2.13.2008

An NFL Perspective on Clinton vs. Obama

by Jeff Siegel

How difficult is it to be a political pundit? Not very, if even National Football League coaches can do it.

Consider this, from a piece on the Sports Illustrated website discussing the league's new coaches:

To me, the whole run on these head coaches this year is a little like Barack Obama's candidacy. The experience factor may be light, but these guys who don't even have any coordinating experience, they're squeaky clean. They don't have any negatives that you can attack. The interesting thing is that their lack of a track record is actually seen as a positive.

I can't help but think that if a guy is that clean, he sells better. If you have no blemishes, you can mold them and spin them to your fans and the media any way you want. Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War because she was in the Senate at the time, and if she hadn't, she probably would have been labeled a traitor. But it's still being held against her, while Obama didn't have to cast a vote, so he can say he was against the war from the very start.


Which brings us to this week's Democratic primary results, and the pundits' spin. Wrote The New York Times: "The outcome provided [Obama] his first chance to assert that the Democratic race, which had seemed to be heading into a protracted standoff, is beginning to break in his direction." Added The Washington Post: "Obama extends his post-Super Tuesday winning streak and forces Clinton onto the defensive as the Democratic presidential race moves toward a showdown in Ohio and Texas on March 4."

Neither of which stands up to the analysis of the anonymous coach.

The Democratic presidential race is not over, despite what most in the media have declared since the Iowa caucuses. Mrs. Clinton has been repeatedly counted out since Iowa, yet may still have the most delegates (depending on who is doing the counting). Yes, she fired her campaign manager and another top aide quit, but if she wins Texas and Ohio on March 4, none of that will matter. And if she wins Texas and most of its 228 delegates, no one here will be surprised. She is popular, her husband is popular, and the Hispanic vote is huge here. And even the Beltway pundits are willing to concede that Sen. Obama (D-IL) and Hispanic voters don't seem to much like each other. If Sen. Clinton (D-NY) wins Texas, splits Ohio and she already has New York and California in her pocket, how does Obama get the nomination?

That's one reason why I still think Mrs. Clinton, despite her well-documented flaws, will be the Democratic candidate. The other? Because the football coach is right. Obama's clean record isn't of his doing. It's because he hasn't been around long enough to muddy it up. And Democratic Party voters will, in the end, prefer the devil they know.

That's yet another example of why the Democratic Party is no longer relevant. Another? That anyone could think that Obama's empty record signifies anything other than his inexperience. Maybe we can get that coach to write a piece for us here.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:
(The photo shows supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama gathering before the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles before the last debate between the Democratic presidential candidates. The photo is by twinkletoez via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)





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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

If we want to use the NFL parallel (which is just about the worst one imaginable for any analysis) why not mention that Bill Cowher was 35 when he became a head coach, Don Shula was 40 when he became a head coach and Paul Brown was 37. They all went on and enjoyed a bit of success.

Conventional wisdom has always had Hillary winning this election but sometimes conventional wisdom need be thrown out the window. After 8 years of Bush, I think most Americans are longing for leadership and Obama is a great leader who is riding a Bush created tsunami of emotion in which Americans collectively seem to be yearning for a real leader.

I am not sure what to make of liberals who begrudge Obama because he has too little experience. Fear of succeeding is always a major weak point for liberals and that is the only justification I can see for anyone worrying about Obama's experience... All I can really say about the hypothesis that Obama has no experience is "that duck don't hunt". At this point, Obama has about as much experience as did another figure from Illinois' political past, Abe Lincoln, when he ran in 1860

But if we want to use the NFL as our lense from which to make sense of this all, I would say Obama is 46 years old, and if Don Shula somehow stumbled onto success at 40, maybe Obama might be able to overcome his meager experience too.

Obama has 3 weeks to get in front in Ohio and Texas and if he does win either of those two, it's all over for Hillary. I agree it will be hard for Obama to win either state but he is riding a winning wave, let's wait and see. Even if Obama loses both states, according to the AP he now has a 50 delegate lead on Hillary, and superdelegates are starting to move towards him.

Rick Rockwell said...

Fear of succeeding is not why liberals wish Obama had more experience. We believe he may fail because there are no training wheels on the presidency. Hasn't the Bush presidency taught us anything about inexperience in a chief executive? How about the first leg of the Clinton presidency? Listen to the McCain rhetoric already about the difference between hope and empty platitudes and you can see the Republicans warming up to take on Obama's short record of accomplishments.

Jeff Siegel said...

I hate to pull age on anyone, but in 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected with the same enthusiasms and the same sort of moderate political sensibility that Obama is pushing. And Carter, though vastly inexperienced, had more experience than Obama.

And the next four years were a disaster -- the Iran hostage crisis, stagflation, and a 21.5 percent prime rate. What was worse, though, was that Carter's failures paved the way for the Republican resurgence. This was eight years of Reagan, four years of Bush Senior, and eight years of Bush Younger. I don't want to go through that again.

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