayes, I think, speaks for a lot of midwestern progressives, the kind of people who lionize Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold and found themselves a bit disappointed with Obama's local, state, and national record. He's strongly in favor of Obama anyway, and his reasons, in a post-Bush era, are sensible:
"[Hillary's] hawkishness relative to Obama's is mirrored in her circle of advisers. As my colleague Ari Berman has reported in these pages, it's a circle dominated by people who believed and believe that waging pre-emptive war on Iraq was the right thing to do. Obama's circle is made up overwhelmingly of people who thought the Iraq War was a mistake."
The effect of advisers and cabinet members was exaggerated under Bush, an ineffectual manager who was particularly vulnerable to the crazy people around him. Nonetheless, the past few years have emphasized an important lesson--when you elect a president, you're electing a whole political team. It's worth keeping in mind.
* Along those lines, Emily Bazelon's argument that electing a law prof would be a good idea is pretty convincing. It also raises a broader point: Obama may be "inexperienced" as a politician, but he's experienced in other areas, such as community organizing and teaching law. Bush came in with a lot of experience in business, and that profoundly affected his administration. Rather than writing off Obama's pre-political days as inexperience, it's worth thinking about that time as experience.
* Lynn Sweet has a handy roundup of Obama's controversial local ties, such as Rezko, Bill Ayers, Austan Goolsbee, etc. I have to say I'm just not that bothered. The media's spent months digging into his ties to Rezko, understandably, but so far they haven't turned up anything terribly compelling. Talking Points Memo has a good summary of the Rezko issue; Michael Miner has more on Obama and Bill Ayers.
* On the other hand, no one's pushed him on his support of the local Democratic machine except one crazy-ass radio host. Tim Russert blew 7+ minutes pestering Obama on Farrakhan but never once asked "Dorothy Tillman? WTF?"
* Chicagoist writes: "It's quite possible that the fat lady will sing for Hillary Clinton tomorrow. Or not. Sometimes politics is like baseball: you never know what's going to happen." Here's the problem with cliches: this is a horrendous insult to the utopian clarity of baseball. A better sports analogy is probably college football, in which teams have to compete for success as measured by various confusing, media-influenced metrics, and if there's no dominant victor the contest reverts to backroom logrolling and everyone goes home pissed off. Despite Obama's run of victories, Hillary is still very close in delegates. If they split Ohio and Texas tomorrow, as is possible and even likely, will Hillary go down as the 2004 LSU Tigers of Democratic politics?
* Chicagoist's he-said-she-said debate (vote Obama or Green?), incidentally, is a good look at what amateur political pundits are saying about this political race. Professional political observers are useful, but that's not how the world really works.