Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Howard Fineman, make up your mind!

Howard Fineman has just executed the rhetorical equivalent of a reverse double backflip within the course of an argument about Obama's supposed weaknesses on the stump. I quote (emphasis mine):

Failing to state a sweeping, but concrete, policy idea
It is not enough to be for change – everybody is, or is trying to be. To make it stick, Obama needed, and needs, to put forth an easy-to-grasp grand proposal, one that would encapsulate what his central message. That tagline? That he is dedicated, body and soul, to advancing the economic interests of hard-working, average Americans. He has the makings of such a proposal – his tax cuts for low and middle-income families. But he has yet to package that, or anything else, in an easy-to-grasp, hard-number plan for voters. Instead, he’s got more of a laundry list than an actual rallying cry.

Remaining trapped in professor-observer speak
When you listen to Obama, it sometimes feels like you’re hearing a smart but distant analysis of the political scene. He sounds like a writer or teacher, but not the leader of a political crusade. Obama has been far too “meta” – a detached commentator on his own situation and his own country. Voters want an action plan, not an exegesis.

Mr. Fineman seems to be a little bit confused about his own argument. In the first quoted paragraph, he wants Obama to present "an easy-to-grasp grand proposal," not just a "laundry list" of policy proposals. Yet, in the second paragraph, he insists Obama has been far too "meta," and calls for an "action plan, not an exegesis." The glaring contradictions between the two paragraphs should be evident to even a casual reader.

First of all, Obama has been very specific about his policy proposals on a number of issues that are critical to this election: the economy, education, health care, the war in Iraq. That should satisfy Mr. Fineman's request for an "action plan."

Secondly, Obama has been very forceful in pushing his "grand proposal." Did Mr. Fineman not hear Obama's acceptance speech? The "grand proposal" of Obama's campaign is simple, and it can be summed up in one word: "Enough!"

Thus, despite Mr. Fineman's contradictory arguments, Obama has managed to satisfy both criteria that Mr. Fineman seeks (and criticizes). Obama is presenting both a solid set of policy specifics and an overarching theme. What more would you like him to do, Mr. Fineman?