Dirty, dirty politics

Just watched the re-run of the CNN debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. One thing in particular is sticking with me. Did Barack Obama ever talk about the quality of his oration before the “action not words” criticisms started? Here’s why this is striking. It’s plainly obvious that Obama is an inspiring speaker. If you go back into the blog archives just after he gave the keynote at the 2004 Democratic convention, you won’t have to look hard to find “Obama in 2008?”-themed posts. That was the kind of presence he was, and still is.

And it’s not unreasonable that an opposing campaign would try to diminish that strength. “Action not words” doesn’t really hold water — words do not imply inaction — but it’s perhaps a fair strategy. A new twist comes into play, however, with the surfacing of Deval Patrick’s 2006 “Just Words” speech. Hillary Clinton repeated it in tonight’s debate. She said, “If your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words.”

Look at what she did there. She got him talking about his strength, then turned the discussion into something else entirely (he never said his candidacy was about words), then drove home on a criticism of the fabricated position.

I need to take a shower.