Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama hasn't learned a thing about how to beat the Republicans. Apparently he thinks saber rattling and threatening preemptive strikes against Pakistan for allegedly harboring terrorists will give him an edge up on a GOP opponent. Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, and nearly every other Democratic candidate in the Democratic primary debates in 2004, made the political flub of the decade when they thought that they could out Bush Bush on his and the GOP's pet issue, namely the war against terrorism.
Kerry after he got the nomination tried to strike the tough guy pose. He even said at one point that he'd launch preemptive strikes against terrorists wherever they were and that he would launch search and destroy missions to ferret out Osama and Al-Qaeda. That fooled absolutely no one. Countless polls showed that the voters repeatedly gave Bush huge percentage margins over Kerry when asked who they thought would do a better job in the anti-terror war. Kerry still didn't get it. He kept pounding on Bush as being, weak and ineffective in fighting terrorism. He touted his military credentials as a Vietnam combat vet to supposedly prove that he would and could be every bit if not more the hardliner on terrorism than Bush.
If Kerry had looked at the polls much closer he would have seen what it really took to beat Bush. Those same polls that consistently showed that if the election came down solely to a referendum on who best to fight terrorism, Bush would beat him handily. But if it came down to the issue of who would manage the economy better, do better in boosting education, creating more jobs, providing affordable health care, and protecting civil rights and civil liberties, Kerry would have beaten Bush handily.
Now we come back to Obama. He's following the same disastrous script as Kerry did with even less credibility. He's young, liberal, black, and has a name Barack Obama and a look that at least in the minds of some suspicious Americans types him as inherently questionable on being a stalwart tough guy on terrorism and national defense. In fact, his rough talk on terrorism comes a week after he said that he wouldn't have any hesitation about reaching out to America's favorite pariahs, Fidel Castro, Iran, and North Korea. That brought howls from conservatives, and even raised the eyebrows of Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.
Enter Rudy Giuliani. If he gets the GOP presidential nomination, Obama wouldn't have a prayer at nailing him as being softer than himself in the fight against terrorism. Even more than Bush, Giuliani is America's anti-terrorism icon. He still revs up audiences on the campaign circuit with his pitch that he'd be even tougher than Bush not only in fighting the war on terrorism, but also in a quick response to a terrorist attack on America's shores. During the election he would demolish Obama on the terrorism issue. He can and would strike the granite jawed, strong man, take charge look that he struck as New York mayor and that millions worldwide applauded after the attack on the World Trade Center. All the tough talk in the world by Obama wouldn't convince anyone that he could do better in the terrorism war than Giuliani.
Obama's trump card against the GOP is the same as Kerry's was if he had chosen to use it and that is to pound Giuliani or whomever the GOP nominee is on the party's atrocious record on civil liberties and civil rights protections, the muddle in Iraq, and their abysmal failures on health care, education, jobs and the economy. No, Obama fist shaking at North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran won't do anything for you in a head to head fight with the GOP nominee, especially if it's Giuliani. The GOP still knows how to do it far better than you when the watchword is anti-terror, and the voters know or at least believe that too.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.