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02 September 2008

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Twit

I think Barack Obama is simply the most successful of the species of professional self-promoters that has taken over Washington DC, among other places. Evidence includes:
1. Campaigning for change that has largely already happened (e.g. his foreign policy is basically Clintonian, his domestic policy is similarly unoriginal, and isn't the sea change in race relations in American society over the last 40 years more amazing than another well-connected Harvard grad becoming president?). Successful self-promoters always make sure to reflect the leading edge of the mainstream in order to claim credit for it;
2. Campaigning on themes like 'believe' and 'unity' without ever deigning to spell out a theory of either executive or national power, which in reality equates to an anti-American and anti-democratic premise of essentially 'trust me and my chosen few.' Self promoters are only selling themselves, and want you to buy into them, not their ideas;
3. Possessing a resume that is full of well-marketed 'almosts,' repackaged as moderation or courageous bridge-building. For example, Obama was a law professor and journal editor but never published a law review article, and is not known for having strong positions in either state or US Senate. Self promoters do not understand that bridges are built from one side to the other, not from the middle.

This is my take on Obama. I am inclined to vote for him because McCain is dangerously incompetent, and at least the 3 Supreme Court likely to retire will be appointed by a Democrat. On the other hand, if Obama wins, there is a risk of his mediocrity discrediting many worthy liberal ideas, maybe forever. So, ironically, perhaps a McCain victory would be better for the country in the long term because another loss by the Democrats and McCain's inevitable failure as president would force actual change in both parties, making space for the likes of Mark Warner, Jim Webb, Chuck Hagel, and other free thinkers.

Paul in NC

I'm all for examining the record, previous behavior, service, evidence of character, etc. of both candidates. I'm unsure how that is accomplished by an open thread, unless opinion is examination.

Patrick Lang

Paul in NC

I am an intelligence officer by trade. I want to know and I don't care how it comes out in the end. pl

George

It'll be interesting how the two threads grow. Right now the GOP thread has the most 'column-inches'. As a bonus, two links to factual material... one that I guess nowadays would be called a primary source. (the AKIP video)

lina

Twit:

Obama's Law Review article that you claim he never wrote, begins on page 823 of Volume 103 of the Harvard Law Review, and is available in libraries and subscription-only legal databases.

You can read some of it here:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0808/12705.html

William R. Cumming

The training, education, and experience of the DEMS ticket would qualify under the American Bar Association standards for a federal judge as qualifed no higher. They should both have been made judges and worked their way up. Lawyers that spend their life in politics are really just egotists that have decided they can lead better than others. True leaders are chosen by those who have shared experiences and very few Americans have Ivy Law Degrees or are in reality lobbyists for the Dupont Corporation. Delaware is very unrepresentative of the US generally and survives by adopting weak corporate governance rules for those registered there. Saul Alinsky was a great American but his protege's all lack his smarts, skill and bravery in confronting the "System." Yet strangely these two might just be able to have a successful administration but probably not because of their individual skills, just that after Clinton rejected most of the truly competent DEMS in order to select those for his administration that could speak "Arkansas" there is a wealth of talent to be mined by the DEMS, unlike the Republicans who have crushed the dissenters and second opinion types in order to look like they are in charge. If the black vote can determine the outcome in any state, Obama might just squeak in. Doubtful that he will take a majority of the white male vote that hopes McCain really is a TOPGUN and able to restore American gumption and leadership. That of course could not be done by anybody. We must be the ones to do it, not our leaders. But hey, its a start.

Mark Logan

There are two issues that compel me to vote for this man over McCain, foreign policy and healthcare. The neo-cons must be removed from power and I am a small businessman.


I see a man whose natural
ability, intelligence, ambition, and above all competitive drive have conspired to catapult him into a position he is not ready for. I have seen some indications that he may be aware of this short coming, and is taking steps to prepare himself, but I
fear this may be a case of the dog catching the car.
May he take his time in deciding issues and may he keep his ego in check.

Nancy K

I find it quite frightening that Palin believes the world is 6ooo years old and doesn't believe global warming is man made. I think that says it all. Europe went through this in the 1400's the inquistion. Maybe it is our turn.

greginak

FYI @ twit. try reading obama's website. there are a few gazillion pages of boring old policy documents and stuff. you may not agree with him which is fine. but he has said, in detail, what he wants to do.

obama could have made millions as a charismatic defense lawyer. just imagine how he could work a jury. he gave up doing law to do grass roots to work to build up his community. that strikes me as character. smart, thoughtful, successful throughout his life, overcame hard knocks as a child and defeated personal demons. he has plenty of character.

the right wing personal attacks have no rational relatinship to who he seems to be.

