On the issues, Obama has a choice. He can play defence, relying on the Democratic hold on the high ground. He laid out his key policies in his convention acceptance speech, and anybody can find the details in the platform. Individually, these policies meet with substantial approval. So why hasn’t this huge advantage translated into voting preferences? GOP slime and spin is part of it. Obama is not a natural gutter brawler, so the Dems are forced to play a mainly defensive game on “character”: which won’t inspire anybody.
Or he can attack on his own chosen ground of policy. De l’audace, de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace. My suggestion: double up with a First Hundred Days promise. This is good governance too: the most controversial policies have to be launched in the short honeymoon of a new Administration, so hard choices on timing will anyway have to be made within the policy agenda. Make them now.
My shopping list:
- an economic recovery plan heavily weighted to investment in green energy and road and rail infrastructure;
- a simple bill to be submitted to Congress setting up a universal backup public health insurance network, as the first instalment of a universal health care plan;
- an agreement with Maliki setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and reinforcement of forces in Afghanistan;
- the abolition of torture on Day 1; closure of Guantanamo; and the setting up of a truth and justice commission to report to the American people on the abuses carried out in their name during Bush’s GWOT, and propose ways of restoring the rule of law and honour in the struggle.
This can surely be improved: write your own. But the list must be short, at most ten items. And Obama must mean it.
Then he can challenge John McCain to say what changes he would make in his first hundred days.