WaPa Endorses Obama

The Washington Post, after months of agonizing, has decided to endorse Barack Obama for president.

No, I’m not surprised, either.  While their editorial tone is relatively centrist — they even supported the Iraq War before they turned against it — they have long had sympathies with the Democratic Party.  I am, however, somewhat bemused by their rationale.

Take, for instance, their opening sentence:

THE NOMINATING process this year produced two unusually talented and qualified presidential candidates.

Really?  Compared to what?  Certainly, by traditional measures, Barack Obama is the least qualified nominee in modern presidential history.  He’s been in the Senate less than four years, most of which time he’s spent running for president.  He’s held no other notable offices.

As to talent, I’ll grant that Obama is unusually bright and gifted at political campaigning, even by presidential standards.  But, on the latter score, McCain’s probably subpar. Indeed, they devote substantial space to explaining how disappointed they are that McCain’s campaign didn’t live up to expectations.

Essentially, they base their entire argument for Obama on the fact that he’s run a smooth campaign, that he’s promised some cool stuff, and that he probably doesn’t really mean the truly stupid, dangerous things he’s said.

Mr. Obama’s greatest deviation from current policy is also our biggest worry: his insistence on withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq on a fixed timeline. Thanks to the surge that Mr. Obama opposed, it may be feasible to withdraw many troops during his first two years in office. But if it isn’t — and U.S. generals have warned that the hard-won gains of the past 18 months could be lost by a precipitous withdrawal — we can only hope and assume that Mr. Obama would recognize the strategic importance of success in Iraq and adjust his plans.

We also can only hope that the alarming anti-trade rhetoric we have heard from Mr. Obama during the campaign would give way to the understanding of the benefits of trade reflected in his writings. A silver lining of the financial crisis may be the flexibility it gives Mr. Obama to override some of the interest groups and members of Congress in his own party who oppose open trade, as well as to pursue the entitlement reform that he surely understands is needed.

[…]

ANY PRESIDENTIAL vote is a gamble, and Mr. Obama’s résumé is undoubtedly thin. We had hoped, throughout this long campaign, to see more evidence that Mr. Obama might stand up to Democratic orthodoxy and end, as he said in his announcement speech, “our chronic avoidance of tough decisions.”

Shorter WaPo:  “Except for his foreign policy, domestic policy, and  economic policy, he’s great!”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Media, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Fence says:

    Maybe it is just that after 8 years of George Bush, a lot of people look “unusually talented and qualified.”

    Or maybe they think that being a great President doesn’t necessarily require a long resume (Obama) or a polished campaign (McCain).

    In any case, this election is over anyway. The Republicans will need some new lines against Obama for 2012 because he’ll certainly have more relevant executive experience than whoever he is running against, using the “traditional measures” that apparently you are overly fond of. Of course by then it is likely that Obama will have given them some new material to work with.

  2. duckspeaker says:

    Your reading of this editorial is overly cynical.

    Digesting the entirety of the article, rather than cropping out the solitary negative paragraphs, the authors make the argument that despite some policy and resume reservations they have about the Senator, Mr. Obama on the whole is a superior candidate because of his more populist economic stances and his hesitation to engage in the black and white cowboy-style diplomacy of President Bush.

    Now, as far as who and what is “truly dangerous and stupid,” I suppose that’s in the eye of the beholder. Saying things like “bomb, bomb Iran,” “the fundamentals … strong, and “Sarah Palin is qualified” might be slightly more worthy of the label “dangerous and/or stupid.”

  3. Brett says:

    Don’t understate the importance of being a top-notch campaigner and political organizer in this day and age. Electoral politics have become almost inseparable from regular “in-office” politics, particularly on issues where Obama will have to appeal to reluctant Democrats and Republicans in Congress who will be worried about their re-election (a particularly pressing problem since we Democrats are probably going to get a large horde of conservative blue-dog Democrats – a return to the early 1990s).

  4. Tad says:

    I thought the following quote of the article was of equal if not greater importance to the ones you included.

    But the stress of a campaign can reveal some essential truths, and the picture of Mr. McCain that emerged this year is far from reassuring. To pass his party’s tax-cut litmus test, he jettisoned his commitment to balanced budgets. He hasn’t come up with a coherent agenda, and at times he has seemed rash and impulsive. And we find no way to square his professed passion for America’s national security with his choice of a running mate who, no matter what her other strengths, is not prepared to be commander in chief.

    I too think the read is a bit overly cynical. Perhaps you should include in your ‘short WaPo’ “and McCain is a disappointment” or some other synonym to that effect, perhaps something stronger.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    Don’t understate the importance of being a top-notch campaigner and political organizer in this day and age.

    Yeah, being a good liar is always a good thing.

  6. tom p says:

    since we Democrats are probably going to get a large horde of conservative blue-dog Democrats – a return to the early 1990s).

    Oh! The horror! A return to balanced budgets and a decent economy! How I hate that!

    (sarcasm not directed at any commenter in particular… just the 10% or so who still think Bush has been a good president)

  7. MNotaro says:

    Just because Obama is intelligent and has an amazing personality doesn’t make him prepared to run our country. His lefty illuminati politicians in DC think they’ve found some puppet to do their dirty work and the American people are falling for it.

  8. Barry says:

    James, perhaps you should have thought of that before you nominated Bush. After 8 years of GOP rule, perhaps the time has come for you people to ah, ‘chill’, while we try to fix things a bit.

    But don’t worry; after 8 years of getting things done despite right-wing lies, we just might have things improved to the point where a short-memoried American people will elect Jeb.

