Keep Digging, Watson

Obamaccomplishment n. , something Barack Obama has done, most likely unmemorable.— Encyclopedia Baracktannica

Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson’s spectacular flub on Hardball last night has already handed Hillary Clinton her first post-Wisconsin attack angle : Obama’s supporters can’t name a single accomplishment of his.

It might be the single worst thing that could happen to a surrogate, especially when the top charge against Obama is his inexperience. (To his credit, Watson’s apology is pitch-perfect.) Obama’s just lucky it was Watson and not a more prominent endorser like Caroline Kennedy or a Senate colleague.  

But Watson’s amnesia says more about Obama’s supporters than it says about the candidate. As this post points out, Obama has accomplished quite a bit for a first-term Democratic senator working under a Republican administration. (Of course, that’s not a very good excuse if the charge is inexperience.) What’s true, however, is that most Obama fans tend to be unversed in his background beyond his biography.

Some of this can be blamed on the campaign. Obama spends an inordinate amount of oxygen on lofty generalizations—perhaps no more than his colleagues do, but certainly more effectively. And when he does talk policy, it’s not about what he’s done, but programs he would like to see. Hard-core Obama fans could rattle off details of his health-care plan and economic stimulus package, since he repeats them in ads and on the stump. But ask them about the minutiae of his Senate ethics reform package and their eyes begin to dart.

Supporters themselves deserve flak, too. A similar moment occurred on Hannity & Colmes a few weeks ago, when a roomful of Democrats couldn’t name an Obamaccomplishment beyond “ethics reform” and “community organizing.” When the camera panned to him, one guy proudly declared, “Inspiration.”   That is just sad. I’ve heard the question asked at parties, with similar responses.

Perhaps this is a wake-up call for Obama. He spends so much time discussing the future, he might consider reminding people of what he has done in the past. For an opponent like John McCain, whose legislative record could encircle the planet, Obama’s relatively tame list of achievements is catnip. Obama’s campaign better start reminding people what the young candidate has done in the Senate, lest he have to do more of it in 2009.