David Ignatius has written something that asks the question most likely to trip Barack Obama up. Here’s how he frames it:
Hillary Clinton has been trying to make a point about Barack Obama that deserves one last careful look before Tuesday’s probably decisive Democratic primaries: If Obama truly intends to unite America across party lines and break the Washington logjam, then why has he shown so little interest or aptitude for the hard work of bipartisan government?
This is the real “where’s the beef?” question about Obama, and it still doesn’t have a good answer. He gives a great speech, and he promises that he can heal the terrible partisan divisions that have enfeebled American politics over the past decade. And this is a message of hope that the country clearly wants to hear.
But can he do it? The record is mixed, but it’s fair to say that Obama has not shown much willingness to take risks or make enemies to try to restore a working center in Washington. Clinton, for all her reputation as a divisive figure, has a much stronger record of bipartisan achievement. And the likely Republican nominee, John McCain, has a better record still.
Thus far, Obama has talked the talk but proof that he’s walked the walk is thin to nonexistent. As Mr. Ignatius states, John McCain certainly has a heftier track record of working across the aisle than Obama.
Thus far, Obama has gone unscathed but that white glove treatment is about to end. The RNC and the McCain campaign will frequently be challenging Sen. Obama on things like this. Their goal is to prove that Sen. Obama is all talk. Obama didn’t have to worry about that type of attack from Hillary because she’s such a divisive figure. That dynamic just changed because McCain isn’t a divisive figure.
The other thing that’s about to change is the experience issue. Hillary’s tried to play that card but it’s been an exercise in futility because she doesn’t have the gravitas that McCain has. McCain can contrast his leading the charge for the successful Surge strategy. As Mara Liasson astutely pointed out, all that Obama’s had to do thus far is say that he’s been consistently opposed to this war. Since everyone was fighting to out-peacenik each other, there wasn’t a need to actually defend their anti-war policies. That’s just changed in a big way with McCain pushing his pro-victory agenda.
This should be a most interesting general election. If McCain can unite Republicans, this could be a strong GOP election.
Cross-posted at California Conservative