Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What's the Matter With Obama?

Campaign finance, AIPAC, expansion of faith-based programs, the death penalty for molesters, and critically, FISA. What the hell has gotten into Obama? As an early and vocal supporter of "The Hope," I have encountered over the past week approaches from folks that were so gentle they bordered on the medical: inquiries of a kind only cancer-victims expect. For the record, I am not cool with all this. And no, I have no explanation, either.

Upon careful reflection, though, I think we can narrow the explanations to these three. Two of which are bad. Ah well, we never had odds like those with Bush.
1. He actually believes these are the right positions. Not good.

2. He doesn't believe them, but he's a black man trying to get elected in America--cut a brother a break. Not as bad, but it does tend to undermine his "change" promise.

3. He recognizes that generation-changing, massive-scale change can only be done by someone who is not seen as a revolutionary and who has the help of his foes. He is therefore offering a small token of his bipartisanship so that when he tries to push something like single-payer healthcare or radically greening agendas through, he'll have allies abounding. Call this the benevolent Machiavelli. It's a longshot, but I'm an optimist.
Oh come on, it's not that inconceivable. If I were Obama, I'd be deploying strategy number three.


Kari Chisholm said...

I suspect that all three are right - depending on what we're talking about.

Campaign finance. #1. And he's right. The purpose of public financing was to get the big special interests out. He's done that another way. And he'll be able to outspend McCain to boot. (This doesn't satisfy the "we spend too much on politics" bluenose googoos, but they're wrong. We spend more in this country advertising deodorant.)

AIPAC. #1 and #2. He's always supported Israel. Whether or not it's "really" his position is irrelevant, his position is consistent (internally and across every single presidential candidate of the past half-century). And besides, they're accusing him of being a secret Muslim. Being pro-Israel helps on that score.

Faith-based programs. OK, I'll make up a #4 here. (#4. You didn't hear him right. He sounds conservative, but he's really packaging a liberal position.) On faith-based stuff, he's just going back to the old pre-Bush approach -- we'll fund any nonprofit that does good work. If they're religious-based, that's fine - but no proselytizing and no discrimination in hiring.

Death penalty for molesters. #2 and #3. And besides, it doesn't matter. He was coming down on the opposite side of a Supreme Court decision. Why not score some points after the game is over?

FISA. I have no idea. He says that his position has never changed. I haven't studied all the nuances of the FISA stuff enough to say. It also doesn't matter if you have a president who commits to following the law. This whole FISA debate is only important because this president has violated the previous FISA law (which was perfectly good.)

Here's the thing. Every candidate has lots of positions. Depending on the season and the mood, you emphasize different things. He hasn't gone haywire on any of the major stuff that he talked about in the primary -- health care, pulling out of Iraq, etc.

It's also late June. This is the time to take out the trash.

Jeff Alworth said...

Well, I hope you're right. I am pretty crappy with a lot of predictions, but insight into the nature of politicians has been a strength.

He's sort of right on campaign finance, but he handled it badly. And he's also sort of wrong. His mode may not be relying on special interests, but it's a system that would support those who do. The system's broken, and not participating doesn't fix it. His announcement convinced exactly no one that he was doing something ethical.

AIPAC. He should handle this the way he handles religious conservatives. In that case, he points out that they disagree on some key issues, but in many, many issues, they will be working together. His approach with AIPAC was to just out-right the right. It appeared ham-handed and insincere.

Faith-based I don't have such a huge issue with, but it looked like further unnecessary pandering.

The death penalty. At a certain point, he's got to realize that the secular humanist/Buddhist, Prius-driving lefties need to get thrown a stinkin' bone every now and again. He's never thrown a piece of red meat our way, which is fine, since we're willing to inhabit the world we inherited. But throwing toxic red meat to the right, who have been fed a steady diet of that same red meat for most of my life, is a little much to handle.

And FISA? Absolutely, positively indefensible.

Look, politicians can never align perfectly with every voter. I am not naive on this point. But the sole Dem we've had in the white house in my voting life was a disaster for the Democratic Party and enabled the Bush years. I'm not going to be uncritically supportive of any Dem who looks like he can get elected. The bar's a little higher than that.

Canmore Cat House said...

I agree with you here, Jeff. I would call myself infatuated with Obama and his rhetoric for the past nine months, but it is the critical support that will give us the leadership we so desperately need. We are the ones...
It is funny how easy it is to step away from the arena during this time. Gotta get back in.