Obama Attacks and Nobody Notices

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


clinton_obama_profile.jpg Here is my final thought on the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner that I liveblogged on Saturday night: Barack Obama finally went on the attack against Hillary Clinton and it didn’t seem to matter.

Clinton unveiled “Turn Up the Heat” as a new campaign slogan, but it was Obama who was committed to putting his chief rival through the fire, as he had been promising to do for many weeks. A few days prior to the speech, Obama told the press that Clinton was running a “textbook” campaign. Saturday he said, “The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won’t do in this election. Triangulating and poll-driven positions because we’re worried about what Mitt or Rudy might say about us, just won’t do.” Triangulating and polls, of course, are the Clintons’ forte.

On Saturday night the senator from Illinois said, “When I’m your nominee, my opponent won’t be able to say that I supported this war in Iraq; or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; or that I support that Bush-Cheney diplomacy of not talking to leaders we don’t like.” In the span of one long sentence, Obama attacked the frontrunner on Iraq and on Iran, and compared her foreign policy philosophy to Bush’s and Cheney’s.

Then there were the attacks on Clinton that bordered on the personal. For example, the statement, “I don’t want to spend the next year or the next four years re-fighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s.” Or the line, “I am not in this race to fulfill some long-held ambitions or because I believe it’s somehow owed to me.” (Full text here.)

But you’ll notice one thing: Hillary Clinton is never mentioned by name. Obama continues to observe the piece of campaign trail etiquette that keeps candidates from naming the subjects of their critiques. John Edwards has chosen to ignore that little brocard, and incidentally, is seen by many as the underdog currently drawing the sharpest contrasts between himself and Clinton.

Perhaps Obama needs to do the same if he hopes to be effective. After the speech, I asked an undecided voter who was leaning towards Obama what she thought of his attacks on Clinton. After a pause, she said, “I didn’t notice that at all. And I’m usually pretty sensitive to that sort of thing.” And when I asked the same question to a Clinton supporter standing nearby, she just stared at me blankly.

Later, I caught an Obama supporter outside an afterparty. “I don’t know if I would call them attacks,” he said of the lines above. “I think at this point in the game all three frontrunners are just trying to separate themselves.” I’m saying here that Obama will have to “turn up the heat” if he’s going to do that with any real results.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate