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Posted by on Jun 14, 2008 in Politics | 14 comments

Obama Vows Tough Campaign:”If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

Democratic presumptive Presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama has seemingly channeled Sean Connery in the movie “The Untouchables” by serving notice that if the Republicans aggressively go after him he’s ready to respond in kind — and then some:

Barack Obama is warning supporters that the general election fight between him and John McCain may get ugly, but the Illinois senator is vowing not to back down.

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said at a fundraiser in Philadelphia Friday, according to pool reports.

“We don’t have a choice but to win,” Obama said, joking that he has heard “folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles games.”

Obama again said that the GOP will make try to make him look “scary” to voters.

And, in the predictable way our politics functions you could guess what the Republican response to this would be — and you’re correct:

Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said Obama’s rhetoric abandons Obama’s campaign themes of hope and change.

“In the last 24 hours, he’s completely abandoned his campaign’s call for ‘new politics’, equating the election to a ‘brawl’ and promising to ‘bring a gun,’” Conant said.

Actually, that isn’t what Obama says here at all.

He’s indicating that unlike past Democratic nominees — with the exception of Bill Clinton — he’s not going to wait to respond to attacks nor is he going to not counter an aggressive campaign with a campaign calibrated to be tough enough or tougher to counter any Republican attack.

Michael Dukakis let the Republicans portray him as a kind of robot, define him with the infamous Willy Horton ad and later run an ad that used footage of him in a tank looking like Snoopy. His campaign tried to ignore the negative campaigning and paid the price. John Kerry waited so long before he condescended to respond to the Swift Boat attacks that by the time he did his own boat sank.

Obama already tipped his hand on how he plans to handle negative campaigning aimed his way when it was announced that his campaign was starting a website to directly counter and answer — an debunk — Internet “smears,” such as the false charge that he is Muslim or continued speculation that there is a tape showing his wife Michelle screaming about “Whitey” at his ex-church.

People forget, but Bill Clinton, James Carville and Paul Begala started their famous campaign “war room” due to disastrous past Democratic national campaigns where charges were made and Democrats didn’t counter them fast enough or Democrats let the campaign momentum and media narrative slip from them to the Republicans.

So Obama’s channeling Connery is by no means a rejection of a campaign of hope and change. Its embracing a campaign that is planning to stay on equal footing with the Republicans, rather than allowing itself to become a doormat.

Now, if Obama says “My name is Bond. James Bond…” there MIGHT be some reason to worry..

UPDATE: For another reaction to Obama’s comments GO HERE.

Here’s the scene from “The Untouchables”:

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • Silhouette

    “We don’t have a choice but to win..”~Barack Obama

    Yes. So now it’s time for you to step aside and let that candidate who will surely win take the nomination in August.

    Anything less, in light of the fact that she won the popular vote, would be selfish of you. Especially when you know your inexperience is going to be costly to a win this Fall.

    Selfish, selfish, selfish..

    And no, you’re not the second Martin Luther King Jr. You’re a slick and rich Yankee with connections…

  • elrod

    Give it up. She did not win the popular vote unless you give zero votes to Obama from Michigan. Hillary totally supports Obama. And she’s as Yankee as anybody else – born in Park Ridge, IL with a Chicago ayaccent.

  • Weightman

    Let’s hope than Senator Obama will be as tough on the Iranians as he promises to be on the Republicans.

  • debrazza

    It’s great that he says he does not want to lose the media narrative, but he lost the news cycle every week to Hillary the last two months of the campaign and the same thing is happening now to McCain.

    Just watch the hand wringing that those clowns on Morning Joe give Wesley Clark and how he had to fight back on them hard. Just watch how this innocuous quote itself has been an “issue” only because the McCain campaign picked up on it and issued a press release about it. So now everyone is covering it.

    How stupid. McCain says jump and the media jumps. McCain says interpret things this way and the media interprets things their way or at least delivers their false and misleading interpretation without criticism.

  • kryon77

    A comment on “swiftboating,” with the disclosure that, yes, I’m a Republican and a McCain supporter.

    The assumption from the Democratic side seems to be that if only Kerry responded quickly and aggressively to the Swift Boat attacks, he could have emerged unscathed. But that seems to ignore the fact that the most effective of those attacks centered on Kerry’s post-Vietnam activities.

    The Swift Vets were, in my opinion, at their weakest when questioning Kerry’s valor as a soldier, because it was unseemly, and because no voter had the time or resources to evaluate a he-said he-said dispute. But the Swift Vets were quite effective when calling attention to the undisputed: 1) Kerry acted as spokesmen for a group of fake soldiers, the Winter Soldiers, whose sole purpose was to defame actual soldiers, 2) Kerry gained fame and the start of his own political career with his own defamatory Congressional testimony, reporting that his fellow soldiers committed “atrocities in the style of Ghengis Kahn,” etc.

    The commercials featuring Kerry’s Congressional testimony were devastating. What, precisely, could Kerry have said to staunch the damage, even if he had responded on day one? Sometimes the truth hurts.

    Obama, in San Francisco, told us that those who have contrary views in the areas of guns and religion are basically too brain-deficient to develop those ideas as rational convictions; rather, these are values people cling to because they’re bitter and haven’t worked for a while.

    That statement tells us a truth about Obama, and I hope it hurts him too, even if those on the other side yell “swiftboating.”

  • runasim

    ‘Obama, in San Francisco, told us that those who have contrary views in the areas of guns and religion are basically too brain-deficient to develop those ideas as rational convictions; rather, these are values people cling to because they’re bitter and haven’t worked for a while”—-


  • runasim

    This is going to be ugly.

