Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

We’re all supposed to take it as a given that Barack Obama’s strong suit is the economy and weak spot is foreign policy.We heard that all weak and after the debate.
The opposite is true. Obama is stronger on foreign policy than the economy. He showed this tonight when he was plodding and unimaginative on the economy but forceful and clear on foreign policy. And this has always been the case. We forget that Obama began his winning streak in the Democratic primaries and caucus with strong position on Iraq. It was when the campaign turned to those industrial battleground states and the economy that he slipped and Hillary surged.
Quick blink test: what’s obama’s foreign policy?
Get out of Iraq. Diplomacy. Focus on Afghanistan.
A few big, clear, easy to remember, easy to digest, popular ideas.
Now, what’s Obama’s economic policy?
Um, $1000 tax cut for lots of Americans. Tax increases for the rich. And then some vague stuff on energy. Does health care count?
I mean tax cuts are popular but that’s not really a whole economic policy, and certainly not a compelling economic strategy and certainly not one that deals with our current predicament. Also, I wonder why he doesn’t use this historical point: Reagan messed up the economy. Clinton fixed it. Bush screwed up the economy. Obama will fix it. For the past 30 years the record is clear: Democrats manage the economy and the government’s finances better. Why doesn’t he go there?
The reason people assume he’s better on the economy is that he’s been polling better on that issue. But I’m convinced that’s because of the dissatisfaction with the economy, combined with his general “change” message means he’s the logical choice for altering economic direction. It’s not because of anything he’s said or done.
I’d have to think about this one a bit more but it may be that the conventional wisdom on McCain is backwards, too. We assume he’s better on foreign policy because he’s more experienced and facile but he’s been on the wrong side (politically and substantively) of many of the big issues. Meanwhile, his consistent opposition to wasteful government spending really is a key part of a sound economic policy. Need to mull that one a bit more…