Friday, August 08, 2008

Playing Defense

Josh covers some of the recent complaints people have that Obama is getting into a "McCain-attacks-Obama-responds" mode that appears to be defensive and weak.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. One of my central complaints about Democrats over the last several elections is that so few of them play good offense. More often then not, Democrats rely on answering smear attacks with facts and figures in the (naive) belief that if they just explain "the truth" they will defeat the attacks. They also appear to be constitutionally incapable of hitting Republicans with anywhere near the relish we see coming from the other side.

It's why, I believe, Democrats have repeatedly lost their natural advantage with the people who, in survey after survey, overwhelmingly support Democratic policies.

It's also why I held off so long in supporting Obama during the primaries. I was concerned that he was going to follow the same failed play book.

But, watching Obama over the course of the primary, and the last few weeks of the general election, I've come to see something important about him: he's very good at playing defense.

Let's use an analogy. Basketball teams generally are broken into two categories: those that emphasize offense and those that emphasize defense. The offensive teams hone their fast break skills. They practice rapid passes and rushes to the basket with a manic fury. And they also offer some of the most exciting play-by-play in the league.

Defensive teams, on the other hand, focus on spreading out the field. They concentrate on getting rebounds, forcing turnovers and making those 2nd and 3rd chance shots. They slow the clock down to a more leisurely pace. And they also tend to offer some of the more boring play-by-play in the league.

But, here's the thing. A really good defensive team OWNS pretty much everyone else out there. Nothing frustrates an offensive team more than a defensive team that erects a WALL between them and the basket. The Boston Celtics, this years NBA champs, were a defensive team. They shut opponents down with efficiency. It may not have been exciting (for non-Bostonians), but it worked.

One reason strong defense works is because it understands that even the best offensive teams make mistakes. And THAT is when the defensive teams make the other side pay for their mistakes.

I still prefer offense vs. defense. But I've now concluded that playing defense can have its merits as long as the player who does it actually proves adept at it. Obama is adept.

I mean, think about it. McCain has thrown some of the wildest junk at Obama that we have ever seen. And what has been the result? A perhaps marginal shift downward in Obama's numbers. But not anything of any real statistical significance. The race is still pretty much the same, fundamentally, that it was two months ago: a choice between more of the same or something new.

And as long as that remains the dynamic of this race, McCain cannot win.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home