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September 27, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

In Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column in tomorrow’s paper, she chides Senator Obama for doing “a poor job of getting under McCain’s skin.” For example:

McCain kept painting Obama as naïve, and dangerous, insisting that he “doesn’t quite understand or doesn’t get it.”

Obama should have responded “Senator, I understand perfectly, I’m just saying you’re wrong.”

On the surge, he could have said that McCain was the arsonist who wanted to be praised for the great job he’s doing putting out the fire he started.

I find Andrew Sullivan’s analysis earlier today the more penetrating one. He says in part:

… Obama is also a black man against a white man. So he must also be very careful not to get angry and to stay cool and calm. He has to do that to avoid the “angry black man” trap. But then he cannot afford to seem weak either. You realize how hard a balance that is for ninety minutes?

Obama has to walk through a racial minefield all the time.

No one in American political history has ever managed to pull it off as smoothly as he has so far. …

He was respectful to McCain but also more confident looking him in the eye. He was forceful without appearing angry. He was calm without seeming professorial. Because he makes it look relatively easy doesn’t mean it isn’t actually extremely hard.

I recommend James Fallows’ analysis as well, in the context of his discussion of strategy and tactics. Here is an excerpt:

Obama would have pleased his base better if he had fought back more harshly in those 90 minutes — cutting McCain off, delivering a similarly harsh closing judgment, using comparably hostile body language, and in general acting more like a combative House of Commons debater. Those would have been effective tactics minute by minute.

But Obama either figured out, or instinctively understood, that the real battle was to make himself seem comfortable, reasonable, responsible, well-versed, and in all ways “safe” and non-outsiderish to the audience just making up its mind about him.

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