Archive for January, 2008

The Visionary Minimalist

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Responding to Floria again:

I’m not one for big change though, because I think it can be damaging at the outset. I believe if one is to attempt to change the entire process of our government, then there would be several unforeseen consequences at the outset.

I agree with you that “slow and steady” change is more lasting and more desirable than sudden or forced change.  That is actually one of the major things that attracted me to Barack Obama’s candidacy and that convinced me of the danger of a Hillary presidency.  When Obama first announced, I doubted he was ready, and I tentatively supported Hillary because I wanted a Democrat to win and I believed she would be ruthless in making sure she won.  But gradually, little by little, I came to embrace Obama’s candidacy.

There were two key factors – and I think I wrote about this previously in slightly different terms.  The first was that I came to believe that America was in a worse condition than I had previously thought – that Bush had fundamentally altered the balance of power in Washington and severely diminished the legislative and judicial branches of government; that partisan polarization was a major problem because it fostered a “team” mentality, in which no matter what the underlying consensus was on the issue, each party sought electoral gain by playing to the extremes.  (For me, the Republican advocacy of torture and skepticism of climate change made this clear.)  The second factor was that as I began to learn more about Obama and his thought, the more I came to admire him.  Specifically, this New Yorker piece called “The Conciliator” (which is long, but well worth it) first introduced me to the aspect of Obama that I admire most, what Cass Sunstein calls in a recent New Republic piece, “visionary minimalism.”  What Sunstein describes is the paradox of Barack Obama’s thought (as opposed to the paradox of his campaign).  Sunstein describes two differing approaches to the world: minimalist and visionary.  As he describes it, “minimalists are fearful of those who are gripped by abstractions, simple ideologies, and large-scale theories” and “visionaries have a large-scale understanding of where the nation should be heading…[and] call for wholesale rejection of the views of “the other side.”  Sunstein sees Obama bridging these two conflicting tendencies:

“Visionary minimalist” may sound like an oxymoron, but in fact–and this is the key point–Obama’s promise of change is credible in part because of his brand of minimalism. He is unifying, and therefore able to think ambitiously, because he insists that Americans are not different “types” who should see each other as adversaries engaged in some kind of culture war. Above all, Obama rejects identity politics. He participates in, and helps create, anti-identity politics. He does so by emphasizing that most people have diverse roles, loyalties, positions, and concerns, and that the familiar divisions are hopelessly inadequate ways of capturing people’s self-understandings, or their hopes for their nation. Insisting that ordinary Americans “don’t always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal,” Obama asks politicians “to catch up with them.” Many independents and Republicans have shown a keen interest in him precisely because he always sees, almost always respects, and not infrequently accepts their deepest commitments.

To the extent that Obama is able to call simultaneously for change and reconciliation, it is in significant part for this reason. And to the extent that Obama’s candidacy is producing a kind of national exhilaration not seen in many decades, his practice of anti-identity politics is a key factor. For him, reconciliation is change, and it is also what makes change possible. Recall that minimalists are willing to endorse large shifts from the status quo–after diverse people have been heard, learned from, and brought on board.

Obama’s minimalism thus has a clear pragmatic purpose. The challenges of health care reform, Iraq, economic growth, climate change, and energy independence cannot possibly be met well, and perhaps cannot be met at all, without cross-cutting coalitions. Real transformations require a degree of consensus. Obama’s point also has intrinsic and not merely instrumental importance, and for one simple reason: It says something deeply true, and long neglected, about how Americans actually understand themselves. If Obama’s visionary minimalism turns out to have enduring power, it will be for that reason.

It is well worth reading Sunstein’s entire article.  Sunstein is an informal adviser to Obama – which makes his analysis both more interesting, and forces you to think about the issue skeptically.  Several months earlier, Larissa MacFarquhar writing a profile for the New Yorker though wrote something very similar:

In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative. There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean. He distrusts abstractions, generalizations, extrapolations, projections. It’s not just that he thinks revolutions are unlikely: he values continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he values change for the good. Take health care, for example. “If you’re starting from scratch,” he says, “then a single-payer system”—a government-managed system like Canada’s, which disconnects health insurance from employment—“would probably make sense. But we’ve got all these legacy systems in place, and managing the transition, as well as adjusting the culture to a different system, would be difficult to pull off. So we may need a system that’s not so disruptive that people feel like suddenly what they’ve known for most of their lives is thrown by the wayside.”

