I really like Barack Obama's style and I think he has the charisma and intelligence to be a good leader for the country.
But I have real doubts about the use to which he'd put that leadership capability. I know a lot of people see the mandate-no-mandate conversation as quibbling over details, but it really bothers me that Barack is pushing this point so hard when there's no really good argument for it.
People say that Krugman is overreacting to this particular issue, but what does it say about a candidate that his campaign is so fixated on this issue when there's no good argument for it. Sure, you might believe that no mandate is better than a mandate, but Barack is using this particular difference between his plan and Hillary's as a point of attack, when as far as I've seen the main argument for excluding a mandate from Barack's plan is that mandates are scary. This is understandable, but a mandate seems like good policy, and, given Barack's lauded communication skills, he should be able to explain, to convince folks, that the mandated insurance will also be subsidized and, therefore, made affordable -- so the government is not going to break anyone's bank.
Instead, and in light of the New Harry and Loise, it looks very much he's using it to score political points against Hillary.
I mean what the heck is the point of winning if the policy you win a mandate for is watered down? Shouldn't enacting good policy be the objective? And if policy is not the objective, what is?
In some ways, I can construe/rationalize this as a good thing. The ability and willingness to exploit an issue of relative inconsequence -- he still has a healthcare plan after all, thanks to John Edwards -- to wound his opponents could help him beat John McCain and then get legislation passed. And I'm still planning to vote for him in the primary. And I believe that his rhetorical approach, it's mellowness, is important and might be more effective in bringing around the other side. (Contra Krugman, I believe you can get good results by recapitulating the other sides points to show you've been listening.) But I'm sure as hell not going to buy the idea that Barack Obama truly represents a new kind of politics.
(Lastly -- I expect that this thing is going to backfire on him. And that makes me worry about his ability to read the landscape and know what's going to play well, especially given all the momentum he has right now.)