Saturday, February 02, 2008

S & C endorses: Barack Obama

Okay, I know everyone has been waiting for this. John Edwards and Bill Richardson have been calling me, saying they're waiting for S & C to make an endorsement before they make theirs. So here goes...

Please, please vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday if you have a primary in your state.

I had been torn between Obama and Edwards. Obama's policies do not always go far enough in the progressive direction for me. I prefer both the Edwards and the Clinton health care plans to Obama's. I am concerned that Obama might be too conciliatory to stand up to Republicans who are too accustomed to having their. Edwards is out now, though, and the choice for Democrats is down to two.

Hillary Clinton is intelligent, knowledgeable, and determined. She would make a better president than any of the candidates from the GOP. Many of those who oppose her do for the wrong reasons. Still, the way she has run her campaign has shown a disturbing lack of integrity. The use of surrogates to inject questions of race into the campaign, her attempts to change the rules halfway through the game, and the continuing misrepresentation of Obama's views and statements are far too close to the kind of politics employed by Karl Rove.

There are other issues that are important -- Hillary's connections to big business, her support of the Kyle-Lieberman amendment, and her inability to explain her vote on authorizing the Iraq war to name a few. Even putting these aside, Hillary has serious electability problems, especially against John McCain. Frank Rich has pointed out the dangerous shadow of Bill Clinton over Hillary, which seems even worse now that the Borat affair has been revealed. Hillary Clinton could also mobilize right wing voters who otherwise would be too demoralized to leave home on election day.

If John McCain wins the Republican nomination, which seems likely at this point, his aura of "integrity" will stand in sharp contrast to Hillary. I don't think that's fair, especially since I think McCain has sold his soul to advance his candidacy in the GOP, pandering to groups on the far right that are dangerous and that he previously denounced. Still, the press will continue to portray him as the "maverick," and it will convince a lot of independent voters. McCain would be a disaster as president. This is a man who has promised more wars, claimed that a hundred-year occupation of Iraq is acceptable to him, and tastelessly joked about bombing Iran. At a time of recession, he admits not understanding economics. McCain's approach to stimulating the economy is similar to George Bush's -- tax cuts. If he is more interested in reducing the deficit than Bush, as he claims, and he's paying for all of his wars, the only alternative is brutal spending cuts on social programs, infrastructure, and education, further widening the gap between the rich and the rest of us in this country.

So, back to Obama. The important question that is raised by his candidacy is that of substance. It's all very good to talk about change and hope, but don't we need more than talk? Yes, of course, and Obama has his policy ideas which are on his website -- some, not all, don't go far enough for me (e.g., his ideas on Iraq and his health care proposal). Like many other people, however, it's the intangible excitement around his campaign that gets my attention. Is that shallow? I don't know. I do believe, however, that Obama was right in the New Hampshire debate when he said, "words do inspire." Words and expressions like "if you're not with us, you're against us," "axis of evil," and "terrorist" have been very powerful over the past seven years. I think one of Hillary's low points was when, Giuliani-style, she invoked the threat of a terrorist attack to support her candidacy. I am tired of politics of fear and divisiveness, and for all my doubts, Obama can electrify me. He won't solve all the country's problems, but it's time for a change of style. If you have a few minutes, watch his victory speech in South Carolina:

Not bad, huh?

By the way, thanks to Kevin for many of the links. I highly recommend his blog, Ghost in the Machine, for those following this election.

Vote Obama on Tuesday, please.


jackjoe FRANK said...

Hve not had time to read your post but Southern Baptist Convention supports Obama is shock of the past 300 years!!! Jack

Jeff said...

Superb post, Liam. I endorse him as well.

I do think, however, that Obama has more policy wonk in him than people give him credit for. "Yes We Can" was Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick's campaign slogan. Seeing Obama use it too makes me cringe a little bit, because Deval has had some stumbles along the way, but I think Obama has a lot more depth. I think he's shown remarkable poise and judgement, and I'm greatly encouraged by it.

crystal said...

A thoughtful post, Liam. I might do as you ask. I have to admit that part of the reason I've been supporting Hillary is that it she seems to be so hated and characterized as a cross between Medea and the wickid witch of the west - just doesn't seem fair. But I do want a democrat to win and I have nothing against Obama, so .....

Liam said...

Jack -- Really? I hadn't heard that.

Liam said...

Jeff --
I agree with you about his wonkiness.

Also about his judgment and poise -- more intangibles, but still so important.

Liam said...


Like I said, a lot of people have problems with Hillary for the wrong reasons. She's a strong, intelligent woman and that scares certain pathetic individuals.

That said, Obama appears to reach more people more deeply, and I think he's the best bet for the nomination. It seems the GOP is more scared of him than they are of Hillary.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Liam, Alice noticed that. Since she has worked with dyslectic kids they some how reverse "B". Of course just a joke but we thought it was kind of funny. Won't try again. Jack

crystal said...


I read a commentary on Hillary at Google news a few days ago from a guy at USC. He thought people were picking both McCain and Obama out of fear of Hillary winning. Sigh - sort of the opposite of the face that launced 1000 ships.

cowboyangel said...

Yeah, I heard you were munching on chips and watching the Super Bowl with Los Dos Bill-itos on Sunday.

I have to say, you totally threw me. Here I thought you were a Mitt Romney guy all this time. You mean you really do think he's a douchebag? That wasn't a tender, George W. Bush-like nickname for him?

So, did you register as a Dem in time to vote?

La Reina is voting for Obama.

There are so many weird things going down in this one-on-one race. You've got a lot of Dems calling Obama a progressive, when he's a DLCer whose mentor was Joe Lieberman. You've got ex-Edwards supporters from the Left (Krugman, et al.) ripping him to shreds because he's not a progressive. You've got Clinton supporters saying he's not progressive enough (!!!), as if she's somehow a superior progressive. (You've got me who thinks "progressives" are educated white Liberals siding with evangelicals in order to outlaw liquor.)

"He won't solve all the country's problems, but it's time for a change of style."

Yeah, I guess that's it. Can't say I'm catching the Obama fever, and I feel like I'm missing all the fun. There's this feeling of a Movement, but I can't really pin down what everyone (including myself at times) is actually excited about. You'd think he'd been holding hunger strikes and getting thrown in jail for fighting against the evildoers. Standing up to The Man against all odds. The words are there, the cadence in his speeches, the tone of voice, the Yes We Can video. . . . but what's it all about?

But at least I get excited at times. Even if I don't know why! I don't feel that about Hillary.

And I agree that he would be the better candidate in a general election.

In the end, I suppose that's enough.

Liam said...

Batman --

Was that Clinton at Richardson's? I wondered who that guy was that kept eating all the chips and trying to grab the waitress.

I am already registered as a Dem. That's how I was able to vote against Hillary in the Senate primary.

As far as "progressive" goes, I'll just refer you to Kevin's blog, since he's the one who's doing his dissertation on progressivism. If someone compares Obama to Alfonso VI, then I'll be in a position to opine.

"when he's a DLCer whose mentor was Joe Lieberman"

I'm calling bullshit on this one. I kept wondering where you got it. I did some googling. Apparently, according to this Nation article, Obama's name was on DLC list of "100 rising stars," but he asked them to remove it from their database. Quoth the Nation:
" As a state senator, Obama had continually passed progressive legislation--a record that he vowed to add to when he began his run for the US Senate on a platform of clear opposition to the Patriot Act, the Iraq War and NAFTA, all positions anathema to the DLC. The puzzling addition caused The Black Commentator magazine to wonder, a month after the DLC list came out, whether Obama had been "corrupted" by the centrist group. Obama's reply to the Commentator was indicative of how the DLC plays the "New Democrat" card.