Cieran

I'm a reluctant Obamaphile. My support came late (after it was clear that other leaders such as Jim Webb would not be running), but Obama has earned my vote.

I believe that race will be the primary discriminator in this election, and I don't pretend to know how large a factor it will be. But here's my thinking, since the Colonel asked for our thoughts, and since this thread is getting lots less attention than the other one.

I think that Obama is running what I would call a "Branch Rickey" campaign, and if he is, it speaks volumes about the candidate, and about his understanding of what's right and what's wrong with this great nation.

Branch Rickey was the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he wanted to hire Jackie Robinson to break the color line in baseball. He knew that Robinson was plenty good enough as a player, but he didn't know whether Robinson could handle the awful racism of the sporting world without fighting back at the players and fans who would try to hurt him (with words and spikes and errant pitches).

Rickey knew that a black player who fought back would reinforce these racist stereotypes that had segregated baseball, and would thus make breaking the color line even more difficult, so he was every bit as concerned about how well Robinson behaved on and off the field as he was about well Robinson played baseball.

In short, he knew that Robinson would be held to a higher standard than would any other player, both on and off the field.

So Rickey got Robinson to agree not to respond to the ugliness. And then Robinson succeeded as a player, thus disproving everyone who "knew" that an African-American athlete could not succeed in the major leagues. And the rest is history...

Now the notion of black athletes is commonplace, though we still hear the ugliness among the right-wing pundits who now cannot stand Obama (e.g., recall how Rush Limbaugh got canned from ESPN only a few years ago for his stupid and ill-informed tirade against a black quarterback) -- so this racism has not gone away yet: it's just moved to a new venue..

But Robinson played incredibly well in the major leagues, and the world didn't end when the color line was broken, so eventually the citizens of this nation came to accept that we are all created equal, at least on the baseball field.

And Obama acts like Branch Rickey is on his campaign staff. When he was tarred by ad hominem attacks on Reverend Wright, he answered them with candor and grace well beyond what other candidates have demonstrated. He has been slimed with everything the GOP can throw at him (e.g., lies about being a Muslim, which Article VI of the Constitution tells us is besides the point even if those lies were true), and he continues to refuse to fight back, just as Jackie Robinson had to agree not to do.

Obama is the first African-American to run as a major candidate for this highest office in the land. He knows that if he does not do everything better than anyone else, he'll be buried in ugly slurs, because that's the fate of all black Americans who try to break the color line in this nation. So his education is top of his class at Harvard Law, and thus people want to talk about his inexperience instead, as if his intellectual brilliance is matched by bottom-of-his-class McCain. And once we start talking about experience, Obama opposed the Iraq War from its inception, which indicates that his experience is prescient beyond his span of years, so pundits change the subject to whether his wife is behaving properly. And so it goes...

Obama's record of accomplishment is simply spectacular compared to any republican since Dwight Eisenhower, and his policies are infinitely clearer than those of McCain and Palin, but we still complain that his positions are not clear enough, while we give McCain a free pass to flip-flop on everything from energy to war.

Do I detect a double standard here?

Obama is clearly doing everything as well as can be imagined given the constraints of the American political system of our day, and that's how he won my vote. He defeated Hillary Clinton in the primaries, which was an essentially impossible task for any candidate of any party, but he did it anyway. He has to be better than anyone else, because that's the nature of who we are in this nation.

Just ask Branch Rickey.

Libertarian Liberal

While I am not exactly excited by Obama, I am voting straight line Dems for the National election. A McCain win will not bring the house-cleaning necessary to rid of 8 years of cronyism and politicization of the various government branches; though I am under no illusion that the Dems won't deal in cronyism.

Even little bloodletting is a better treatment than the status quo. At least we might be able to slow the erosion of our Constitutional principles.

