The Judgment Card

If the latest ad is to be believed, it appears that “being against the Iraq War the whole time” is now becoming to the Barack Obama campaign what “I was mayor on 9/11” is to the Giuliani campaign.

Personally, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad strategy: given the overwhelming antipathy for the war among the general public, being known as the candidate who opposed the war from the get-go isn’t a bad idea. That said, I think that Kevin Drum is correct when he says that:

The problem is that judgment is a famously nebulous characteristic and it’s really, really hard to signal it effectively. After all, in the same way that everyone thinks they’re a better-than-average driver, everyone thinks they’re endowed with better-than-average judgment too. That makes it tough to convince people that your judgment is really something so special that they ought to vote you into the Oval Office. What’s more, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, the spiel has to be pitch perfect. If you sell it wrong it can sound more grating than inspirational.

My guess is, if Obama continues to play the judgment card solely on the issue of Iraq, it’s going to be just annoying for most voters. I do think that it’s a good part of his campaign to highlight, but if he’s serious about wanting voters to consider his good judgment, he needs to focus on some other past instances in his life where he displayed it.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    How about he practices some of that judgement by presenting a plan that ends the war in Iraq, keeps AQ from scoring a victory in doing so, doesn’t incite genocide in Iraq and doesn’t cause more problems in the mideast.

    Now that would be a demonstration of judgemental capabilities. But of course, that would require a judgements capability beyond that of a stopped clocks ability to predict the correct time.