National Commentary

Anything But Straight: What Obama Must Do to Win

For Barack Obama to become president, the Democrats have to stop acting like bureaucrats and sell their candidate, while tearing down John McCain.

The national convention must transform sonorous issues into sellable sound bites and overcome Republican attempts to smear Obama. Here are four things the Democrats need to accomplish at their convention if they hope to retake the White House:

Unite the Party: Hillary and her increasingly irrational supporters need to get a grip and move on. The election was hers to lose and she did so by not planning past Super Tuesday, giving Obama a string of caucus victories that propelled him to victory.

As a result of this monumental strategic blunder, Obama pulled ahead and Clinton fought back, turning this once warm and fuzzy primary into a political brawl. I know feelings were hurt and egos were bruised. There are also many women who are bitterly disappointed because they wanted to see a woman president.

The incessant whining of Clinton supporters, however, is beginning to work the last nerve of Democrats who actually want to win. Obama and Clinton’s policies were often so close as to be nearly indistinguishable. It is simply inconceivable that one could support Clinton and then opt for McCain — unless race plays a pivotal factor in the decision.

That’s right, I said race. How else could a Clinton-supporting woman now vote for John McCain, who will put Roe v. Wade in jeopardy? How could such a person who professes to care about women’s issues vote for McCain when it is obvious that a barrier breaking black man will do more to help a woman get elected as president in the future? It does not make sense unless there is an ulterior, underlying motive.

I think the party will unite because Hillary has even more to lose than Obama. If she (or Bill) is blamed for a loss, it will be career suicide. People who might be natural supporters of a forthcoming Clinton candidacy will shun her if she is perceived as the jealous villain who put McCain in the Oval Office.

Define Obama: On Monday, Michelle Obama was transformed from a Republican-created cartoon of an angry black woman who disliked America, into a working mother with strong family values. Barack must be as successful as his wife in marketing himself to the American people.

By the end of the convention, voters must feel like he is tough enough to keep them safe, feels their economic pain and has the judgment to overcome reservations about his experience. He must also connect with the burping fools slurping beers on wobbly barstools who want to be reassured that Obama is warm enough to share a cold one.

Fortunately, Obama is a gifted orator who could read graffiti on a bathroom wall and make it sound like the Gettysburg Address. He must flash every bit of his effulgent brilliance — or his candidacy may be a flash in the pan.

Caricature McCain: How can McCain keep our house in order when he can’t even count the ones he has?

This is the type of question that must be ruthlessly raised at the convention. McCain needs to be defined as an out of touch George Bush clone who is past his prime and surrendered his dignity to win the GOP nomination.

I can’t tell you how many people I have met who say they, “miss the John McCain” of 2000. The onus is on the Democrats to relentlessly drive home the point that this “maverick” no longer exists and has been replaced by a party hack that is the candidate of the past. McCain should be portrayed as a dangerous, hot tempered curmudgeon who barely understands the Internet, wants to reignite the cold war and is not forward thinking enough to get us out of Iraq, much less propel America towards future economic or military greatness. And, as a Bush enabler, he is as responsible as anyone for the miserable failures of the past eight years.

Finally, McCain is going to the well too often on his POW experience. Democrats should remind voters that the McCain of 2000 was humble about his heroism and did not use it incessantly as a campaign talking point.

Gay Issues: Democratic National Committee Treasurer, Andy Tobias, set the tone when he said at the podium, “As a gay man I yearn for a president who believes in equal rights for all Americans.” Ted Kennedy also included GLBT people — and Obama or Biden should follow his lead. This would mark a sharp contrast with the upcoming GOP convention, where a concerted effort will be made to bring home social conservatives at the expense of GLBT Americans. If the Democrats can shave off enough GLBT people on the fence, they might win Florida or other swing states.

The 2008 Democratic convention must defy convention by combining Obama’s signature brand of hope with hard knocks against McCain. If the Democrats let this strategic moment pass, our nation will be stuck in the past and doomed to repeat history.