"Neither my staff nor I have had any direct contact with anybody at the DLC since I began this campaign a year ago," Obama wrote. "I don't know who nominated me for the DLC list of 100 rising stars, nor did I expend any effort to be included on the list.... I certainly did not view such inclusion as an endorsement on my part of the DLC platform." After realizing that his name appeared in the DLC's database, Obama asked to have it removed. The message was clear: The DLC needed Obama a lot more than Obama needed the DLC."

As far as the "Lieberman as mentor" thing, I'm not sure what that means, but apparently as a freshman senator,Obama was "assigned" Leiberman as mentor, whatever that means (this from an article that is very critical of Obama). It seems like an institutional thing rather than Obama letting himself be folded under Leiberman's ideological wing. You've read Obama's book and know more than I do, so let me know if there's something more concrete that ties Obama to the DLC and their ilk.

Liam said...

Whoops -- here's the link to the nation article:

cowboyangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cowboyangel said...

Interesting. The "Obama is a DLCer whose mentor was Joe Lieberman" wasn't my invention. I've been repeating what I've read on several blogs. Going back a long time, to be honest.

After doing some research, and remembering some things myself, I think I may have a line on this.

From what the Nation article points out, and from other articles, it's clear that Obama was never a DLCer.

You don't know how happy that makes me. So, thanks for calling me on the quote.

But his relationship with Lieberman isn't so clear or pretty, and there's an important event from March 2006 that, I believe, lies at the center of all of this. It's actually mentioned off-handedly in the Cockburn article you linked me to. Lieberman was still playing major lap dog to Bush over the war. (Oh, wait, he still is.) Democrats in Connecticut were pissed off, and Ned Lamont started doing well there. During the campaign, there was an important Democratic Party dinner, and Lieberman convinced Obama to come and support him over Lamont. At that dinner, Lieberman "told the crowd that Obama had chosen Lieberman as his mentor." (Pazniokas, Hartford Courant, 3/31/2006).

The Dinner: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "rallied" 1.7K CT Dems at their Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey dinner 3/30, "throwing his support" behind Sen. Joe Lieberman (D), "who was booed by some of the party faithful." Obama "worked at unifying the state party even as hundreds hissed and booed Lieberman." Obama: "I know some of
you have differences with Joe Lieberman, I see the elephant in the room. We have our differences, but Joe Lieberman has a good heart, a keen intellect, (and) cares about the working families of America. I am absolutely certain Connecticut is going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the U.S. Senate so he can continue to serve on our behalf" (Garriga/O'Leary, New Haven Register, 3/31/2006).

I remember this now. And I remember how angry the Liberal blogosphere was at Obama for doing this. Kos, in particular, really ripped into him, and continued to do so for a long, long time. The bloggers, you remember were really behind Lamont. (As was I.)

And others at the time were unhappy over this event as well - this from a few months later: Professor PEDRO NOGUERA (Professor of Education, New York University): I'm concerned that Obama is pandering to a segment of the country that has no interest in support of the Democratic Party at all. And it really concerns me because I see this kind of approach from Obama in a number of areas - around the war, the fact that Lieberman is now his mentor - I see it as a very bad sign. (29 June 2006. NPR: News & Notes with Ed Gordon. Roundtable: Obama on Faith.)

So you have the Dinner where he endorses Lieberman over Lamont, Lieberman is his mentor, Liberman is major DLC, and the DLC list from May 2003 include Obama. An angry blogger might wind up with "Obama;s a DLCer whose mentor was Lieberman." It gets repeated. A doubter like myself reads it and thinks it proves his fears are being confirmed: Ah, see! They're all the same!

I don't know what to tell you about his relationship with Lieberman. Obama's press guy says Obama was "assigned" to Lieberman. Cockburn said, "it's obvious that Obama could have brokered a different mentor if he'd so desired it, same way he could have declined to go and tout for Lieberman at that Democratic Party dinner in Connecticut at the end of March."

