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» Some Horserace Links... from A Blog Around The Clock
Just to add some more to yesterday's numbers and links on the Iowa caucuses, which just shows that if you get all your news from the MSM, especially the TV, you are not just woefully uninformed, but criminally misinformed. Take... [Read More]

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lina

We're so used to fire-breathing partisans, we can't trust someone who is innately pragmatic. Whatever Obama is "up to" (as you put it) it is in his DNA. I suggest you start canvassing high powered litigators and find out something about their negotiating styles. The successful ones come to the table with an agreeable air about them, not with switchblades drawn. This is Obama's way. Will it work as a governing style? Who knows. But Hillary Clinton's "my way or the highway" approach to fixing healthcare in '94 was a dismal failure. Perhaps a new approach is worth trying.

Demosthenes

lina, that had as much to do with '94 as it did Hillary's attitude. I doubt a conciliatory Hillary would have had much success, either. Certainly "friendly" Dems haven't since then.

Nice take on the situation, Lance. I'm not advocating anybody in this thing--I don't think it's appropriate for someone who's trying to maintain pseudonymity--but I do wonder how effective Obama's approach is going to be when he hits heavy traffic. If he does make it to the general, he's going to be badly surprised by the viciousness of the Republican attacks against him. His "bipartisanship" is not going to protect him against this, any more than Kerry's military record protected him

You can't insulate against political attacks. You can't transcend them, either. You need to respond, or have other people respond, or else the attacks will stick. Obama can talk all he wants about compromise, but there's not going to be any compromise when the GOP starts calling him "Hussein Osama".

Demosthenes

(Or perhaps "Osama Hussein"?)

Frenchdoc

I agree with Demosthenes, Lance, but I do hope you're right. However, I am wondering whether Obama believes his own rhetoric and thinks he can unify the country and whatever else is covered by his "hope" stuff (can you tell I'm skeptical?? :-)).

So far, he has responded pretty well to Hillary campaign's attacks but he has done a better job at attacking dems than republicans, which really bothers me. And by the way, bringing in republican votes while hitting democrats... isn't that part of the usual taking for granted the progressive vote?

Like Demosthenes, I am afraid he has not grasped the viciousness of the Republican establishment.

Finally, I hear a lot of talk of these disillusioned republicans? Where the heck are they? It's like when we hear about "moderate christians" when we talk about the religious right. Seems to me these sound more like mythical creatures than a real movement fighting to reclaim what, supposedly, they were dispossessed of by - take your pick - the neocons, the fundies, the corporatists, etc.

Frenchdoc

I should add... what are you guys complaining about? I'm stuck with Sarkozy for the next 5 years... *long sigh of despair* although I do live in the US.

Justin

I don't even know where to start. Your paranoia is out of control. You gotta look at some more sober talk from Obama, such as his hour on Meet the Press. It's available on the MSNBC website. The guy has real policies and specific ideas; he's not just a hope-monger that you probably see in 15 second clips on the news. And on the issues, he's pretty far from being a Republican.

Take a closer look and stop acting on fear alone.

Watch Reaper Online

You bring up some valid points about our Obama! All of which I'll take into consideration. Should be interesting to see how the elections pan out.

sfmike

Obama will be fine. Colin Powell was supposed to be the cleanser of our many racial sins in this country, mythologically, but he had the bad timing to be the public face of Dubya's Iraq War.

And the fact that Obama was against the Iraq War from day one makes him my choice over Hilary, and that has nothing to do with race or gender or pragmatism. A lot of other people feel the same way.

Geoduck

I also don't feel the Obama love; he sure talks a good game, but he's way too inexperienced to deal with the Herculean task that faces the next President. There's also the grim fact that there are a hell of a lot of crazy hard-core rascists out there; I give it a 50/50 chance that Obama faces a serious assassination attempt from some nutball before this campaign is over. (And of course I specifically state for the record that I do not support or condone anyone doing this.)

lambert strether

Lance:

Let me comment on your comment on a comment on a post about a post about a post by indicating that my real Obama problem is delineated over here--at perhaps excessive length, but it was so much fun when I got rolling that I just couldn't stop.

Now, I freely admit that the "Obama Problem" post on which you (comment(comment(post(post(post)))))ed wasn't the best post I've ever written -- I've been spending some quality time over at Big Orange with Obama's Fan Base, and if you've ever spent time with the OFB, you know what I'm talking about.

The OFB throw the word "lie" around rather too freely for my taste. Here's the point at issue with this post. Obama says:


According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. ... I think this perspective misreads the American people."

