Newsweek's Fineman Cites Awkward Truth: Obama Paying Now for 'Playing It a Little Cute' in Campaign

Law of averages being what it is, only a matter of time before a moment of candor eluded the thought police on left-wing radio.

Appearing on Ed Schultz's top-rated liberal radio show this past Monday, Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman provided an example of this when he traced Obama's difficulties in overhauling health care to his vague promises about reform during the '08 campaign (click here for audio) --

SCHULTZ: What do you make of the president's leadership so far on this? Should the Democrats be this divided at this point on some of these major issues in health care reform and what responsibility does the White House bear for that?

FINEMAN: Well, I think the White House bears all the responsibility because Barack Obama came in with a pretty strong mandate for change, for change we can believe in. And I think on health care, I trace the problems that he's had back to the campaign. Because even though he was for health care reform, quote unquote, it wasn't totally defined or even really carefully in focus, defined in a focused, sharp way that he could then take to Washington, to the Washington power structure, to his own Democratic Party, and say look, this is what the people voted for, they want this public option, they want this system that I'm proposing. He was playing it a little cute during the campaign, I thought, and he's sort of paying for it now. 

More along the same lines from Fineman later in show (audio link here) --

SCHULTZ: Why do you think the president has chosen this direction? Was it just Hillary Not, I mean, to go the generic route, to go the big concept, the selling the big idea and let's not get hung up in the detail, let's just let the Congress figure it out?

FINEMAN: Yes, I think that's part of it as I already said. It's sort of trying to take the lessons from the failure of Hillary Clinton's plan in the early '90s and I think not really entirely the right lesson. But I also think that health care reform, and you know, people can disagree with me on this for sure, but I don't think it was the central passion of his campaign. In other words, his campaign was about change, about the demographics of change, about we are the change we can believe in, about making a statement about American society. It was also about the war in Iraq and ending, a clear message about ending the war in Iraq.

Health care was not, a specific health care plan, a public option, guaranteed universal coverage, you know, insistence day after day after day, was not really the message of his campaign, and I don't think that Barack Obama is by nature an attack dog. You know, he's not an attack-the-system kind of guy.

Fineman says Obama's campaign was "also about the war in Iraq." More accurately, Obama's early campaign, heading into the primaries and caucuses, was based mainly on his opposition to the Iraq war. This is what separated Obama from his major challengers, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, along with peripheral candidates such as Joe Biden and Chris Dodd (and eventually John McCain), all of whom voted in October 2002 to authorize military force against a Saddam-led Iraq.

Obama was the most explicitly anti-war nominee of either major party since 1972, when fellow Democrat George McGovern ran on a platform of opposition to American involvement in Vietnam.

Once the success of the surge in Iraq became too obvious for even Democrats to ignore, Obama changed the subject and wholly embraced the amorphous theme of "change," becoming a blank slate for liberals to project their hopes and purge racial guilt.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts