In Defense of Obama

This actually started out as a comment in Stuart’s post below, but I wrote so much, I’m gonna make it my own thread instead.

I’ll take a contrarian view here and say Obama is right. The original point in the debate he was making is that the current administration has spent years “punishing” countries by not talking to them (which is playground diplomacy 101). I found Obama’s desire to talk to everyone, even our enemies, refreshing and thought nothing of it until Clinton’s more neurotic “well, I’d never do that,” response.

Then immediately I could see the headline: “Obama To Dine With Chavez And Dance With Ahmadinejad; Clinton Calls Him Naive”. And sure enough…Clinton and her campaign are basically swiftboating the guy (something I would think readers here would be more leery of). He never said he was going to “give away or the store” or pull a Neville Chamberlain or some such, but thanks to the Clinton camp’s maligning of his words, the Republicans have their Swiftboat moment taped, cued up and ready to go if Obama should get the nomination.

As to the comparison of Hillary to “Bush/Cheney Lite“, it is a bit over the top, but somewhat accurate. The Bush’s and the Clinton’s have become big buds over the years (even the Hatfields and McCoys made up), and when you throw in the 28 or 36 years that a Bush or Clinton would have occupied the WH if Hillary wins, there’s real concern. Dynastic regimes have a way of finishing one another’s sentences, and while that may make great pillow talk between the two families, it’s not good for a representative democracy such as ours.

International polls have shown that Obama is seen as the only candidate who can “restore America’s reputation”. And while the world isn’t electing our president, what the world thinks about us *does* matter. It’s not the 90’s anymore, and no amount of rewinding the political clock will bring it back.

Last point, on who has the most experience, I think that too is a draw. Clinton has 4 years more in the U.S. Senate than Obama (her years in the WH don’t count, and I’m not sure why anyone would count them), but his experience as a legislator in Illinois puts him on equal footing or slightly ahead. And even if you look at just her first four years (including her breathless support of Bush and the IWR of ’02), it’s hardly a record I’d call “progressive”. Either way, he’s no neophyte, and she doesn’t have her husband’s experience, in that sense.

At the end of the day, this is bad for the party, as others have said, but good for the process. Democrats have never subscribed to Reagan’s “11th Commandment” philosophy (Republicans don’t even buy it anymore) and there’s no reason to start now. Frankly, the debate the other night was too sterile for my liking (you can read my my thoughts on YouTube here).

Let the games begin.


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    21 Responses to In Defense of Obama

    1. Todd

      I don’t know that Poppy and Big Dog working together on charity concerns (tsumani relief) has made them big buds. It’s not uncommon for former presidents to be involved in things like that together.

      I don’t hink any of like the idea of the dynastic control that would be fact if Hillary is elected. My biggest objection, whether or not the comparison might ring true to some as Hillary tends to be hawkish, is the use of the Bush Cheney lite meme. It was wrong when the similar expression was used against JK in ’04 by an opponent and his supporters and wrong now. I would object to any Dem candidate using that comparsion to describe another Dem candidate.

      Hillary may have voted for the war, but she no longer supports it and vows to help end it. In my eyes this is the Dean – Kerry debate all over again. One candidate who was not a member of the Senate at the time didn’t vote, the other did.

      The most important aspect here is ending the damn war. It’s not as if Obama jumped on Kerry-Feingold last year. He didn’t.

    2. Stuart ONeill says:

      And sure enough…Clinton and her campaign are basically swiftboating the guy (something I would think readers here would be more leery of).

      Clinton was the next person in line to speak. She merely replied without personalizing her remarks. How that simple reality can be misconstrued as an organized effort to lie and deceive I don’t know.

      This would have died a quiet death except for Obama’s refusal to let an incomplete statement die. He consistently escalated the rhetoric.

      No one who believes in diplomacy can plausibly advocate a one-on-one meeting with the President absent previous levels of diplomatic work. This has nothing to do with refusing to talk with ‘rogue’ states. In fact, the premise of diplomacy is the continual conversation between governments.

      Had Obama simply said something like, “Well of course my answer assumed previous appropriate diplomatic contacts…” then there would have been no controversy.

      On the other issue of this tempest, calling another Democratic in this field “Bush-Cheney Lite” is inexcusable. It reeks of opportunism and inexperience on the campaign stump. It’s my belief that he simply couldn’t avoid using a good applause line. If he had thought out the long term impact of those words perhaps he wouldn’t have used them. They were inflammatory. Other words could have conveyed the same message without the bloodletting.

      A lack of long-term strategic thinking is what we have in the WH today. Long-term strategic thinking is exactly what we do need in the WH. If you don’t demonstrate it in your campaign then why should we believe you will suddenly become that long-range thinker once elected?

    3. One more point of note… I checked the ADA website for voting records for both Obama and Clinton. They both scored voting liberal 95% of the time in ’06 –

      And they both scored 100% in ’05 –

      So, Obama calling Clinton Bush Cheney Lite doesn’t wash in terms of their voting records. If, and it’s a big if, Hillary voted more like Lieberman, Obama might have a point.

    4. alrudder says:

      the Kerry-Feingold Amendment vote is key for Kerry supporters to stress. It was more realistic of predicting executive action than the original Iraq War Resolution. Had Kerry been running now, he could turn to Obama and Clinton and say: If I’d been president, most of our troops would be out now.
      The IWR was five months before the invasion and was more about constitutional war powers than foreign policy judgment.

    5. Darrell Prows says:

      If the current administration is the worst in national history (and it’s clearly in the running) then “Bush-Cheney lite” can only mean unfit for the job. I would expect Ms. Clinton to be somewhere in the same range as President as was her husband, and one of the few things I faulted him for was not making more face to face contact with national leaders “antagonistic” to us.

      It’s worth considering the old “guns or butter” cliché here. Our last Democratic President ran some budget surpluses, and we have every reason to hope that that lesson was not lost on the present group. It’s also reasonable to believe that all of them have plans in the domestic policy arena that would be frozen out by a militaristic approach to foreign affairs. So, while they all fall in different places on the Hawk-Dove continuum, we’re just not going to see military adventurism with any of the Democrats.

      Personally, I would love a President who called Chavez and said that if Mr. Chavez was ever in N.Y. for the U.N. maybe the two of them could get together for a private lunch. (This is merely an example.)

      In any event, the Democrats and the Republicans each have a stage full of people who would be better as President than what we now have. The next reality is that every Democrat would also be head and shoulders above every Republican.

      Watching two of the best of the best trying to bring the discussion down into the gutter, then, is particularly aggravating.

    6. Alrudder

      Exactly and I agree.

      A while ago (before JK decided not to run) there was a blog that stressed the difference between Obama and other candidates on Iraq, but the key factor I could see was simply that he didn’t vote for IWR, as he was not in the Senate. That said, neither Obama or Clinton came around to Kerry – Feingold and a few months ago everyone wondered if they would vote with the Dems on the first major vote that floundered since Kerry – Feingold.

      As a woman I get tired of hearing Hillary dissed for being a strong woman. Strong women get dissed all the time, I know that from personal experience.

      Stuart and I were talking yesterday about the election and Stuart said imagine Hillary as pres and Barbara Boxer as VP. Now that would be a dynamic team. I added, that on top of that we keep Nancy as Speaker of the House and perhaps put DiFi or another strong female Senator up as Majority Leader. We would really get some work done on this country if we let the women lead!

    7. alrudder says:

      We’re both Californians, but I think Barbara Boxer is cut out for the role she’s in right now. DiFi would make a great Majority Leader, I’ve never thought about that. She might be a bit too independent to be weighed down by the burdens of leading the pack.
      As for a potential veep for Hillary: Obama would work. Bayh, Webb, or Tester would work in a different way.

    8. Alrudder

      I agree… We need Boxer where she is. Stuart (who also lives in CA) and I had fun musing on the scenario though. Thankfully we are a long way from that decision and we first need a nomineee.

