Sunday, January 06, 2008

Is This The Best They've Got?

I've seen a lot of people referencing Obama's use of "right wing memes" to attack or contrast other Democratic candidates. I've been unable to pay round-the-clock attention to anything this year with my freelance work, a baby, etc.—so if things get crazy, I might miss a week or two of blogging and fall behind, or miss, these stories when they're all the rage...

One of my go-to bloggers/buddies, Toast, has been pushing this hard, so I thought I should figure out what he's talking about. I know Krugman's taken some shots at Obama lately—one was Obama's use of the word "crisis" in reference to Social Security. If we are to believe the Dem talking points, and the analysis of guys like Krugman (and I do)—then there is no "crisis," and Obama is wrong to use that word. But I hardly find that to be a major offense. And Obama has backed off on that language. Good. It's not accurate, and it's not helpful.

The invaluable Steve Benen (the Tim Higgins of lefty blogging*) rounded up the six major charges against Obama and analyzes them here. He amusingly rates them in units of "Liebermans."

Like Benen, I don't find many of these compelling enough reasons to reject Obama. I find them somewhat understandable and acceptable considering the fact that he is running to the middle. And let me be clear—"running to the middle" is something I have been harshly critical of in the past. The difference here is this: I actually think Obama can do it, and win with with it. And, most importantly, I trust that he won't actually govern to the middle.

I'd rather my candidate be a bit of a Trojan Horse, sell himself as more moderate, and then perform more progressively in office with a broader mandate, than sell themselves as more progressive than they really are, or intend to be, and then piss me off by selling out and governing as a corporate centrist. Who do we know like that? Hillary, Reid, Pelosi, and countless other Dems...

We "smart" libs like to laugh at the bible-thumping chumps who get rolled by the Roves and Bushes and support the GOP, falling for the promises that never come... Well, after the rhetoric I heard in 2006 from Dems, who were then handed power in Congress only to bend over ever more quickly for Bush, I, for one, am not laughing any more.

I think the problem people in the Left(ish) Blogosphere are having with Obama stems from one of a couple things:

1.) They are Edwards fans, and Obama is standing in their guy's way. I can understand that. Edwards is the more pure, appeal to the base, fired-up, revenge candidate. As voters, talk of "reaching across the aisle" triggers a gag reflex. Fair enough.

2.) They start out disliking Obama for some reason. This is likely tied back to number one, or has to do with Obama's religiousity (I think this is particularly true for Toast—feel free to respond). I actually think he's been pleasantly and surprisingly low-key on that stuff lately. But let me explain why I will NOT hold that stuff against Obama even though it would grate severely on me from anyone else. Barack Hussein Obama has to catapult the bullshit rumors that he is a dirty Moslem. Therefore, I give him a pass every time he invokes God or reminds people he's a Christian for just that reason. I'd prefer my politicians keep religion off the table, but when you have to counter constant whisper campaigns, I'll allow it.

* reference for serious, old-school college hoops fans only.

UPDATE: Since she got her ass handed to her in Iowa, I am finding Hillary's attacks on Obama much more objectionable than any of the stuff just discussed. More on that, and the NH debate to come later. Maybe.

UPDATE 2: A nice piece on the transformative potential of Obama from a contributor at Kos.

26 comments:

Toast said...

1. I am an Edwards fan, but not such a strong supporter that I'd resent another, more successful candidate who shares his progressive views.

2. I absolutely did not "start off" disliking Obama. I count myself among those who were absolutely floored by his 2004 nominating speech. Completely spellbound.

I'd rather my candidate be a bit of a Trojan Horse, sell himself as more moderate, and then perform more progressively in office with a broader mandate

My problem with this is that, yes, it gets us a progressive president, but what does it do for the liberal/progressive brand? Long-term success requires taking back the narrative. For almost two decades now it's been fine to call yourself a "centrist" or a "moderate", and of course it's just great if you declare yourself a "rock-ribbed conservative". The "liberal" or "progressive" labels, however, make pundits and politicians alike recoil in horror. Well I'm sick of that shit. Why should our side be the political persuasion that dare not speak it's name when we've been fucking right about everything???