    The LA blog chides Obama for referring to guns, while ignoring the fact that the referrence comes from a quote. Besides, has no one heard of symbolism?

    By now, almost every word in the English language is radioactive.

  • StockBoySF

    Obama is not going to start any fights and if the Republicans go after him with lies or racist comments or questioning his patriotism, then Obama is not going to take it laying down. Good for him- he’s not a pushover.

  • arubyan

    Well, if there was a “fighter” in this campaign cycle, it was Hillary. No question about it: kicking, scratching, gouging, sucker-punching, fighting Hillary. And I genuinely mean that in a good way.

    At a fundamental level, it’s what you want in your candidate: the overwhelming desire to win. Had she prevailed I would have been thrilled to have her represent the Democrats. There would have been blood in the scuppers — Republican blood.

    But there’s fighting and then there’s fighting.

    Aikido (???, aikid??) is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as “the Way of unifying (with) life energy” or as “the Way of harmonious spirit.”

    …or as Obama likes to say, there’s no blue states, no red states. Just the United States.

    Ueshiba’s goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

    You heard right: win without destroying your enemy.

    Listen, I am hardly the first person to make this analogy. Google “aikido Obama” and you get at least 80 thousand citations. And/But more to the point — just because you make the analogy doesn’t mean’s it’s true. Can Obama pull it off? Is he an Aikido sensei? Time will tell. But I like that he showing a different way.

    Like I said, grasshopper: there’s fighting and then there’s fighting.

  • StockBoySF

    And of course we have Bush’s approach which is, “If we don’t like them we’ll blow ’em away just to make sure they don’t attack us first”.

    It’s one thing to go after terrorists (which I think Bush should be more aggressive in doing so) and it’s another thing to invade countries that are already castrated of their military power and pose no threat to us.

  • runasim

    I read a very disturbing post. In essence, it said that throwing support to Obama became possible only AFTER his James Bond quote. Since the post did not acknowlege that this was a symbolic quote from a Bond, movie, I have to assuem that this new-found admiration was for politics as warfare, not debate..

    Has anybody been listening to Obama?
    The message from all sdes seems to be that rational, civil politics in this country is not possible.
    What next? Pre-emptime smears and sleaze? If we don’t fight on their terms, we’ll lose on ours? Talk about defeatism and a descent to the lowest standards.!

    The Hillary women are not learning the lessons of the primaries.
    She lost a lot of support precisely because her ‘fight’ became so ugly at times.
    If they continue on this road, they will alienate a lot of Obama supporters, and they will not be a good fit for Obama himself. By giving the presidency to McCain, they will lose everything Hillary stood for and will desecrate her legacy in the process.

  • StockBoySF

    runasim, I don’t think many people have been listening to Obama. That’s clear in reading a lot of pro-Obama posts and talking with pro-Obama folks.

    I think what most people miss in Obama’s message on change is that it begins with each of us. For instance I read an article in the NY Times today about Obama speaking at one of Chicago’s largest black churches. He was addressing some of the ills in the African American community and had strong words for absent fathers. He called for the African American community in general (and more specifically men) to meet their responsibilities and be there for their children. Since his father left him at a young age and his mother and her parents had to struggle to raise him, he could relate to them. That’s a powerful message coming from someone who could very well be the next president of the US. It wouldn’t work as well if his own parents had remained together and had money. And it wouldn’t work at all if some old white guy told the African American community to “shape up” (in essence). This ability to be the messenger of hard words and be respected is exactly what put Obama on my radar and why I support him. How many politicians say such things? Did George Bush ever ask anyone to give any single sliver of themselves for the greater good? I can not picture Bush in front of his oil friends making a similar argument about oil, profits and global warming…. The closest came when Cheney said that energy conservation was a personal virtue. Here the Bush administration has had eight years to address some of our biggest problems, and deliver the necessary message, and they have just taken the money and run.

    Of course the sort of change that Obama is calling for will take years, decades to do. But someone has to start somewhere and there is no better leader in our country today to give the hard truth to the people who need to hear it. Not just African Americans- but in addressing whatever the issue is.

    I think Obama wants us all to strive to be better citizens to help make this union “more perfect”. Not that we will be successful all the time, but if we do adopt a less partisan tone and start to work together, at least a little bit, then that’s a start.

    As far as Obama’s “bring a knife” comment- I see that as a warning to the Republicans and it’s all in the Republican’s hands. If the Republicans play fair and discuss the issues, then there will be no problems. But if they tote out their 527s or whatever and start taking shots at him, then he’s ready to fight back.

  • runasim


    You summed it up very well, and I plan to support his message, even if the messenger loses the race. It’s very disheartening to witness how his message is being trampled under the hooves of politics.

    After a lifetime as a feminist, I’m apalled by how the Hillary women are redefining the term, One post actually criticized Obama’s speech about absent fathers as being sexist and an insult to lesbian parents!
    In this view, diversity and women’s rights means that traditional marriages and men have to be pushed out! That’s not diversity. That’s just the old politics of bigotry and exclusion, only with a different membership.

    When I think of all the craziness that will determine the election outcome, Im susceptible to feelings of dread. I know for a fact that there is a never described demographic of common sense people who don’t live at political extremes and political hatred zones. They are not the ones heard, though, and I fear they will become infected by the louder voices yelling nonsense. .

  • StockBoySF

    Thanks, runasim. Agreed, and that “never described demographic of common sense people” may tune the extremists out and not even vote or otherwise participate in the process.

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