  9. sam says:

    His lefty illuminati politicians

    Ah, the Illuminati. I’ve wondered what happened to them after Will Smith kicked their asses in Independence Day or was it in I Am Legend?

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    The Post endorsed Kerry in 2004 so this came as no particular surprise. IIRC they didn’t endorse anybody in 2000.

    I suspect that the Post’s editorial reflects what I and many Americans are feeling, general dissatisfaction with the candidates from whom we must choose. On the one hand you’ve got John McCain who really appears temperamentally unsuited for the job and on the other Barack Obama, a candidate with the thinnest resume of any major party presidential candidate in a century or more.

  11. M1EK says:

    a candidate with the thinnest resume of any major party presidential candidate in a century or more.

    You two can assert this all you want, but don’t pretend it’s universally agreed. I think W’s resume was thinner, given the largely ceremonial role of the Governor in Texas (true power rests with the legislature, and a surprisingly large amount with the Lieutenant Governor – moreso than with the Governor).

  12. Dave Schuler says:

    Of course it’s not universally agreed. Some people will grasp at any straw to demonstrate that Sen. Obama has done a lot more in the Illinois Senate and the U. S. Senate than he actually has. And I, for one, don’t give a damn what George W. Bush has or has not done. I didn’t vote for him in 2000 and don’t much care for him, either.

  13. Brett says:

    Oh! The horror! A return to balanced budgets and a decent economy! How I hate that!

    I’m just saying that they are going to be very concerned about their re-electability, and that means that they’re going to need someone at the top who can work the electoral politics in their favor to get them on board tough issues (like major health care reforms, and so forth). It was the fact that Clinton wasn’t able to do this successfully that got his health care plan nuked back in 1993.

  14. Fence says:

    he thinnest resume of any major party presidential candidate in a century or more.

    I hate to jump into this since I think character and ability are more important, but even just in recent history, he has more Washington experience than did W, Clinton and Carter combined. The governorships of GA, TX and Ark are not so clearly first-tier preparation for the Presidency.

    And at least Obama’s resume isn’t written in crayon.

  15. duckspeaker says:

    a candidate with the thinnest resume of any major party presidential candidate in a century or more.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily desirable for pro-Obama folks to vigorously argue against this point. I wouldn’t take the thin-resume critique as unassailable, but on the other hand, Obama’s experience is not the thing to hang a proverbial hat on.

    More appropriately, I think the best argument is to accept the fact (as in the primaries) that there may be a candidate with more experience available, but to follow with the retort, “So what?” Democrats and many independents IMHO are attracted to an Obama candidacy because of his policy positions and vision for the future of the country, as well as his pragmatism and cerebral demeanor. The key is not to get into an argument about who has more experience–that’s an argument to be advanced when things are going well and the status quo is desirable. This year, the vast majority of the public is upset with the current course, and change trumps experience.

  16. tom p says:

    John McCain has lot’s of experience… at voting with Bush.

    That is why (at this point in time) he is losing. Time will tell if he can rid himself of the albatross that is the past 8 yrs.

  17. tom p says:

    I’m just saying that they are going to be very concerned about their re-electability, and that means that they’re going to need someone at the top who can work the electoral politics…

    Agreed Brett… the electioneering of the 2010 campaign begins on Nov 5, 2008.

    I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

  18. Dantheman says:

    As a somewhat greater surprise, the Chicago Tribune endorsed a Democrat for the first time in its history.

  19. Eric says:

    More appropriately, I think the best argument is to accept the fact (as in the primaries) that there may be a candidate with more experience available, but to follow with the retort, “So what?” Democrats and many independents IMHO are attracted to an Obama candidacy because of his policy positions and vision for the future of the country, as well as his pragmatism and cerebral demeanor. The key is not to get into an argument about who has more experience–that’s an argument to be advanced when things are going well and the status quo is desirable. This year, the vast majority of the public is upset with the current course, and change trumps experience.

    Excellent point, duckspeaker. Experience is overemphasized and is in any case a judgment for the voters to make.

    I too believe that it is a candidate’s vision that is of primary importance, and that experience just adds to the resume. (Seriously, in hindsight, how many great leaders throughout history emerged from nowhere to lead their countries? Would Honest Abe himself have ever been elected if experience–especially executive experience–was as important as some claim?)

  20. anjin-san says:

    a candidate with the thinnest resume of any major party presidential candidate in a century or more.

    And we all know how critical this is. After all, GHW Bush had the thickest resume in history, and he was one of our greatest Presidents a one-term mediocrity.

  21. Anne D. says:

    Mr. Joyner,

    I don’t understand your comment about Obama’s “thin resume”. Does not 8 years in Illinois State Senate count? Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had no prior political experience.

  22. James Joyner says:

    Does not 8 years in Illinois State Senate count?

    No.

    Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had no prior political experience.

    You mean other than his years managing the largest international military alliance during the biggest war in the history of mankind?

  23. Brett says:

    That’s more than what Abraham Lincoln had when he took office (the state legislature experience).

  24. James Joyner says:

    That’s more than what Abraham Lincoln had when he took office (the state legislature experience).

    Seriously? You don’t think the presidency has changed just a wee bit in the last 148 years?!

  25. I’ve quoted you and linked to you here.

  26. Anne D. says:

    You come across as very arrogant, if you are so smart, why don’t you run for office since you know so much more than the average person. There were many generals, Eisenhower didn’t do it by himself, what about Patton, Bradley, etc. Why doesn’t state positions count in your book?