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Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics The Clintons

Larry Johnson’s Hit Job on Hillary Clinton

In a recent post that is supposed to detail how Barack Obama is an empty suit, Charles Lemos of NoQuarterUSA attacks Barack Obama’s policies and character in such a way that makes it hard to see how he ever supported Hillary Clinton in the first place. Lemos’s argument is confused and incoherent. The fact that this piece is headed with a picture of Barack Obama in an oversized suit, and entitled “Empty Suit” strikes just the right note of incoherent blathering that the article itself indulges in.

Along the way, Lemos manages to indulge in such right-wing agitprop as attacking war hero John Kerry as an “out-of-touch effete liberal”, while mentioning John Edwards’s “$400 dollar haircuts”, and to paint the Democratic nominee as a student of Lenin. There are few right-wing smears that the No Quarter blog does not indulge in.

Except those about the Clintons. No Quarter blog doesn’t traffic in these, as they would offend his PUMA audience. They also ignore the right-wing smears against McCain, Larry Johnson’s new best friend.

One of the arguments Lemos makes uses the existence of every smear against Obama and other prominent Demcrats as proof-positive that they cannot win a national election. Yet oddly, the same reasoning does not apply to the woman who has been the victim of more smears than any other: Hillary Clinton.

Lemos demonstrates the willful blindness of partisans that is destroying our politics – as he focuses on irrelevancies to make his confused case against Barack Obama. He smears Obama as a friend to “an unapologetic terrorist” – William Ayers. He doesn’t mention Hillary Clinton’s work defending radicals like Ayers in law school; or Bill Clinton’s pardoning of Puerto Rican terrorists and members of Ayers’ own organization. Lemos attacks Obama’s comments about Jersusalem – saying they would have set off riots in the Middle East if he were president. Yet he ignores the real diplomatic fallout from Clinton’s promise to “obliterate Iran”. He touts Clinton’s endorsements by members of the military – as if Obama did not have more endorsements from the military.

A mental gymnast, a skilled mental contortionist, No Quarter blog attacks Barack Obama’s health care plan as entirely inadequate – a mere sop to the insurance industry. Yet Lemos fails to mention that Hillary Clinton’s plan would have to be described in the same way. He attacks Obama for his connections to lobbyists, yet Hillary Clinton’s were far greater and more pervasive. Most of the rest of Lemos’s piece is a compendium of attacks that directly and explicitly parallel those that stuck to Hillary Clinton:

  • He has no conviction other than his own political welfare.
  • He is the candidate of corporate interests…
  • [H]e is one of those clown punch bags. He may come back up but he just gets walloped down again.
  • He is unelectable even before the 527s get started.
  • But Obama is such a panderer…

Within the entire piece, Lemos keeps making the same incoherent argument holding the PUMAs together:

  • Barack Obama cannot win.
  • We need to stop him before he wins!

But the key passage is this one:

But how can I trust that shiftless soulless hypocrite who with each passing day changes yet another of his positions? It’s backtracking with Barack. So far he’s trampled on the Fourth Amendment, a women’s right to choose, the health care of all Americans and now the cornerstone of what brung him to the dance in the first place, that magical speech in 2002 that had to be re-recorded so it could be replayed again and again and use your opposition to a fruitless war as his springboard to power.

It is the fact that comments like this get traction outside of the PUMA movement that gets me frustrated with generally astute bloggers like Kate Stone who should – and in fact do – know better than to equate John McCain’s policies with Barack Obama’s. But when bloggers like Kate Stone post about the extreme changes Obama is making to his policies rather than portraying them as the out-of-context remarks, minor changes, and the one reversal that they are – they help create the atmosphere that PUMAs like Larry Johnson are trying to exploit to elect John McCain president. I remember when Maureen Dowd kept attacking Al Gore as a serial exaggerator in 2000 – misrepresenting his mis-statements and awkward comments for humorous effect. But her portrayal of him stuck – even though it was inaccurate. Such is the power of the media.

I’ve often found it is easy to get caught up in the moment and react (and overreact) to the news spin of the day (generally as set by The Drudge Report). That’s how I see the reactions to Obama’s supposed move to the center. I don’t doubt that Obama is trying to move to the center – but aside from the FISA turnaround and the adjustments to his view on timetables for Iraq withdrawl – I don’t see any policy changes. Instead, what seems to be outraging some progressive critics, is that Obama is reaching out culturally to different groups of conservatives – and demonstrating that he respects their concerns even if he disagrees with their policy prescriptions. That’s what I see.

Of course, Lemos, subtle and nuanced thinker that he is sees it differently:

Anyone who supported Obama after March 2008 is clearly either a delusional Obama cultist or a head in the sand idiot…

Ah, if only this were comedy. I hope that Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert can get Larry Johnson on one of their shows soon. What better way to discredit someone than to let them make a fool of themselves while they try to be serious.

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. []
Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

The Last Plausible Woman Candidate

With the primary winding down and many top Hillary Clinton supporters blaming her loss on sexism, the press has turned its collective attention to what Clinton’s campaign will mean for future female candidates. A number of editorial writers – sympathetic to Clinton – have posited that Clinton’s loss has shown that a woman candidate cannot succeed given our media environment. Dahlia Lithwick of Slate uses her usual incisive analysis to shred this line of argument:

They argue that Clinton had a legitimate shot at the presidency only because she represented a once-in-a-lifetime lightening strike of marriage, fame, and experience that is not only unique to her but that will die with her failed nomination. Silva quotes commentators who have argued that “only Clinton, a former first lady in an administration that presided over eight prosperous years and a second-term senator who has established her own credentials, could have achieved the successes she has this year.” Zernike’s experts echo this: “Mrs. Clinton had such an unusual combination of experience and name recognition that she might actually raise the bar for women.” Under this theory, Clinton was never really a strong woman candidate; she was just the lucky one who’d married a future president.

By advancing the argument that no woman will ever win the presidency without the advantages of a Hillary Clinton because only those advantages account for her success, we do more to disrespect her enormous talents than all of the oily misogynists on Fox News. All across the country, in the most unlikely ways and places, Hillary Clinton kicked ass as a woman. Why take that away from her now?

In an amusing coincidence the argument being put forward by Clinton supporters now is based on the same premise that I used as my number four point in my call on Hillary Clinton to withdraw from the race back in January. Kate Stone, among others, called this point “classically sexist“:

According to the writer her success would be based on who she married and what she put up with and how conniving she is. In other words, she is a viper. And it has everything to do with her gender when the writer flatly states that if she wins IT IS A LESSON IN HOW WOMEN GAIN POWER.1

Now, Clinton’s supporters are saying that her loss proves that our country is too sexist to elect a woman president – and basing this view on how exceptionally positioned Clinton was due to who she married, what she put up with, etcetera.

  1. I don’t think Clinton is a viper; and I have never called her conniving, so Kate’s summary of my position is a bit off. []