Obama’s voting record is one of the most liberal in the Senate, but he has always appealed to Republicans, perhaps because he speaks about liberal goals in conservative language. When he talks about poverty, he tends not to talk about gorging plutocrats and unjust tax breaks; he says that we are our brother’s keeper, that caring for the poor is one of our traditions. Asked whether he has changed his mind about anything in the past twenty years, he says, “I’m probably more humble now about the speed with which government programs can solve every problem.”

By focusing on the ends, and using every means at her disposal to achieve those ends, Hillary Clinton both ensures maximal polarization and maximal resistance.  The amount of change she will be able to bring about will be determined by what she is able to force through.  By focusing on improving the processes – without attempting a radical overhaul, and while bringing in all stakeholders – Obama minimizes polarization, minimizes resistance, and maximizes change over the long-term.  In other words – if you believe America is facing serious strategic challenges and that our polity is not in shape to tackle them – Obama is the only candidate which a chance of tackling them.  If you are wary of dramatic change, Hillary’s current approach to achieving change may very well prevent her from achieving much.  But her focus on ends rather than means would bring about more sudden and drastic change – the kind you presumably fear.

It was these two “realizations” on my part that lead me to embrace Barack Obama’s candidacy: one, seeing the moment we are in; two, understanding more about the Hillary’s and Barack’s thought.  This is why I was a fan of Obama before he seemed like he had a chance.  This is why I thought he was the best person for the job of president even when Hillary was considered inevitable.  The paradox of Obama’s campaign is that even if you believe Obama should be president, many still need to be convinced that he can be elected.  Obama as a head of government, a head of state would be a visionary minimalist; but he will only become a great president if a movement is able to coalesce that pushes for meaningful change.  Obama, being a minimalist, would then have to channel it, focus it, hold it back where prudent.  This dynamic could make Obama one of our greatest presidents.  But even as the situation now stands, without such a movement, I still believe he is the best choice.

Postscript: Regarding Obama’s tendency to over-dramatize: I don’t know anything of the example you gave.  But in general, I have found that Obama plays down dramatic moments; that in his speeches, he avoids applause lines, preferring to build a gradual narrative.  And Obama is the only candidate to have lived in a Third World country for any extended period of time – Indonesia in his youth.   If you read Dreams of My Father, he writes about the exact difference in attitude you describe – between living in the midst of a country, and living out of a hotel.

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The process of change and changing the process

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

This is a response to the thoughtful and reflective comments written by the Floria on my posts about Hillary Clinton here and here.

I will try to respond in general to her criticisms and to specific allegations she makes.  This is written as a specific response to Floria’s comments:

I…do not blame Hillary for pointing out that Obama has been inconsistent with his past positions. Edwards goes on to say that this is not a time to be discussing those things, but with Obama’s perfectly PC nature and almost messiah-like campaign, we are obliged to hearing the both sides, beyond the glittering facade he and the media portray of himself.

First, I don’t agree with your characterization of what Hillary was doing. She was not pointing out that Obama was inconsistent – she was telling a lie, or at best, distorting the truth, in order to attack one of his strengths: the fact that he has been remarkably consistent. On health care, Obama has said he would be in favor of a single-payer health care system if he was designing it from scratch, but that he realizes that this isn’t feasible at the current time, and so he proposed a system which Hillary largely copied when she put out her plan. 1 On the Patriot Act, although Obama said he would oppose it’s reauthorization, he supported the compromise that introduced some measures of accountability into the bill. I do not believe Senator Obama ever campaigned on a promise to block the Patriot Act  – rather he voiced concerns over the bill; he still had concerns when he signed it, but he believed the compromise was an improvement, and so begrudgingly, supported it.

Hillary was distorting Senator Obama’s statements and record to suggest that he had been inconsistent – because she knows that his consistency is part of his appeal, and one that stands in stark contrast to her entire persona.

Second: turbo-charged phrases like “Obama’s perfectly PC nature and almost messiah-like campaign” and “the glittering facade he and the media portray of himself” are difficult to respond to specifically because they reflect feelings rather than substance – this is not to denigrate them, but to place them in a context; I’m certainly guilty of expressing my feelings on political subjects as well. I’ll try to in the last few paragraphs, but let me say that I agree that it is important to hear both sides – but that each of us must be ready to acknowledge that one side might just be entirely, or mainly, wrong.

I think it takes an even bigger and more compassionate person to be able to dedicate yourself to helping others simply out of feeling of responsibility and empathy. Hillary dedicated her life to helping children and the less fortunate, but she didn’t need a touching story about rising out of poverty or whatnot, to drive her to do so or to attract more attention to it.

I agree that it takes a very compassionate person to dedicate themselves to helping others out of a feeling of responsibility and empathy. (Although I do not see how explaining what lead one to become compassionate, to understand particular problems, undermines it.)

But I don’t see how this applies to Hillary Clinton. Yes, she was on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital (but she was also on the board of Wal-Mart and The Country’s Best Yogurt Company). In her professional career, she did focus on helping children after the health care debacle forced her to take a more traditional role in her husband’s administration – but it wasn’t what she set out to do.  And what First Lady hasn’t devoted significant amounts of time to helping children?

I’m not sure what in her record indicates that Hillary has “dedicated her life” to helping children or the less fortunate – other than the fact that she is a liberal, and that liberal policies tend to favor both groups. I am not saying Obama has selflessly dedicated himself to doing good in the world – but from his career, and his speeches, and his memoirs, I am left with the sense that the primary impetus behind his political career is the desire to create a movement to renew American democracy – whether as a community organizer, constitutional law professor, state legislator, senator, or presidential candidate – this has been his message.

Senator Clinton’s record indicates something different – as a presidential candidate, she has seen fit to use voter suppression tactics and other methods and messages that will hurt the Democratic party’s chances in November; in 1995, after the Republicans took back the Congress, she advised her husband to bring in the sleazy Dick Morris who advised the Clintons to co-opt the Republican agenda in order to maintain their own power, and Hillary supported this decision; in 2002, Hillary Clinton decided to vote to authorize military force against Iraq, and though her motives are impossible to determine, political calculation certainly played a role.  Throughout her career, Hillary Clinton has been willing to embrace tactics and policies that hurt the poor and the middle class and Americans in general if she thought it would further her career.

Clinton doesn’t have the cleanest campaign strategy – I can see that. But I am cynical and I don’t appreciate Obama’s strategy that is seemingly taking advantage of the young, liberal, less-informed, idealistic voters by alluding to “changing the status quo”, “not giving in to special interests”, and getting out of Iraq with little to no flexibility in timeline and approach.

I think I responded to the point about Clinton’s campaign strategy above to some degree. To reply to your point about Iraq: Senator Obama has repeatedly said that we must be “as careful getting out as we were careless getting in”. Senator Clinton actually made headlines this January by taking a more aggressive stand on getting troops out of Iraq by suggesting she will begin withdrawing troops within 60 days of her taking office. 2 In fact, Obama and Clinton have virtually the same positions on withdrawing from Iraq – including virtually the same language, as you can see if you compare Barack Obama’s position on “Bringing the Troops Home” and Hillary Clinton’s position.  To say that Obama plans on “getting out of Iraq with little to no flexibility in timeline and approach” is to demonstrate an ignorance of the actual positions each candidate has taken on the issue.

Finally, I think it is exceedingly cynical to suggest that Obama is trying to take advantage of “younger, less informed, idealistic voters”. Do you think Ted Kennedy has been hoodwinked by Obama as well? John Kerry? Janet Napolitiano? Tim Kaine?

I think I described the issue you are sensing in this post on “The Paradox of Barack Obama”.  To take that post a bit further: the heart of Obama’s campaign is not his policy positions.  Edwards, Clinton, and Obama all have similar policy positions, and though the minor differences reveal a great deal about how each candidate is positioning him or herself, and a little about each candidate’s approach to governance, the real contrast is in temperament and in the potential.

Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have are both policy-oriented.  Each of them has particular goals they want to achieve as president, and they discuss how they will try to achieve this goals mainly to prove their seriousness.  Barack Obama, on the other hand, sees the particular policy goals as secondary.