Hey, maybe Obama gets into the White House, governs as a liberal for eight years, fixes the entire country, and on his way out he gives a speech where he says "Oh, by the way, that's liberalism. That's what you've been trashing for the last quarter century."

Think about it. If we don't rehabilitate the label, what do we do the next time the pendulum swings and the rightards start running their mouths about the glories of conservatism? How would we claim a successful liberal/progressive presidency as part of a countering legacy if no one properly called it that at the time?

Toast said...

Oh, and BTW, this whole criticism of Obama could be rendered moot if, as is being reported, Hillary is attacking him from the right in New Hampshire.

And see? Another example. Obama tries to position himself as centrist, so Hillary counters by moving rhetorically to the right. I am SO FUCKING SICK of there being only one direction that's seen as appealing and effective for candidates to move to. I just want a candidate who will run LEFT and do so proudly.

Toast said...

Here was my reaction the morning after Obama's '04 speech.

Chris Howard said...

I'd rather my candidate be a bit of a Trojan Horse, sell himself as more moderate, and then perform more progressively in office with a broader mandate

Isn't this what Bush did in 2000? From the other side, of course.

Mr Furious said...

"Hey, maybe Obama gets into the White House, governs as a liberal for eight years, fixes the entire country, and on his way out he gives a speech where he says "Oh, by the way, that's liberalism. That's what you've been trashing for the last quarter century.""

LOL! As I was reading you previous paragraph, this was almost exactly the response forming in my head. Unfortunately I think there is a lot of truth to that, but I think it could work, and he is best positioned to pull it off.

The GOP has done such damage to the country it will take a strong dose of medicine—think chemo—to fix it. Multiple doses, in fact. Getting as many people as possible on your side first and sweetening the taste before making the country take it will work much better than shoving a horse pill down it's throat (Edwards) or coming from a doctor half the nation hates before they walk in the room (HRC).

Rehabilitating the brand IS necessary, you're right. It needs to start somewhere, and having a positive, inspirational, and less-threatening doctor treat it is a good place to start.

Kicking Reid, Pelosi and the other sell-outs down the bench will be a good follow-up.

I'd love to see Dodd running the Senate—he clearly understands its role as a branch. In fact, I'd love it even more NOW while an opposition role is required.

Edwards would be a fucking fantastic pitbull of an AG.

Mr Furious said...

2. I absolutely did not "start off" disliking Obama. I count myself among those who were absolutely floored by his 2004 nominating speech. Completely spellbound.

I assumed a negative reaction to the religious aspect...

Mr Furious said...

Oh, and BTW, this whole criticism of Obama could be rendered moot if, as is being reported, Hillary is attacking him from the right in New Hampshire.


Oh, it's fucking happening alright. Big time. I have a post already started on it.

Mr Furious said...

Isn't this what Bush did in 2000? From the other side, of course.

Pretty much. The difference will be not fucking everything up, and actually having the good of the country in mind rather than your cronies.

Mr Furious said...

Nothing on Tim Higgins, people?

NYT reference: "The omnipresent official Tim Higgins best summed up the first hal..."

A profile on Higgins: "If you’re a fan of college basketball, you’ve seen him work hundreds of times...

And here's a pic.

--

At one time, it seemed like there must three of the guy, Higgins seemed to work every damn Big East game. One year when I was doing my college hoops fantasy team I saw Higgins officiate five games in one week, in three completely different areas of t he country...

nightshift66 said...

My 17 year old son desperately wants to cast his first vote for Obama. (He'll be 18 in time for the general, but not the primary.) I see my white, middle-class southern son so energized and excited for the man, and it amazes me. It's been decades since I voted for, rather than against, someone.

That said, Obama worries me as a candidate. He strikes me as a babe in the woods; he's never been vetted to the extent that he will be; and maybe most important, I'm not ready to make nice with the Right. They've insinuated that I'm a traitor if I vote Democratic; that I'm with the terrorists if I don't want to invade countries that didn't attack us; that I'm a loon for worrying about giving up my rights to George Fucking Bush. I want somebody who'll treat them the way New York cops treat Haitian immigrants. I see nothing from Obama that indicates that he's the person for that job.

Toast said...

