Obama the new Lincoln? More like the new Nixon

Today’s NGA meeting in Philadelphia threw up the prospect of an interesting press moment: the president-elect coming face to face with his nemesis and possible future opponent, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

If Obama had truly been in Lincoln mood, he would have invited her for a personal meeting, posed for the camera’s and made a few obligatory comments about how her being here shows she understands that the campaign is well and truly over, that the country is facing a serious economic crisis, and that he looks forward to working with her and other governors of both parties on a range of issues once he’s sworn in.

Then again, his advisers would have told him, wouldn’t such a photo op of just the two of them boost her standing among independent voters by making her look, well, almost presidential? And wasn’t it dangerous to go on the record talking about how she was now also working for the common good of all voters? After all, they’d worked so hard to define her as an ultra partisan rightwinger. Ok, so no meeting one on one, and no special statement.

Then again, he couldn’t really ignore her altogether, could he? That would make him look like a sore winner.

So he couldn’t really acknowledge her, but he couldn’t afford not to acknowledge her either. How do you solve this conundrum?

Then, all of a sudden, you get it: why not use Joe Biden? It works on many different levels: – no one can complain that he didn’t acknowledge her. He could legitemately claim he didn’t have to say anything to her since it had already been said by his VP;

  • by using Biden as a surrogate, he got the message out while avoiding going on record himself. No useable quotes for the afternoon news bulletins, that’s the main thing;

  • by making Biden make the statement, he created the impression that she’s a mere vice-presidential hopeful, not really in the president-elect’s league.

Smart politics, for sure. There’s just one little problem with it: instead of looking like father of the nation Lincoln, he ended up looking more like schemer in chief Richard Nixon.