So, it's clear that Obama believes that the American people don't believe some or all of what is said about the Republican party ("take-no-prisoners," and so on).

What does Obama believe, or say he believes, about the Republican Party? Well, to me, a storyline is a story; that is, it's contrary to fact by definition. Therefore, Obama can't believe a storyline is true, because storylines can't be true, by definition. Is the plot of Episode 19 of the Honeymooners true? Like the old joke goes, the question isn't even wrong. So, if Obama says the claim that Republicans are a take-no-prisoner party is part of a storyline, he's clearly, though implicitly, saying that it's contrary to fact; that it is not reality-based. QED. Simple enough, if you've spent the last 5 years playing whack-a-mole with Conservative Movement disinformation campaigns, narratives, talking points, memes, and tropes.

So, I make the post--and, as I say, this just a throwaway piece placed beside my real "Obama Problem" piece--and the OFBs descend, in two waves:

1. Obama is talking over the heads of the Party leaders to the party members (which was the current talking point but easily countered by requesting that they actually read the quote, followed by

2. You're lying, where did Obama say that?

To which I respond, as above, "It's a storyline..." to which the response is:

2. You're lying, where did Obama say that?

So, we go round and round for awhile and eventually they give up and go away.

Now, it's obviously wonderful that lots of new people are becoming Democrats. But it isn't always so wonderful on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis dealing with posters who haven't been fighting the Republicans in the trenches for 5 years, don't know the history, imagine things like Reagan being non-partisan, aren't strong on irony or critical thinking skills, and who are passionately loyal to, well, their Leader. Maybe it's the primary season. Maybe shock troops need to be this way and it's all good. Maybe I'm just tired. You kids get offa my lawn!

But I think that the real problem goes back to Obama himself, and to statements that seem clear at first but become Delphic when analyzed. In other words, the OFB isn't the problem; it's the Big O himself. I mean, framing an indictment of a class of Democratic supporters on the basis of a narrative imputed to them that the American people don't believe.... While expressing your own belief only implicitly? I'd say that's a pretty good operational definition of "Delphic." So no wonder the OFB and I are fighting. Let's remember that Obama is a graduate of Harvard Law and the author (it is said) of two books; he surely knew exactly the effect that he was aiming for.

And I think that the seemingly clear yet highly equivocal nature of Obama's language is at the heart of my problem with him. It is not easy to figure out, for example, what Obama's Social Security policy is. I know what the OFB thinks it is, because they have explained it to me at great length, but my litmus test is taking privatization off the table, and, no matter how hard you squint, that's not really there. (And the unforced error of putting the whole issue in play as a cudgel against Hillary -- while simultaneously claiming that Social Security should not be a political football, an incredibly smooth move -- really muddied the waters.)

It is necessary for Obama's language to be equivocal, because he's trying to do two contradictory things at the same time:

1. The Obama organization has gone to great lengths to portray him as a "negotiator," as an "honest broker," as a proponent of the view that people of "good will," when gathered "at the table," can "compromise" to achieve common goals. This is the "unity" schtick, and to make the schtick work, Obama has to present himself as being open to the views of everyone at "the table." [I'm quoting the talking points that the OFB uses.]

2. However, the Obama organization also needs to present Obama as sufficiently progressive to be in the mainstream of the Democratic Party (I won't throw the press into the mix), and the mainstream Democratic Party has constituencies that demand that Obama take principled stands on some issues (for example, Social Security privatization).

3. The "unity schtick" contradicts the "principled stand." For example, the principled stand is to take Social Security privatization off the table; but the unity schtick demands that everything be on the table.

4. Obama's solution is to use equivocal language. On Social Security, for example, you will discover him running the unity schtick ("everything is on the table") and taking a principled stand ("privatization is dangerous," "I will fight privatization") at the same time: But if you look closely at the principled stand, you will see that it does not add up to "off the table." Of course, if you only listen to the soaring music of the rhetoric, and don't pay attention to the words, you won't see equivocation at all. Which is why a tear doesn't come to my eye; I'm too busy listening.

Interesting, eh?

