May 16th, 2008
03:55 PM ET
10 years ago

Blitzer: Obama's learned - 'attack right back'

Blitzer: Obama hit back a day after Bush's speech.

Blitzer: Obama hit back a day after Bush's speech.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Barack Obama came out swinging against both President Bush and John McCain. At issue: the allegation that those who are willing to sit down with terrorists are no different than those who sought to appease Adolph Hitler in the lead-up to World War II. A day after President Bush’s speech in Jerusalem, Obama gave a tough speech of his own defending his record and then followed up with a lengthy news conference.

Obama’s political strategy is clearly designed to prevent the accusation from gaining credibility. Republicans have successfully raised questions about Democrats national security credibility over the years. Obama and his supporters who fanned out across the television networks want to make sure that those charges don’t have time to resonate.

I remember covering the 1988 presidential race between then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and Mike Dukakis. The Democratic nominee was branded as weak on national security. He was ridiculed for wearing a helmet while on a tank. The picture clearly made him look silly. Even though he had emerged from the Democratic convention that summer way ahead of Bush in the national polls, he eventually lost the election in November.

Many Democrats learned an important lesson in the process. Once attacked, attack right back and don’t wait. Bill Clinton learned that lesson in 1992. It’s seems Obama has learned that lesson as well.

Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (209 Responses)
  1. PCS / North Carolina

    Chet, wrote OR May 16th, 2008 4:21 pm ET

    "Yeah, Obama will attack back just as soon as his handlers tell him what to say and he practices it before standing behind a podium, reading his "attack" from a teleprompter. Oh, and don't forget the American flags behind him. "

    You are comparing Obama to the "Dog handlers" in guantanamo bay – Yeah, we are very proud of that

    "he practices it before standing behind a podium" – He was a President of Harvard Law Review, and does not need a telepromptor.

    May 16, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. CW in DC

    For you people that keep saying Obama took to long to attack back – he was already scheduled to have a campaign rally when he spoke up. Instead of rounding up a bunch of press people and saying the same thing more than once, he showed good judgment by speaking in front of a crowd of supporters where he would have both the attention of the people backing him AND the press. Thus, killing two birds with one stone. I guess we can see how he has managed his campaign so well and with great efficiency.

    May 16, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. Alex- New Jersey

    Obama's method of firing back is a great counter punch. He blanked the news media with how horrible bush's attack was right off the bat, and then followed up with the facts in a strong speech.

    Going off the cuff with facts can quickly turn on someone with all the fact checkers in the world waiting to pounce. People who look for any mistake or gaff and try and turn the story from what was meant to a game of gotcha on how informed the speaker appears to be.

    By emotionally blunting the attack then following up with the facts and his own attack Obama kept the story from gaining ground as Mr. Blitzer talks about. And above and beyond that he came out with a strong statement that will be hard to turn on him by fact watchers.

    May 16, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. Whiskey

    You morons who write stuff such as "needed someone to write a speech for him or tell him what to do" qare oblivious to politics. Do none of you realize that all Bush, McCain, Clinton, Obama, and every other figure head's speeches are written by others. Republican's toughness on terror speeches...written by others......Clinton trying to connect and heartwarming....written by others. Wake up you clueless people.

    May 16, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. HTA, Chicago, IL

    I have yet to see negatives stem from dialogue between nations. Just because you have dialogue does not mean you are somehow weak. On the other hand, labeling a nation as evil only escalates conflict. Let McCain argue the point and attack Obama, I'll never buy his side.

    May 16, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Ngende Eugene

    Keen observation Wolf. That's the subtle but mean game of Republicans, that paints a picture that can stick, without any factual backing – Obama answered back with facts.

    May 16, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. Mario from Seattle

    It takes a lot more strength to talk to our enemy and attempt to improve our relations around the globe then to simply generalize them as "terrorists" and attack with out question.

    Obama's message is clear. Either continue these old war mongering tactics and breed new hate with hate or CHANGE with diplomacy and a foreign policy to unify this world.

    Obama is proving that he is a strong candidate that can take on these old political tactics and will not hesitate to call these unproven politicians to the floor.

    May 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. leon

    We are going to see pretty soon who is the real Obama, everything Obama has said he is not is going to emerger from more more negatives statementes and personal attacks to lack of values and loyalty . His pastor will show up again and Obama will say even harder and more destroying things about the man that open his church and arms to launch his political career.

    We will see his lack of good judgement, his lack of real policies, he will have no more plans from Hillary to copy a he does not have hiw own.

    he will reveal himself as the average and vulgar politician he is

    May 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  9. Nando, Florida

    This is mano on Mano and it will be ugly.

    May 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  10. Scott

    What are you talking about, 2 days?? talk about fuzzy math, Bush made those comments yesterday! Obama is right, McBush has alot of explaining to do w/ foreign policies, and Obama showed alot of toughness today, Obama '08

    May 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  11. Republican in Idaho

    Thank you that somebody is finally standing up for our rights. I am sick and tired of Bush and his administration doing whatever they want whenever they want. It is time to stand up for the majority. The majority of us do not like NCLB, it is ruining our public education system, which is precisely what Bush wants. He wants to take away the only thing that makes America great, the opportunity for everyone. I am tired of the Bush administration funding rebuilding of Iraq, while our bridges and roads need fixed. All because his little buddy, Cheney is making millions off from contracts in Iraq. Bush does not speak for the majority of Americans, and yet his stupidity reflects on all of us. We need someone who will make America proud. I am appalled at what the president I regrettfully voted for has done to this nation. I just pray that God will have mercy and restore us to the great nation we once were.