    9. mbk says:

      Todd, thanks for your comments, which add needed balance. I pretty much see the interchange your way: I’m with you on the “swiftboating” thing, the dynasty thing, Bush-Cheney Lite, the futility of rewinding the clock to the 90’s and more. I also think that Hillary is at least as guilty as Obama of blowing this minor dustup way out of proportion (along with the eager cooperation of the pathetic MSM), as she and her minions have done more than once before (her grotesquely –gleefully?–unsupportive, destructive response to Kerry’s botched joke, Howard Wolfson’s over-the-top response to Edwards’ oblique criticism of Hillary at Riverside Church. .and that’s just for starters )
      And I agree with Dodd, Biden and others that much too much air time has been devoted in general to this interpersonal kerfuffle, at the expense of discussion of real issues. (Dodd, for instance, rolled out his health plan today while the media were breathlessly following the exchanges between the Obama and Clinton campaigns).
      I like Obama, but I have to say that he is also disingenuous in advertising his anti-Iraq war credentials based on his 2002 speech, especially when his SENATE votes on Iraq exactly track Hillary’s , including opposition to the Kerry-Feingold amendment of June 2006.

      By the way, IMHO it’s way way WAY too early to be discussing VP candidates, before even a single primary vote has been cast for a presidential candidate. Though her campaign does not want you to think this, Hillary is NOT the inevitable nominee. Really. We do still have a voting process (tattered and corrupted though it is) in this country, the last time I checked.

      I am pretty much disgusted with the dynamic of the 2008 presidential race so far, not helped at all by the continuing shallowness and kowtowing-to-the-powerful shtick of the MSM.

      I’m trying to focus on things that make me happy, like Sen. Kerry’s brilliant speech on Republican obstructionism this week. He’s a real ball of fire lately, a daily reassurance that we can pull out of this black hole. I’ve pretty much given up hope for a White House Savior, and God knows the Supreme Court is not going to be a beacon of reasonableness for a long time to come. Maybe the real changes are going to have to come now from the legislative branch. We need more people like John Kerry,Ted Kennedy, John Conyers, John Lewis, Henry Waxman. . people who work for real change, people who hold our democracy to its highest and best self.

    10. Ginny Cotts says:

      Personally I think it gets back to cutting the candidates some slack for an over the top line here or there. Some of us see the comparison scale something like:
      Bush/Dick -500 (or more)
      Any GOP -300
      Clinton -150
      Gravel, Kucinich -75
      Richardson, Biden, Dodd – 50,
      Edwards -25
      Obama -10

      Gore, Kerry +150

      I still cannot deal with Clinton’s comment after the joke. I lost a lot of respect there. I know politics is tough. I would like our candidates to maintain a higher level of honesty than that. Much higher. Nor do I trust her ties to big $ and Rupert M, her tendency to secrecy, lack of vision and, frankly, more hot air than strength. Long term strategic thinking does not fit Hillary as far as I am aware.

      Clinton did plenty of bombing while he was CIC. Hillary is likely to continue the military backstabbing of other countries when it suits her economic needs. He also took down the regulation of the media and a few other things that helped set up George’s throne. If anything, I suspect Hil is further right than Bill, no matter how she has voted.

      Yes, I will hold my nose, take a barf bag into the booth, and check the box if we are stupid enough to nominate her. Right up until she gets it, I will keep pointing out what % of the country has said they won’t vote for her. It’s emotional, which won’t change. If we don’t get that this time, we could lose the WH again.

      As far as the initial comment, I agree with Todd. Obama replied in relation to the current administration, giving Clinton the opportunity to add a more nuanced response and she chose to make it look like he is naive. He is not. I would bet he chooses a better cabinet, that he listens to better than Clinton will listen to hers, and what is a SOS for if not to do the diplomatic prep for those meetings? Sorry, Hillary, I am Not That STUPID.

      I think we do need to factor in what percentage of the country does not want her as president. And what percent of the world would rather have Obama. We need to heal this country and we need to reach out to the world with a leader that they also like and respect.

      I still maintain that Rupert is pushing her because she would be the best for big business if the country votes Democratic no matter who is running. And he’s betting the bank that the GOP nom might just beat her.

    11. MBK, Ginny

      In my opinion Obama’s comments about Hillary were as wrongminded as Hillary’s commnets after the botched joke. I think every JK supporter I know would be outraged if the table was turned and Hillary said this about Obama. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      Hillary is as liberal as Obama, by ADA standards, and I see her as her own woman who votes her conscience in the Senate. She’s not Bill, as someone pointed out on another thread here on the subject.

      Am I thrilled with a Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton scenario. Absolutely not. But if Hillary gets the nomination and the presidency, I am willing to view her as differnet president from her husband, as W was different from his father.

