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Election 2008 Liberalism Obama Politics

The Opinionsphere Looks Under the Bus

Finally right-wingers and left-wingers are starting to agree about Obama.

In a testament to the attention paid to the kabuki theater of the presidential campaign, the new meme spreading around the opinionsphere is that Obama is running hard to the right and “throwing under the bus” anyone who gets in his way.  As Steve Marlsberg, the wingnut and idiot would say:

First Obama threw his grandmother under the bus;1
then his Reverend;2
and now General Wesley Clark!3

Kate Stone channeled David Brooks’s analogy, but replaced the people being thrown under the bus with policies:

First Obama gave up on public financing;4
then he gave up on the telecom fight;5
then, he came out in favor of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the individual right to bear arms;
what’s next – will he throw women under the bus and the right to choose?

Now – I’m all for challenging whatever leader we have and for pushing him or her to the positions we ourselves hold.  That’s politics.  That’s the only way that a republic can work. But the hysteria evidenced by Paul Krugman, David Brooks, Kate Stone, and many others in responding to the mild replies, long-expected decisions, and minor re-positioning of Obama demonstrates more about the fears and insecurities of these individuals than of Obama’s candidacy or potential presidency.

Also, let me try to correct the record on guns and Heller v. Washington D.C.  Kate, along with many others, mis-characterizes Obama as supporting “relaxing restrictions on gun control in Washington, D.C.” This with-us-or-against-us take on Obama’s nuanced position is exactly what Obama has described as the problem with partisanship.  The judicial philosophy that Obama has been consistent in supporting is one which judges each case on the merits, individually.  Which is why, as the Heller case was before the Court, Obama repeatedly said that as he hadn’t been able to take the time to fully investigate the case because he was busy running for president.  His comments in response to the Heller decision were about balance:

I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common sense, effective safety measures.

The line, though less elegant, reminds me of his famous line about Iraq:

I’m not opposed to all wars.  Just dumb wars.

In general, Obama has made two things clear: he supports an individual right to bear arms; and he supports gun control.  This has become the increasingly common liberal position.  Whether the Court should have struck down this particular gun ban or not, the Supreme Court’s decision was historic – and Obama, as a card-carrying civil libertarian, would recognize the decision as the boon for individual rights it is.

  1. A ridiculous take on his landmark racism speech. []
  2. How many chances does a guy get? []
  3. Those who call this “throwing someone under a bus” must have missed the Clinton years altogether.  All that’s there is a mild statement pointing out that General Clark was going off-message. []
  4. Although Kate didn’t mention this one, many others have. []
  5. Here, I disagree with Obama’s stand. []

4 replies on “The Opinionsphere Looks Under the Bus”

Hmm. I’m hysterial, am I? And Obama is about minor repositioning and nuance and balance. Not a good way to start a discussion about how we differ on Obama’s last two weeks.

You’re not hysterical Kate – your take on the past two weeks though seems to demonstrate an “excessive fear” of what Obama might do. (“Excessive fear” being on of the definitions of hysteria I was working with.)

As for the nuance, minor repositioning, and balance – I used the first and the last only in the context of Obama’s comments on Heller – which demonstrated all of those. You’re wrong in saying that Obama came out in favor of “relaxing gun restrictions in D.C.” He did issue a statement praising certain aspects of the decision and cautioning about others. Your characterization of it is just flat-out wrong.

In general though,it seems that Obama has only repositioned himself slightly in the past few weeks – always while taking nuanced positions and talking of the competing demands that he is trying to reconcile.

What seems to have infuriated yourself, David Brooks, Paul Krugman, and most others is not any specific position – but the possibility that Obama may be moving to the center for the general election campaign, that he may be attempting the same strategy as most politicians. For David Brooks, this makes Obama “Fast Eddie Obama” throwing people under the buses; for Krugman, this makes him Clinton II, which is now a bad thing; for you, this calls into question Obama’s position on abortion. Which is why, to me, it seems more like each of you is projecting your fears onto Obama rather than rationally looking at the past two weeks in context.

You say this isn’t a good way to start a discussion. I’m not so sure you’re right. Although I often gratuitously insult Paul Krugman (mainly by way of analogy), I was not calling you (or Krugman) hysterical here. I was referring to your latest post, which seems to be based more on an excessive and irrational fear than on substance.

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