P Long

I think the Change and Hope themes reflect more on the America's take on the last 8 years than anything particularly radical or new in Obama's policies. Post-Bush, I think most people would prefer a return to a normalized political climate, sans signing statements, Patriot Acts, unclear causus belli, and extreme partisan polarization. I think this is Obama's intent, and I think it's achievable.

rick

"Change you can believe in, as long as we don't actually have to discuss specifics."

fnord

From my opinion, the case against Obama is the prospect of the "empty suit" and the question of what concessions "I am a zionist" Biden represents. His standing in the matters of military priorities are also in question, though his statement of wishing to keep Gates on implies a army-centered policy as opposed to the AF. His stance on the UN is the one I am most thrilled about, its about time someone set about rebuilding that institution out of the ruins of the Bush era. That also offers a way out of Iraq, where the pleading of Bush (and McCain) to stay as long as possible has suddenly given Maliki the leverage in negotiations. This would change with Obama. Also, this offers a new approach to Afghanistan, with the possibility to let China in as well in order to try to restart that whole effort.

His strongest point is that he offers rationality and intelligence as opposed to McCains "follow your heart and God will forgive you" line. He has a IQ to match Putin, and has shown enough fighter-spirit recently to indicate to me that he may even be able to stare him down a la Kennedy. The main question for me is who of the candidates I would entrust with the Cuba crisis. That makes it easy.

zanzibar

Cieran and fnord - you both make very good points about the Obama candidacy.

Some of my concerns about an Obama presidency are as follows:

- his key economic advisors come from the same corporate and Wall Street wing that have reinforced over decades the same failed policies of privatization of profits and socialization of losses with enormous negative implications for future generations. Would he lead on economic fundamentals that are so necessary for the re-building of the core of the American economy toward a more energy efficient and independent future and away from financial "engineering" when he has surrounded himself with those who would lose in such a policy environment? Does he have the courage to really stand-up to the financial-military-corporate-media elite or is he just another politician looking to join the club?

- as an expert in constitutional law what is his true belief in the sanctity of our constitution? his actions to date demonstrate that political expediency trumps oath of office.

- is his rhetoric on foreign and military affairs an accurate representation of his real intent to engage in "activist" policies? In the middle east for example,IMO, it seems that he aligns with Likudnik views and not necessarily the best interests of Israel or us. How will his rhetoric translate into actions in a more multi-polar world where we are dependent on former communists and Arab sheikhs for capital?

Now, our presidential contest is between two candidates. I believe the preponderance of the evidence to date is that Barack Obama has the sober temperament and superior judgment compared to John McCain to navigate the complex and uncertain waters of our future.

Andy

I think the Obama/Biden ticket is a strong one. We all know Obama's many political talents and like Palin does for McCain, Biden compliments Obama shortcomings nicely. As Col. Lang noted a while ago, Biden can play the bad cop to Obama's good cop, allowing Obama to continue to appear above the fray. That will appeal to many frustrated independent voters who are tired of traditional politics and traditional politicians.

Biden also fills several political gaps for Obama. While McCain's political problem is the GoP base, Obama's is moderates, particularly white blue-collar voters. Obama's other issue is his comparative lack of foreign policy experience. Biden helps Obama solve both of those problems.

The biggest unknown danger that I see is, I'm sad to say, race. I hope it is not the case, but my sense is that there are a potentially significant number of voters who won't vote for Obama because he's black. In a close election where one or two battleground states could decide the outcome, even small numbers of such voters could be the difference. Of course, this could be mitigated or completely offset by increased numbers of black voters.

The Obama/Biden ticket will be tough to beat. Like I said int the GoP post, I think this is going to be a very close election.

Mark Logan

One aspect of Obamas character puzzles me and I would ask the scholars of human behavour to comment on.

In the interview with his family it was mentioned by his wife and his kids that
they had to drag him out to get him to buy clothes and shoes. He was wearing a pretty ratty pair too.

This seems to me to be quite at odds with the ambition and general makeup
I expect to see from a man
like him. I would expect him to be a "preener".

Is this meaningful? Or even relevant?

Cieran

Zanzibar:

I think you have this exactly right:

Some of my concerns about an Obama presidency are as follows:

- his key economic advisors come from the same corporate and Wall Street wing that have reinforced over decades the same failed policies of privatization of profits and socialization of losses with enormous negative implications for future generations.

The other concerns you suggest can be explained by normal political activity, i.e., just trying to get elected influences what details candidates reveal about legal and military affairs.