  • He believes that the problems America is facing today are the result of deep-seated problems in the processes of government, in the processes of innovation, in our politics;
  • He believes in making the government more accountable to the people (with ethics reform, with databases of federal funding, and by opening up as much of every government agency’s deliberations as possible to the public);
  • He believes that a large part of the reason that so many Americans are apathetic about politics is because they do not feel engaged with power and they are tired of the mudslinging (which is why he has refrained from egregious smears, despite great provocation);
  • He believes that partisanship is the cause of political gridlock – and that more partisanship will not solve the major problems we face (and if you think that sounds like common sense read Paul Krugman or look at some of Hillary Clinton’s aides);

The core Obama belief – the one which sells me on his potential – is that he believes that the integrity of the process matters as much as the end result of the process.  You can see this principle in every position he takes, in his entire public career, and in his campaign.  Hillary Clinton believes that the ends justify the means – or else she could not reconcile many of the actions she has taken publicly with her professed beliefs.

A president who believes that the ends justify the means – the thought frightens me.  After George W. Bush has enlarged the powers of the presidency beyond recognition, it frightens me even more.  Having Democrats defend the precedents Bush has established because a President Hillary believes she needs to take advantage of them in order to pass some bill frightens me. 3

I believe we need a president who will focus on fixing the processes that keep our society, our environment, and our polity healthy.  The problems we face as a nation will not be fixed with the marginal improvements that would be the goals of a Hillary Clinton presidency, as helpful as those improvements might be.  They might not be fixed even with greater transparency, consensus, and innovation.  But at least with that approach, we might have a chance.  Global climate change; terrorism; the turmoil of globalization; immigration; failing educational and health care systems.  A polarized polity will not be able to begin to fix these problems; as a nation today, we are incapable of fixing these problems because the processes of our government and our politics are broken.

Barack Obama is not a messiah.  But he sees the problem; and unlike Clinton, he sees the beginning of a solution.  Clinton is campaigning on the promise of competent management;4 she is campaigning on her goals and policies; she is campaigning on the idea that she will be able to get change done.  But look at Obama.  He is running on the theory that he can spark a movement; and that the people, being moved, will change; and that if many, many people are motivated and empowered, real change – and real improvement – will be inevitable.  As Grace Lee Boggs said, Obama will only become a great president if we become a great people.  While Clinton sees change as top-down, imposed by Washington; Obama sees change coming from the bottom-up, from a motivated citizenry.

It might sound like bullshit.  But it’s something real.

In essence, Obama is betting his candidacy on the ideals that America was founded upon, on the possibility of a democracy and a republic that works, on an informed and active citizenry, on hope in a better tomorrow.  It might be a sucker’s bet.  But something are worth losing over.

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  1. I do not mean to suggest she directly copied from Obama – more that their plans are both based on the policy work of the same groups of Democrats. []
  2. Her actual quote actually gives her more room to hedge though. []
  3. And there would be a kind of poetic harmony to this – as Hillary’s actions in the first Clinton administration were used by Cheney and Bush to expand executive power further. []
  4. Which is quite debatable when you look at her record; the two biggest initiatives she has run so far have been mismanaged – health care reform in the 1990s and her campaign today. []

An Historical Footnote: Eisenhower’s Baptism

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Eisenhower

During the 1952 campaign for the presidency, word leaked that Dwight D. Eisenhower had never been baptized. Though he considered himself a Christian, he had never been inducted into a faith. He responded at the time by saying he would be baptized when he was able to get around to it – probably after his election. And so, on February 1, 1953, twelve days after his Inauguration, President Eisenhower was baptized, the only president to be baptized in office, and formally “staked down” his faith at the National Presbyterian Church on Washington’s Connecticut Avenue.

It apparently was an age in which religion was taken seriously – but not in the dogmatic way it is today. After all, Eisenhower, of “Oh, goddammit, we forgot the silent prayer” fame, was able to be judged not on his private religious acts, but on his public record.

It might be nice to reintroduce that as the standard again.

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Dawn in South Carolina

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

From Bob Moser of The Nation magazine:

[T]he Clintons have come to embody, for many middle Americans, the moral and intellectual emptiness they seen in liberalism–feel-good, stand-for-nothing, make-no-difference power players cloaking their lust for control in “feel-your-pain” platitudes.

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Slowly standing up

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

From the Hill this morning reporting, on Bush’s State of the Union Address, comes this telling anecdote:

In one instance Clinton appeared to gauge Obama’s response before showing her own.

When Bush warned the Iranian government that “America will confront those who threaten our troops, we will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf” Obama jumped up to applaud. Clinton leaned across Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), seated to her left, to look in Obama’s direction before slowly standing.

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My Hillary Story

Monday, January 28th, 2008

I never met Senator Clinton.  And I never had much opinion of her one way or another throughout the 1990s.  She had receded from the spotlight by the time I started paying attention to politics around 1994 or so.  But I do have one particular memory from high school – when she was running for the Senate in my home state, New York.  An acquaintance of mine was very political, and his father was tied in with the local Democratic party.

As we were driving, we were talking about the Senate race – of First Lady Clinton against our hometown congressman, Rick Lazio.  I didn’t much like Lazio; and I didn’t much like Clinton.  Being straightforward, I admitted as much.

It was right then that I first heard the “inevitable” argument regarding Hillary Clinton.  “You might as well get on board, because she’s going to win, and you’ll gain nothing by opposing her,” I was told.  The pressure was on – and for maybe five minutes, this high school acquaintance tried to convince me – not of Hillary’s inner goodness, or her policy savvy, or her experience, or any positive quality.  Rather, he tried to convince me that nothing good could come from standing in her way.

I hadn’t really remembered this conversation much in the years ahead – but as I began to hear again and again about how Hillary was “inevitable” and how nothing good would come from standing in her way, the memory resurfaced.   Hillary obviously can’t be held responsible for the tactics her supporters use at such a remove from herself; but I see today the same dynamic – in Nevada, in South Carolina, in Paul Krugman, in her  most ardent supporters.  And it forces me to wonder if this bullying is not some essential part of what makes Hillary Clinton the public figure she is today.

This isn’t a policy tract; and this isn’t psychoanalysis; it’s just a feeling.  But I’m under the impression that it’s one shared by many, especially those in power with something to lose.  But what happens when you challenge a bully publicly and survive?  The bully loses his or her power – because intimidation is based on a fear of retribution.

As my acquaintance kept pushing me harder and harder to support Hillary, I refused to budge.  I get like that when I’m pressured.  Come election night, many months later – as I filled out my absentee ballot at college – I voted a straight Democratic ticket.  Except for the Senate.  I voted for Rick Lazio.  I didn’t like Lazio all that much; but I didn’t like being bullied.

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Sooner Than You Think

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

In his classic song “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan asked:

Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
…Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
…The answer is blowin’ in the wind…

Sam Cooke answered with his own classic song, saying that change will come sooner than you think:


Let me also say: it’s worth checking out all of LiliAna’s songs.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

-Victor Hugo.

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Shades of Grey

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

I got into a discussion in the comments to the Why Hillary Clinton Should Bow Out Today piece with a “Cori” about the moral compromises that inevitably come from being involved in politics.

Cori brought up some minor transgressions that the Obama campaign had committed – for example, citing the Washington Post in an ad saying his health care plan would save $2,500 for every family, when the Post quotation was citing the Obama campaign. She was using this and her other examples – which are in the comments linked to above – to say that Obama was “just another politician.” She continued:

He’s not the end all be all that all the pro-Obama fanatics are making him out to be. To be quite honest I see absolutely no difference between him and Clinton, or any other politician for that matter.

She then went on to explain that because she sees politics as existing in shades of grey she was leaning towards supporting Hillary Clinton.

I’ve seen this type of thinking in other places as well – and it bothers me because of the logical fallacy at its heart. Politics inevitably involves compromise – as taking any action does. But that does not make all compromises equal.

There is a world of difference between citing a source inaccurately to support something you believe and deliberately distorting an opponents words in order to deceive people about what he or she believes. Does the Obama campaign really believe that his health care plan will save $2,500 for every family? Probably so.1 Does Hillary Clinton really believe that Barack Obama supports the Republican positions of the past few decades? No, she doesn’t. 2

The fallacy is this: one compromise is morally equal to any other; every shade of moral grey is equal. When I say that politics is about compromise, I am not implying that all politicians are equal. When I say shades of grey, my focus is on the shades rather than the grey.

Those who see no difference between Obama and Clinton are just as guilty of moral idiocy as those that proclaim “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” You don’t get full credit for doing away with two opposing moral poles and replacing them with a single category in between which allows for no differences.

At the heart of Bill Clinton’s 1992 strategy was this compromise: fight dirty; fight hard; promise whatever you need to get into the White House; say whatever you need to win; and then, the real leadership starts.  This is memorably captured by the scene at the end of the barely fictional film about the 1992 election, Primary Colors based on Joe Klein’s novel of the same name, in which Governor Stanton tries to convince his aide, Henry Burton, to stay on with his campaign: 3

You don’t think Abraham Lincoln was a whore before he was a President? He had to tell his little stories and smile his shit-eating back-country grin. He did it all just so he’d get the opportunity to stand in front of the nation and appeal to the better angels of our nature.

But Clinton proved to be no Lincoln.  His politics in office was the same as his politics in his campaign.

The differences between the two men are instructional: both men compromised, but each did so very differently.  Lincoln believed slavery was a moral evil and that it should be eradicated; but he also acknowledged that the political environment of 1860 was not ready for this radical change.  And so, on the great moral issue of his day, he compromised and campaigned on stopping the spread of slavery with the understanding that this would lead to eventual and gradual emancipation.   He governed on the same principle, until the changing facts on the ground led him to the Emancipation Proclamation, which still only offered limited emancipation.  In Lincoln, we can clearly see a moral man struggling with a difficult issue.

Clinton in 1992 campaigned on a Third Way of politics – splitting the difference between the harsher features of the Reagan-Bush legacy and the liberal ideas of the Democratic party.  The problem with this approach is that it was dishonest – and Clinton spoke out of both sides of his mouth.  When Clinton spoke to the Democratic base, he explained that he really believed what they did, and that if elected, he would be an unabashed liberal.  To the electorate at large, Clinton tried to show that he had digested the lessons on the Reagan Revolution.  He governed ineffectively as a liberal until the 1994 Contract With America made him realize that he might lose his power, and, at the behest of his wife, he brought in Dick Morris to calculate what he needed to do to win again.  His style of governance proved similar to his campaign as he again and again pleaded with Democrats to trust him as he promoted NAFTA, welfare reform, school uniforms, and balanced budgets while pushing for incremental liberal measures.  In many ways, Clinton did the best he could in a hostile environment.  His appeal to liberals was always the same: “Trust me, I’m doing the best that I can.  I believe what you do, but I can’t do anything about it or say anything about it.”  I still believe he was telling the truth about this.  But the difference with Lincoln is telling: while Lincoln was willing to make a moral and pragmatic comprise to attain political power, Clinton wanted power and was willing to do whatever he needed to get it.  The difference is one of degree and reflection.

Hillary is making the same argument to liberals now that her husband did in his presidency: Trust me, because I’m one of you; if I screw you guys over, it’s only because I have no choice.  The scene from Primary Colors is fictional, but it gets at the heart of Clintonism – a philosophy of governance and politics that Bill and Hillary Clinton together embody.  The problem is that the moment to “show true leadership,” to appeal to the better angels of our nature, never comes – because there is always another election, always another scandal.  Clintonism is about postponing progress.  It is about first and foremost making sure the Clintons win.

It’s time to try something new, to turn the page.

…while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people in three simple words:

Yes. We. Can.

Obama, like every other human being, is not perfect.  He will make and has made mistakes.  But the overwhelming evidence of his character, his history, his public record, and his campaign demonstrate that he represents something very different than the Clintons.

Reinhold Niebuhr, a 20th century theologian and political activist, wrote about exercising power thus:

We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized.

The fact that taking any action involves moral compromise does not absolve us of our responsibility to make informed judgments.  Some compromises are more basic than others.  If we cannot differentiate between the many shades of grey, then we are lost without a moral compass.  That is what I imagine has happened to the Clintons.

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  1. Even more, the mistake doesn’t seem to be part of a broad strategy to deceive, but rather a mistake or laziness on the part of whoever was putting together the ads. []
  2. And the decision to attack Obama based on falsehoods had to have been approved by Hillary – as it was the theme of the messages, rather than a citation used in one. []
  3. I’m sure the video of the scene is online somewhere – so send it in if anyone can find it. []

And Obama wins big.

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

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Mike Huckabee and AdWords

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Has anyone else been seeing tons of Mike Huckabee ads on AdWords?

For the past three days, I’ve been seeing Mike Huckabee ads to the side of my Google searches and to the side of and in the header of my Gmail.  Has Google tagged me as likely to click on Huckabee ads, or has Huckabee decided to use his limited resources on AdWords?

It would make sense if he did – but I’m not sure targeting me makes the most sense.

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