Thursday, January 17, 2008

Obama Gets More Endorsements!

His case to be President of the United States just keeps getting stronger.

Today, Senator Pat Leahy from Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and all-around awesome guy, endorsed Barack Obama for President.

If they made Senate baseball cards, Leahy's would be the one I'd never trade. This is the guy who did his best to make Alberto Gonzales cry when he testified last year. (In the end, he only humiliated him. I'll take it.) This is the guy who worked hardest to get to the bottom of not only the US Attorney firing scandal, but also the illegal wiretapping program, and the more recent torture tape destruction scandal. This is the guy who made Dick Cheney so mad that the face-shooting VP from Texas was helpless against the urge to instruct Leahy to "Go fuck [him]self". Put another way, Leahy's smart, dedicated, and he's on our side.

Obama's got a lot of endorsements, but Leahy's, along with Bill Bradley's endorsement (my pick in 2000), and John Kerry's endorsement, mean a lot to me. After all it was John Kerry who, when advised by Bill Clinton in the waning days of the 2004 campaign to support some of the anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot in various states, said flatly "no." Did he want to win the White House? Yes. But did he want to become a calculating, hypocritical prick to get there? No, and how admirable it was that he didn't. Kerry was the only guy I heard of before or since who believes, and has said out loud, that our "war" on terrorism isn't a war in the conventional sense, as Bush and Co. seem to believe, but a battle against a vast criminal enterprise. When someone who's that forthright and honest tells me how to cast my vote, I listen up. When Kerry AND Leahy want the same guy to be in the White House, that's hard to vote against.

I also believe that Al Gore, if he were free to endorse any of the Democratic candidates without fear of widening a rift between himself and the Clintons, would endorse Obama for President. And I know that endorsement means a lot to a lot of Democrats who don't know who's who in the Senate.

As we move through the primary season I feel like in order to be a good citizen I have to continue to weigh the evidence for and against the three candidates to make sure I'm not being too naive in my support of Obama. Even though every time I see Obama, whether it's in a debate, or in an interview, or in a speech, I like what I see. But these contrary voices keep sounding on the periphery, trying to change my thinking. For instance, liberal NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman has made a habit of penning very cogent anti-Obama columns, accusing him of being either too nice to fight the battles to be fought, or that he's to the right of the other candidates, which is every liberal's worst fear: electing a closet conservative. When writing about the candidates' plans to deal with the coming recession, Krugman had this to say about Obama:

"The Obama campaign’s initial response to the latest wave of bad economic news was, I’m sorry to say, disreputable: Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser claimed that the long-term tax-cut plan the candidate announced months ago is just what we need to keep the slump from “morphing into a drastic decline in consumer spending.” Hmm: claiming that the candidate is all-seeing, and that a tax cut originally proposed for other reasons is also a recession-fighting measure — doesn’t that sound familiar?"

Gets any red-blooded Obama supporter right where they live: suggesting Obama's like Bush. There has to be some reason the conservatives are holding their fire against him, right? There has to be something else there they like other than the smile, right? Maybe some policy, too? It's enough to make you paranoid. About the other two Dem candidates, Krugman says Hillary "knows what she's talking about" and Edwards:

"...has been driving his party’s policy agenda. He’s done it again on economic stimulus: last month, before the economic consensus turned as negative as it now has, he proposed a stimulus package including aid to unemployed workers, aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, public investment in alternative energy, and other measures."

Does Krugman have a pro-Clinton bias? Maybe, but I think he prides himself on his realpolitik outlook on the political landscape and thinks Clinton has the street-fighting chops to take on the Republicans, an Obama doesn't. And he probably has a point. But then I look at some of Obama's past votes and I swing back into his camp. Almost alone among Senate Democrats, Obama voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts. Clinton voted for him. Obama also voted against confirmation of Samuel Alito, Attorney General Mike Mukasey, and against the current head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, because of his role in designing and implementing the illegal wiretapping program. What's not to like?

Voting came up in the recent Democratic debate in Las Vegas, and Obama came out quite well. Yes, he was opposed to the Iraq war while Clinton and Edwards voted for it, and yes that's evidence of his superior judgment, but Obama wasn't in the Senate then, so he didn't actually have a vote to defend. But on the big bankruptcy bill that went through Congress -- the sweetheart deal for credit card companies that made it that much harder for people to declare bankruptcy -- Edwards and Clinton both voted for it and had to defend their votes. Obama, by contrast, didn't have to apologize for yet another bad vote. He saw that bill for what it was back when it counted and voted no. I do think Clinton got some good, substantive licks in on Obama for a vote he cast for a big energy bill, "Cheney's energy bill" I think she called it, but I think Clinton's vote for the bankruptcy bill was the bigger mistake.