I thought this passage from another article was illuminating: When I ask [Obama] if he's liberal, progressive, or centrist, he says: "I like to think I'm above it. Only in the sense that I just don't like how the categories are set up." He describes two common Democratic caricatures: the "DLC-centrist-Joe lieberman-Al From types" and the "old-time-religion-Ted Kennedydie-hard-liberal types."

"There are dangers in both camps," he continues. "Sometimes the DLC camp seems to want to run to the center no matter how far right the Republican Party has moved the debate-that sense of 'let's cut a deal no matter what the deal is.' The old-time religion school sometimes seems unreflective and is unwilling to experiment or update old programs to meet new challenges.

"And the way I would describe myself is I think that my values are deeply rooted in the progressive tradition, the values of equal opportunity, civil rights, fighting for working families, a foreign policy that is mindful of human rights, a strong belief in civil liberties, wanting to be a good steward for the environment, a sense that the government has an important role to play, that opportunity is open to all people and that the powerful don't trample on the less powerful... I share all the aims of a Paul Wellstone or a Ted Kennedy when it comes to the end result. But I'm much more agnostic, much more flexible on how we achieve those ends." (Great Expectations. Enda, Jodi. 1 February 2006. American Prospect. Volume 17; Issue 2.)

From reading his book - and I don't remember if it said anything about Lieberman - and reading this quote, I think Obama's trying to cover as many bases as he can. Like any politician. I don't like his relationship with Lieberman, I have to say. But then, how is that different from the Clintons? (I still can't believe Gore picked the asshole to be his VP!) Yet, knowing that he's not a DLCer, and that the mentorship with Lieberman isn't so clear cut, makes me feel better.

(Though that last quote sums touches on some of my concerns - him being all over the place, never wanting to say he's this or that. "I like to think I'm above it." Or, I want to be on all sides.)

Again, thanks for bringing it up. F*cking blogs! That's the problem with all of this "new media." Crap circulates around so quickly and gets repeated endlessly. I apologize for adding to the problem. I won't be repeating the charge, and I'll call others on it when I see it.

The Obama people should make a greater effort, I think, to combat the story. Because it's out there quite a bit.

Oh, here's more on the DLC part:

National Journal: Barack Obama, widely regarded as a rising star in the Democratic Party, has publicly distanced himself from the DLC. What does that mean for you?

Reed: Obama's a rock star. He's wisely decided to rise above the partisan fray. He's doing an excellent job of not getting caught up in any of the Washington political games. And he has already proven to be a real iconoclast in the ideas that he's put on the table and the themes he's talked about in his speeches. He's off to a very good start.

NJ: Does it challenge the relevancy of the DLC to have such a prominent Democrat give you the cold shoulder?

Reed: Look, I think our goal is for Democrats to know what they stand for and what they are going to do, so that they don't need us anymore. We have plenty of stars in this party, and we want to add value wherever we can. But Barack Obama is doing just fine. ("Al From, Bruce Reed, and the DLC." National Journal. Mark Kukis. 3 December 2005.)

Liam said...

Yeah, I had a feeling that the "DLC Lieberman mentor" thing sounded like a meme.

I read about the dinner for Lieberman, too -- actually I was going to mention it, but it got lost along the way. Perhaps he was just being conciliatory towards a powerful center, who knows? He did get behind Lamont in the general election, but of course his attitude before was disappointing -- still it's a long way from having Lieberman as his guru.

The blogs did of course jump on it. When googling the whole thing I came across a comment thread on Crooks & Liars in which the people were theorizing that Obama would name Lieberman as his secretary of state or defense. Knowing Obama's foreign policy ideas, that's completely impossible. I hate the L-man as much as anyway, but the kos-sphere takes too much a schoolyard approach to these things sometimes -- you play with the wrong kid for five minutes, you get shunned.

I'm not afraid of Obama having the wrong ideas, but of giving up too much by being too interested in consensus.