I want somebody who'll treat them the way New York cops treat Haitian immigrants. I see nothing from Obama that indicates that he's the person for that job.

I want that too. Desperately. But I wonder if Obama realizes that it's impossible to call out the right the way they deserve to be in a media environment where Ann Coulter is considered colorful and provocative for wanting to blow up the New York Times building but Al Franken is a raving lunatic for thinking that, hey, maybe undermining habeas corpus is a bad idea.

Toast said...

He strikes me as a babe in the woods; he's never been vetted to the extent that he will be;

Yeah, Conason had some thoughts along those lines as well in his post-Iowa analysis. The right-wing slime machine is out there right now, gearing up for the general election, and if Obama thinks for a minute that his post-partisan, inclusive approach to campaigning will inoculate him from their predations, he is sadly mistaken.

S.W. Anderson said...

"The difference here is this: I actually think Obama can do it, and win with with it. And, mot importantly, I trust that he won't actually govern to the middle."

Sorry, but I don't think false advertising, BS'ing and misleading is right no matter who's doing it. It's just more anything-to-win crap, and it's sure to end up breeding more alienation and cynicism — the last things our battered democracy needs after what Bush, Cheney, Rove and the rest have done to it over the past seven years.

I want a candidate to say: "Here are the right things to do. Here's the best way to proceed. Democrats — liberals, if you will — have the solutions and the approach needed to fix what the hacks in power have done to our government, our legal system, our economy, our military and our society, and a bunch more problems besides. And, by the way, I'm the liberal Democrat who will make it happen, if you'll get behind me with your votes."

Or, in James Carville's words, "We're right, they're wrong and here's why."

That, by the way, was FDR's approach, and an overwhelming number of Americans didn't just keep electing him president for an unprecedented four terms, they literally made him part of their families. When he died, they grieved as though they'd lost a loved one.

S.W. Anderson said...

BTW, I've gone out of my way to make clear I like Obama. If he wins the nomination, you'll be hard put to tell I wasn't his biggest fan from the day he announced.

I just believe that in the general election Edwards will be better able to deal with GOP attacks, smears, dirty tricks and election-stealing tactics, and also better prepared to lead the country in a sharply different direction if he wins.

I also think Edwards stands a good chance of busting the GOP's southern strategy wide open, maybe breaking it for good. Whereas, very unfortunately, Obama might just strengthen it. I don't like it that this is a real possibility, but I think it's important to recognize that it is a real possibility. It's part of what I was getting at in mentioning strong coattails.

Chris Howard said...

I share some of Toast and Mr F's concerns about rehabilitating liberalism. But I think the center is a moving target, and if Obama can help to move the center to the left without being explicit about it, I can live with that.

But much as Smitty said in the previous thred - "But Obama just...does something for me. I don't want to make my decision based on that. " I get some of that too. Maybe it's just that the fact that a black man could really be elected president seems so refreshing. I like Edwards too, and Dodd, but part of me would hate to see the opportunity to elect a black man (or a woman) pass by.

Mr Furious said...

I think false advertising and BS is a bit strong. Obama is crafting his image to appeal to a wider swath of voter than the base. He's not claiming to be anything he's not (like Bush did), but he is reaching out to a wider audience and attempting to earn their vote first, and enter a coalition second.

I don't expect him to then rip off his mask and be Dennis Kucinich...I expect him to actually deliver on the things he is talking about.

Carefully avoiding casting yourself as super-liberal is the pragmatic approach here. It's too bad it comes to that, but that's the climate we're in.

Think of it as him putting his arm over the country's shoulder and say, "Look, here's the situation, we gotta get together and fix this shit." Then using the correct, progressive, liberal solutions to do that, but he'll have everyone on board...

That, to me, stands a much better chance of working than taking office and starting a big "I told you so" term.

Mr Furious said...

Different specific topic, but same theory applies...here's Atrios the other day:

Trust Me

In all my dealings with Obama people, as well as the man himself, there's always been this sense that they're constantly telling people, "Trust us. We've thought this through. We know what we're doing. It'll work. Yes we understand that you're uncomfortable with this, or that you think it's wrong, but really we know what we're doing."