Now, I think this is wrong and dangerous. I think it's wrong because I believe that the way to win a progressive mandate is to ask for one, and if this truly is our time, than make the ask, because equivocation is a policy of weakness. It's dangerous, because I think Obama radically underestimates the strength and tenacity of the Conservative Movement of which the Republican Party has been the front organization. Obama and the OFB believe that winning the election is a lot more important than it is; what's really important is to attack and destroy the apparat of the Conservative Movement if and when the election takes place, and if and when it is won.* There is no way that singing kumbaya is going to do it. And its dangerous for him to burn his bridges to progressives, which he has been systematically doing with his rightward shift -- and ten to one the OFB has been doing on the ground, if they're anything like they are online -- because when push comes to shove we aren't going to be able to figure out whether to trust what he says.

All that said, heck, he could be the next RFK. But if language is the mirror of the mind, I'm guessing no.

NOTE If Huckabee wins the nomination, the Republicans might become so demoralized that they can't get it together to steal a third national election. It's an ill wind...

fasteddie

I think Obama is trying to be the mirror image of Bush the "compassionate conservative". Call him the "pragmatic progressive". Just as once elected, Bush became really conservative, my hope is that Obama will let his progressive side show once elected. Given a democratic congress, it seems like it would happen naturally.

Savage Tan

"William Jennings Bryant wasn't at the Scopes Monkey Trial because he was a corporate elitist."

One minor edit -- the correct name William Jennins Bryan. Nitpicky, yes, but details build credibility -- and thus are important in writing. Otherwise, a

Savage Tan

I should have written: William Jennings Bryan.

And then I make a mistake -- proving my own point in exactly the wrong way! Yeah, that's it! I was trying to prove my own point! That's the ticket! Ha!


Sheesh...I'm a moron...

Lance

Savage Tan, that's not a minor edit. That's fixing a whopper of a mistake on my part. An inexcusable mistake because I am reading a book about the Scopes trial right now, Summer for the Gods, and Bryan's name is on every other page. Thanks for catching it. I made the correction.

Ken

Ever thought of looking at Obama's record?

Don't worry, no one in the hate Obama Blogoshere has. I have, besides having him as my Senator.

A Senator that listens to the Progressives, as well as everyone in the State.

So for GOD'S SAKE LOOK AT HIS FRICKIN RECORD. And I mean from the day he left college to now. Including the Illinois State Senate.

It is all there. I quit wasting my time with the Obama haters, and I am not referring to you. There are three sites that do nothing but bash him. And they suck Edwards Dick, when Edwards co-sponsored a bill to go to Iraq.

And Hillary is nothing but talk. I can stand up to the Rpublicans attack. Bullcrap. If you could, we'd have healt care.

So Obama does not need you or the rest of the blogoshere.

So enjoy crying in your beers while goes and gets the Presidency.

And try, just try looking at the life of the man's record.

Ah, forget it.

Marc

From the get go - I have had deep doubts about whether Obama would win the Dem nomination. I have only one reason: I just don't think the baby boomers are capable of voting for a candidate younger then they are. It would be admission that their time in the sun had passed. That this generation had done as much as it could and it was time to pass the torch. Boomers are the largest voting block. I have very little doubt that you'll probably vote in an 80 year old President before ceding power to the next generation. You guys are going to die in saddle.

Hey, I do hope I am wrong. Lance, what do you think?

Leah

Ken, you have just provided a perfect example of what Lambert is talking about.

Why are you Obama supporters so angry? You're winning, right?

I have looked at his record and I find much to admire about it. I don't doubt that he is a genuine progressive. But the questions raised by Lambert and by Lance are honest and trenchant and have nothing to do with "hating" anyone.

Responding to those questions might improve Obama's campaign, might make him a better president, too.

My fear is that he might just think that he's too smart and too intelligent, (not always the same things), to ever say something as "dumb" as "I voted for the appropriation before I voted against it," a perfectly intelligent coherent statement, which in context, didn't make Kerry a "flip-flopper," although that charge came back again and again to haunt him, and is still trotted out by the SCLM. Instead, what that comment referred to should have made Kerry and Edwards, (they voted the same way), seem prescient by now, since their refusal to vote for billions for the Iraqi occupation and for reconstruction without adequate congressional supervision was the right vote, as witnessed by the billions of dollars of aid that went missing in Iraq, and the pretty-much-nothing we got for what billions were spent. But Kerry is dog meat now, so why bother to point any of that out?

I'll admit this isn't a problem only of Obama's; when Democrats employ a scorched-earth policy they tend to do it on their own territory, a proclivity I've never understood, and exactly why, as Lance points out, the DLC, in general seems so wrong-headed most of the time. (I know that Bill Clinton is one of its founders, but what he refined from the work done on coming up with different tropes to express liberal values was and still is something quite different from the more typical Al From et al perspective.)

