Delegation! In a way, when we vote for president that’s what we are doing, we are delegating authority for managing the country to a new President for four years. Thats one of the thinks that Senator Obama and his defenders don’t understand. I for one, want to make sure that if I delegate authority to someone I want to make DAMNED sure that they share my values. Thats why Rev. Wright and William Ayers remain an Issue, that’s why his flip-flops on the second amendment, or dealing with Iran are important–Values. The American People cannot understand if Senator Obama shares our values if he doesn’t do a better job of answering our questions about Wright and Ayers, if he doesn’t explain his flip flops on key issues. We Just can’t delegate our authority to someone like that:
With the Democratic nomination all but decided, it’s time for Barack Obama to start defining himself in the context of the general election — before the Republicans define him. Most importantly, he must answer this question once and for all: What are his values? Mr. Obama began to do so last Tuesday night, by speaking more generally about who he is and how he defines himself. But this is just a first step. Exit polls in Indiana and North Carolina show clearly that fewer than 60% of white voters believe Mr. Obama shares their values. In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 45% of the American electorate said they can identify with Mr. Obama’s values, compared to 54% who say they can identify with John McCain’s values.
Make no mistake, the ongoing controversy over his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright leaves Mr. Obama vulnerable. So does the flap over his comments at a San Francisco fund-raiser over working-class voters’ alleged bitterness leading them to cling to religion and guns. He needs to speak directly and forthrightly to the concerns and fears of these voters if he is to succeed in November. How does he do that? First, and obviously symbolically, he must start wearing the flag lapel pin. He simply cannot afford to raise doubts about his patriotism. More substantively, he must also unabashedly support measures that reflect and emphasize his commitment to traditional American values. For example, he should commit to enhancing and strengthening the earned income tax credit, to provide tax relief to the working poor and to continue transferring people from welfare to work. This will demonstrate his preference for hard work and initiative as opposed to entitlement programs. Mr. Obama must also demonstrate concretely that he is sympathetic to the victims of crime — in ways that go beyond the abstract rhetoric of his March 18 speech on race relations in Philadelphia. He needs to make clear, in no uncertain terms, that he understands American concerns about law and order, and that he puts public safety at the top of his priorities. To be sure, there is an increasing role for rehabilitation in the criminal justice system. But Mr. Obama must emphasize first and foremost that he is on the side of law-abiding people. To win southwestern states such as Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, he must demonstrate his intention to secure our borders, and to integrate those immigrants who are here into American society with a clear path to citizenship. Mr. Obama should also reemphasize his support for the rights of gun owners to hunt and use firearms safely and responsibly. On foreign policy, Mr. Obama must refute the presumption that he is not fully committed to the war on terror, or that he believes every problem can be solved by negotiating with the leaders of rogue nations. He must reassure people that he understands diplomacy has its limits. Part of this reassurance should consist of a speech that Mr. Obama should give on the subject of what Ronald Reagan called “American exceptionalism” — still a core value for most Americans, and particularly swing voters. Our role in the world, and our unique democratic experience, make us a nation that has to be prepared to stand alone if absolutely necessary. Finally, Mr. Obama must connect with people of faith. He needs to reach out explicitly to the evangelical community, both white and black. Mr. Obama does not have to apologize for his own faith and membership in Trinity United Church of Christ, but he needs to emphasize, as he has tried to do a number of times, that his own values are the opposite of Mr. Wright’s. Most Americans know that Jeremiah Wright’s views are not those of Barack Obama; they do not need a point-by-point refutation of Mr. Wright’s comments. But moderate-to-conservative voters who once had confidence in Mr. Obama now have doubts, because he has been so close for so long to someone whose values are so inimical to theirs. What Americans need to know, once and for all, is that Mr. Obama stands with them on cultural issues they care about. Here’s what I mean. In 1996, I was the campaign manager for Clinton-Gore in Tennessee and Kentucky. We ran our campaign almost exclusively on conservative values — on issues such as opposing gang crime, opposing welfare fraud, and fighting street crime. We also had evangelical ministers recording radio ads for rural markets, emphasizing the president’s commitment to traditional values. With all that we won both states only narrowly. Harold Ford lost the 2006 Senate race in Tennessee in part because Republicans were able to portray him — a more conservative Democrat than Barack Obama — as being on the wrong side of the cultural divide, just because he had once attended a Playboy party for the Super Bowl. Values-related issues are that potent, even in a time of economic downturn. In Mr. Obama’s March 18 speech on race, he said that he understands black concerns about whites, and white concerns about blacks. But he must go further, and point to the unity of all Americans in support for the values that have made this country what it is today. It is these seemingly universal core values that most Americans were brought up with, and that people now question if Mr. Obama really shares. He must remove all doubt, and quickly. If Barack Obama is going to win the election, he needs to be able to fight the contest on the core economic issues that clearly work to the Democrats’ advantage — such as job creation, expanding access to health care, and providing relief to homeowners who have trouble paying their mortgages. But unless he is able to present himself as being part of the mainstream on core cultural and values issues, the Republican attack machine will be able to make this election about issues having little to do with the economy and our role in the world. Mr. Schoen is the author of “Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two Party System” (Random House, 2008).
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