      In the comments in my thread above there is a quote from the Atlantic Online. Hillary alreayd laid out a position on this issue months ago on Olbermann that showed her to be quicker to take on diplomacy with the leaders in question than Obama.

      I don’t like having to defend her honestly, but I would do the same for any Dem called Bush Cheney Lite. It sucked when JK was called Bush Lite in ’04.

    12. MBK

      Also incase you hadn’t noticed, JK’s “brilliant” floor speech the other day is posted here, and I still post almost Kerry news here almost daily and I will continue to do so, regardless of discussion on other topics here, including the ’08 election.

      And FYI, the VP conversation was on the level of discussing women in politics. I have made it very clear here numerous times that anything can happen between now and the primaries. It’s still anyone’s race.

      I’m as disgusted with media as anyone else, but I will not not defend Hillary against media outrages (like the cleavage piece) or comments made by other candidates that do a disgrace in my opinion to the larger scheme of the political discussion, just because she is Hillary and she dissed JK.

      I’d honestly be surprised if JK didn’t find Obama’s comments offensive. He can’t and won’t get in the middle though, but let’s not forget he defended her last week when the GOP went after her.

    13. Todd

      I should take a moment to say thank you for posting this. I know at some point the writers here may disagree on who the best candidate is and we all may end up backing different candidates in the primaries as they draw closer. Regardless, I want everyone here to feel that we can have these discussions and as always agree to disagree on some points, issues or candidates.

    14. You know: this year, instead of focusing on cleavage, whether someone’s NOT black enough, and screaming high dudgeon in a shitstorm for every stray comment, Democrats might consider that it’s NEVER beneficial for us to fall into character assassination and internecine warfare.

      Bitter experience SHOULD teach us that every time we fall into this “divide and conquer” trap all of us suffer.

      It’s more than a question of priorities. It may well be a question of our very political survival. The GOP can’t win fair and square. They can only try to sponsor fights like this one, in a classical variation of that old game “Let’s you and him fight!”

      Let the best man, woman or wombat win, but I’m saving all my vitriol for the GOP. (None left for Hillary, Obama, Edwards or any other D, sorry.)

    15. Pamela, I should also clarify that I am in no way endorsing Obama or bandwagoning for him. I see a clear difference between he and Clinton on this and I don’t really see the outrage over the “Bush/Cheney Lite” tag. I said above in another comment that it seems rather silly and dumb on his part, and I found her response the next day to be borderline “swiftboat”.

      But at the end of the day, now that people are moving on to other such important issues (as Hart notes above), like *cleavage*, for heaven’s sake, I doubt this story has much traction.

    16. Darrell Prows says:

      To quote myself on this site some number of months back, I wish that there were a way for organized Democrats to pick a 2008 candidate in a smoke filled room. At least we could avoid the coming primary mess. And it will be a mess because there is no way to have this many campaigns going on without every candidate being at at least someones throat at least some of the time.

      That’s the ugly side of politics.

    17. Hart

      Well said… thank you.


      I don’t think any of us feel as though there is someone we want to endorse or bandwagon for at this point. But the duiscussion on this has been interesting and enlightening. The one thing I think we all agree on at this point is we can’t agree on any candidate and we aren’t too fond of any of them.


      A blog can be like a smoke filled room I suppose.

    18. Canaan says:

      On ending the war: look at how Clinton handled the Edelman fiasco. First, her sources in the military told her Cheney was trying to tie the hands of the next President by blocking contingent logistical planning for troop withdrawal. It’s fine to chant, ‘Bring the troops home!’, but there is a practical side to redeployment.

      Second, she smoked out the rat in the Pentagon. When Edelman woke up from his nap thinking it was 2002 and called her a traitor, she smacked him down with cool elegance (not hysteria), putting the Defense Secretary on the spot: ‘whose running the Pentagon, you or Cheney’s hacks?’ She’s now moving to guarantee that logistical prep is done now for troop withdrawal after she becomes President.

      It’s the same with this question of diplomacy. While Obama gives us platitudes that anyone on this blog could give about reversing Bush stupidity, Clinton thinks about how to actually make it happen.

      As far as Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton, electing the first woman President is a thousand times more important to me.

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