But Obama could gain credence with the voters by establishing solid populist credentials, given the sorry state of the economy. So one has to wonder why he has not done so, since it wouldn't hurt him in the eyes of the electorate. Thus there are still questions about whether he's yet-another national politician owned by the plutocrats. You're exactly right here.

Of course, compared to the Phil Gramm school of economic policy found in the McCain campaign, all of Obama's corporate connections look good in comparison. So given that it's a two-person race, my vote still goes to Obama regardless of this particular question.

Leila Abu-Saba

Re: Obama as preener - how do you know he's a preener? People project a lot of stuff onto the guy. He's smart, a natural leader (I credit his Leo astrology sign for some of that magnetism - see Bill Clinton). But does that mean he's a fop and a clothes horse, too? You're confusing two separate personality traits. And maybe your jealousy is showing. Some people just naturally have "it" and it can't be faked - and it also doesn't mean they use clothing and accessories to create it.

The old clothes thing... I have speculated already, based on nothing more than conjecture, that this is his frugal middle-class WASP upbringing. Perhaps Hawaii casual also influences, I don't know. But it would be in line with a certain sort of intellectual middle-class academic with social justice concerns (i.e. his mother) to reject preening and spending big money on clothes. Also he lived with his grandparents who had limited funds. He has not seemed to react to this by wielding the American Express Gold card.

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

I am projecting this onto him because my mother is also a Ph.D. social justice type from an old American (white) family, as was Margaret Dunham. Being frugal and practical about clothing is more important than showing off or looking snappy.

Mrs. Obama, however, is a snappy dresser and seems to try to keep her husband in line.

He also just looks good in his clothes. He's very lean and tall with decent shoulders - the old "coathanger" physique. Jackets and shirts drape nicely. If he keeps everything clean and pressed he can wear it forever and look good.

I call this old clothes thing a plus, but then I'm wearing a tee shirt I bought four years ago, and sandals from three years ago. At least the trousers are new this summer.

fnord

If we are down to commenting appearances: I think he is finally getting the gunfighter stance, the irish boxer charisma and not a day too early. As a man, the point of hating shopping for shoes is a very good identitypoint with many of us, I know I hate it myself. They should get him to train boxing 20 mins. every day in the morning and *not run it in the news*. I think he is coming over with dignity, especially the handling of the Palin case showed real class.

Zanzibar: You make good and valid points, and in the best of all possible worlds there would have been (in my opinion) a social democratic candidate running third. But, given US demographics and political landscape and the very structure of the US political system, he seems to me to be the best choice youve got, even if we put in the other contenders on the democratic side. He propably wont change the economy drastically, at least not for the first term, but it is to hope that he will take the task of damage assessment and damage reduction seriously, something his rhetoric seems to indicate. His whole pitch is based around the point that something is rotten at the core of the system, and thats a approach we havent seen in a long time and at least to me a welcome change. On the military side, I am heartened by the fact that he has Phil Carter who used to run the Intel-dump blog as his veteran policy advisor, that indicates to me that he is connected to the new generation of military thinkers. McCain on the other hand seems bent on conflict at all costs, see how they are pushing for selling AA systems to Georgia wich will push Russia to sell to Iran wich will push Israel to attack etc.

Mark Logan

Leila,

I do not think he is a preener, but that he is not.
I did not intend it in any way a plus or a minus, but
wondered if it is a "tell"
of any significance on his make up. Just curious.

Clifford Kiracofe

The Jewish Daily Forward (New York)presents some data:

"Michelle Obama Has a Rabbi in Her Family
Capers Funnye, Leading Black Israelite, Is Aspiring First Lady’s Cousin

By Anthony Weiss
Tue. Sep 02, 2008
While Barack Obama has struggled to capture the Jewish vote, it turns out that one of his wife’s cousins is the country’s most prominent black rabbi — a fact that has gone largely unnoticed.

Michelle Obama, wife of the Democratic presidential nominee, and Rabbi Capers Funnye, spiritual leader of a mostly black synagogue on Chicago’s South Side, are first cousins once removed. Funnye’s mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye (born Verdelle Robinson) and Michelle Obama’s paternal grandfather, Frasier Robinson Jr., were brother and sister.