Now, I know this may only help to solidify Papadeas's opposition to Obama, but NY Times conservative columnist David Brooks made a good point about the difference between the top three Dem candidates in a column he wrote after the Democratic debate:

"The third thing that happened tonight is that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards disgraced themselves in the minds of debate-watchers everywhere. At some point in each campaign, candidates are asked to name their greatest weakness. Only the lamest political hacks answer that question this way: Goshdarn it, I just care too much. I am too impatient for good things to happen.

Giving that answer is an insult to the art of politics. And yet Edwards and Clinton both gave that answer. They didn’t even give artfully disguised versions of that answer. They gave the straight, unsubtle kindergarten version of that answer. Obama, honestly, admitted that he’s bad at organizing his paperwork. Truly, here is a man willing to stand for change."

Watching that moment in the debate, I remember thinking how Edwards and Clinton had squandered a golden opportunity to be honest, or at least appear so. Instead, Edwards lamely chided himself for getting too emotional about some things, even though a week earlier he'd admonished Hillary Clinton for getting too emotional at the diner in New Hampshire. Not a good moment. And then Clinton missed out on a chance to further "humanize" herself by giving a transparently calculated answer that, even worse, had a subtle shot at Obama in it. And people wonder how she got a reputation as "calculating."

I think that her politically sharp but generally tone-deaf answer to that question actually goes against the meme that Hillary is the most politically savvy of the three candidates. After seven years of a President who couldn't a.) give a straight answer to a question to save his life, or b.) think of a single mistake from his first term in office, I think the smart and politically savvy play in 2008 is for a candidate to be candid and open about past mistakes. Sen. Clinton doesn't want to be that candidate, and that's one of the main reason I'm not excited about her candidacy.

Obama's the guy.

And Obama wins a court battle in Nevada.

And Kucinich is a putz. And so are some of his supporters.

Anyway, that's long enough.


Gretchen said...

Firstly, what makes you think that Gore would endorse Obama? I mean that seriously. Has he given any indication to that end?
Secondly, do you really believe that Obama's inability to keep up with his paperwork is his biggest shortcoming? Really? If it is, then he really is the saint you believe him to be.

Anonymous said...

Brian I think you are a centrist dude. Not a progressive. That's ok to admit it. I still like you and admire you. But, if you support Obama - you are NOT a progressive.

Obama's support of Reagan is ludicrous. Just asinine and stupid. It shows his true colors.

Is he just stupid or a closet conservative?

Reagan was a terrible President - the beginning of the end of America. The 60-70's were a great watershed moment for the worker as they put a massive strain on the capitalist system - they were hurting profits and starting to commandeer the modes of production.

The ruling class needed someone to enact revenge, to set the record straight and to help curtail the decline in profits and loss of power - they chose their hologram (Reagan) - the silent majority's fav B-movie actor rapist.

Obama is too young to speak for the people that struggled during the 60's. What does he think of the Black Panthers, the Chicago 7? Cointelpro? The Church Hearings? Hoover? Political Assasinations? Overthrows of foreign governments, Vietnam, destruction/demonization of unions, etc?

How would he know what they were feeling? Oh boy - he is no friend to the LEFT at all.

Best for us to join an internationalist struggle against capital and forget about any messiah's.

The American political system is lost. Nothing good can come out of it. Better chance for real change and alternatives exist outside the US.

Good luck - I'm sure he will let you down like all "good Dems" in the past.


JudgeHolden said...

I think Gore would endorse Obama because Gore endorsed Howard Dean in '04. I suppose there's a chance that he might go for Edwards, but I think Obama is the closest politically to Gore, of the three candidates. If for no other reason than they were both opposed to the war in Iraq, I think Gore would endorse Obama. I think that, prior to the selection of Hillary as the nominee, there's no way Gore gives his support for Hillary.

And I don't think Obama's inability to keep up with his paperwork is his greatest weakness, but I think it was an honest answer to a question he wasn't expecting. He could have talked about how he might, perhaps, believe his own press a little too much, or that sometimes he relies too much on vision in his rhetoric and not enough on specifics, but I don't think the question was presented as an opportunity for public soul-searching, but as a chance for the candidates to show they're human, and I think Obama did that the best, and was more honest than the other two.

Anonymous said...

Obama is a closet conservative.


JudgeHolden said...

And Paul, Obama didn't come out in support of Reagan today. Look at what he said. He didn't cast a light whether positive or negative on Reagan's tenure, only that he, more than Nixon or Clinton, changed the trajectory of the nation. It was a neutral political assessment and I think it's worthy of debate. But at no time did he say "Reagan was awesome," or "I loved how he handled the air-traffic controller strike" or anything like that.

Anonymous said...

Let's look at the history of the Dems and how they sold out progressives....

From William Blum - former CIA operative and author of Killing Hope...

"It's an old and painful story. Democrats can not be trusted ideologically, not even to be consistently liberal, and certainly not progressive or radical, no matter how much we wish we could trust them, no matter how awful the Republicans may be.