And then those of us in the cheap seats think that there's no way all of those new/young voters show up to vote in Iowa, that Obama's inclusive rhetoric doesn't have the appeal he imagines, etc.. etc... And then he pulls it off. Maybe he does know what he's doing.

-Atrios 14:06

Smitty said...

I see the always bipartisan (grain of salt, tongue planted in cheek) Judicial Watch has submitted their Top 10 Most Wanted Corrupt Politicans" list.

Total bullshit, especially since it is comprised of 2 convicted felons and anyone who's currently popular.

S.W. Anderson said...

OK, F., the Atrios quote is a good one in the sense of being reassuring.
I can't dispute — and haven't disputed — Obama's impressive win in Iowa. I'm looking for him to do it again in New Hampshire.

If he gets the nomination, and even on the way, I hope he'll do what Bill Clinton failed to do: forge a new coalition and sell the brand as something worth sustaining over time.

That's especially important now because Bush & Co. have done such a thorough job of screwing things up, it will take two or three administrations just to undo the damage.

If you don't believe that, get hold of a copy of John Dean's book, Broken Government. You might think you have a good handle on the extent of the wreckage, as I did, but Dean makes clear it's even broader and more pervasive than you imagined.

Deb said...

As I sit in the lap of the liberal bastion in downtown San Francisco, I am nodding along furiously (ha! FURIOUSLY) at everything Toast wrote. BUT... I don't think now is the time to rehab our brand -- not when this election holds so much at stake. I agree that the Trojan Horse strategy is the only way into the big white house, and while Obama isn't my first choice, even I have had to admit in the past week that he may be -- ironically -- our great white hope for the election.

I say get him in, arm him with a brilliant, electable VP (who is THAT, btw?) and let's change the world from the inside out. THEN let's rehab the liberal brand and fuck the GOP for another 20 years or so.

Deb said...

Oh, and as for Hillary, I'm so disappointed in her. I think she's a classic example of yet another politician so caught up in the politics that she has completely forgotten why she's been given a voice in the first place. She had an opportunity to show the western world that women can be capable, strong, and, most of all, ethical in a leadership position. She knew she would be held to a higher bar and closer scrutiny, and she failed to rise to the occasion, deciding instead to hike up her skirt and crawl under as if she was a Bush confederate herself.

Mike said...

I trust that he won't actually govern to the middle.

What's the basis for this trust? There's absolutely no reason to believe that any Democrat -- including Edwards who I sort of like based on his platform -- will govern anywhere but smack in the middle of the status quo. With Obama you'll get the same thing you'll get with Hillary: a slow, barely perceptible move back towards the middle after Bush's excesses.

With Obama or Hill, don;t expect the troops to be coming home in any sort of hurry. There's still waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy too much money to be made in Iraq by too many important entities. You don't think the Dems take money from the defense industry too?

Mr Furious said...

Fair enough...I've been just about as jaded this year as you, Mike.

I'm actually not really thinking about the war when I say that...more along the lines of government functions—judicial appointments, regulations, social programs, cabinet and agency appointments, healthcare, immigration...etc.

Naturally I can only trust ANY politician so far, but I KNOW I don't trust Hillary, and I'll admit to never quite falling for Edwards this time or last.

Obama is the best we're gonna get, so that's where I'm left...If he can't pull it off, no one can.

Mr Furious said...

Deb-

I've been tossing around Obama's VP possibilites lately, and I'm not sure...

Edwards seems good, but he doesn't exactly balannce the age/experience factor, thought that's not really important to me. it will likely be a factor. Besides I want Edwards for Attorney General.

Richardson?

Some people are pushing Biden, he's got the resume, and would fun to watch in a VP debate and on the the talk show circuit. He would be a good "heavy" to balance Obama's hope, etc. But I can't foorgive him for the Bankruptcy bullshit, so fuck him.

Deb said...

I want Edwards for AG, as well. How much FUN would he be?! It makes me want to go out and vote for Obama right now.

How about Bill Clinton for VP? Hmm...

Mr Furious said...

How about Bill Clinton for VP? Hmm...

LOL! How fast would Hillary turn into Sherry Palmer (24) if that happened?