    May 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  12. simon

    WHO was that "ELITE HARVARD" man that did not serve in Vietnam battles; but stood on the deck on an aircraft carrier beneath "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner declaring the worst was over Iraq.


    OBAMA don't allow yourself to be ridiculed by the like of COWARDS like Bush and his radio cronies. Bush SHAMED himself, the office of the president, the nations and the people of America and Israel with his stupid remarks yesterday. T
    The GOP has a faction that is petty in their opinions; but solid in their ability spread those opinions.

    May 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. Keep fighting dems

    Gary Obama is a democratic liberal idiot! He cant win in iraq him and the democrats are going to SURRNDER to the ENEMIES and allow these terrorists to win. we dont want that-no no no. We need to WIN in iraq NO MATTER THE COST.
    McCain knows how to win wars and he knows what to do in iraq. he has been for this war all along and will NOT back down like the scared democrats do when they see a little blood!!!

    This war only has 4000 deaths-no other war has had this few. Stop whining about the economy and vote for a strong, moral candidate- John Sydney McCain

    May 16, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. Chris, WI

    Hey Mike in Texas....

    Really? It took his writers two days to figure out how to respond? Really? How did you manage to get that kind of information? Wow, you must have an inside connection that the rest of us don't.

    Nice try, but you fail just like everyone else who tries to spew false information about these presidential candidates.

    May 16, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  15. ddc

    BillyBob – Obama hit the Bush/McInsane foreign policy smear back just fine. "cave under the pressure"? you're hillusional! The republicans can't run on their policy so they lie and smear. America doesn't want that crap anymore! And, the only thing Hillary will be picking up is that broken so-called "political machine" that Obama has successfully cracked into teeny, tiny little pieces.

    mt – Apparently you don't watch the news much! Bush and McInsane made their first comments on this yesterday. Immediately afterwards, Obama responded, as did the rest of the power heads in the Democratic party, including Sen. Clinton. Duh!!!

    Steve – So your view is that if Sen. Obama defends himself from and responds to republican smears and lies or points out the hypocrisy in Bush's and McCain's attacks that makes him a "stereotypical politician"? You must be one of those people who send money to Nigeria, because you sound pretty stupid!

    May 16, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  16. jrzshor

    was that a "change", "hope" not the same old washington","politics as usual" attack?

    May 16, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  17. Big D

    Obama handled this fabulously!
    To those who dismissively say 'he's not ready because he needs his writers to come up with answers for him' - you're wrong. He writes the majority of his speeches himself.
    To those who dismissively say 'he's just a typical politician who starts attacking even when he said he wouldn't' - you're wrong. To defend yourself against an unfair attack is completely different than starting a smear campaign.
    To those who dismissvely say 'he have tea parties with the enemy' - you're wrong. That's ridiculously oversimplifying his views.
    Go Obama – keep pushing back when you're smeared, and don't let them get away with distorting your positions.

    May 16, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  18. Kiah

    That's the way to fight them. And HRC helped toughen him up, because he used to let things fester and that only fueled her to continue. Once he began to fight back and defend his position he not only gained momentum but credibility in that he was not just some empty-headed rhetorical orator with no substance but in fact was a strong force that stood by his convictions. Obama has been hit by the Republicans from day 1, they have largely ignored HRC and it's because they knew that this was the guy to weaken and go after. His sharp response to both Bush and McCain sends the Republicans and Democrats a very strong message. He is not afraid of them and he will fight back no matter how ridiculous the attack.

    Dukakis admitted on Larry King Live this past Wednesday that his mistake was to ignore the Republican attack machine because at face value their smears held no true substance. But in politics you have to venture onto the low road from time to time to show the American people that one you're not gonna tolerate factless allegations and smear tactics.

    Barack Obama has done throughout this entire campaign and he will continue to fight for what's right and to clear up the smoke and mirrors in Washington and force everyone to deal with the issues.

    May 16, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  19. Glen

    Obama has exposed the underhandedness and falsehood of the Republican's first major attack of the general election. He's hit back hard with facts. The strategy behind Bush's accusation has utterly failed and left the country, indeed the world, laughing at the ineptitude of our President again.

    May 16, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  20. Jim D

    Way to go, Mr. Obama; just pick those shoes up and try them on for size. And you weren't even mentioned by name....hmmm....

    May 16, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  21. Tobias

    He has been attacking first so please don't say he's learned anything. This man is nothing more then a lying hypocrite. He is not qualified to be president and he is unelectable. The only winning ticket right now is Clinton/Obama.

    May 16, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  22. PSmith

    It has started....

    Let's all sit down and watch how unpatriotic Obama and his cynical wife will be crushed!

    Soon you will realize how bad of a choice you made..


    -Hillary 08

    May 16, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  23. Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    He thinks thing thru before he acts, something we do not have in the White House right now.

    If Bush would have thaught things thru befor he went into Iraq maybe things would have not gotten worse in this country.

    Obama 08

    May 16, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  24. FRANK





    May 16, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  25. Lisa

    How stupid is John Edwards looking now? He endorsed Obama and Obama is looking like a lame duck. I'm so glad that Hillary is still in this race.

    May 16, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
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