And why on earth is Obama bothering to run against the record of the Clinton administration, and why do it using so many right-wing tropes? I have always preferred that Hillary not run and I'm not anxious to see her as the candidate, but there's a difference between running on a platform that doesn't look back, and one that looks back and snickers. It's entirely possible to run against Hillary as not right for this time of change, without suggesting that there is genuine continuity between either Clinton and either Bush. (Yes, Democrats have bought too heavily into the industrial-military over time, but Obama's not freed himself yet from that yoke either.)

I also worry that when its time for Obama to pivot from his process talk and his appeals to voters from across the spectrum, to policy talk, that he's going to be hit with charges of insincerity at best, and deceit at worst. To pick up where Lambert left off, (full disclosure, he's my blog mate), how will Obama defend, as either a candidate and/or as President, against calls for a national commission to "fix" Social Security? And he'll need to because such a commission will have some form of privatization very much on the table, and any form of privatization is a death knell for Social Security as we've come to know and love it.

And what is with your attitude towards blogs and the "netroots?" Believe me when I tell you that liberal progressivism isn't in a position to say "fuck you" to any strands in its coalition.

lina,

Health care didn't go down because Hillary refused to compromise, it failed because the Republicans made a conscious decision to refuse to play ball; they refused all compromises except those that would have gutted any point to the bill.

It is so dispiriting to read comment thread after comment thread on liberal blogs that parrot back all the lies about who Bill and Hillary Clinton are, and what they did in Arkansas and in those eight years in the White House. Not on this blog that much, I have to say; Lance's tight logic, his insight, his humor, his style mitigate against such silliness.

Wonderful post,Lance; I've kept my silence at Corrente because I've been mulling...what do I think of Obama, why that uncomfortable tightness in my chest when I think about embracing him? You've helped me clarify my own thinking.

Leah

Marc,

You've reminded me of another question for the Obama fan base; why is he bothering to run against the sixties and against the baby boomers? The idea of a boomer generation has always been a lazy construct employed by lazy journalists to defend silly, superficial think pieces.

I'm not a boomer, btw, I'm older still. I was a war baby, that would be the 2nd WW, very late in the war. My younger brother is technically a boomer, but neither view ourselves from the perspective of "our generation." For heaven's sake, no less a boomer icon than Ted Sorenson is working for Obama, and when people hear echoes of Bobby Kennedy when Obama speaks, that's supposed to a compliment. Don't you view it as a compliment? Of course both Kennedys and Sorenson were pre-WW2 babies, but they were also boomer icons. But Reagan was also elected by boomers.

Antipathy to something called the boomers is very much a right-wing meme, because it allows them to talk about the Johnson administration as somehow responsible for anything bad that still happens domestically.

Let it go. Or take a look at Obama's audience the next time you get a chance. It's not all young people. Plenty of gen-Xers, plenty of boomers, and I'd bet the last thing any of them are thinking about how to keep their own generation in charge. If you want to challenge boomers, get out and vote; they do, just like their parents did.

Leah

Marc,

You've reminded me of another question for the Obama fan base; why is he bothering to run against the sixties and against the baby boomers? The idea of a boomer generation has always been a lazy construct employed by lazy journalists to defend silly, superficial think pieces.

I'm not a boomer, btw, I'm older still. I was a war baby, that would be the 2nd WW, very late in the war. My younger brother is technically a boomer, but neither view ourselves from the perspective of "our generation." For heaven's sake, no less a boomer icon than Ted Sorenson is working for Obama, and when people hear echoes of Bobby Kennedy when Obama speaks, that's supposed to a compliment. Don't you view it as a compliment? Of course both Kennedys and Sorenson were pre-WW2 babies, but they were also boomer icons. But Reagan was also elected by boomers.

Antipathy to something called the boomers is very much a right-wing meme, because it allows them to talk about the Johnson administration as somehow responsible for anything bad that still happens domestically.

Let it go. Or take a look at Obama's audience the next time you get a chance. It's not all young people. Plenty of gen-Xers, plenty of boomers, and I'd bet the last thing any of them are thinking about how to keep their own generation in charge. If you want to challenge boomers, get out and vote; they do, just like their parents did.

Marc

Good points Leah. Except for classifying my antipathy as "right-wing". My points were culled from a conversation I overheard from an axis of boomers at the water cooler. A generalization for sure - but I thought an interesting discussion piece. As far my vote, unfortunately I have to plead Canadian.

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