Funnye (pronounced fuh-NAY) is chief rabbi at the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in southwest Chicago. He is well-known in Jewish circles for acting as a bridge between mainstream Jewry and the much smaller, and largely separate, world of black Jewish congregations, sometimes known as black Hebrews or Israelites. He has often urged the larger Jewish community to be more accepting of Jews who are not white.

Funnye’s famous relative gives an unexpected twist to the much-analyzed relationship between Barack Obama and Jews in this presidential campaign. On the one hand, Jewish political organizers, voters and donors played an essential role in Obama’s rise to power in Chicago, including some of the city’s wealthiest and most prominent families. But the Illinois senator has struggled to overcome suspicions in some parts of the Jewish community, including skepticism about his stance on Israel and discredited but persistent rumors that he is secretly a Muslim.

Funnye, who described himself as an independent, said he has not been involved with the Obama campaign but that he has donated money and was cheering it on.

“I know that her grandfather and her father and my mom and all of our relatives that are now deceased would be so very, very proud of both of them,” Funnye told the Forward.

Michelle Obama and the Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Funnye told the Forward that he has known Michelle Obama (born Michelle Robinson) all her life. His mother and her father, Frasier Robinson III, enjoyed a close relationship, and Funnye said he saw Michelle several times a year when they were growing up, mostly at family functions and on occasional visits to her house.

“Her father was like the glue of our family,” Funnye said. “He always wanted to keep the family very connected and to stay in touch with each other.”

Funnye, 56, said he and Michelle, 44, were not especially close growing up, but he remembers her as “energetic and smart and very caring.”

The two fell out of touch when they grew older and went their separate ways but then reconnected years later when Michelle Obama was working for the University of Chicago and Funnye was leading a local social service organization called Blue Gargoyle. Funnye also worked with Barack Obama, then a state senator, who came and spoke at events for the organization. When Barack and Michelle Obama married, Funnye and his family attended the wedding.

Although Funnye’s congregation describes itself as Ethiopian Hebrew, it is not connected to the Ethiopian Jews, commonly called Beta Israel, who have immigrated to Israel en masse in recent decades. It is also separate from the Black Hebrews in Dimona, Israel, and the Hebrew Israelite black supremacist group whose incendiary street harangues have become familiar spectacles in a number of American cities.

Funnye converted to Judaism and was ordained as a rabbi under the supervision of black Israelite rabbis, then went through another conversion supervised by Orthodox and Conservative rabbis. He serves on the Chicago Board of Rabbis.

Funnye’s relationship with the Obama family was reported in the Chicago Jewish News in an article dated August 22. A Wall Street Journal article in April reported that the aspiring first lady had a cousin (whom the paper mistakenly referred to as a second cousin) who is a prominent black rabbi but did not mention Funnye by name.

The rabbi’s familial connection with the Democratic presidential nominee is also a matter of common knowledge in Funnye’s synagogue.

“He really jumped on everyone’s radar after the 2004 convention,” Funnye said. “That’s when some people said, ‘Isn’t he related to you or something?’ I said, ‘Yeah, he’s married to my cousin, and she’s making him everything that he is.’”

http://www.forward.com/articles/14121/

Clifford Kiracofe

"Spengler" at the Asia Times Online argues:

"Obama will spend the rest of his life wondering why he rejected the obvious road to victory, that is, choosing Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential nominee. However reluctantly, Clinton would have had to accept. McCain's choice of vice presidential candidate made obvious after the fact what the party professionals felt in their fingertips at the stadium extravaganza yesterday: rejecting Clinton in favor of the colorless, unpopular, tangle-tongued Washington perennial Joe Biden was a statement of weakness. McCain's selection was a statement of strength. America's voters will forgive many things in a politician, including sexual misconduct, but they will not forgive weakness."
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/JI03Aa02.html

Canuck

The alternative to not voting for Obama is whom? Provided one cares that one's marked ballot is counted towards electing the President?

Twit

greginak: You said, "you may not agree with him which is fine."

I DO agree with him (i.e. social and economic liberalism)! That is the problem, and that is exactly my point. Obama is a weak candidate because his campaign is at core about him and him only. I predict he will be a weak president because his presidency will be at core about him and him only. His weakness on both counts will undermine social and economic liberalism in America. Therefore, I am left with a choice between two candidates who will - albeit in opposite ways - undermine the principles in which I believe. Capisce?

I find it incredible that this critique is seen as 'right wing.'


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