In 1968 Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota was the darling of the left. He ran in the Democratic presidential primaries on an anti-Vietnam war platform that excited a whole generation of young people. Peaceniks and hippies, the story goes, were getting haircuts, dressing like decent Americans, and forsaking dope, all to be "clean for Gene" and work in his campaign. Yet, in 1980, Gene McCarthy came out in support of Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter.

It's most often foreign policy which separates liberals from those further to the left. In the post World War Two period, one of the most revered American liberals was Senator Hubert Humphrey. But he was at the same time a fanatical anti-communist. In 1954 he introduced a bill to outlaw the Communist Party on the grounds that it was "an illegal conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States by force and violence and not a legitimate political party." When he became Lyndon Johnson's vice-president in 1965 he supported the Vietnam War. Two years later he was actually moved to declare to American troops in Vietnam: "I believe that Vietnam will be marked as the place where the family of man has gained the time it needed to finally break through to a new era of hope and human development and justice. This is the chance we have. This is our great adventure -- and a wonderful one it is."

It was the administration of the liberal Jimmy Carter that instigated the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan in 1979, leading to Washington's decisive role in the overthrow of a government which, compared to what replaced it, was extremely progressive. It was also Carter who gave Iraq the OK to invade Iran in 1980, with terrible consequences for the two countries.

The US electoral process which we're all suffering through right now, which feels like it's been going on non-stop forever, is replete with continual cries from the leading candidates about some kind of "change". Whatever can they mean? They mean nothing. And the media treats it all like some kind of horse race, a spectator sport. Is there any election system in this world as lacking in intellectual discussion, as hopelessly corrupted by money, and as undemocratic as the one Americans are blessed with? Where else in the world is the candidate with the most votes not necessarily the winner? If we could interview each and every American voter to determine exactly why they voted for a particular candidate, compared to what the actual facts are about that candidate, and the results were widely publicized, it would be such a national embarrassment the next election might be called off. What does winning an election mean other than that the sales campaign was successful? An outright auction for the presidency would be more efficient, and more honest. "


Anonymous said...

Some additional hawkish postures...

More on Reagan...

and I quote from Obama's book -

“All of which may explain why, as disturbed as I might have been by Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980...I understood his appeal.... Reagan spoke to America’s longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies, so long as we rediscover the traditional virtues of hard work, patriotism, personal responsibility, optimism, and faith.”

WSWS perspective...

In other words, Obama argues, objective social forces are not essentially responsible for such ills as poverty, homelessness and social inequality. Margaret Thatcher was right: there is no such thing as society or social responsibility. This is a translation of the Reaganite-Thatcherite program of greed, individualism and worship of the market into the language of the modern American liberal politician.

Just so there will be no misunderstanding, Obama continues, using the code words of the extreme right: Reagan’s message “spoke to the failure of liberal government,” government at every level had become “too cavalier about spending taxpayer money.... A lot of liberal rhetoric did seem to value rights and entitlements over duties and responsibilities.... Reagan offered Americans a sense of common purpose that liberals seemed no longer able to muster,” etc

Obama is not neutral here.


Anonymous said...

Again - my thesis is that he is not a true progressive and that his allure to the common American - is that he is "centrist" or moderate or whatever that means. A corporate sellout.

I am in for a fight. I want divisiveness. Not reconciliation. I don't want red and blue state. I want the worker to kick the owners in the balls.

I want the right and the ruling class to get a big black eye.

We've been getting out butts whipped for 28 years - we must change the course of our own slavery. Give me a Eugene Debs for the 21st century.

I mean - check this out...


Anonymous said...

Sorry for the multiple posts...

Last thing...

Brian, Then if it is neutral - why say it without giving it any context? Does he hope to be that "change" that Reagan was but for the left? Does he feel that he is on the pulse of most Americans (like supposedly Reagan)?

Then what are Americans thirsting for? More order? More hard work and discipline? Or for an end to corporate tyranny, the war, etc?

I don't understand these rhetorically nebulous statements he makes - they just don't give him any substance. There is no foundation of theory or a platform that people can stand behind. He is Barrack, the philospher or Greek Chorus - narrating our history through his own jaded perspective. All things to all people rich and poor. The new Zen Jesus - perfect for the ever falling rep of big business.

Does he like to hear himself speak? If so, he will alienate the entire south and will never get the NASCAR dad vote. Forget Florida. Obama will not win the general election.

Atleast Hillary is honest about what you are getting (like Bush) - with Barrack - he is a chameleon like Bill Clinton but without the charisma.


Gretchen said...

Points taken, Brian. Paul, I mean this in the absolute nicest possible way - your posts are way to f-ing long. I go about one sentence into them, and then realize that I'm too tired from looking at horse sperm under the microscope all day at work to read something the length of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I do admire your passion though. And, did you see the dude on The Daily Show that said that organic food was fascist?

blankfist said...

Liberal Fascism!