When MSNBC's Chris Matthews lit into Barack Obama supporter (and Texas State Senator) Kirk Watson during Tuesday night's election coverage for not being able to list Obama's "legislative accomplishments," you would have inferred from his ferocity that Matthews was on the verge of cracking a major story.
While Matthews stopped short of waterboarding Watson to get a response, he kept at him no less than eight to ten times over the next few minutes, sneering "You have to give me his accomplishments. You've supported him for president, you're on national television -- name his legislative accomplishments."
Clearly without experience in appearing with Matthews and obviously without sufficient background on the recent dynamics in the United States Senate, Watson did indeed look more nervous than Mike Huckabee at a Planned Parenthood rally and failed to respond both in answering the question and, on behalf of the Obama campaign, shutting down the very premise.
No doubt, Watson -- and anyone acting as an Obama campaign surrogate -- should be able to rapidly list the important issues that the Illinois Senator has championed. This includes the Lugar-Obama legislation that has helped decrease the threat of old nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon in the former Soviet Union and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 which Obama co-authored and that led to USAspending.gov, which keeps Americans better informed on government spending.
Obama has also been very active in legislation to end the Iraq war and the much-heralded Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, which passed in July of 2007 and addressed the hideous treatment received by Veterans under the Bush administration, began its legislative life as the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act, introduced by Obama earlier in the year.
But here's the thing that any person going on television to represent Obama should repeat without end -- and that should also be a part of the Obama campaign's standard playbook: No Democrat, including Senator Hillary Clinton has been able to do one hell of a lot that meets the accomplishment benchmark of "passed legislation" in a time of unending, record-setting Republican obstructionism.
Obama has been in the Senate for three years, two of which were spent with a Republican majority that would not even let legislation sponsored by Democrats reach the floor for a vote and, on the few occasions where Bill Frist granted such a luxury, Republicans shot down most Democratic initiatives with extreme prejudice.
In the current (110th) Congress, the Republican minority has blocked everything but the Senate chaplain's morning prayer and is on pace by a wide margin to filibuster more legislation than any Senate in U.S. history.
And there's the answer that the Texas state senator should have given on Tuesday night in response to Matthews' badgering. He should have been able to list just a few of Obama's legislative efforts but, far more importantly, he should have been in tune enough with the national legislative scene to say "Chris, have you been watching the U.S. Senate the last few years?"
He could then have gone on to discuss how Republicans have had a significant Senate majority for most of this young century and, during the brief periods Democrats have held a razor-thin edge, the GOP has made damn sure that the Democratic side of the aisle has no "legislative accomplishments" to hang their hats on in election years.
As for the Obama campaign, I support your guy and I'll give you this statement for free as you will certainly need it when Republicans begin lobbing charges of zero legislative accomplishments that will make Matthews look like an Obama groupie.
"Senator Obama knows that the American people are smart enough to see that the Republican party has become committed to doing nothing but blocking legislation that would help the American people and restore our nation to a place of esteem in the world. And they'll further reject Republican claims that any Senator has not passed enough legislation when the GOP has made it their life's work to see that no legislation is allowed to pass.
"More than anything, this demonstrates why a new kind of politics is necessary in Washington and why the American people are ready to turn the page and see all of us begin to accomplish more."
Lather, rinse and repeat.
Oh, and you may want to give a copy of this to your campaign's supporters before they appear on national television.
You can read more from Bob at The Agonist.